§ 7. Mr. Lawson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland on how many occasions in the past year young people have been remanded in custody by sheriff courts prior to sentence; what was the average period of such remands; and on what grounds such remands were made.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)
In 1972, 9,645 persons under 21 years of age were committed on remand to penal establishments. This figure covers both remands awaiting trial and remands for the purpose of considering sentence. The substantial majority are remands by sheriff courts. The average period for persons of all ages remanded in penal establishments was 13 days: separate figures for persons under 21 are not available.
Courts do not state the grounds on which they decide between liberation with or without bail and remand in custody.
§ Mr. Lawson
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that within recent months two cases have come to my attention of young constituents of mine who have been remanded in custody for no discoverable reason other than the intention of the sheriff to teach them a lesson, in addition to the sentences subsequently imposed? Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that this is possibly an abuse of authority and a matter that ought definitely to be looked into by someone or some body with the ability to act over the heads of these courts?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's concern. In relation to the allegation that he makes, I do not think that there is any evidence that this is taking place. If it were taking place it would not be a very good practice. However, the decision is one for the courts. It is not an administrative decision. Each case has to be decided on its merits.
§ Mr. Hannan
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the growing concern in circles interested in these matters? Is he satisfied that the Crown Office exercises sufficient vigilance in cases under the Social Work Act? The point is that at procurator fiscal level there is discretion on the question whether cases go to court at all. Will the hon. Gentleman consider whether there is not too much reliance on traditional methods and a reluctance to implement the proposals in the Social Work Act?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he is raising a wider question, about the procedure before a person appears in court, whereas the matter raised by the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) is one strictly for the courts and not one in which I can intervene.