§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Secure training orders]:
§ Lord Carr of Hadley moved Amendment No. 1:
§ Page 2, line 16, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (2A) below").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment in the name of myself and my noble friends, I wish to make it absolutely clear to your Lordships what these amendments will do and what they will not do. It is important that we should be clear on both those points. First, perhaps I may stress what these amendments will not do. They will not alter the proposed new sentence of secure training orders in any way. They will not weaken or strengthen them, and they will remain exactly as they stand in the Bill. Many of us (and I am certainly one of them) have extreme distaste for putting children into custody. We are talking about children of 12 to 14 years of age. But in the circumstances in which we find ourselves at the moment, I and my supporters accept, and I hope that the House as a whole will accept, that it is necessary to put a small number (it is estimated 200 to 300 throughout the whole country) of wholly unruly tearaways into a period of custody. However reluctant one may be to accept that, I do accept it. These amendments do not weaken that in any way. In fact, we specifically support the concept of the new sentence of the secure training order.
§ The second thing which these amendments will not do is to alter in any way the nature of the proposed secure training centres. The Bill intend that five centres should be provided in different parts of Britain, each taking up to 40 of these tearaways. We do not weaken that in any way. The proposals for secure training centres remain untouched by these amendments.
§ I can be quite brief about this. I now draw your Lordships' attention to what the amendments will do. They give the courts, and I emphasise the magistrates' courts, not officers of either local or central government —extra powers which they do not possess at the moment. In the Bill as it stands when a court has decided that the appropriate sentence is a secure training order, they have no option but to send the children for whom they are giving that sentence to one of the five new secure training centres. That is the only thing they can do. They have no option in the matter.
§ In the amendments we are proposing that they should have an option. That option should be that the courts are able to direct that the requirement of the secure training order be carried out in the secure accommodation provided by local authorities throughout the country and which exists at the moment. Those places are being increased by 170 at the moment by concurrent action by the Government through the Secretary of State for Health. We are proposing that the courts should be given that option.
§ I wish very briefly to stress to your Lordships—and we hope that noble Lords agree—that what we are proposing is not in any way a soft option. It is maintaining the new sentence untouched and, in our 1142 view, strengthening it. Now the magistrates have the choice, if our proposals are carried through, either to send the person to a secure training centre or to local authority secure accommodation which is a power that the courts do not possess at the moment.
§ What are the advantages which we see in these proposals? Above all, we see the advantage of flexibility in punishment and rehabilitation. I think that the Government share my belief that this flexibility is good penal policy in principle. It is the magistrates who are given this flexibility. If we wish the magistrates to be responsible and to do what only they can do—that is to say, judge the merits of each case and the needs of each individual child that comes before them—it seems to us that it is the magistrates who ought to have this option and this degree of flexibility.
§ The courts will no doubt think that some children need to be sent away from home. As regards others, the courts may feel that they should be kept at home. Many of us will see the importance of that wherever that is possible. But the option is there: some can be kept near home and some can be sent a long way from home. The courts may think that some children ought to be kept in security in small groups of mixed types. The courts may believe that other children need to be sent away to be kept secure among a larger number of children of the same type. Once again, it would be for the court to decide which type of treatment is most suitable for each offender whom it is sentencing. That is the advantage in principle and practice.
§ The second advantage which we see is the realisation that we are embarking on a new field in dealing with children between the ages of 12 and 14 in these ways. It is unknown territory. We believe that there should be some opportunity to compare how different forms of treatment work in practice and how successful or unsuccessful they are. If we depend entirely on just five training centres throughout Britain, separated by long distances, there will be no comparison and they will have a monopoly of treatment. To have the option we suggest, there will be a growing standard of comparison by which Home Secretaries of the future can judge the appropriate way to deal with these terribly difficult and dangerous young children.
§ The third, and I would have thought very appealing, advantage, not only to the Government but to the country at large which is dying to see something done about this problem, is that if our amendment is adopted it will greatly reduce the delay in being able to implement the secure training orders. So long as the orders can be implemented only in one of the new training centres, we shall have to wait until they are built. Indeed, until the Bill is on the statute book the centres cannot even be contracted for. They then have to be built and staffed. Furthermore, there is bound to be a delay, which I suggest will be measured in years rather than months, before they can be tested. Meanwhile the urgent need to deal with the tearaways cannot be met by the means of the secure training orders.
§ However, secure local authority places exist at the moment and are in the process of being greatly increased by the concurrent action of a different Minister in the same government. The Secretory of State 1143 for Health is providing resources for local authorities to add no fewer than 170 to the number of secure places they have at their disposal at the moment. I believe that that brings the local authorities' capacity of secure places to over 300, of which about half exist at the moment, the other half being in the process of construction. But if we keep the Bill as it stands, we shall all have to wait until the new units have been built, commissioned and put into operation. Therefore, I believe that there is a very big advantage to be secured in the public interest by adopting the amendments.
§ The fourth advantage, so far as can be discovered from the soundings that I and my friends have taken, is that our proposal would be welcome to both magistrates and the police. We should not disregard that.
§ Finally, I wish to stress that our amendments do not weaken, but strengthen, the Government's proposals in this very difficult area. They are not in any way a soft option. I beg the Government to treat them seriously and to give them a trial. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wish to add my voice in support of Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. I need not elaborate on the case so ably made by my noble friend Lord Carr. I hope that my noble friend the Minister has been persuaded that this is a clear opportunity to reinforce the Government's policy of introducing the secure training order. As has been pointed out, the amendments are a clear endorsement of that policy but offer a flexibility which we hope will enable magistrates to vary the application of secure training orders to meet the various different criteria to which my noble friend referred.
When the model of a new provision is introduced in this way, it is often subsequently found to be too inflexible. Surely it is better to anticipate than later to amend. I put it to the House that in these two amendments we are being asked to endorse Her Majesty's Government's policy and to reinforce it by sensibly adding to the core provision. I support the amendments.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I suppose that very seldom in recent years has an amendment been proposed by such authoritative and eminent persons as those whose names appear on the Marshalled List. They include a former Home Secretary; sitting next to him, my noble friend Lord Elton; and sitting opposite me, a former permanent secretary. I do not know that you can do much better than that. I am sure therefore that my noble friend the Minister will pay great attention to what has been so well said by my noble friend Lord Carr and by my noble friend Lord Gray.
I hope that I shall not be regarded as churlish if I raise a doubt about the amendment. It was at the bottom of the case made by my noble friend Lord Carr that he was not altering the nature of—by which I take it that he includes the philosophy behind—the new secure 1144 training order. I question whether that is the case. When my noble friend the Minister replies, I should like him to reassure me.
My noble friend Lord Carr accurately said that the object of this new departure—and it is a new departure —is to create a special sentence or treatment that will be accorded, at least in the short term, to a relatively small number of people, a tiny fraction of those who have custodial sentences. I refer to the very young persons between prescribed ages who will amount numerically to 200 or 300 persons altogether. I believe that that is what my noble friend said and I accept his figure.
I had understood that the idea—this is where I want reassurance from my noble friend the Minister—was to place those young people in a relatively few places of secure detention quite different from the ordinary secure places customarily provided by local authorities for persons who have to be detained against their will. The object is basically that although security is at the forefront of the treatment—an obvious necessity in the case of those few young people—the real purpose is to reform them by a special regime. That is what I understood to be the philosophy.
I come now to the point at which I question whether my noble friend can justify his amendment on that philosophy. Although he says—with complete convic-tion, I am sure—that he is not altering the nature of the sentence, I believe that the amendment does alter it. Side by side with the provision of a very few highly specialised places where reform takes place in secure conditions, my noble friend seeks to give to the courts —I shall return to this point in a moment—an option to mix that with the ordinary run of secure accommodation at present provided by the local authorities. I question whether it is compatible with what my noble friend the Minister has in mind in proposing the centres to mix those young people with the ordinary population of those requiring places in secure detention. They must include mentally deficient persons and persons of a quite different character to those for whom the secure training order is designed.
I turn now to my second point on the proposed amendment. Is what is proposed in the amendment, as distinct from that proposed in the Bill as it stands, a proper function either of the judiciary or of the magistrates' courts in particular? No one is more enthusiastic than I for the quality of our lay magistracy and its continuation. Indeed, every Lord Chancellor who sits on the Woolsack automatically becomes president of the Magistrates' Association. I hope that I did nothing during my term of office—and I certainly have no desire to do anything now—to depreciate in any way the value of the magistracy. It carries out immense work in England and Wales and does so to almost universal satisfaction, despite occasional criticisms of particular decisions. It is a popular and enormously successful institution, specific to England and Wales. I do not wish to say anything by way of criticism.
However, I question whether the option to put a particular patient or convicted young person into one of the special secure training centres which my noble friend has in mind or mix them up with the ordinarily 1145 secured population of local authority people is a good policy, or a matter for judicial discretion as distinct from an administrative decision.
I have one further comment to make which is not intended as a criticism of the magistracy. The magistracy is essentially a local institution all over England and Wales. It delivers a very high quality of justice. However, what it does not deliver nationwide is absolute consistency of policy; indeed, it cannot do so given the nature of the institution. If we are to try the suggested experiment we must have consistency of policy. I believe that that is better provided by the Bill as it stands than by the proposed amendment.
I should like my noble friend to comment on that aspect of the matter. I may have got the whole thing absolutely wrong, because I am not into the treatment of young offenders like my noble friend Lord Elton who is an expert on the subject, but I view the present proposal as one which might destroy the very valuable experiment—as I believe it to be—proposed by my noble friend the Minister. I entirely accept from my noble friend Lord Carr that he does not think that it will alter the nature of the sentence, but he has failed to carry my conviction with him in that argument. I believe that it will. I wonder what my noble friend the Minister will say in his response. I apologise to the House for speaking at such length, but we are discussing an important amendment which might destroy the whole purpose of the Bill.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord concluded his speech by saying that there was a possibility that he had got the matter absolutely wrong. With the greatest of deference to him and his legal experience, I suggest that he has done so. The noble and learned Lord does not understand the nature of local authority secure accommodation or the various needs of different children for whom secure training orders may be appropriate.
The noble and learned Lord said that the effect of the amendment would be to mix up those youngsters with the ordinary run of persons in local authority secure accommodation. Indeed, he not only said it twice, he said it three times. Well, there is no ordinary run of children in local authority secure accommodation. One of the actual benefits of local authority secure accommodation is that it contains a wide range of people but not, as the noble and learned Lord suggested, the "mentally deficient"—if that is a term which is still acceptable, which I doubt. Such people would certainly be under medical supervision of some kind. However, accommodation is available for those who are disturbed, those who are in need of protection as well as for those who are guilty of serious or persistent offences. I see that the noble and learned Lord wishes to respond. I give way.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I am much obliged. The noble Lord is perfectly right. I ought not to have used the phrase "mentally deficient". However, the noble Lord has grasped the exact meaning of what I was saying and is now expounding it.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I recognise that fact and I am grateful for the noble and learned Lord's intervention. Indeed, it has strengthened the point that I am trying to make; namely, that there are genuine differences between local authority secure accommodation and the secure training centres proposed under Part I of the Bill.
The point that I wish to make is not to say that they are all the same; in fact, I wish to say the very reverse. Different kinds of secure accommodation are suitable for different kinds of offenders. Who is better able to know which kind of accommodation is suitable for different offenders than the magistrates or the courts? The noble and learned Lord suggested that it should not be a matter for judicial decision but that it should be a matter for administrative decision. That was the contrast that he made. I find that extraordinary. I should have thought that it is only those who actually come into contact with the child—and not administrator—who would be able to specify the appropriate place for that child. To me, that means the courts backed up by professional judgment, whether it be social workers, a matter of medical judgment, or whatever assistance is available to the courts. In my view, the point made on the need for judicial judgment backed up by professional opinion strengthens the arguments for the amendment before the House.
No one is saying that the same accommodation is suitable for everyone. However, the Magistrates' Association, of which the noble and learned Lord was a distinguished president in his time, said in terms that there are many young people for whom local accommodation, or local accommodation which allows access to their families, and vice versa, is a most important part of rehabilitation. That was said in response to the consultation document on secure training orders. As I understand it, for that reason the Magistrates' Association supports the amendments. On reflection, I hope that the noble and learned Lord will accept that those with whom he has been in contact who do understand such issues and who support the amendments may have a measure of truth in their arguments.
§ Lord Stewartby
My Lords, when I first read my noble friend's amendments I found them rather attractive. However, the more I reflected upon them, the more I have come to doubt whether they would in fact be as benevolent and innocuous as my noble friend suggested. I entirely accept the constructive spirit in which he has put forward the amendments. In view of my noble friend's enormous experience and great wisdom, I believe that his proposal deserves the most careful consideration.
However, I have reservations which are not dissimilar to those of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham. Although my noble friend Lord Carr suggested that the centres would be untouched, if a regime of the kind proposed in the amendments was introduced, I believe that it would change the way in which a considerable number of young offenders would be treated. Indeed, it would have an impact as regards uncertainty, staffing and the implementation of the 1147 process of training and education which I understood was a central part of the Government's proposal in setting up secure training centres. The reason for establishing such centres seems to me to be only partly to do with security and more specifically to deal with the problems presented by the care and rehabilitation of that unfortunate group of young offenders. I say "unfor-tunate" because they are unfortunate for themselves and highly unfortunate for society at large.
The security aspect could be handled in different ways. For example, it could certainly be handled by the route suggested by my noble friend's amendments. However, if the amendments were carried it would be that much more difficult to set up and operate the particular regime of training and education which, as I understand it, is at the heart of the proposals. Secure training orders are designed to enable the young offenders concerned to have the care of specialist staff, not only in relation to the security aspect but also in relation to treating the particular problems of personality and behaviour which are exhibited by those who may have become subject to secure training orders.
If we were to fragment the arrangements for their custody, we should clearly have to fragment the arrangements for their care, training and education. I do not believe that that is necessarily right. The proposed special secure centres are to be set up not only to incarcerate the offenders in an effective fashion but also to implement a regime which would be consistent not only among offenders but also among centres, and so provide an established means of trying to deal with that particular social and criminal problem.
It may be, like my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham, that I have not understood correctly the proposals. But I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is right to suggest that my noble and learned friend has misunderstood one of the central issues; that is, whether we are talking about location or whether we are talking about treatment. I doubt whether it would be possible to implement a regime for training and education which the Government have in mind and which I thought had the general support of your Lordships if my noble friend's amendment were carried.
Clearly, if it were left to the discretion of the courts as to whether offenders were sent to a bespoke centre or to a centre provided as part of the local authority arrangements, it is likely that there would be very small groups of those offenders. Purely as a matter of practical administration, I do not see how it would be possible to provide them with the same degree of professional care, training and education which I thought lay behind the proposals.
For those reasons, I have very considerable reservations, not about the intention of my noble friend's amendment but as to whether it would be workable in terms of the intentions of the legislation.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stewartby, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, have put their finger on an important issue; that is, whether or not a single regime applies to all the 1148 children who will be sentenced under those provisions. I think that the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carr, deals extremely effectively with that because the noble Lord is saying that in some cases a different regime from that which obtains in a large purpose-built and purpose-staffed centre may be appropriate.
The noble Lord who has just spoken referred to "the" regime. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Carr, does not oppose the Government's proposals to establish a single set of training, education and care facilities which apply across the board to the five centres, each of which contains 40 children, spread across the country. The regime will be identical in all of them. There will be the same kind of professional staff and the same education and training. That may well be suitable for some of the children but, as the noble Lord, Lord Carr, said—and I agree with him—a more flexible system would be appropriate to meet the needs of children who may not fall into a pattern which is readily dealt with by the single system or a single regime. They may be better dealt with in local authority homes which are used to dealing with a wide variety of children on a much smaller scale.
The staff in those homes may not have the breadth of professional expertise. But if the courts were to send children to those homes, that professional expertise could be acquired. It would not necessarily have to be available on a full-time basis. For example, one must accept that a small local authority home which has five children would not have a full-time psychiatrist; whereas it may be possible to have that level of expertise in a large secure training centre with 40 children.
I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Stewartby, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, have overlooked the provisions in Clause 2(4) where the Secretary of State already has power to transfer offenders from a secure training centre not just to local authority secure units, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carr, but to any other place which he may direct.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I have not overlooked that at all. It is a point with which I could deal but in the interests of brevity, I did not do so.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. I mention that now to point out that the Government envisage that there may be circumstan-ces in which children are dealt with more appropriately either in local authority secure units or in some other and completely unspecified place which will presum-ably be of a secure nature.
