The major piece of criminal law legislation for 2014 is the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. It has been brought gradually into force throughout the year.
Part 7 deals with dangerous dogs and was brought into force on 13 May. It extends to private places the offence of owning or being in charge of a dog that is dangerously out of control (under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act). A trespasser is not protected. It also provides that a dog attack on an assistance dog constitutes an aggravated offence. A range of sentences was introduced from 14 years if a person dies as a result of being attacked; to five years in any other case where a person is injured; to three years in a case where an assistance dog is injured, whether or not it dies.
The act ensures that the courts can take account of the character of the owner of a dog, as well as that of the dog, when assessing whether a dog should be destroyed on the grounds that it is a risk to the public.
On 13 May, under section 22A of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980, the offence of theft of goods from a shop which, in total, are valued below £200 became a hybrid offence; that is, a summary offence unless the defence choose to elect for trial on indictment. For professional shoplifters, who keep their theft below £200, the maximum penalty is six months with the appropriate discount for a guilty plea. Those whose future careers may be damaged by a conviction for dishonesty retain the right to jury trial.
Although the offence is described as summary only, solicitors should claim the larger of the two standard fees available for either way offences in the magistrates’ court. The offence remains indictable for the purposes of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. More significantly, defence solicitors will still have to advise on mode of trial as they would for any other either way offence.
Amendments to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 were brought into force on 13 May. The act provides the power to take further fingerprints or non-intimate samples when an earlier investigation had been discontinued (section 144). The power to retain fingerprints or a DNA profile in connection with an alternative offence is clarified, and clarification is also provided in relation to the retention of personal samples where these might become disclosable under the Criminal Proceedings and Investigations Act 1996. Section 146 provides that such samples cannot be used for any other purpose than the disclosure. They would not themselves be available as evidence in a new case if they would otherwise have been destroyed.
From 13 June, under section 179 of the act, the ability to impose days in lieu of payment of the victim surcharge were removed and the surcharge of £80 became payable on immediate sentences of imprisonment in the magistrates’ court. The power to detain for a day under section 135 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 appears to remain.
Provisions in relation to forced marriages were brought into force on 16 June. Under section 121, forced marriage became an either way criminal offence, carrying seven years and/or a fine on indictment. Also criminalised, under section 63C of the Family Law Act 1996, is the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order, an either way offence carrying five years and/or a fine on indictment.
The forced marriage offence occurs when a person uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into a marriage and believes, or ought reasonably to believe, that the conduct may cause that other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent. Similarly, there is an offence if a person practises any form of deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the UK, intending that other person to be subjected to conduct outside the UK that is an offence under this legislation.
Amendments in relation to firearms were brought into force on 14 July. Section 111 increases to life imprisonment the maximum penalty of illegal importation or exportation of firearms. Section 5(2A) of the Firearms Act 1968 now defines a new offence including possessing a prohibited firearm for sale or transfer. Under section 110, restrictions on the possession of firearms by those previously convicted of crime are extended to those who receive suspended sentences of more than three months.
On 21 July, part 12 brought into effect important provisions in relation to the law of extradition. Among a series of other changes, consent to extradition will no longer amount to a waiver of the specialty rule, so restricting the state obtaining extradition to the offences set out on the warrant. In European arrest warrant cases a proportionality rule is introduced, and section 171 allows for the reduction of a sentence by the time spent in custody awaiting extradition to England and Wales.
Significant amendments to schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 took place on 31 July, relating to detention for compulsory interview at the port or border. New detention limits are introduced with a clear right to consult a solicitor. The initial detention will be one hour from the beginning of the interview, in which it is an offence not to answer questions, and the maximum extension will be six hours from the end of that one hour. On 1 April 2015, duties to review the detention will be introduced. These will occur after the first hour and at every two hours thereafter.
At the end of the detention period the detainee must either be released or arrested. These changes were reflected in a new code of practice on 31 July.
On 20 October 2014, the anti-social behaviour order made as part of the sentencing process in criminal cases came to an end and was replaced under section 22 by a criminal behaviour order. This order will be easier for the prosecution to obtain. The court must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offender has engaged in behaviour that has caused or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any person and the court considers that making the order will help in preventing the offender from engaging in such behaviour.
A criminal behaviour order may impose conditions that are both negative and positive in their effect. Breach of a criminal behaviour order will, under section 30, continue to be an either way criminal offence, with a penalty of five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine on indictment. The defence of reasonable excuse, which may be raised by the defence and must then be disproved by the prosecution, will remain.
A series of other powers were also brought into force on 20 October including dispersal powers, community protection notices and public spaces protection orders. Criminal offences, for which fixed penalty notices can also be issued, are connected to each of these developments. On the same day, new powers for the police to issue closure notices followed by an application to the magistrates’ court for a closure order were brought into force.
These relate to premises where the use has resulted, or is likely to result, in nuisance to members of the public or where there has been, or is likely soon to be, disorder near those premises associated with their use, and the notice is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing or occurring (section 76).
Anthony Edwards, TV Edwards