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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Criminal Justice Committee 15 December 2021

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Prosecution of Violence against Women and Girls, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and Judicial Review and Courts Bill


Contents


Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and Judicial Review and Courts Bill

Our next item of business is consideration of legislative consent memoranda on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Judicial Review and Courts Bill. I am pleased to welcome back the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans. He is joined by the Scottish Government officials Phil Lamont, who is from the criminal justice division, and Ms Alison Morris, who is head of serious organised crime policy—divert and deter. I refer members to papers 3 and 4.

I invite the cabinet secretary to make some brief opening remarks on the LCM on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, after which we will move to questions on that LCM.

The LCM for the Judicial Review and Courts Bill relates to a minor provision in the schedule to the bill. The policy provision is uncontroversial and relates to fines enforcement. There is a provision in the schedule that will mean that the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service will be able to enforce a new type of financial penalty that has been imposed in England and Wales through the online justice procedure.

Cross-border enforcement of fines has been a long-standing approach in the nations of the United Kingdom. The UK and Scottish Governments agree on the need for cross-border enforcement as a normal part of the operation of their respective justice systems. The approach relates to the fact that people in the UK can move between nations. That means that enforcement in Scotland is needed when, as in this case, a person who receives a financial penalty through the new online procedure moves to Scotland.

However, there is an issue that is worth mentioning to the committee. The Scottish Government considers that the provision in question necessitates an LCM, whereas the UK Government believes that it does not. As the LCM explains, fines enforcement is a devolved matter, so we consider that any additional provision that adds responsibilities for the SCTS to enforce fines that have been imposed in England and Wales is a devolved matter. That is why the LCM is necessary. The UK Government disagrees. It argues that the provision in the schedule could not be included in a Scottish bill, which means that it is outwith competence.

The Scottish Parliament agrees with the Scottish Government’s position, which is why the LCM is before the committee.

We believe that the purpose of the relevant provision, which is to empower the SCTS to enforce fines that have been imposed in England and Wales, is a devolved matter, and that it is only because of the manner in which the provision is drafted that it is outwith competence. The purpose of the provision is clearly a devolved matter. As the LCM was accepted for lodging, that means that the Scottish Parliament agrees that the necessity for an LCM has been triggered by the bill.

It is important to stress that the LCM does not mean that the Scottish Government supports the entire policy content of the bill. I am aware of other provisions in the bill that have generated some controversy, such as the proposed changes to the operation of judicial review powers. The LCM is very narrow and relates only to the fines enforcement issue.

I and my officials would be happy to take any questions.

12:00  

Thank you, cabinet secretary. Just for clarity, those remarks were in relation to the Judicial Review and Courts Bill. That is absolutely fine. Could you also make your remarks in relation to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill LCM? We can take any questions after that.

Apologies—I had the wrong one there. I am happy to cover the second LCM.

I am grateful to the committee for the opportunity to take questions on the supplementary legislative consent memorandum for the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which the committee has had before it previously. The memorandum covers the clauses on extraction of data, which are intended to clarify the existing position following the Information Commissioner’s report on procedures in England and Wales. The measures are not intended to create any new powers.

The Government lodged an LCM on 5 August for the provisions that extend to Scotland. At the time of lodging, I advised that the Government was not able to recommend consent for the power to extract information from digital devices of witnesses, victims and others, as discussions were still on-going between the former Lord Advocate and UK ministers. I also stated my intention, once the position on investigation of deaths was resolved satisfactorily, to lodge a supplementary memorandum for those provisions in order to ensure a consistent approach that takes account of Scotland’s distinct position.

Following confirmation from the UK Government that the issue of investigation of deaths will be kept under review once the measures are in force, we have now concluded that the identified risk is not sufficiently material to prevent the Scottish Government from recommending that the Scottish Parliament consent to the provisions.

Thank you, cabinet secretary.

I ask members to indicate by putting an R in the chat box or raising their hand if they have any questions on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill LCM. I am not seeing anything, which is fine.

Likewise, do members have any questions in relation to the Judicial Review and Courts Bill LCM? There are no questions, so we will move on to the next item of business, which is consideration of any issues for our final reports on the LCMs.

I will again start with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill LCM. Do members have any final views that they wish to include in the committee’s report on the LCM?

Members have raised no issues, so does the committee agree that the Scottish Parliament should give its consent to the relevant provisions in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as set out in the Scottish Government’s draft motion? We are agreed.

Are members content to delegate to me the publication of a very short factual report on the outcome of our deliberations on the LCM? Members are content. The issue will now move to the chamber for all members to decide on the basis of the report that we will prepare.

I turn to the second LCM, on the Judicial Review and Courts Bill. I invite members to share their views on any issues that they would like to include in the committee’s report on the LCM.

Members have raised no issues, so does the committee agree that the Scottish Parliament should give its consent to the relevant provisions in the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, as set out in the Scottish Government’s draft motion? We are all happy with that.

Are members content to delegate to me the publication of a very short factual report on the outcome of our deliberations on the LCM? Members are content. As with the previous LCM, the issue will now move to the chamber for all members to decide, on the basis of our report.

That concludes our consideration of the two LCMs. I thank the cabinet secretary and his officials for their attendance.

That concludes the public part of the meeting. Our next meeting will be on Wednesday 22 December, when we will take evidence from the Lord Advocate on prosecuting cases that involve violence against women and girls.

12:06 Meeting continued in private until 12:51.