Therefore, I suggest to the noble and learned Lord that if the Secretary of State should have those powers, then surely the courts should have them. The courts see all the circumstances of the child who is before them. They must then be in a better position to make the decision as to the appropriate kind of accommodation for that child than the Secretary of State who makes his decision on the basis of written evidence placed before him, without seeing the offender and without having the nuances of all the evidence that has been given in court., Therefore, on reflection, the noble and learned Lord may 1149 agree that the widening of the courts' powers would be a good idea; and that they add to and do not detract in any way from the Government's proposals in this Bill.
§ Baroness Seccombe
My Lords, I accept that secure training orders cannot come into force until the properly prepared accommodation is ready, which I understand it will be in 1995. But I believe that it is vital to have the centres with their challenging regimes and strong emphasis on training and education.
If there are only two or three of those persistent offenders in each local authority unit, it would be impossible to give them the high quality education programmes and the training necessary to try to change their patterns of behaviour.
There are no spare places in local authority education and the extra places promised are already designated for other purposes. I understand that the occupancy of local authority units is made up of roughly one-third young people on remand, some of whom may never be convicted; another one-third who have committed a very grave offence; and the remainder are there as a result of civil cases and are in the care of the local authority, and it may be that they have been abused. It cannot be right to place young persistent offenders in the same unit as those vulnerable groups whose minds no doubt would soon be contaminated. They have enough problems of their own.
Much is made of keeping young offenders in local authority accommodation nearer to their homes, but that just does not happen at present. Many young people are not kept near home at all. The National Bed Bureau, which is based in Leeds, allocates them to secure units as and when places become available. An example of that was a young offender from Bolton who was placed in Kidlington, Oxford, after 70 convictions. He actually escaped on a sightseeing tour.
As was said by many noble Lords in Committee, sadly many of those young people come from broken homes or come from families which just cannot cope. The discipline and structure of the unit are essential in order for them to sort out their lives.
It is widely recognised that people want and expect to be protected from these hardened young criminals and I believe that there is wide acceptance of the fact that something must be done. I was interested to read in the June 1994 edition of the Magistrate an article headed:Persistent Young Offenders: What Can Be Done?".It was written by Dr. Michael Little, a research fellow at the Dartington Social Research Unit. He stated:We frequently hear that more priority should be given to protecting and public and perhaps less to crime prevention, looking after delinquents and improving the living conditions of those locked up. The balance between these two may be wrong. Talking to people on housing estates who feel they cannot leave their house for fear they will be burgled, one immediately senses that more needs to be done and perhaps recent prescriptions could even be right".I believe that they are right. The Government have responded to the public who want something done to deter the few unruly persistent young offenders. I urge your Lordships to reject this amendment.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, the secure training centres will be concentrations of the most disruptive 12 to 14 year-olds in the country who have no redeeming 1150 influence. Some of these youngsters will inevitably be up to 100 miles from their homes. In some cases, that may be a good thing where the families are a particularly bad influence. But, by and large, I understand that practitioners believe that the distance will make their task harder, reform more difficult and their efforts less likely to achieve success.
If some of the offenders could go to local authority secure centres and others to secure training centres, both systems would be able to compete with each other to prove which was the most successful and, not least, the most cost effective. All past experience suggests that there is little that can be done to cure the worst cases but at least competition will indicate the least unsuccessful approach and perhaps spur on greater effort.
One of the biggest complaints by magistrates and judges alike is that the Government try to lay down exactly what should be done with each offender. But every case is totally different; every offender is totally different. Thus, it would be far more effective to let the court, on the information it receives and within certain guidelines, make its own judgment as to whether it would be better for a child to have the discipline of a local authority centre or sent to a secure training centre.
I understand that local authority centres are regularly visited by teachers employed by the authority. On the other hand, I wonder how many good teachers will be persuaded to accept posts at secure training centres which deal with concentrated numbers of these evil youngsters.
This amendment in no way weakens the disposals for these young criminals; indeed, it strengthens it Apart from anything else, it allows these young people to be locked up forthwith without having to wait for a year for the secure training centres to be built. Local authorities would not be able to release these young people for any reason without the decision of the court. There would be no sending them on safari.
I was on the board of the Wellesley Nautical School during the period of the Borstals and approved schools. We all know that that system failed and was scrapped. But unlike the Borstals, the Wellesley had a mixture of boys ranging from those sent there in its role as an approved school to those who were there voluntarily. They lived in fairly spartan conditions, which were perfectly good enough and certainly much better than some of the accommodation that I suffered when I joined the Army. The result of the training and the mixture of people within the school was that there was a fair measure of success. After training, most of the boys went off to sea and there was even a reasonable degree of success among the worst of the entrants.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, I believe that the Cross Benches should have an innings. We have heard a great deal from Members on the Conservative Benches. Having put my name to the amendment, I wish to make four brief points. The first is that it will, for the first time, give a clear power to the courts to send a child to secure local authority accommodation. That will fill 1151 the gap to which I referred in Committee. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, raised doubts about the judiciary being involved. Perhaps I may remind him that the courts are already involved in authorising detention in secure local authority accommodation, but only after a kind of ping-pong, prolonged negotiation with the local authority—
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, no, the noble Lord has not understood my argument correctly. My argument was that the secure training order obviously was a matter for the courts and so, of course, is sending an offender to a local authority unit; but the two were incompatible and once a secure training order had been made the child should receive the special treatment.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, I note what the noble and learned Lord says and our observations are on the record. As the noble Lord, Lord Carr, said, what is proposed in the amendment does not represent a soft approach to crime. On the contrary, it extends and toughens the powers of the court. Secondly—and here I am on good ground in saying that this point has some relevance to that made by the noble and learned Lord and by the noble Lord, Lord Stewartby—whatever happens to Amendment No. 6, under the terms of the Bill a considerable number of children will qualify for consideration for a secure training order although their behaviour will have fallen a long way short of that described by the Government in justification of their proposals. If in the case of any of these children the courts regard as inappropriate detention in what is, in effect, a gaol they will now have the new alternative of committal to a secure local authority unit.
Thirdly, although there is certainly a need for more uniform provision of secure local authority accommoda-tion—taking up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe—and for more uniform standards of management, which is in train, the facts are that a number of these units exist; that contrary to what is often said they are secure; that they provide training and education (and I shall be surprised if the new units are able to match that standard of education); and that they will be available to the courts at once while the other units are being built.
Fourthly, it may be a good thing for some of these children to be detained far away from their families and the surroundings which helped to lead to their delinquency. But for others the best hope will lie in retaining their connections with the family and the local social workers and doctors who know them. This amendment will mean that when the whole scheme is working the courts will have a choice in deciding what is the best course to take. Having listened to the various speeches that have been made today, I remain strongly in support of the amendment.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I wish only to put a question to my noble friend. I do not believe that my noble and learned friend had got it wrong. He raised a point that ought to be examined in depth. I had been almost completely won over by the fluent and 1152 reasonable way in which my noble friend Lord Carr presented his amendment, but the doubt put into my mind has revived what I thought the Bill was about. I thought that in trying to face up to the dangerous section of young people who appear to have got away with things under the present regime we were going to set up five centres which would have a different approach. The amendment provides that in order to give the magistrates flexibility we should at the same time have local authority units.
We do not know yet whether the local authority units could be improved, as the noble Lord has just said, by the introduction of this Bill. However, if local authority provision remains as it is at present, or similar—this is my question—if the power is retained to send the people we are discussing to local authority units, and in individual cases it is seen that that is not successful, would it be possible under the amendments (or, if they were accepted, under the Act) to switch the people we are discussing from the local authority unit to one of the five new centres? If that could be done, part of my doubts would be removed. It would be a case of the penny and the cake. However, I am not certain that, at present, if these people were sent to a local authority unit, it would be possible, in the light of their experience in that unit, to switch them to one of the new five centres.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should say that if he also reads Amendments Nos. 3 and 5 he will find the four amendments meet his points exactly.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, we must accept those amendments before my question is answered. The House may accept one amendment but not the others. It ought to be made perfectly clear whether the switch I am discussing would be possible if, in the light of experience, it proved desirable.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carr, rightly appeals to the proper humanitarian instinct which I would expect to find in every Member of this House. However, there is one aspect of these amendments that I wish to draw to the attention of the House which has not yet been mentioned. Subsection (5) of Clause 1 sets out the conditions which must apply before a secure training order may be made. The first paragraph deals with the question of age. I have nothing to say on that. Paragraph (b) of Subsection (5) states that the offender must have been convicted,of three or more imprisonable offences".I suppose it is just conceivable that a child may, on his first outing, commit three or more imprisonable offences, but I have to say that I think it is highly unlikely. Indeed, I think it is very unlikely. Further, the offender, on either this or a previous occasion, must, under paragraph (c) (i) have been,found by a court to be in breach of a supervision order",or to have been convicted,of an imprisonable offence … whilst he was subject to such a supervision order".Anyone who is subject to a supervision order will already have been in the hands of the local authority 1153 system. He will have been dealt with by social services and the probation service. It seems to me that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carr, invites the magistrates, for the best and the most humanitarian of reasons, to decide to put these offenders back into the hands of those who—heaven help us, with the best of intentions—have probably already failed them; or worse still, the offenders will feel that they have beaten that system. I cannot in all conscience accept that that is a reasonable way for us to go on. I have to say that I cannot support this amendment.
§ Viscount Tenby
My Lords, I wish briefly to support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carr, and other noble Lords, and also to refer briefly to the consequential implications should those amend-ments be passed. In Committee I drew the attention of the Chamber to the fact that what was needed was not the costly introduction of five secure training units but instead a conscious effort on the part of the Government to bring secure accommodation up to snuff. Accordingly, I very much welcome the remarks that the noble Lord made while introducing his amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewartby, indicated that security was not the prime consideration but that rehabilitation was. Well, whether or not that be true—I cannot imagine, I have to say, wholehearted government endorsement of that view—it certainly does not invalidate the case for local secure accommodation. Post-sentence rehabilitation has much more chance of success, surely, in a local environment. Such local accommodation, with the emphasis on security, should be available throughout the country so that magistrates should have an easily accessible option open to them. Magistrates ought to be able to remand the tiny core of hard offenders into custody in secure accommodation, not necessarily into local authority care for assessment and eventual return to the courts for sentencing. It is frequently during such a hiatus that continued offending takes place. That is half the trouble.
Finally, we must ensure that local authorities are totally committed to the culture and use of secure accommodation locally. The fact is that some local authorities make better use of it, and are more firmly committed to it, than others. Surely it is for the Government to set uniform standards on local authorities in this respect and to see that they are followed.
§ Baroness Miller of Hendon
My Lords, I have to oppose the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Carr on the very simple grounds that it misses the whole point of this measure. A secure training order is intended to deal with the most persistent of young criminals who have been found guilty of several very serious offences. I am talking about young criminals, not young offenders.
The purpose of the secure training orders is twofold —first and foremost to protect the public from young criminals who have proved themselves impervious to reason, and unamenable to previous attempts at reform and who have flouted any number of previous attempts to give them another chance; young criminals who regard any leniency as a sign of weakness and a licence 1154 to continue with their previous anti-social ways. Their ways are more than anti-social because those who are involved in car crimes are putting themselves and innocent members of the public at risk of life and limb, while the persistent burglar or mugger strikes fear into his victims and potential victims.
The second purpose of a secure training order of course is as a deterrent. The young criminal who is given one conditional discharge after another, or who is returned time after time to the care of a local authority which has been unable to prevent him from continuing to offend, considers that he has, in his words, "got off". What is required is consistency of treatment. The noble Lord's amendment makes the sentence a total lottery.
In one court the young persistent criminal will be sent to a secure training unit set up under this Bill. In another he may be sent to one set up by the local authority, with whatever standard of training the local authority's social services department thinks appropriate. In yet a third he may be sent off to one of those experimental centres, whose idea is to send its inmates off on safari holidays.
The amendment is the same as suggesting that an adult should be given the choice between Dartmoor, or an open prison, or Butlins! In this country it is the state which provides or contracts for the penal institutions. All the court does is to decide whether any criminal should go to detention. The Home Secretary, in effect, decides where he should be sent.
There is also a practical aspect. Your Lordships were told in earlier debates that the number of persons countrywide who may be sentenced to secure training orders was likely to be small. There is simply no way that each local authority can make suitable and cost effective arrangements for just one or two young criminals in each district and to employ the highly specialised staff that it is intended should take charge of them. The very purpose of secure training orders is to protect the public and to provide a deterrent. It is not for us to destroy that deterrent by providing what these young scoff-laws will consider to be a soft option, especially when they will soon learn in which districts they avoid the risk of the toughest regimes.
It is essential that the method of dealing with these young criminals and the regimes that they are put into are totally uniform throughout the country. This is yet another instance where the protection of the public should—and must—be placed above the interests of the persistent young criminal. I urge your Lordships to reject this well meaning, but, I believe, wholly inappropriate amendment.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, what is a soft option? I listened to the noble Baroness with increasing astonishment. I have rarely heard a less well-informed statement of the position.
The noble Baroness spoke of local authorities failing and children running away time after time from local authority care. She may or may not recall the debate we had a year or more ago when we on these Benches raised exactly that concern. The problem was the lack of local authority secure accommodation, the amount of which 1155 has declined over the past 14 years. That is the reason for the problem in the first instance. There is too little local authority secure accommodation.
The choice is not between children's homes from which children can decamp and the new secure training centres. The choice given to the court is between local authority secure accommodation and the new secure training centres. It has nothing to do with places from which children can run away. I am surprised that the noble Baroness was not aware of that point, which was so carefully explained by the noble Lord, Lord Carr, when he initiated the debate.
§ Baroness Miller of Hendon
My Lords, I apologise for the fact that I was not in the House when my noble friend Lord Carr spoke at the beginning of the debate.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I am glad to give way to the noble Baroness. However, with respect to her, if she did not hear the speech made by a former Home Secretary on this point it is surprising that she chose to make the speech she has just delivered. It is not in accordance with the traditions of this House.
§ Baroness Miller of Hendon
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing that to my attention.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the Government have responded to a crisis of measurably small proportions caused by a handful of difficult children, to whose nature the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, aptly drew our attention, by putting forward a proposal for a form of treatment for such children. I am talking about children aged between 12 and 14 some of whom, as I said earlier, would not be able to read what was laid flat on the top of the Dispatch Box before your Lordships. It is proposed that they should be taken to five separate centres where they would be concentrated together, segregated from other offenders of a different nature and given a specific form of treatment.
My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham rightly questioned whether my noble friend Lord Carr, and, by implication, I and his other supporters were right in saying that the essential elements of the sentence would not be changed by the amendment. There are three essential elements.
The first element is the introduction of absolute security for children of that age. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, dealt adequately with the misunderstanding of the situation by my noble friend Lady Miller since the sentence, either under the amendment or in the Bill as drafted, only allows the detention of children in secure places where, as my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls pointed out, without a change in the Bill they must remain for half of the sentence. No-one has referred to the fact that we are talking about only half of the sentence. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has an amendment down to alter the proportion. However, as the Bill is drafted, the second half of the sentence must be discharged under the supervision of the local authority, which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, so distrusts.
The second and third features are that children shall 1156 be concentrated and segregated. Neither of those elements is a new departure. Both were features of the "short, sharp shock" experiment, more openly admitted as such than is the case with the present proposal, introduced by my noble friend Lord Whitelaw.
§ Lord Elton
It was introduced by my noble friend Lord Whitelaw when he was at the Home Office. My noble friend Lord Belstead occupied a position in which he supervised the scheme, and I succeeded him in that supervision. Noble Lords shake their heads, but I remember the campaign clearly. I was responsible in part for the scheme's implementation.
Those aspects of the treatment are not new. Nor is the fact that it is an experiment. What is new is that the experiment will be carried out at only five locations. A child aged 12 from Cornwall who comes from a large family, perhaps with a single parent, would be required under the Bill as drafted to serve the sentence in Oxford, if planning permission is granted and all goes smoothly. Whether or not the Government pay the fare to and from the centre for the parent to visit, it is unlikely that visits will be frequent. In some circumstances that may be a good thing. I am assured that there are cases— mercifully few—in which withdrawal from a family is beneficial for a child. In the majority of cases it is not. Even in that minority of cases it is not good for the child to be withdrawn some hundreds of miles from the social worker who was in charge of his case before he reached that level of criminality and who will be responsible for him on his return home. That child will be removed from the continuity of supervision which is one of the few slender, fragile threads which connect him to a life of normal behaviour.
