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Defendant’s required to disclose nationality

Changes to the newly introduced Policing and Crime Act 2017, following the Criminal Procedure (Amendment no. 4) Rules 2017, came in to effect on 13th November 2017. According to section 162 of the act, all defendants must reveal their name, date of birth and nationality at their first hearing at the magistrates’ court.

The change comes as a result of a Government drive to “remove as many Foreign National Offenders… as quickly as possible to their home countries, to protect the public, to reduce costs and to free up spaces in prison” (Policing and Crime Bill Explanatory Notes). The Home Office remains committed to begin deportation action as soon as possible where a foreign national offender is identified (Policing and Crime Bill Fact Sheet).

There are fears from Human Rights groups such as Liberty that this development may lead to impartiality of the justice system. HM Courts and Tribunal Services have issued the following guidance to magistrates:

“In the magistrates’ court, the requirement must be imposed at the first hearing in the case where the defendant is present. The magistrates’ court may also impose this requirement at any subsequent hearing where, for example, the defendant did not appear at his first hearing.”

Sections 159 and 160 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 now create 2 offences:

1. Failure to state one’s nationality when required by an Immigration officer or police officer; and
2. Failure to produce ‘nationality documents’ within 72 hours after being summoned to do so.

The maximum sentence that can be imposed is 1 year imprisonment.