My noble friend Lord Carr and his colleagues number among us not only, as my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham pointed out, a former Home Secretary, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office and a former Minister of State at the Home Office, but also a practising magistrate. We believe that the magistracy has a role. When my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham entered the debate, he asked a question. I do not know whether it was a slip of the tongue which he corrected, or whether he asked two questions. He asked whether a decision between two different applications of a sentence should be a proper matter for the judiciary. When he repeated the question he referred to the magistracy. I speak only of the magistracy, so I do not need to tempt him to clarify the matter. I see that I have tempted him.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, my noble friend overlooks the fact that the magistracy is part of the judiciary.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I stand corrected. I am wiser but not repentant, because it is of the magistracy that I speak. The magistracy is close to the case. The magistracy is close to the community in which the case arises. The magistracy is close to the social work department and the probation services which are 1157 involved in the case. And the magistracy has the child before it. What is the point of having a magistracy if it is not given this level of responsible judgment?
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend. He overlooks subsection (1) of the clause which indicates that the question of whether to make a secure training order is at the discretion of the magistracy.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, indeed it is. Were we in Committee I would return to the point and remind my noble and learned friend that it makes no difference. That is the point I am addressing: it is at the discretion of the magistracy. We wish that discretion to be extended to the question of whether the sentence should be served in a local authority secure unit —which I remind my noble friend Lady Miller is secure—or in a secure training centre.
There is a difference between the two. In the secure training centre there will be 40 children. I once taught in a rather rough area, in a school with 1,400 pupils which was on a slum clearance estate. The thought of having 40 such tearaways together in one institution makes me wonder whether practitioners in the field are not right when they say that it is very much better to dilute the problem rather than to concentrate it, and that to have a variety of children in an institution strengthens; it does not weaken. Having those children within the bounds of the local education authority from which they come and into the care of which they must be returned must be an advantage. Those teachers know the curriculum which the child will be taught. They can talk to the teachers who taught the children at the beginning and saw when matters went wrong.
What we offer to your Lordships is not a reduction but an extension of what the Bill offers. The amendment gives a choice. I do not doubt that there will be many cases where magistrates will feel, rightly, that children should go to the specialist, concentrated treatment to which the Bill refers and for which the Government believe that they can recruit adequate teachers. However, in other cases the magistrates may think otherwise. We believe that your Lordships should honour and trust the ability and intelligence of magistrates to make that choice. I hope that your Lordships will support the amendment.
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, during the course of the debate no reference has been made to the Home Office Research and Planning Unit Paper No. 66, entitled Juveniles Sentenced for Serious Offences (1992) which compared the regimes in the prison service young offender institutions with those in secure units in a local authority community home system. Its sample of young offenders consisted of boys who had been sentenced to long term detention for really serious offences under Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Some were held in young offender institutions; others were placed in local authority secure training units. The purpose of the research was to point out the advantages and disadvantages for the inmates in the two different organisations or institutions. I cite some of the findings.
1158 The local authority community homes provided significantly more and better quality education and training, a greater variety of physical exercise and recreational activity, a higher level of through care, and more help and advice with detainees' problems. Thus the Section 53(2) detainees from local authority community homes were more likely to emerge with some basic qualifications, training and work experience with which to resume life in the community than were those from young offender institutions Given the frequency of poor educational records of Section 53 offenders, that was a distinct disadvantage of the young offender institutions. Perhaps I may quote from the paper:In addition, the study found that the general quality of life as assessed by a wide range of measures concerned with food and mealtimes, hygiene and clothing, possessions and privacy, relationships and involvement, was demonstrably better in community homes than in young offender institutions".I quote again:'The differences in respect of relationships were particularly significant, the YOIs being unlikely to have the close and helpful relationships between staff and inmates … which would 'help the offender assume greater responsibility for his lifestyle and understand his responsibilities to others' as envisaged in official Prison Service policy".Finally, the observation was made:'The study also found that offenders who had been in secure units in the local authority community home system were significantly less likely to have been reconvicted two years after release than those released from young offender institutions. The Home Office's own research evidence therefore shows that local authority secure units provide a better quality of regime for young people than larger institutions".That seems to reinforce the: point made by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, that by providing the. choice which the amendment suggests, competition—so much the hallmark of the Government's philosophy—might result in the single new institution keeping up to scratch as regards policy and in particular its approach to rehabilitation which is obviously so important but which so far has not proved a marked success in the large concentrated institution. I therefore support the amendment.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Carr. We all have a deep affection and respect for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham. Had I not been a practitioner in this field, I would have been lured into his very good, academic presentation. However, I realise that his wonderful presentation, like that of my noble friend Lord Stewartby, is divorced from the practical experience of dealing with these children.
Many points have been made. When I was a director of social services and a children's officer, if I could possibly help it I never sent a child to an approved school because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said, 75 per cent. of such children re-offended within two years of leaving the school.
I support my noble friend Lord Gisborough. I ran centres where we mixed the children. It meant that those children who were not offenders mixed well with offenders. They did not form a gang as they did when those children were all together. With good staff it is perfectly possible to help those children. Therefore I am 1159 for a mix of children. Children often do better in the smaller units. One of the basic problems is that very often the children have been in difficult circumstances and need to be able to establish relationships, one human being with another.
At present, the magistrates and the police have great difficulty through not having enough accommodation now. Perhaps I may ask the Minister what will happen here and now. It is now that people are worried. It will take two years to build the new centres run by the Home Office. A total of 170 more places are being set up. Would it not be wise to give the magistrates the power to choose where to send the children, and to relieve the police and the magistrates? I support the amendment.
My Lords, this is an important amendment. Most sides of the argument have been canvassed, as one would expect, although possibly not all. My noble friend Lord Carr, as usual, made a very persuasive and attractive speech. That did not surprise me. It is, if I may say so, characteristic of him. My noble friend says of his amendment that it is not against government policy. He does not like locking up children. Nor does anyone else, I fancy. He accepts that in certain circumstances it is necessary. He agrees therefore with what the Government are trying to achieve in the clause. But he is not convinced that the new secure training centres are necessarily the only place in which those youths should be confined, nor always the best place. Therefore, asks my noble friend and his supporters, why not let the courts have a choice? Send the youth to the secure training centre if the courts believe that that is the right place; or send him to local authority secure accommodation if the court thinks that that is the best place. What, my noble friend says, is unreasonable about that? How, he asks, could your Lordships take any exception to that? My noble friend seems so reasonable in his view and in his advocacy of it that I feel almost churlish in suggesting that there could be another view. But I think that there is and, if I may say so, a better one.
As your Lordships know, the Government have decided that the problems which are posed by a small group of persistent offenders need to be addressed by a new response in order to prevent the lives of others in the community in which the youths live and in which they have persistently offended from being ruined and from being made intolerable. We have decided, therefore, that there should be a new sentence and new secure facilities: the secure training order and the secure training centres.
The Government considered carefully whether expanding the secure accommodation places which the local authorities have might be the best answer, but we decided that it would not be and that a new kind of facility should be created which would be specifically designed to deal with the persistent offenders. There are four main reasons for this. My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham was quite right when he said that secure training units are new and different from local authority secure accommodation. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that my noble and learned friend did not 1160 understand the problem and had got it wrong. I do not know whether my noble and learned friend gets upset when the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, says that kind of thing about him, but I advise him not to worry about it. My noble and learned friend was in fact quite right.
The first reason for providing a new kind of facility is that the local authority secure accommodation caters for a whole host of different and difficult people. Some are disturbed; some are as young as 10; some are as old as 18; some may be offenders and some may not. Of the 1,300 youngsters who are placed in secure accommoda-tion each year, about one-third are on remand. Half stay in security for less than a month.
We considered whether it was right to inject into this hotchpotch of people this group of offenders with their particular problems. I agree with my noble friend Lady Seccombe that it would not be right to do so and we reached that conclusion. Local authority secure accommodation is a valuable way of dealing with young people, but given the wide range of what we might call their "residents" there are limitations in the kind of regime which can be offered.
The secure training centres, by contrast, will be specifically designed to deal with persistent offenders who are within a relatively small age group. The centres will be able to provide a much more specialised regime; specialised in terms of education and of programmes which are designed to tackle offending behaviour, training them to be better. All that will be much better than is possible within local authority units.
The second argument for the new secure training centres relates to the size of the units. Most local authority units are relatively small, often between eight and 16 places. The resources and activities which are available in these kinds of units are, therefore, inevitably limited.
The secure training centres, on the other hand, will be larger regional units, with about 40 youngsters in each. This means that they will be able to provide better resources, better education, better training specifically designed for their needs, better rehabilitation program-mes and better activities; activities which will be much more likely to confront and to reform their offending behaviour.
The third reason for opting for the new secure training centres is that larger centres allow for economies of scale which are not available in smaller units. Creating a larger number of smaller units would undoubtedly be a more expensive proposition than would be a smaller number of larger ones; and a larger unit can deal better with the differing needs of differing youngsters.
The fourth reason is the question to which my noble friend Lord Carr invitingly referred. He said that if we use local authority secure accommodation it can be used now and we will not have to wait for these new secure training centres to be built. My noble friend put a lot of store on that, as did my noble friend Lady Faithfull. I remember two years ago being castigated by some of your Lordships because there were not enough secure local authority accommodation places for offenders. That was a criticism on which some of your Lordships 1161 found difficulty in being restrained. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, was one such and there is nothing novel in that.
However, the Government have now proposed that local authorities should build 170 new secure places. These will enable us to implement the long-standing commitment to end prison remands for 15 and 16 year-olds; to allow courts to remand 12 to 16 year-old juveniles, who have not yet been convicted, directly into secure accommodation; and to cater for children who are detained for long terms under Section S3 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. They are not yet built, but they should be available by the middle of 1996. It is into this present stock—not the future stock —of local authority secure accommodation which everyone has complained is inadequate for present purposes that my noble friend wishes to propel this new category of offending juveniles.
As this new local authority secure accommodation has not yet been built and if my noble friend's proposal were to be implemented immediately—which is one of my noble friend's strong arguments—it could only be at the expense of those people who are already housed but who would not be able in future to be housed in it. In other words, if you are going to put into the present stock of secure accommodation an extra category of people who at present do not go there, you will tip out those who ought to go there, who would go there, who at present go there, but who in future will not be able to go there. To expect local authorities, on top of this commitment to provide a further 170 places, to provide places also for this new category of offender would, in our view, be unrealistic.
It is simply not a fact, as my noble friends Lord Carr and Lady Faithfull said, that this amendment would allow for the secure training order to be implemented earlier than the provisions which the Bill in its present form contains because new places would have to be built by local authorities. What the amendment would do, however, is to create two parallel sets of new accommodation for persistent juvenile offenders: one in the secure training centres and the other in the local authority accommodation.
My noble friend, Lord Gisborough, said that in no way did this amendment undermine the Government's proposals. It does. My noble friend Lord Elton says that it expands the Government's proposals. I am bound to tell my noble friends that the amendment would seriously disrupt the Government's plans for bringing secure training centres into being. Plans would literally have to go straight back to the drawing board. They have been based on assumptions about the numbers of offenders who will have to be catered for. This will be thrown into complete confusion if some of them are now to be diverted into secure accommodation belonging to local authorities. My noble friend Lord Stewartby was quite right. Having to develop not one but two sets of secure accommodation without any reliable indications of what will be the balance of their use, and who would go where, would be a most inefficient and uneconomic use of public funds.
Those who support this amendment say, in effect: "Very well, we have no doubt that in many cases the 1162 secure training centres will be better. But why not allow the courts to choose where to send people in each case?" I reply to that by saying that the secure training order will be a sentence of the court and it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that the facilities in which the secure part of the sentences are to be served will all be staffed and will be run to a consistently high standard.
Local authority secure accommodation, on the other hand, is what it says it is: secure accommodation provided by the local authority. There is no consistency between units. They vary in size, facilities and approach according to the circumstances of the local authority and the area it serves. At present, the courts have no power to send anyone to local authority secure accommoda-tion. In most cases, it is the local authority which determines that a person shall go to secure accommodation, although it has to get the approval of the court if the intention is to keep someone in secure accommodation for more than 72 hours.
My noble friend Lord Carr says with his amendment, "Let us give the courts for the first time"—the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, confirmed that it was for the first time —"the power to sentence youngsters to institutions whose character and regime may vary from place to place and which are designed to cater for a variety of disparate individuals, some of whom have committed no offence at all".
My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham is right; so is my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon. We do not believe that it would be right for the courts to have the ability to choose alternative facilities to those which are in the Bill, facilities which will have different and less consistent regimes. The impact of the secure training order would undoubtedly be dissipated if we did that. It would not be right for the same sentence to attract two totally different kinds of placement—one in a national unit and one in a local authority one—which serve such different purposes.
I should be the first to admit that my noble friend's amendment is superficially very attractive. It has attracted some of your Lordships, even someone as discerning as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. It seems so reasonable and so harmless to say, "Just let us give the courts a choice". I suggest that your Lordships should be hesitant before becoming like Little Red Riding Hood, who was taken in by the warmth of the welcome, the smiling countenance and the apparent charm of what she saw. I would never describe my noble friend Lord Carr as being like the Big Bad Wolf but I suggest that your Lordships would be ill advised to be like Little Red Riding Hood.
The fact is that, if we are to try to deal with these young offenders properly, they are best dealt with in special units with programmes which are specially designed for them rather than in a number of different and disparate units with a number of different and disparate regimes accountable to a number of different and disparate agencies.
As your Lordships would expect, we have considered all the different possibilities of how best to deal with people of that vulnerable age group. We have 1163 considered my noble friend's suggestion. We think, though, for the reasons which I gave, that the proposals in the Bill provide the best solution.
I hope that my noble friend, with his enormous ability to comprehend difficult problems—heaven knows, he must have had stacks of them when occupying the position of such eminence he held in the Home Office—will see the wisdom of what we are trying to achieve and will not press the amendment. If he does so, I hope that that your Lordships will not agree to it.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down and before I exercise my right of reply as mover of the amendment, perhaps he can say something about what is intended to happen within the secure unit after the half period of custody is over.
My Lords, to answer my noble friend, when the half period of custody is over the person will be returned to his home under the guidance of a number of different possible agencies, which will be decided after he has served his time in the secure unit.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Only time will show whose arguments are the more shallow and whose are the more deep. I am bound to say that the reply just given to my question causes me considerably increased doubt about the desirability of not giving the courts this option. The idea is that the court should send these people away to something entirely new. They should not carry on in the accustomed surroundings. But then, when half the period of sentence is over, they are brought back from that distant point and re-introduced to the old locality from which it had been thought necessary to remove them. Quite honestly, that does not seem to me a very deep or profound consideration of the real needs of those people.
Before bringing this discussion to a conclusion, I beg your Lordships to remember that we are not just dealing with young juvenile offenders. We are dealing with children of 12 to 14 years of age. The whole question of locking children up and putting them into prison is new and very distasteful to have to think about. I support the view that, unfortunately, we do have to think about it. But I ask your Lordships to imagine yourselves as magistrates faced with that very distasteful need. I cannot help wondering, should any of us be sitting on the Bench, whether we might be rather less inclined to impose one of those sentences if we had to send youngsters miles away from home as we did not have any option. In particular, that would be the case, taking up the point made in an intervention by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, if there is power during the course of a sentence to switch from one to another.
My noble friend the Minister made out that the size of the new units was a decisive argument. Is he saying that large is necessarily beautiful? That is a very doubtful proposition, particularly in this field. He also said that it was bad to have mixed groups. But the experience of those who know about the situation shows 1164 that sometimes there can be surprising success in mixed groups. To make that a major reason for turning down the amendment—I am sorry to throw the words back at him—seems to be shallow and not deep thinking.
I did not quite understand why acceptance of the amendment would apparently cause delay rather than expedite matters. I did not understand that at all. I cannot imagine why the plans for these special secure units, which are presumably far advanced, will all have to go back to the drawing board simply because the courts have an option to do something else.
I listened to my noble friend. I have never been particularly keen on divorcing myself or recommending my colleagues or my party to divorce themselves from the Government's view at the time, but I am afraid that on this matter I must ask the House to express its opinion.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 170; Not-Contents, 139.1166
|Aberdare, L.||Dilhorne, V.|
|Ackner, L.||Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.|
|Addington, L.||Donoughue, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Dormand of Easington, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Eatwell, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Elton, L. [Teller.]|
|Alport, L.||Ewing of Kirkford, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Ezra, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Faithfull, B.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Falkender, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Falkland, V.|
|Avebury, L.||Fisher of Rednal, B.|
|Bancroft, L.||Foot, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Gainsborough, E.|
|Blackstone, B.||Gallacher, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Geraint, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Gladwyn, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Glenamara, L.|
|Brain, L.||Gould of Potternewton, B.|
|Brentford, V.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Bridges, L.||Gray, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Grey, E.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Hamwee, B.|
|Caldecote, V.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Haskel, L.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Healey, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L. [Teller.]||Henniker, L.|
|Carter, L.||Hollick, L.|
|Castle of Blackburn, B.||Hollis of Heigham, B.|
|Chapple, L.||Holme of Cheltenham, L.|
|Chester, Bp.||Howell, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Hunt, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Iddesleigh, E.|
|Dahrendorf, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L.|
|Dainton, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Jay of Paddington, B.|
|David, B.||Jay, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Jeger, B.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||Judd, L.|
|Desai, L.||Kagan, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Rochester, L.|
|Kintore, E.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Roskill, L.|
|Lester of Herne Hill, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Listowel, E.||Scanlon, L.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Seear, B.|
|Lockwood, B.||Serota, B.|
|Longford, E.||Shannon, E.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Simon, V.|
|Mallalieu, B.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Mason of Barnsley, L.||Slynn of Hadley, L.|
|Mayhew, L.||Stallard, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Stedman, B.|
|McNair, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Milverton, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Strafford, E.|
|Monkswell, L.||Strange, B.|
|Morris of Castle Morris, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Mulley, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Mustill, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Nelson of Stafford, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Nicol, B.||Tordoff, L.|
|Northbourne, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Ogmore, L.||Varley, L.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Park of Monmouth, B.||Weatherill, L.|
|Pender, L.||Westmorland, E.|
|Peyton of Yeovil, L.||Whaddon, E.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||White, B.|
|Prys-Davies, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Rea, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Redesdale, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Richard, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Addison, V.||Cumberlege, B.|
|Ailsa, M.||De Freyne, L.|
|Aldenham, L.||Dean of Harptree, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Denham, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Denton of Wakefield, B.|
|Annaly, L.||Dixon-Smith, L.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.||Downshire, M.|
|Arran, E.||Eccles, V.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Astor, V.||Elibank, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Barber of Tewkesbury, L.||Elliott of Morpeth, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Elphinstone, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Ferrers, E.|
|Bethell, L.||Flather, B.|
|Blatch, B.||Fraser of Carmyllie, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Goschen, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Gray of Contin, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||Harding of Petherton, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Harmsworth, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Henley, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Hood, V.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Hooper, B.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Hothfield, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Howe, E.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Huntly, M.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Jakobovits, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Jenkin of Roding, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Kenyon, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Cranborne, V.||Layton, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Lindsay, E.|
|Cross, V.||Long, V.|
|Lyell, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.||Sharples, B.|
|MacLehose of Beoch, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Marlesford, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Marsh, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|McColl of Dulwich, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Miller of Hendon, B.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Mottistone, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||[Teller.]|
|Munster, E.||Sudeley, L.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Tebbit, L.|
|Newall, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Norfolk, D.||Torrington, V.|
|Orkney, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Oxfuird, V.||Trumpington, B.|
|Peel, E.||Tugendhat, L.|
|Platt of Writtle, B.||Ullswater, V. [Teller.]|
|Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Prentice, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Pym, L.||Wedgwood, L.|
|Rankeillour, L.||Wharton, B.|
|Rees, L.||Wise, L.|
|Renton, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Rodger of Earlsferry, L.||Young, B.|
|Saint Oswald, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 18, at end insert:
("(2A) Where a court makes a secure training order under subsection (1) above it may specify that the period of detention shall be in secure accommodation provided by the local authority or by a person or organisation with whom the local authority has made arrangements for the provision of secure accommoda-tion.").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley moved Amendment No. 3:
§ Page 2, line 22, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsections (4A) and (4B) below").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 5, to which it is closely linked. I can be brief in regard to both amendments. I believe that I can separate our discussion on the first two amendments from the debate on Amendments Nos. 3 and 5 because the principles are split. It is therefore possible for noble Lords to agree with the first two amendments but to disagree with these two, or vice versa. Had the first two amendments not been agreed to, these two would not have been moved at this time. However, the first two having been accepted, I urge your Lordships to support Amendments Nos. 3 and 5 as well.
§ In this experimental sphere—let us not forget that dealing with children of this age is an experimental sphere —it is right that there should be some flexibility not only about where and how the sentence of a secure training order should be carried out, but also about the ability to switch in mid-stream if it should be thought necessary. What I and my fellow supporters feel, however, is that the decision to switch should remain very much a decision of the court and not a decision of officials at either central or local level. The amendments provide a power for a local authority, if a child has been put in local authority secure accommodation, to go to 1167 the court and say, "Please will you change this and perhaps send this child to one of the new units or to some other form of care". Similarly, if the court has sent the child in the first place to one of the new units, the director of the unit should be able to go back to the court and say, "Having had this child in my care for some time, we think it would be advisable that he or she should be switched to some other form of treatment under a local authority or should be treated in some other way". The court remains in control. If these amendments are passed the opportunity for flexibility is continued. I hope that the common sense of that will, without further argument, commend itself to your Lordships.
§ I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I shall be brief. I am not in favour of the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley. It overlooks the main provision of Clause 1 that the court shall not make a secure training order unless it is satisfied about the offender's age; and,(b) that the offender has been convicted of three or more imprisonable offences; and(c) that the offender, either on this or a previous occasion—In other words, we are dealing here with a very small hard core of persistent young offenders. The amendment would add confusion to what is envisaged by the Government, with or without the modification—I voted against it—which has been carried by your Lordships under Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. If we add to what is in the Bill and if we add to what is in Amendment No. 2, there will be great confusion—especially if we apply the further complication of what is put forward in Amendment No. 5.
- (i) has been found by a court to be in breach of a supervision order under the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, or
- (ii) has been convicted of an imprisonable offence committed whilst he was subject to such a supervision order".
I need not invite your Lordships' attention to the details for they are there for all your Lordships to see. But I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Ferrers will not accept the amendment and that your Lordships also will not.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, seems to think that a new degree of confusion will be introduced if the amendment is carried. Perhaps I may point out to him that the powers sought in the amendment are by no means new. For example, the power to move from one institution to another a young offender detained for a long term has existed since the passing of Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, the noble Lord is right in saying that the powers are not new. But the circumstances in which they are being imposed are new; and they do not dovetail.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I beg leave to doubt that as well. What is sought in the amendments is power to apply to the court to change the institution in which the young offender is kept; whereas what is provided in the 1933 Act is the power for the young offender to be moved from one institution to another 1168 without even application to the court. So I suggest, with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that he is not merely exaggerating the extent of confusion that is possible but suggesting confusion which would be resolved by these amendments.
In my view, the amendments are a necessary complement to the amendments which have just been carried. They could not be debated together because the wording is dependent on the wording of the first two amendments. But I suggest to the House that those who supported the first two amendments should also in logic to support these two.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, we have been talking so far about putting these youngsters into centres, but we must remember that they are going in for only six months or a year. They will then come out again, and they will come out probably with very little extra training. If, during the period of their detention, those working with them feel that there is a better chance that when they come out they will be improved by perhaps being sent home or sent for some other treatment, surely that chance must be taken. If one just locks them up and waits six months for them to come out, they will come out just as bad as they were before. It may be the case, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said, that local authority accommodation is very much better than the secure training centre, or perhaps that may be so in some cases. There must be the option to change if it is felt advisable. Only the court can make that decision. There is no danger, as some people seem to think, of suddenly the local authority sending these youngsters on safari. It is a court decision. It is not for any of the workers.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, it is not only those who voted for Amendment No. 1 who ought to support this amendment. I voted with the Government because I thought that we had been harrying the Government for years and saying, "For heaven's sake, do something about this terrible problem". They have produced a Bill which does something about it. I felt that as a result of all that harrying there was some justice in giving them a chance to implement what they were doing at our request. However, if the amendment passed by the House remains in the Bill, Amendment No. 3 would be indispensable to it. If the magistrates have made the decision to send a person to a local authority home and it does not work because of the character of the individual, to me it is good sense that those concerned should be able to apply to have that individual transferred to one of the five centres. The two run together.
I make that point because the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that those who voted for the first amendment should support this amendment. Now that that amendment has been passed and if it remains and is part of the statute, the extra amendment is part of making a provision that might be workable.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has a very good point. During the discussion on the previous amendment I mentioned the powers of the Secretary of State under Clause 2(4) to 1169 transfer persons sentenced to secure training orders. They apply only to transfers of the offender from the secure training centre to such other place and on such other conditions as the Secretary of State may direct.
As the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, rightly pointed out, the Secretary of State does not have the power, and he would not have needed any such power if the amendment had not been passed, to transfer a person from a local authority secure unit to a training centre or from the local authority secure unit to any other place such as he may direct. If this amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, has moved had not been in the Marshalled List, the Government would have had to bring forward an amendment of their own to enhance the powers of the Secretary of State under Clause 2(4) so that the transfers could have been made either way.
When the noble Earl comes to reply, can he tell us why he thought it appropriate to give these powers only to the Secretary of State? It seems curious to me that the courts, as I mentioned in connection with the last amendment, knowing the circumstances of the offence and the offender, are not given the power, but the Secretary of State, at some later date, and of his own volition and based solely on his paper knowledge of the case, is able to make transfers from one place to another. Not only those who supported the last amendment would have to agree that these powers should be conferred on the courts; but everyone else who did not support it should pay attention to the wise advice of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, and consider whether or not the additional flexibility which this amendment gives would greatly enhance the abilities of the courts under the Bill.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I oppose this amendment. I voted with the Government at the last Division. I accept that in a sense this amendment is a logical development from what was decided by your Lordships at the last Division. It is not an inevitable derivative. I ask your Lordships to consider how far we should go. I suggest to the House that this amendment goes too far. I am concerned with what we do with these young people who are persistent, hardcore criminals. Something has to be done. For years, when I sat as a recorder—I am too old to be one now—we were powerless to do anything with them.
Since then the Government have taken the initiative to try to do something. That is what the people of this country, by and large, and outside this House, broadly wish. They wish for deterrence. One needs to have an element of deterrence. I was chided by my noble friend Lord Elton the other day who said, "These are young people who stand only as high as the Dispatch Box". They are committed, hardened criminals who are unable to be dealt with effectively. The only thing they understand is the element of deterrence. Although I totally agree that rehabilitation is an important and essential element in all this, and I do not derogate from that at all, I do not believe that that will start to work 1170 until we have effective deterrence which is known and understood. I support the Government up to the hilt on this amendment.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, when my noble friend speaks of looking for deterrence, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, should have argued in the opposite sense. We have now devised a system in which there are two routes which such a sentence can follow and there are two institutions in which it may be served. From what my noble friend has said and from the inference which I draw from others of his persuasion, it is thought that the secure training centre will be a tougher option than the local authority secure unit. If that be the case, surely the director of the local authority secure unit should be able to tell the unmanageable young tearaway whom he cannot control, "If you do not come off it right away, young friend, you will be sent to the dark black hole and swallowed up".
On the other foot, there is the argument that it should be possible on occasion to release somebody from the most severe to the less severe treatment on the ground that the child had made sufficient progress to warrant it and understood that this was the carrot.
When you have both the stick and the carrot you have discipline, which is what this matter is all about. I believe that the amendment which my noble friend and my colleagues and I have devised is an instrument which can be used for discipline creatively in order to strengthen the system and not to weaken it.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I support this amendment. Perhaps I may point out two matters. The first is that every child is an individual and different from every other child. The family is different. Some children will need much more help than others. I believe that the needs of each child should be met. In both the secure training unit and the local authority unit not only are the social workers in touch with the children but there are also psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers and the parents. If a child makes rapid progress, as some of them do, then the needs of that child should be met. It ought to be possible to return to the court and to ask the magistrates to vary the order.
My Lords, I am always hesitant when someone refers, as my noble friend Lord Carr did, to the common sense of the amendment which rather insinuates that anyone else who takes a different view is lacking in common sense and cannot see the rectitude of the other's ways. I was also fascinated by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls who spoke for this amendment. He did speak for the last amendment, although I am glad to say that he voted against it. He now speaks for this amendment and I hope that he will be sensible enough to vote against it too when the time comes. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, seems to have vaporised. I do not know where he has gone, but he has gone.
That is an unusual thing and a bit in advance of his time. He said that this amendment 1171 complements the other one. Had the noble Lord been here, I might have said that he was talking rubbish, but I would not say that in his absence. I merely say that he was guilty of an erroneous description. The fact is that these amendments have nothing to do with the previous amendments. This is a very different amendment which enables the court to vary the order when the sentence is under way.
Let us be quite clear where we are over this matter. The last amendment which, in my view, your Lordships decided injudiciously to put into the Bill, has given the courts the ability to choose whether to send a youngster to a secure training unit or, for the first time ever, to send the youngster to local authority secure accommodation. This amendment allows the courts to move the youth from one to the other. I do not believe that that has anything to do with the last amendment because this amendment covers a totally different concept.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked why should the Secretary of State make transfers from secure accommodation to another place under the Bill. He is right that Clause 2(4) will have to be amended—if the earlier amendment remains in the Bill—to enable the Home Office to transfer a trainee from secure accommodation to another place. He referred to the power in Clause 2(4) to transfer youngsters out of secure places. That provision was included in order to cover exceptional cases where, for instance, a juvenile needs to be moved because he is mentally ill. That decision would be made by the Home Office and not by the court.
This matter is very different. Much of what I said in the earlier debate has equal force now. We believe that those who are subject to the secure training order should have the opportunity to serve the secure part of their sentence in the specialised new units which are being established. There they will receive the specialist education and training which they need. To allow the sentence to be chopped and changed, as between one establishment and another, would be bound to reduce the effectiveness of the new order.
There are three further reasons why I think that these amendments are undesirable. The first is a matter of principle. I know that this will appeal to those of your Lordships who are of a legal disposition. A secure training order is a custodial sentence. That means that the length of the sentence must reflect primarily the seriousness of the offending. That is a decision which must be taken when the courts impose the sentence in the first place. I think that your Lordships will find it difficult to reconcile this philosophy, which governs all custodial sentences, with the philosophy behind the amendment which would allow the courts in this one particular type of sentence to alter it in midstream.
The second problem is a more practical one. I am not at all convinced that the courts would necessarily welcome the highly involved role in the mechanics of the sentence which this amendment would inevitably give them. It would be time-consuming, complicated and, I suggest, unnecessary.
The third question relates to the availability of secure accommodation, which we talked about earlier. As with the earlier amendment, this one envisages local 1172 authorities somehow having access on demand to a number of vacancies for persistent offenders. That would pose particular difficulties for the local authorities. The simple fact is that it is to the secure training centres to which we must look for the secure training order to be served, and not elsewhere.
If your Lordships consider that it is necessary or desirable also to have local authority secure accom-modation—your Lordships did consider this—that is fine, but it is another matter. Perhaps I should not say that it is fine because it is an erroneous decision. Nevertheless, that is one thing; it is quite another thing to say that once a youngster is placed either in local authority secure accommodation or into a secure training unit, he should be swapped around between one and the other—even if that is with the approval of the courts. I hope that my noble friend will realise that that would be an undesirable addition to the Bill.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley
My Lords, I must be in a cantankerous mood, but I really do not find it easy or possible to understand the Government's thinking. I understood the Government's thinking on the first two amendments, although I profoundly disagreed with them; but with respect and in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, I find the arguments that have been advanced by my noble friend very difficult to appreciate or understand. I cannot help noticing that Clause 2(4) provides for the Secretary of State to alter a sentence in midstream. I know that the circumstances are not quite the same, but the principle of altering a sentence in midstream is written into the Bill.
I beg your Lordships to remember that this is a highly experimental area. For the first time in our history, we are putting children of 12 and 14 into prison. Although I deeply regret it, I agree with the necessity for it. We are treading new ground. That is one of the reasons why I believe that we should show greater flexibility. It is possible that a court may send a child into local authority secure accommodation to start with. That centre may then find that it cannot cope, so it returns to the court so that the young child can be sent to one of the new units. Indeed, the same may arise vice versa, given that the secure units are available. I cannot understand why it is not wise to be able to provide that flexibility.
Although I had hoped not to have to seek to divide the House again, I feel that what the Minister has recommended is so irrational—I am sorry to have to say that—that I must seek leave to take the opinion of the House.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 147; Not-Contents, 128.1174
|Aberdare, L.||Ardwick, L.|
|Ackner, L.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Addington, L.||Ashley of Stoke, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Attlee, E.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Avebury, L.|
|Bancroft, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Jacques, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Jay of Paddington, B.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Jay, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Judd, L.|
|Brain, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Lester of Herne Hill, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Longford, E.|
|Carr of Hadley, L. [Teller.]||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Carter, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Chapple, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Chester, Bp.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Cross, V.||McNair, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Dahrendorf, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Monkswell, L.|
|David, B.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Mulley, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||Nicol, B.|
|Desai, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Rea, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Elton, L.||Richard, L.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Faithfull, B.||Rochester, L.|
|Falkender, B.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Seear, B.|
|Gallacher, L.||Serota, B.|
|Geraint, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Gisborough, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Simon, V.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Slynn of Hadley, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Gray, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Strafford, E.|
|Grey, E.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Tenby, V.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Haskel, L.||Varley, L.|
|Henniker, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Hollick, L.||Weatherill, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||White, B.|
|Holme of Cheltenham, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Howell, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Addison, V.||Astor of Hever, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Astor, V.|
|Aldenham, L.||Balfour, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Barber of Tewkesbury, L.|
|Alexander of Weedon, L.||Bauer, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Beloff, L.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.||Bethell, L.|
|Arran, E.||Boardman, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||MacLehose of Beoch, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Marlesford, L.|
|Cadman, L.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Miller of Hendon, B.|
|Chesham, L.||Monson, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Munster, E.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Newall, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Norfolk, D.|
|Cranborne, V.||Northbourne, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Denham, L.||Peel, E.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Prentice, L.|
|Downshire, M.||Pym, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Rees, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Renton, L.|
|Elphinstone, L.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Flather, B.||Seccombe, B.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Goschen, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Harding of Petherton, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Holderness, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Hood, V.||Swinfen, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Howe, E.||Torrington, V.|
|Huntly, M.||Trumpington, B.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Tugendhat, L.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Ullswater, V. [Teller.]|
|Kenyon, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Kimball, L.||Wise, L.|
|Lane of Horsell, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Young, B.|
|Lindsay, E.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.22 p.m.
Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 2, line 23, leave out ("one half) and insert ("between one half and one third").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I find myself in some difficulty. I wish that the previous amendments had not happened, because my amendment is of a rather different provenance. While I do not disagree with what has been done, I should like your Lordships, if possible, to consider my amendment in its own right. With the permission of the House perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 4 and 10 separately rather than as a group.
§ The reason for my setting down the amendments relates to the debates which took place on Second Reading and in Committee when many noble Lords 1175 referred to the fact that the incarceration of young offenders appeared to have the effect of making them reoffend more frequently or embracing the probability of them reoffending, but no one addressed the question of why. The two amendments address two of the reasons —there may be many—why young offenders who have been locked up are more likely to reoffend.
§ In discussing the subject we have perhaps tended to blur—the Government may even have tended to blur them in their own mind—the two elements which there are in such a sentence: the element of punishment, and the element of rehabilitation. My view is that the element of punishment is very necessary, and should not be ignored, but punishment and rehabilitation make poor bedfellows.
§ If one talks about rehabilitating a persistent young offender, one is talking about changing the value system of a young person. We are not just talking about naughty boys here; we are not talking about someone who has a set of values which he or she accepts but has transgressed for fun or because he or she was tempted. We are talking in the main about young people who are alienated from the values of society. One may ask why they have been alienated. In some cases it can be because their families themselves have values which are different from the values that your Lordships and I would accept. There are other cases where the young person has perhaps been rejected by his family and accepts the values of a peer group (a street gang, a group of friends) which once again are alien to the values of society.
§ If we are trying to rehabilitate those young people, we have to change their value system, and that can be done only by someone whom they trust and respect, and it can be done only over a substantial period of time.
§ The purpose of the amendment is simply to make it possible for the court to change the ratio between passing the part of the sentence which is devoted primarily to punishment and the part of the sentence which is devoted primarily to rehabilitation. I have suggested, perhaps modestly, only that the courts should be given the option of making a one-third punishment/ two-thirds rehabilitation division rather than a 50/50 division. I should like to hope that the Minister may be minded to consider the proposal favourably, or at least to give me an assurance that we might discuss it further. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I support the amendment. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will feel that it creates a degree of flexibility as to what the court can do under Clause 1, without interfering in any way with the basic principles of the clause, and without adding any confusion or complication. As we all know, nearly every case is different. The offences committed by each offender may be different and have different circumstances attached to them. The circumstance and personality of each offender may be different, and to give the court just that degree—it is only a small degree —of flexibility which the amendment would give would be an advantage.
1176 It is not a question of the court having to choose to have half or one third of the sentence served in detention; it is a variation between one third and a half. It is a very minor change. It is a very reasonable change. I hope that my noble friend will consider it sympathetically.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lords, Lord Northbourne and Lord Renton, have said. The Minister and his colleagues have, on a number of occasions, told us of their enthusiasm for the cause and principle of flexibility. This gives them the opportunity to adopt the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, cases coming before the courts in relation to the matters that we are now discussing will cover a wide range. The amendment gives the courts more power to take account of those special circumstances which may apply to an individual offender.
I hope that if the Minister does not give us an affirmative answer today he will indicate that he is at least prepared to consider the matter between now and Third Reading, with a view to adopting the course proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, perhaps I may ask my noble friend a question as to the meaning of the amendment, if it were carried. The phrase used is:between one half and one third".In the ordinary use of language that would mean that it cannot be either one half or one third, because that would not be between the two. What will be the effect of the amendment, as a matter of drafting, if it is carried?
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has caught me out completely. I suspect that by going down to millionths of a unit we can get very, very near to a half or very, very near to a third.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I oppose the amendment. We seem to have forgotten that the secure training order may be imposed, but does not have to be imposed. It is an option. I agree with my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley that we are in an experimental stage.
I agree that we are concerned with young people who are alienated from society. It must be common ground that as yet we have not discovered how to deal effectively with them. The time has come when, if needs be, we must have at our disposal means with which to deal with them. At this stage of the experiment, I see no reason for qualifying the clause as it stands.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, perhaps I may clarify what my noble friend said. Clause 1(3) provides that the minimum period of detention and supervision together must be six months. Subsection (4) provides that the period of detention as a proportion of that shall be not less than one-half. Therefore, there is an absolute minimum of three months' incarceration. The amend-ment proposes to allow that to be dropped to a period nearer two months.
1177 I do not have enormously strong feelings about the matter, but I hope that in reflecting on it my noble friend will try to cast his mind back to the time when he was 12 years old. That is only a little further away from the time I was 12 years old. Perhaps he will remember what an eternity of time a single month or a single day then was. Therefore, the currency with which we are dealing has been debased by our old age. We now think of six months as something to toss aside and, after all, it is not even a complete year. To a child, it is several careers on the end of a lifetime and therefore I hope that my noble friend will remember that the currency with which he is dealing is very valuable.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I am not sure that I go along with him philosophically in his analysis that there must be a period described as a period of punishment to be followed by a period described as a period of rehabilitation. I suspect that in practice the two will overlap and that they will not coincide with the period in incarceration, if that is the right word.
Certainly, the degree of discretion which is proposed in the amendment is consistent with and complementary to the view that was taken by the House on Amendments Nos. 3 and 5, although I would not claim that it is dependent on the earlier amendments. Noble Lords who supported Amendments Nos. 3 and 5, in particular, may well believe that this amendment provides an appropriate extension to the flexibility available to the courts.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, I am not clear who will exercise the discretion as to whether the period is one-half or one-third. Subsection (3) provides that the court shall determine but there is no such wording in subsection (4). Nor does the phrase "the court determines" appear in the amendment. Is it intended that the court shall decide between one-half and one-third when the original order is made or is it a decision that someone else will make at a later date, depending on how the offender is spending his time?
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene. The answer is perfectly clear. Subsection (4) begins,'The period of detention".That phrase is used in subsection (3), where we learn that it is a period decided by the court.
My Lords, perhaps I may urge a little caution as regards what was said by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. He said that the amendment was complementary to Amendments Nos. 3 and 5, which were accepted. When we dealt with Amendment No. 3, the noble Lord said that it was complementary on Nos. 1 and 2. I wish that he would get out of the habit of trying to join all the amendments together so that all those noble Lords who are not too familiar with the proceedings will believe that they are consequential. They are nothing of the kind. This amendment stands totally separate and has nothing to do with the previous amendments. Once again, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is wrong!
1178 The effect of Amendment No. 4 would be to change substantially the balance of the secure training order. The order, as it is currently provided for in the Bill, consists of two halves. The first half is spent in security in a secure training centre and the second half is spent under supervision in the community. The minimum length of the whole order is six months and the maximum length is two years. That means that the minimum period in security is three months and the maximum period is 12 months.
That arrangement gives the courts a good deal of flexibility in determining the appropriate level of sentence. In determining the length of the sentence, as with all custodial sentences, the courts must have regard to the seriousness of the offending. The Bill as it stands offers a wide range of sentence lengths.
The purpose of Amendment No. 4 would be to allow the period in security to be not one-half but any proportion between one-third and one-half. In trying to persuade your Lordships towards the amendment, my noble friend Lord Elton asked me to look back to the time when I was a child, when a month was a very long time. Of course, it is a very long time, and one evening in your Lordships' House debating the Criminal Justice Bill is almost as long as is a month to a child.
If I look back to the time when I was a child, as if a month spent in a secure training centre would be terrible, I can say only that I like to think that I did not behave in the way that some of the characters who will be subject to a secure training order have behaved. If they find a month a long time, it would be better if they should not offend and subject themselves to such a sentence. Therefore, I believe that my noble friend's argument on that point is absurd.
Despite what was said by my noble friend Lord Renton, I agree with my noble friend Lord Brentford that it is not clear in the amendment who will make the decision about the proportion of the sentence to be spent in security. It might be the secure training centre itself which will make the decision on the basis of the youngster's progress within its establishment and his readiness for release. I agree that there are some attractions in having a non-rigid approach, but there are also some overriding objections. Such a system as this could well be unfair and there would need to be at least some arrangement for a quasi-judicial decision on whether or not to release a youngster. The Government considered this carefully but we decided that there were bound to be difficulties.
Experience of indeterminate sentences has been that the length which was served has often related rather less to the needs and progress of the individual offender than to the state of supply and demand for the places in the estate.
On the other hand, Amendment No. 4 means that the proportion of the sentence to be spent in security should be determined by the court. On the face of it, that seems reasonable but I see two difficulties. First, on what basis would the court make the decision that someone should spend half his sentence in custody whereas another could spend one-third in custody? Would it relate to the 1179 seriousness of the offence or would it just be an estimate of the progress that he is likely to make? I believe that we should keep the matter simple.
The magistrates—and we must remember that there are some 5,000 in the youth court—will already have to determine how long the sentence should last. Should it be six months, 12 months, 18 months or two years? To complicate the matter further by then saying that they must decide how much of the chosen length of the sentence should be spent in custody—should it be one-third, three-eighths or one-half?—really seems to be making it all unnecessarily complicated. My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham said that if the legislation provides that the period must be between one-half and one-third, it cannot be exactly either, and that shows how much more complicated the matter becomes.
This is a matter to which we have given careful consideration. There are many factors to weigh up in determining how a sentence should work; for instance, the maximum length, the minimum length, the arrangements for early release and whether release should be based on an offender's progress. We consider that the secure training order should be a determinate sentence but a flexible one. At one end of the scale, the maximum order for two years, with one year in the secure training centre and one year under supervision, is designed for youngsters whose offending is the most serious and where the need for custodial training is that much greater. At the bottom end of the scale there is a minimum of six months—with three months in the secure training centre and three months under supervision. That sentence would be more appropriate for the less serious offender who needs a brief change of environment to stop him re-offending but whose offending suggests that a rather less extensive sentence will be required.
Between those limits, courts will have flexibility. They will be in the best position to assess what is an appropriate sentence, bearing in mind that the length of the sentence must be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence or, in the case of sexual or violent crimes, the need to protect the public from serious harm. I believe that there is sufficient flexibility in the arrangements as they stand. I hope that the noble Lord will see the wisdom of that.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I am very disappointed by that reply because it seems that he has entirely missed the point of the amendment, which is that the ratio between incarceration and rehabilitation should be different from the ratio provided in the Bill as it stands.
I contemplated the idea of simply changing "one half to "one third", but I felt that that would lead to the complaint that I was shortening the maximum sentence which can be given to a serious offender. I am saying, "Yes, if you like, let us change the wording of the amendment so that the most serious offender can spend a year in a secure unit but in that case, he needs at least two years in rehabilitation".
1180 I am not going to divide the House on this issue but I hope that the noble Earl will be prepared to meet me to discuss further the principle underlying the amendment before the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 2, line 24, at end insert:
("(4A) While any secure training order in respect of which a court has made such a specification as is mentioned in subsection (2A) above is in force, a court may, on the application of the local authority, and if it is satisfied that it would be appropriate to do so, order that the remainder of the period of detention shall be replaced by—
(4B) While any secure training order in respect of which a court has not made such a specification as is mentioned in subsection (2A) above is in force, a court may, on the application of the director of the relevant secure training centre, and if it is satisfied that it would be appropriate to do so, order that the remainder of the period of detention shall be replaced by—
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 6:
§ Page 2, line 30, leave out ("three or more imprisonable offences") and insert ("one or more imprisonable offences on three or more separate occasions").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that this is a drafting amendment because it is intended to give effect to the repeated statements of Ministers, both here and in another place, that secure training centres are designed for persistent young offenders.
§ I make the point about persistent young offenders because, of course, under Clause 16, there is provision for those young offenders who are convicted of very serious crimes—those which, if they were adults, would be subject to a prison sentence of 14 years or more—to be sentenced to long-term detention under separate powers. Therefore, let us be clear that we are talking about persistent young offenders rather than those who commit very serious offences.
As I said, there have been repeated references by Ministers to the word "persistent". In the debate on Second Reading in another place, the Home Secretary said:
At present the courts are unable to deal adequately with persistent juvenile offenders, especially those aged between 12 and 14".—[Official Report, Commons, 11/1/94; col. 23.]
The Minister of State on the same day at col. 115 said:
There is clearly a problem with persistent juvenile offenders … A few persistent offenders can be responsible for a vast amount of crime".
And yet, curiously enough, the Bill does not provide that secure training orders shall apply to persistent young offenders. It provides that the criterion shall be:
three or more imprisonable offences".
§ Of course, three or more imprisonable offences could occur at a single court appearance; indeed, the current court appearance. I cannot believe that it is the intention of Ministers that young people—as the noble Lord, Lord Carr, rightly reminds us, children—should be sentenced to secure training orders on the basis of a single court appearance at which they are dealt with for three or more imprisonable offences.
§ I hope that the Government will agree that the amendment gives effect to their repeatedly-expressed intentions that the order should be used for persistent offenders. I beg to move.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, I was glad to put my name to the amendment. Like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I have always been struck by the fact that the Government have said constantly that they are seeking to deal with a small number of persistent offenders for whom everything else has been tried. The noble Lord referred to what the noble Earl said on Second Reading on 25th April. On that occasion he gave as an illustration, suggesting that that was one among the kind of cases which the Government had in mind —the case of a 14 year-old boy who had admitted taking part in more than 1,000 burglaries in two years. On a single night he and other teenagers raided 23 branches of one particular store; and he had been arrested 40 times.
However, the entry qualifications in the Bill fall a long way short of such cases. As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said so succinctly in Committee:the criteria on the face of the Bill are radically different from the descriptions that we are given of the customer we are hoping to catch".—[Official Report, 16/5/94; col. 37.]I appreciate that the courts must have regard to the restrictions on imposing custodial sentences provided in the Criminal Justice Act 1991, but it does not seem at all consistent with the Government's proclaimed policy that a single afternoon's shoplifting expedition in three stores and the breach of a single supervision order are all that is needed to qualify for consideration.
This modest amendment would help towards making the provisions of the Bill go just a little bit nearer to what the Government have said that they are hoping to achieve. I hope that the House will agree to it.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, before my noble friend replies to the amendment, perhaps he will consider which of two things it would have the effect of achieving. Does it mean that the offender should have been convicted on three or more separate occasions of one or more imprisonable offences; or does it mean that the offences must have been committed on three separate occasions? It can mean either but I do not believe that it can mean both.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley
My Lords, I am troubled by subsection (5) (b) as it stands. It does not seem to be in line with what the Government have been saying about this matter from the beginning. On the one hand, we have heard that the new order will probably apply to not more than 200 children throughout the whole country. And yet one of the tests would bring in, I imagine, 1182 thousands of children. I know that that is not the only test which must be passed but it seems to be very much out of tune with "persistency", which is the word that Ministers in this House and in another place have used frequently.
While I have no particular attachment to the words chosen in the amendment, I believe that it raises an anomaly as it stands in relation to the Government's own repeated words on the subject.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, further to the question put by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham, perhaps I may ask whether the Minister is aware that, if there are three imprisonable offences, they are not all tried on the same day in the same trial. Of course, one applies to sever the indictment so mat conviction on one will not prejudice the other. That process applies irrespective of whether the three offences are committed on the same day, on three separate days or on one or two days. That process of severing the indictment is always conducted with scrupulous fairness by the judiciary. If my noble friend the Minister could take that concept on board—and I speak subject to correction as there are noble and learned Lords present in the. Chamber—surely the Bill as drafted takes account of any possible: unfairness in that regard.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for recalling what I said in Committee. It is a matter of considerable importance. In Committee we were invited to divide against the Government by my noble friend Lady Faithfull regarding the whole concept of this sentence. With great conviction, but perhaps not great eloquence, I urged noble Lords to resist my noble friend's cause because I believed that there was only a handful—probably one or two hundred—of young people who fitted the description given from the Dispatch Box.
However, if the description in the Bill covers a much larger number of people, and is to remain so, I feel mat I may have made that speech and taken that decision in Committee under something approaching a misap-prehension. My noble friend and his right honourable friend have come to Parliament requesting a provision to deal with a specific ill. All we are asking is that that ill should be accurately described on the face of the Bill.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that we are discussing almost a drafting amendment. I do not wish to tell him yet again that he is wrong, but I believe that it is a little more than that—
My Lords, noble Lords are quite right always to have what estate agents call "hope value". May the noble Lord continue in that vein, so long as it goes no further.
Frankly, the effect of the amendment would make it more difficult for the court to make a secure training order. It would require the necessary convictions to have 1183 been obtained on at least three separate occasions. The Bill at present does not say on how many occasions the convictions must have occurred.
I can understand some noble Lords wishing to see the secure training order reserved for those juvenile persistent offenders who really have proved that they need to be locked up. To an extent the Government share that view. However, I think that the amendment is unnecessary and I shall explain why.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, mentioned the juvenile to whom I referred earlier who had committed 1,000 offences. He then said in a rather censorious way that the Bill falls far short of that. So it does; indeed, I should hope so too. My noble friend Lord Carr said that the provision is out of tune with the Government's thinking because many people would be caught. That is perfectly true. In theory, many people could be caught. Moreover, many people could be caught, in theory, for burglary and speeding. However, if one used such arguments one would never pass any law.
The Bill specifies that a juvenile must have three or more convictions to qualify for a secure training order. My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham was worried about that aspect of the matter. I shall try to explain it to him. In theory, the convictions could be obtained on one occasion, perhaps for three separate offences of theft or burglary. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway was similarly worried. However, in theory, the offences could all have been committed on one occasion, but they could also have been done on two or three separate occasions.
There are further criteria which must also be met. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that he did not want a secure training order placed on a youth on his first appearance in court. Of course, I understand that; but it will not happen because the juvenile must already have been subject to a supervision order on a previous occasion. He must either have offended while he was subject to the supervision order or he must have been in breach of it. The juvenile must have offended and done something pretty awful to begin with to be given a supervision order. Therefore, there will have been at least one other previous court appearance when the supervision order was made. To have qualified for a supervision order the offence must have been sufficiently serious to warrant a community sentence. In practice, it is likely that in most cases offenders who are sentenced to a secure training order will have had a good deal more than just one previous court appearance.
The kind of youngsters for whom such a sentence is designed are those who offend over and over again and who have defied all the efforts that have been made to help them. Courts are sensitive to children—heaven knows, we know that from the speeches made by my noble friend Lord Carr and others. The courts will not impose a secure training order unless they really think that it is necessary. Most of those children will have been cautioned and many of them will also, regrettably, have had many convictions.
I do not believe that it is right to tie the hands of the courts too closely in reaching their decisions about 1184 individual cases. There must be a balance between stipulating the kinds of cases on the face of the statute and giving the courts the right level of discretion to sentence effectively. I hope that noble Lords will agree that the Bill has got the balance right.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, I cannot help but say that the Minister has been even more inconsistent as regards this amendment than he was on the previous three. He admitted that the Bill is designed to catch—
My Lords, I rather fancy that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, might be erroneously and unsuspectingly out of order. I believe that at Report stage noble Lords are not permitted to speak after the Minister.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, I was hoping rise to speak before the Minister sat down. I want to ask him whether he realises that he is now being even more inconsistent than he was on the previous three amendments. The Minister said that the Bill was designed to catch the offender who committed a great many offences. Yet, on the face of it, the Bill refers to only three, whether or not they were committed on one or more than one occasion. Does not the Minister think that that point is of sufficient importance to justify the passing of the amendment now before the House?
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for confirming in his speech what I have always understood to be the meaning of the word "persistent". He referred to someone having offended "over and over again". I believe that that is what we all understand by the word "persistent". However, the problem is that the Bill does not provide for it. That is not just my view. After all, the Home Affairs Select Committee of another place in its report Juvenile Offenders published last year was, in a sense, the origin of the legislation now before us. Paragraph 152 of the report says:If Parliament approves the concept of secure training orders, we recommend that more suitable criteria would be that (a) the juvenile has been convicted of three offences committed on separate occasions, (b) the offences are each serious enough to justify a custodial sentence, and (c) he or she has been found by a court to have breached the conditions of a supervision order or of bail on more than one occasion".The Minister has not denied that the Bill as drafted allows for the possibility of the imprisonable offences being committed on a single occasion and coming before the court at one time. I acknowledge what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, said about severing hearings when they are genuinely separate offences. However, a single break-in could involve three offences. Moreover—leaving aside break-ins—a single offence of joyriding, for example, could involve three offences, each of which could be imprisonable and they could be dealt with on one occasion.
The Minister has sought to defend the wording by reminding the House quite correctly that there is a further condition in Clause 1(5) (c) that the offender, 1185has been found by a court to be in breach of a supervision order".That is true. But a supervision order can be awarded for something that is not an imprisonable offence. The understanding that we have is that the secure training orders (which are the equivalent of prison for children) are to be for imposed for imprisonable offences.
Therefore, we are left with the fact that the Bill provides that if a child who has committed an offence for which he has been put under a supervision order then breaches that order and appears before a court on one occasion for three or more imprisonable offences, he can be given a secure training order. That is not a case of persistent offending; it is not a case of offending over and over again. I appeal to the Minister to put the very excellent words which he and others have expressed onto the face of the Bill by accepting this amendment. If he will not do so, I shall ask the House to accept the amendment.
§ 6 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 121; Not-Contents, 130.1187
|Ackner, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Addington, L.||Gregson, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L. [Teller.]||Grey, E.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Ardwick, L.||Harnwee, B.|
|Ashley of Stoke, L.||Hardinge, V.|
|Attlee, E.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Haskel, L. [Teller]|
|Barnett, L.||Healey, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Henniker, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Hollick, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Howell, L.|
|Brain, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Jay of Paddington, B.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Jay, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Carter, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Chester, Bp.||Kagan, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Lester of Herne Hill, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Listowel, E.|
|David, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||Longford, E.|
|Desai, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Eatwell, L.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Ezra, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||McNair, L.|
|Falkender, B.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Molloy, L.|
|Foot, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Geraint, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Glenamara, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Redesdale, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Richard, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Robson of Kiddington, B.||Thurlow, L.|
|Rochester, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Seear, B.||Varley, L.|
|Serota, B.||Weatherill, L.|
|Shannon, E.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Shepherd, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Simon of Glaisdale, L.||White, B.|
|Simon, V.||Wigoder, L.|
|St. John of Bletso, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Stedman, B.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Addison, V.||Holderness, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Aldenham, L.||Howe, E.|
|Aldington, L.||Huntly, M.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Jeffreys, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.||Kenyon, L.|
|Arran, E.||Kimball, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Astor, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Lindsay, E.|
|Barber of Tewkesbury, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Bauer, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Long, V.|
|Birdwood, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Marlesford, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Burnham, L.||Miller of Hendon, B.|
|Butterworth, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Mottistone, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Nelson, E.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Norrie, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Northesk, E.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Cranborne, V.||Peel, E.|
|Crathorne, L.||Pender, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Platt of Writtle, B.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Prentice, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Reay, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Rees, L.|
|Denham, L.||Renton, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Downshire, M.||Rodney, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Elphinstone, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ferrers, E.||Stewartby, L.|
|Flather, B.||Stockton, E.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L|
|Gainsborough, E.||Strange, B.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Torrington, V.|
|Henley, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Tugendhat, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ullswater, V. [Teller.]||Wynford, L.|
|Wade of Chorlton, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ [Amendment No. 7 not moved.]
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 3, line 13, leave out from ("section") to end of line 14 and insert ("shall have effect, as from the day appointed for each of the following paragraphs, with the substitution in subsections (1) and (5)—
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is purely a drafting amendment to subsection (10) of Clause 1 which allows the progressive implementation of secure training orders for 14 year-olds, 13 year-olds and 12 year-olds. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Secure training orders: supplementary provisions as to detention]:
§ Lord Carr of Hadley moved Amendment No. 9:
§ Page 3, line 20, after ("place") insert ("other than to police detention").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a simple amendment on which I need take only a moment or two. We are concerned about the possibility of children finding themselves in detention in police cells. We believe that that is wrong and bad in principle. Hence the amendment.
§ I speak entirely for myself, not having had a chance to speak to my colleagues about the matter, but I could be persuaded that there may be particular circumstances when, in an emergency, a child may have to be held in police cells for a few hours. I am reluctant to accept that, but I would not press the matter too far if the Minister were to offer some safeguard against a child being kept in a police cell, except in an extreme emergency, for a very short time, measured in hours rather than longer.
§ I say no more for the moment. I simply stress how seriously we take the possibility of children between the ages of 12 and 14 being held in police cells at all. That is the point I want to underline. It is something that must be prevented from happening: it can be permitted only in an extreme emergency for a very short time. I beg to move.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I hope that if the noble Lord, Lord Carr, is not intending to press the amendment, he will require from the noble Earl the clearest possible guarantees in the most unambiguous language. As the noble Lord, Lord Carr, will recall, it was thought to be unlawful before 1981 to hold anyone in a police cell who was in the type of situation we are discussing in connection with the amendment. In 1981, as a result of an industrial relations crisis in the prison system, a temporary provisions Bill was introduced. The only part of that Bill retained permanently on the statute book was the power for the police to hold Home Office 1188 prisoners. As we know, in Merseyside and Greater Manchester significant numbers of people are still held in police cells.
The issue put before us by the noble Lord, Lord Carr, is this: would it not be entirely unacceptable to have 12 year-old children held in police custody in a situation in which some adults have been held in police custody? In my view it would be intolerable for that to happen.
Of course an emergency can arise. However, I should have thought that there were many other places where children could be sent other than a police cell. The idea that the police have the capacity to look after 12 year-olds in police custody is absurd. They do not have the capacity. They have tried manfully, but with an increasing degree of resentment, to accept Home Office prisoners. Were they now to find that 12 and 13 year-old children could be placed in police cells because the centres could not hold them, I believe that they would resist that possibility with the utmost strength at their disposal.
I believe that there are two possible answers if an emergency arose. Other accommodation should be used. It is very difficult to imagine what the emergency could be. However, let us assume that such a situation arises. It will not be enough for the noble Earl merely to say that it is inconceivable that that will happen. One of the issues which a number of us raised following publication of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, was whether the Government would accept the Woolf recommendation on this issue. The Government did not accept the recommendation in terms of what should follow if people were to be held in police custody.
If the noble Lord, Lord Carr, decides not to press the amendment I hope that the noble Earl will say in the most explicit terms, first, what would happen in situations of this kind and, secondly, whether Parliament would be consulted in the way that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, suggested it should be consulted or notified were police accommodation to be used. I specifically ask the noble Earl whether, if the noble Lord, Lord Carr, does not press the amendment, at Third Reading he will accept an amendment to this part of the Bill which would provide the safeguards as set out in the Woolf Report on the prison disturbances.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, having visited a number of police cells when they were in frequent and intensive use for prisoners earlier, I am convinced that they are not suitable for that use for adults and even less suitable for children. I recognise that if a court makes a secure training order and there is no suitable place for the child to go a dilemma presents itself. However, before it makes such an order the court is surely under a duty to satisfy itself whether accommodation is available.
Adult prisoners were frequently sent to police cells either because the prisons were full or because the Prison Officers' Association laid down rules as to when prisoners could be accepted and those rules did not coincide with the times when the courts wanted prisoners to be delivered to prisons. That was a temporary difficulty.
1189 However, your Lordships will see that Clause 2(2) (a) provides the power for a court to commit the offender to a place such as the Secretary of State may direct other than an STC for a period not exceeding 28 days. Under extreme circumstances that may be acceptable for adult prisoners, but I do not think that any of us would wish to give the courts the power to sentence a child to a month in a police cell which does not even have any of the primitive facilities of our oldest prisons. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will be able to say something both about the great duress which the system would have to be under before recourse to such action and also about limiting the period of a month. That would be too long to send a child of prep school age for incarceration. My noble friend and I hope to be given those assurances in a solid and convincing form if we are to let the matter rest.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the amendment was moved with great moderation. I can imagine that there are individual policemen and policewomen in police stations who would act very kindly towards a child put into a police cell. There would hardly be brutality from the police in those circumstances. However, one must think about the other people who would be in those police cells—the drunks, the drug addicts and people of that sort who would be in adjoining cells. The thought is appalling. I support the amendment.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, if one really believes that a child should not be put in a police cell, other ways can be found of dealing with the situation. In my authority three policewomen, the wives of policemen, agreed to take a child in an emergency rather than the child being put into a police cell. In that way, except on one occasion, we always avoided a child going into a police cell.
My Lords, I can well understand your Lordships' concern that children should not be subjected to being in police cells. My noble friend Lord Elton said, I thought rather extravagantly, that Parliament must not send a child to a police cell for a month. Of course there is no question of that being the intention underlying the Bill. The clause allows a court to commit an offender to alternative accommodation. My noble friend Lady Faithfull said that she knows of plenty of places where there is alternative accommoda-tion. She is quite right; there is alternative accommodation. However, the Bill allows the Home Secretary either to direct where that alternative accommodation shall be or to contract with suitable providers for such accommodation. That would be, for example, local authorities, child care organisations or providers of children's homes which are registered under the Children Act 1989. There are many alternatives.
We certainly would not envisage police cells being appropriate accommodation. Of course they are not appropriate accommodation for children. It is not our intention that police cells should be used. I stated in Committee—I repeat it—that I would be reluctant to prevent by statute those places from ever being used. 1190 For them ever to be used there would have to be some highly exceptional circumstances in which there would be no choice but to make such placements on a temporary basis. For example, there might be a fire, or some other emergency which puts large numbers of places in secure training centres out of commission. Some foul disease might have broken out in secure accommodation so that those resident there would have to be placed elsewhere.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has other alternative accommodation. But in such a situation it might be necessary to hold youngsters on an emergency basis in police stations. However, I can assure your Lordships that the Government do not want to put them in police cells. The police do not want that People who care about children do not want that. Your Lordships do not want it either.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, asked whether Parliament would be consulted. I am bound to say that I think that that would be going too far. Where there is an emergency, action has to be taken and taken forthwith. I can only repeat to your Lordships the assurance that I gave in Committee that police cells would be used only in emergencies such as I have described. In those unusual circumstances I can also assure noble Lords that the Home Office would work closely with the police to ensure that the conditions in which the youngsters were held, if they are to be held there, were as suitable as possible, and that the time during which they were held there would be as short as possible.
I can only repeat to your Lordships that those would be total emergencies and that it is not our intention that police cells should be used other than in those cases.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, before the noble Earl resumes his seat, perhaps I may ask him one question. As he will recall, I specifically put to him the recommendation of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, regarding what should be done if people had to be kept in police cells. As I pointed out, the Government did not accept that recommendation.
Between now and Third Reading will the Minister consider whether the procedure suggested by the noble and learned Lord could be adopted? If so, it would put the minds of many of us at rest, including, I suspect, that of the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. He asked the question and I failed to reply to it. I shall consider the matter and get in touch with him before the next stage of the Bill.
§ Lord Carr of Hadley
My Lords, this is a serious matter. I am prepared not to ask the House to go further on this occasion. However, we must have some more specific assurance at Third Reading. Of course, I accept his word. But these matters drift. In a few years from now, with different Ministers, different officials, and different policemen in office, matters could go wrong. At Third Reading we must return to the issue.
I understand that there can be some great emergency. However, I cannot believe that the emergency can be so great, in particular considering the small number of 1191 people who fall into the category to which we refer, that it could last more than an hour or two at most. I shall wish to return to the matter at Third Reading, but I do not press the matter further at present. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 10:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
( "Removal of young offender from previous influences
.—(1) Upon application from any of the persons listed in subsection (2) of this section the court may at any time (luring the currency of the sentence make an order requiring the relevant local authority to take the young offender into care and to provide for him to become resident and to be fostered or otherwise cared for after completion of detention at a place sufficiently remote from his previous place of residence to remove him from the influence of those who may have influenced him to offend.
(2) Persons who may make application to the court under this clause are—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment is another attempt to break the mould by which in the past persistent young offenders who have been sentenced to detention have quickly re-offended. The argument is —I believe it to be true of some young offenders—that the worst thing one can do having rehabilitated them and convinced them to change their ways is to plunge them back into the same environment in which they lived before they were sentenced. There are many different reasons why the environment may be unsuitable. The environment of the family may be unsuitable, or the peer group, the street gang, to which the child belongs.
§ I became conscious of the problem in the context of the family environment about two years ago. I found myself sitting on a log beside a camp fire trying to persuade a little girl of 12 not to steal chocolate biscuits from her friends. From the conversation it emerged that her father was at that time serving a sentence for burglary and that the family lived effectively by shoplifting. I found the task too much for me; the odds were stacked against me. In a family like that, it may well be appropriate to find some other solution for the young lady concerned.
§ Similarly, I do not envisage a young man, having spent his time in a secure training unit, going back onto the streets, meeting his mates and saying, "Sorry lads, I'm going straight now. I shan't be able to join you on any of the jobs like those we used to do together". That would take tremendous moral courage. I do not believe that many of your Lordships would have such moral courage; I am quite sure that I would not.
§ I apologise for the wording of the amendment; it may well be subject to criticism. I hope that noble Lords will not waste too much time tearing the wording of the amendment to pieces; it is the spirit of the amendment that I draw to your Lordships' attention. I suggest that the court ought to be given power to say, "This young 1192 person should be settled away from home for a while in a new environment where he can make new friends, go to a new school and join a new group". If those young persons go back into their old environment not only would they have to have the courage to turn away from their old group of friends but, having themselves been the tearaways, the good guys would not speak to them either. Apart from anything else, in their old environment those young persons will not have any friends and that will push them back into the old bad lot.
§ Those young people could go, say, 50 miles away. I suggest that that can be achieved in many ways. They can be put into a good fostering environment. They can be sent to excellent institutions such as the Caldicot community. Under certain circumstances they could be put into local authority care. I do not believe that the proposal would weaken the Bill.
§ The argument may be adduced: why do we not leave it to the local authorities to do it? The answer is funding. It is quite expensive for a local authority to place a young person outside the authority's area. I believe that it must be required to do so and possibly funded to do so, otherwise it will not happen. I beg to move.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, speaks from valuable experience in helping voluntary societies in East Kent who have tried to help delinquent young people. He has put forward a suggestion which breaks new ground and I find it rather interesting. The position is this. It anticipates a situation in which persistent young offenders have completed their secure training or are about to do so. They have become reformed characters. However, there is a risk that all the good that was done by their training might be undone by their returning home to a criminal background. That is one possibility. Alternatively, the young people may have suffered in the past from an unhappy home in which they had been maltreated or neglected. It would be depressing to contemplate that kind of situation.
I do not say that the precise proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, would necessarily be acceptable. A great deal would depend upon when the court was asked to make an order. But the noble Lord is right in assuming that it would need to be made before the end of the sentence of secure training so that there is no gap during which harm could come to the offender. In those interesting and unusual circumstances all I suggest at this stage is that my noble friend Lord Ferrers might give the proposal what I would call, "without commitment, sympathetic consideration".
My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with the thinking which underlies Amendment No. 10, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and the concern to try to ensure that the youngsters who leave the secure training centres do not fall back into their old ways. However, I do not believe that the mechanism which is proposed by the amendment is either desirable or necessary. Perhaps I could explain my reasons for that.
1193 The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, would allow various parties to apply to the court during the time when the secure training order is in effect, whether that is when the child is in custody or when he is back in the community. They will make an application for another order which would require the local authority to care for the juvenile after his release from the secure training centre. That would be done at a place which is sufficiently far from his home to avoid the bad influences which may have contributed to his offending, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said.
There are two substantial difficulties which we find with this approach. The first is that the youngster would already have been made subject to a secure training order. He will have served the first half of his sentence in a secure centre and he will serve the second half under supervision. If a further order were made it might appear to the offender that he was being punished twice for the same offence. I quite see that the order which is proposed by the amendment is not intended to be punitive and that it is intended to help in his rehabilitation. But the young offender may not see it in that way and he may not recognise the distinction, particularly as there is no time limit set on the duration of the new order. It could at least in theory go on for a long time after the secure training order itself has come to an end.
The second problem is that the new order might well cut across the requirements of the secure training order. An essential component of the secure training order is the high quality supervision which will take place in the community and which will be undertaken by one of three types of agency: the social services department, the probation service or any other agency which may be designated by the Home Secretary. I can foresee serious difficulties in carrying out the supervision according to the national standards if the juvenile, when he goes back into the community, is moved a great distance from his home. Indeed, one of the chief purposes of supervision is in order to re-integrate the youngster back into his community with his family, his school, his training and his work opportunities. It is, among other things, to equip him with the skills which are needed to resist the influence of bad company in the future. The order which is envisaged by this amendment would go in the opposite direction by taking him away from all that he knows.
I hope that I can relieve the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, of some of his anxieties by telling him this. There will, of course, be situations—and I recognise that—in which it is entirely inappropriate that an offender under supervision should live at a particular place. There are two ways in which that situation could be met under the existing legislation.
First, we intend that the notice of supervision for those who are subject to a secure training order might include a requirement that an offender should reside at a particular address or should refrain from residing at a particular address. Failure to comply with that kind of requirement could lead to breach of proceedings being brought and the person concerned being returned to the secure training centre.
1194 The second point is that the local authorities have a continuing duty to safeguard and to promote the welfare of children who live in their area. Those duties apply to all children and where a youngster meets the criteria in the Children Act 1989 there is nothing to prevent the local authority from making an application in the family proceedings court for a care or supervision order. Under such an order, the welfare of the youngster must be the paramount consideration. In determining how to care for such a child the extent of bad influences in his environment is bound to play a part, but only a part, in the considerations. There will be other considerations too and the Children Act offers the best framework within which they can be weighed up.
It is for that reason that the Government feel that the existing arrangements for juveniles are sufficient to meet the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I hope that I have been able to allay his anxieties.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I realise that I forgot to tell noble Lords the sequel to the story of the young lady and the chocolate biscuits. About six months later, when she had attempted to stab one of her teachers with a pair of scissors, she was dragged away screaming: "Let me go. I'm going to be adopted by Lord Northbourne"! So perhaps I got through to some extent anyway.
Turning to the noble Earl's helpful reply, I shall not press the amendment. I know of three cases of young people from Tower Hamlets who said: "We can't get out of this situation until we move away from Tower Hamlets". They "put their money where their mouths are" and when they became 18 and were independent they moved away from Tower Hamlets and are now living in the Medway towns.
Thus there is room for the thought—and that is why I put in "the young offender" as one of those who could apply for the arrangement—that some young people would like to get away from the pressures that they are under in their home towns. Having said that, I am grateful to the noble Earl for what he said and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 [Supervision under secure training order]:
§ Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 11:
§ Page 4, line 18, after ("person") insert ("possessing a certificate of qualification in social work").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 11 is a probing amendment at this stage as I seek information. Where a child goes to a local authority secure place it is in the child's own area. It is likely that for a one-year order the child would spend six months in the unit and six months being supervised in the community. If the child is locally based it is very likely that a probation officer or a social worker of the local authority would be the person to offer supervision or be asked to supervise the child. I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister can help me on one point. Will the person supervising a child who comes out of the training centre, which will probably be a long way from where the child lives, know the child and be a qualified social worker?1195
§ I believe that supervision in the community after a child has been in a secure training unit should be undertaken by a qualified social worker. Social workers have to work with other colleagues in education, health, social services, the youth training schemes and social security to find accommodation and so on. Social workers have to know where to seek help. Should a child break down, they have to know which psychiatrist or organisation can best help the child. With reference to the previous amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, if a child specifically does not want to return to its area, the social worker should be able to assess whether or not the child should return.
§ I consider that anyone undertaking supervision of a child during the second part of the child's sentence, when he or she is in the community, should be a qualified social worker who knows the area where the child lives, knows all the facilities, knows the law and knows how that child is to settle down. They must also know how to help the parents with the child. I beg to move.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I assume that we are pushing at a half open door in this debate, which I expected would be replied to by the noble and learned Lord but which in fact will be answered by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. In that case, I shall have to explain the background in a little more detail.
We debated this issue in Committee. I should like to quote what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate said on that occasion. It is on the precise issue raised in this amendment. He said that,that amount of flexibility—to use the controversial word — would allow the Secretary of State to appoint someone who did not fall within one of those categories but who nonetheless had, for example, what the noble Baroness speaks of: the necessary training and skills. One might think of someone who might, for example, have been employed formerly by the social services department or the probation service but who may have left temporarily because, for example, she had had a baby, but who nonetheless had all the skills necessary to provide the required supervision. In such a case the Secretary of State might well designate such a person".I intervened and asked the noble and learned Lord:Is it a fact that the noble and learned Lord would be happy to accept an amendment requiring the Secretary of State to appoint only someone who has a recognised social work or other qualification?".The noble and learned Lord replied:It would depend on what the amendment said, but if the spirit of what I have said could be captured in an amendment then obviously the Government would examine that amendment".— [Official Report, 16/5/94; col. 71.]This is therefore the central question. The noble and learned Lord having said that on the last occasion, what will the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, say on this occasion? I hope very much that he will accept the amendment. Although it was described by the noble Baroness as a probing amendment, it seems to me to give the Government an opportunity to accept and to put on the face of the statute precisely the approach which the noble and learned Lord said on the last occasion was entirely consistent with what the Government were trying to achieve.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, my name is on the amendment and I should like to support it. I was rather sorry that the noble Baroness called it a probing amendment. I thought that, following upon what the noble and learned Lord said previously, the amendment would be accepted. I still hope that it will be accepted. If so, I should have thought that the noble Earl would already have jumped up, saying that we need not spend more time on it and he would accept it.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, the Minister said that these young people have proved that they should be locked up. They will have proved that they are very difficult young people indeed, having difficult problems to overcome. Would it not therefore be wise to ensure that the people who will be in charge of their after-care should be trained in the profession of probation officer or social worker? I ask the Minister to tell us who will supervise these very difficult young people, who may come from problem homes in which child abuse, alcohol abuse and marital problems abound, if it is not a probation officer or social worker? Who will it be?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for saying that this is a probing amendment, even though the noble Baroness, Lady David, would have preferred otherwise. I was rather taken aback when the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that he assumed that he was pushing at a half open door. He also thought that my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate would reply to the debate and looked rather surprised to find that it would be me. I was not quite certain whether that meant that the door was fully open or fully closed. He went on to say that as it was I and not my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate who would be replying, he would have to explain in more detail. I do not know whether that was a reference to my intellectual capacity. If so, I quite understand and I do not bear a grudge against him for that.
The amendment would place a restriction on whom the Secretary of State may appoint as a post-release supervisor for a juvenile who is given a secure training order. Under the amendment he would only be able to appoint a person who possesses a certificate of qualification in social work. We discussed the matter in Committee on an amendment tabled by noble friend Lady Faithfull. There were a number of requests from the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Wigoder, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and my noble friend for an amendment to the clause addressing the point. We considered the matter very carefully but have concluded that it would not be right for a number of reasons.
A restriction such as that proposed would exclude from providing supervision under the new secure training order many people who at present provide supervision in the community and who are not required to have the specified qualification but who in fact provide supervision under existing arrangements.
The purpose of subsection (2) as drafted is to allow the Secretary of State to appoint the most suitable person as the post-release supervisor, whether that 1197 person is a social worker of a local authority, a probation officer, a member of a voluntary body, or possibly a member of staff from the secure training centre. Those are all the people who could be appointed. That was the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham.
The assessment of who or what agency should provide the post-release supervision will be made on an individual basis for each trainee. As drafted, the subsection therefore gives the greatest flexibility. In many cases the chosen supervisor's qualification may be the certificate of qualification in social work. But the Government do not believe that that is the only suitable qualification. And we would not want to be restricted to that alone. However, I should like to assure your Lordships that the person appointed as a trainee's supervisor will be required to be suitably qualified and properly experienced. The supervision process will start during the secure part of the sentence and the supervisor will therefore know the child by the time the second part of the sentence begins, where that is undertaken in the community.
Subsections (9) and (10) provide for the making of rules governing supervision and the incorporation in these Rules of National Standards. They will ensure that the supervision of juveniles who are given secure training orders meets the required standard. The possession of a certificate in social work alone cannot do that.
It is for that reason that we believe it would be a pity to inhibit the spectrum from which people can be drawn, which would be the effect of the amendment. I hope therefore that my noble friend can understand the reasons why we consider the Bill to be best as it is, and that she will withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. I said that it was a probing amendment because I feared that the answer I would receive would be the answer he gave. I am worried because, first, the Bill does not state what training a supervisor will have as a member of staff of the secure training unit. We do not yet know what training the staff of the secure training units will receive. I sometimes wonder how all those fully qualified staff will be found.
Secondly, can my noble friend say what other qualifications he considers suitable? He may say that the person should be an ex-teacher, an ex-doctor or an ex-psychiatrist. But I suspect that none of those kinds of people will be on the staff of the secure training unit. He said that it is probable and likely that a member of staff who had supervised a child inside the unit would supervise the child in the community. However, even if the supervisor were highly qualified, he may not know what facilities are available in the area where the child lives. I am therefore unhappy with my noble friend's reply, but I do not at this stage intend to divide the House. I shall give consideration to the matter and ask whether I can see my noble friend to discuss the situation before the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 6 [Management of secure training centres]:1198
§ Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 6, line 22, at end insert:
("( ) After subsection (3) there shall be inserted the following subsection—
(3A) Rules made under this subsection shall ensure that—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause (5 deals with the conditions in secure training centres in a variety of respects. In Committee I drew your Lordships' attention to the important nature of the provisions that would apply, because the bill of sale offered to us for the STC implies that it will be such a specialist and effective treatment that the children will have a better chance of becoming proper and well-conducted citizens after attending than they would if they went elsewhere. However, in debate it transpired that children in a secure training centre, although of school age, would not be subject to the education Acts and therefore there would be no requirements for the child to be educated.
§ It seemed to me that, although the units are called "secure training centres", education rather than training must be at the core of rehabilitative and corrective programmes. I therefore tabled Amendment No. 12 which will import into the Bill the various bones of what would be required to ensure that such an education was given even though the children, and indeed the centres, were not subject to the education Acts.
§ Since then my noble and learned friend has been kind enough to have sent to me an administrative paper providing the proposed rules for secure training centres, a copy of which is in the Library. On page 3 1 was happy to find most of my amendment incorporated in the text of the draft rules; that is to say, a reference to the trainee receiving a curriculum appropriate to his age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs he may have. That is welcome. As far as possible the centre must satisfy the requirements of the national curriculum, and that too is welcome.
§ While I pause warmly to welcome those factors, perhaps my noble and learned friend will go a little further in two respects. The first is that, in consulting on the draft rules—I take it that that is his intention and perhaps he will confirm it—he will consider importing the third leg of my proposals; that is to say, that in devising the curriculum for the incarcerated pupil the authority shall, as far as possible, consult with those who have been responsible for the child's education hitherto and with those who will be responsible for the child's education when he is returned, as he must be at the end of his sentence, into the community.
§ That seems to me to make sense and to be extremely important. If a child is taken out of education completely and given some other curriculum or treatment, and then is put back in, he is virtually 1199 condemned to re-offending, making a totally frustrated and bewildered pupil. The object of the education in the STC must be not only corrective as to his social behaviour, but also progressive as to his educational behaviour. The object of the staff must be not only to secure better behaviour from him, period; it must be also to render him in a condition where he can take up his educational progress again with minimum difficulty. He will not be disposed to overcome that difficulty himself and must be taught how to do it.
§ I hope therefore that my noble and learned friend will say that that aspect also will be taken into consideration, and indeed that consideration will be given to the objects of the educational process in the STCs being described in the rules so that those responsible for it understand that their job is to try and create a pupil who is acceptable into school in his home area.
§ My other question, of which I gave my noble and learned friend minimal notice, is whether he will kindly remind your Lordships under what parliamentary process the rules will become—as I understand they will do—subordinate legislation. That will determine the extent to which we shall be able to influence them later. If it is a small influence, then we shall obviously have to try to influence them early. I beg to move.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. A number of us felt extremely anxious about what education will be provided; whether it will be by qualified people and whether it will be adapted to the young people attending. I obtained from the Library this morning part of the specifications for the training centre. The document is called, Schedule: Staff Selection, Training, Qualifications and Certification. It did not totally convince me that everything would be all right. In paragraph 8 it says,In addition to the considerations listed above the Service Provider should note that teaching staff will normally be expected to have qualified teacher status. Expertise in the management of youngsters with special educational needs and prior professional training in handling difficult or aggressive behaviour would be an advantage. Consideration should also be given to the appropriate skills and experience required for the development and delivery of a suitable curriculum.That is not totally convincing. I should like to hear a little more about what is intended. I know that Ofsted is to examine the education provided in these establish-ments. But we need a little more convincing that the right thing will be done, and I should very much like to hear what the Minister has to say.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, when she started quoting I had assumed that she was quoting from the document that I have before me and which I have already described. She seems to be quoting from something else. Will she kindly tell the House what it is and will the Minister say how they both relate to each other?
§ Baroness David
My Lords, when I asked for the specifications from the Library it gave me various documents. The one from which I quoted was called Schedule: Staff Selection, Training, Qualifications and 1200 Certification. I can assure the noble Lord that the Library has it. We are told that consideration must be given and so on, but there is no real confirmation that that will happen.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, education for these difficult children is vital. Many of them will not have done well at school. Many will have truanted. They are children of school age. They should be in a secure school environment, not a prison environment. Education can give them hope—perhaps the only hope for a life of going straight.
Prison can mean despair, giving these difficult children a passport to a life of crime. I hope the House will recommend that education is so important that it is unwise not to write it on the face of the Bill.
§ The Lord Advocate (Lord Rodger of Earlsferry)
My Lords, when the matter arose in Committee there was on all sides a recognition that education is important. Initially there was some surprise that there was not more reference to it on the face of the Bill. As I explained then, the mechanism under Clause 6 of the Bill is for rules to be made under the Prison Act 1952 by amendment of Section 47 of that Act. The rules will become like other rules made for prisons and other institutions under Section 47. The rules accordingly will be subject to the procedure for rules provided by the Prison Act 1952. I can tell my noble friend Lord Elton that that is the negative resolution procedure.
The documents placed in the Library of the House are two in number. First, there is the administrative paper outlining the proposed rules for secure training centres. The paper is intended to be made available to those who are thinking of tendering so that they can see what the rules are likely to provide. It is not an absolutely final form but nonetheless one has in it a very clear indication. It is an indication of what will be put into secondary legislation. That in its turn is supplemented by the operational specification which noble Lords will have seen. It will be made available to those who are intending to tender so that they should see what is required of them if they propose to offer to run one of these centres. To get the flavour one has to read both sets of documents together.
My noble friend Lord Elton drew attention to the fact that on page 4 of the administrative paper outlining the proposed rules one finds reference to at least two of the matters which are specifically referred to by him in his amendment; namely, in sub-paragraph (i) the need for a curriculum which is appropriate to age, ability and aptitude, and in sub-paragraph (ii) the need for a curriculum which as far as possible satisfies the requirements of the national curriculum. My noble friend drew attention, however, to the fact that what is set out in sub-paragraph (iii) of the amendment does not as such appear in the draft of the rules. That is intentional because it is recognised that it will not always be possible for consultation, and so on, in every case to be exactly in the form which might be envisaged by my noble friend's amendment. As he himself will recognise, there will be cases where unfortunately these children have had very little contact with an education 1201 system in the past and therefore contacting people who were involved in previous education may not be appropriate in a number of cases.
Although it cannot be made for that reason a rigid part of rules and therefore does not appear in the proposal for the rules, nonetheless your Lordships will see from the operational specification that it is envisaged that in connection with education and vocational training there will be contact with the previous person involved in education. One finds at the bottom of page 19 and at the top of page 20 of the operational specification:In deciding what are the appropriate requirements for education and training the service provider must quickly acquire details of a trainee's education records to date. The service provider should state how he proposes to gather such information".That would be one of the contractual duties. Your Lordships will see that it involves finding out what the details have been of the education to date.
Your Lordships will also see in what is described as "What is to be done in planning the component"—in (ii) on page 20—that trainees who are of school age on release will return to the education system. Attempts should be made to ensure that they continue their education in the light of the national curriculum and that examination course work is maintained or initiated through close contacts with trainees' schools so that they are not unnecessarily disadvantaged by their period in security. The matter in (iv) on page 21—the idea that they should have regard to the national curriculum and so on—is there specifically because what is to be done is framed against the consideration that their peers are learning within the national curriculum to which they will be likely to have to return.
Your Lordships will also see that the specification provides in paragraph 7, on page 23, for the service provider to state how many staff he will employ or contract for education and/or vocational training, what qualifications and/or levels of experience of the relevant age group they will require and how they will be deployed in such areas as time-tabling of subjects, staff/trainee ratios and what other duties they might undertake. The noble Baroness, Lady David, has the advantage of me with regard to the particular document from which she quoted as I could not immediately trace it in the papers which I have before me. Perhaps she will allow me to write to her in connection with the matter which she raised.
I hope that noble Lords will see that partly through the use of secondary legislation, but where that is felt not to be appropriate because it would not be proper to provide absolutely for duties on the face of legislation, nonetheless in those cases, through the operation of the contractual duties, we have built up a regime which should provide for this very important educational component of training for these young people. With that explanation, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am obliged to my noble and learned friend for that detailed reply, which I shall read with great care. I shall possibly return to the matter. My difficulty is that while at the outset I was very much 1202 attracted by what I saw in the draft rules and in particular the 25 hours for classroom teaching, and so on, there is a certain amount missing. I thought that that certain amount should be in the statute. I thought that it was the statute which was supposed to drive the system and that Parliament said what should be in commercial documents.
As I listened to my noble and learned friend I wondered whether he was getting the commercial horse in front of the legislative cart. It sounded to me as though he was saying, "This is laid down in a commercial document, so we need not have it in the statute". The commercial document on which the contract is let is valid for the period of the contract. It is subject to variation by agreement between both parties. I do not suggest that the whole detail of this should be imported into legislation, but it ought to show the minimum criteria which should be in the commercial document. It need not be on the face of the Bill; it can be in the subordinate legislation which, I am sorry to hear, is to be introduced by the negative rather than the affirmative procedure. That is a subject on which we have all become well-versed lately. I therefore give notice to my noble and learned friend that I shall be looking with great care at what he has said in the light of the two documents to which he referred, with the possibility of returning to this matter at a later stage in order to knock this other nail into the framework. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 [Contracting out of secure training centres.]:
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 6, line 42, at end insert:
("( ) Where the Secretary of State grants a lease or tenancy of land for the purposes of any contract under this section, none of the following enactments shall apply to it, namely—
In this subsection "lease or tenancy" includes an underlease or sub-tenancy.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment enables the Secretary of State to lease land to a contractor for the purpose of building and operating a secure training centre, without losing the ability to reclaim possession of the land. This is achieved by disapplying the protection which is normally afforded to tenants by legislation.
§ This will enable the Home Office to regain control of the land (and the centre on it) on termination of the contract for the secure training centre, and so avoid the need to enter into potentially protracted litigation for repossession. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend will go a little further. I refer to paragraph (c) of the amendment which states,section 19 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1988 (covenants not to assign etc.)".I do not understand how it is necessary to set aside the power to make a covenant if it is not intended to use it. 1203 I may have misunderstood what my noble friend was saying, but if he can enlighten me on that I shall be most grateful.
§ 7.15 p.m.
My Lords, I shall do my best, but I will not guarantee success. Where a centre is to be built it may be built on land which will be leased to the company concerned for a period of about 15 years. If it were to transpire that the company did not carry out its responsibilities properly, it may be necessary to terminate the contract. By doing so, the centre would revert to the ownership of the Home Office through the payment of a sum of money. It would be wrong for that to happen with the contractor owning the lease of the land or, in the case of paragraph (c), it would be wrong for him to have sublet it to somebody else so the Government could not get back into their possession the land on which the building was erected and for which the contractor would have been paid in the event of the arrangements for the centre coming to a conclusion. I hope that I have explained that adequately to my noble friend. I shall read what he has said in the quietness after this debate. If I have misdirected him, I shall get in touch with him.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say exactly where are the secure training units to be built? We have heard that they are to be built in prison grounds. Does that mean that some will be, and others will not?
My Lords, we are in danger of becoming out of order. I do not wish to prevent my noble friend from asking a question, but I believe the convention is that once the Minister has spoken, speeches as such do not continue. The answer to my noble friend's question is that it is anticipated that these buildings will be built on Home Office land.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [Powers and duties of custody officers employed at contracted out secure training centres.]:
§ Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 7, line 43, at end insert:
("() When exercising the powers conferred by subsection (2) above the custody officer shall have regard to items of clothing worn in respect of religious beliefs.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, at Committee stage I had an amendment similar to this one. My noble friend the Minister said that he would consider including this requirement in Home Office guidance covering the undertaking of searches by custody officers in secure training centres.
§ I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for writing to tell me that he has done that, and for telling me that the relevant guidance that I require will be included. I had already tabled my amendment before I received the letter, but I thought that I would move it in order that my noble friend might be able to tell the House, and therefore have a record, of what he told me in the letter. I beg to move.1204
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, as we are discussing clothing, what will be the clothing worn by the staff at the secure training centres? Will it be prison uniform or ordinary clothing? It makes a difference to children in a school environment.
My Lords, as these are not prisons, staff will not be in prison uniforms. I should like to consider whether there should be some form of uniform used. Perhaps I may get in touch with her about that.
As regards the amendment, the need to have regard to items of clothing which are worn in respect of religious beliefs is acknowledged; but, as I stated at Committee, I do not think that it would be right to deal with this sort of thing in primary legislation.
But I can assure my noble friend Lord Mottistone that this matter will be addressed in the guidance which will be issued to secure training centres by the Home Office in respect of the undertaking of searches.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend both for his letter and for his remarks. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Viscount Tenby moved Amendment No. 15:
After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:
("Mandatory pre-sentence reports for under 18 year olds
.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, a court shall obtain and consider a pre-sentence report before forming any such opinion as is mentioned in subsection (2) of section 1 or 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 in the case of an offender under the age of 18 years.
(2) Where the offence or any other offence associated with it is triable only on indictment, subsection (1) above does not apply if, in the circumstances of the case, the court is of the opinion that it is unnecessary to obtain a pre-sentence report.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 179 and 182. The anxieties lying behind these amendments were clearly and admirably expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, during the Committee stage of the Bill. At the time I felt that the Minister, though unyielding in the end, as is his wont, was not entirely unsympathetic to the compelling case made. I hope that in the intervening period he and his right honourable friend in another place may have moved to a more conciliatory position. We shall wait in pious and earnest hope. At the time it was clear that there was a substantial body of opinion within the House which had reservations about the concept that a request for a pre-sentence report should no longer be mandatory—those anxieties being heightened in the case of juveniles.
§ The objective behind the Government's proposal is clearly financial. Fewer reports mean a reduction in the demands on the probation service which has to prepare them. But is the game going to be worth the candle? Is the saving going to be worth the real danger to the effective—I stress the word "effective"—disposal of cases? The Government have already said that this change to one of the cornerstones of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 is necessary to alleviate the problem, which was not foreseen at the time, that the increased workload of the probation service would lead to greater delays in the preparation of reports and therefore in disposals. But it would scarcely have taken an Einstein to foresee such 1205 an outcome, especially since five pilot schemes in certain probation areas were put in hand at the time. As a result, ways have been found of simplifying and standardising reports. Although there is still much to be done in reducing the delay between a request from a court and delivery of the report, there are distinct signs that we are getting there. So this is hardly the time to run up a white flag, one might think.
§ As the Minister may say—and if the noble Earl does not say this others already have—this provision does not mean that pre-sentence reports cannot be requested where custody or a community sentence is a possible outcome; only that they do not have to be requested. We understand that. However, I think it very likely that most magistrates will ask for a pre-sentence report and that, accordingly, the saving to the public purse will be minuscule. The point is that the dangers far outweigh any possible savings. It may be that in only a handful of suitable cases would an up-to-the-minute pre-sentence report not be requested, but even if it were to be only one case, that would be one too many.
§ No one is arguing for a "sky's the limit" policy. If someone from an adult court is already enjoying a stretch at Her Majesty's pleasure we can all agree that to request a pre-sentence report in respect of a later offence would be an unnecessary extravagance. Noble Lords will note that in an effort to reach some sort of accommodation with the Government—to show good faith, as it were—the amendments now suggest that pre-sentence reports should be mandatory only for 18 year-olds and under.
§ Perhaps I may make another point clear. In case anyone should mistakenly think that this apparent solicitation towards offenders is another manifestation of the bleeding hearts' club—or the sticking plaster industry, as it is sometimes disparagingly described— please bear this in mind: while it is true that a fresh report might save someone from what would otherwise be a custodial sentence, it might equally work the other way. The Magistrates' Association, the members of which deal with the overwhelming majority of juvenile offenders, opposes in strong and unequivocal terms the removal of the mandatory obligation for fresh pre-sentence reports, as does the Association of Chief Officers of Probation and all the other associations involved in probation work.
§ I have been a magistrate for some 20 years. Although I much regret that I have not served on a juvenile panel, I know from my experience in the adult courts what an indispensable tool in the sentencing operation up-to-date reports from the probation service are. In my own area of north-east Hampshire, I and my colleagues may have been particularly fortunate in the helpful contributions that we have received from the probation service, first through the social inquiry reports and latterly through pre-sentence reports, but I am confident that in general that high standard is reflected throughout the country.
§ Sentencing is a serious matter that affects not only the future of individuals, but, even more importantly, the protection and wellbeing of society. Therefore, when sentencing it is essential to have at one's disposal every single piece of fresh information about the 1206 accused. That requirement is self-evident in the adult court; but how much more important it is when dealing with juveniles.
§ Adult offenders often, regrettably, settle into a predictable pattern of anti-social behaviour. The circumstances relating to juveniles can, however, change dramatically—sometimes overnight. A pattern of criminal behaviour of hair-tearing frustration can suddenly stop just like that. Indeed, there have been cases of defendants totally changing their patterns of offending—perhaps even giving up altogether—bet-ween being charged with the offence and being brought before the court. Given that state of affairs, is it really desirable to sentence without the latest available information? In this context, the reversal of the measures contained in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 are highly regrettable—I am trying to choose my words with care.
§ This is not a political matter. It is a matter of common sense. Oh dear, those dreaded words, referred to by the noble Earl, are rearing their ugly heads again. I hope that the Minister will accept my apologies for using them, but I will. It is a matter of common sense, inextricably linked principally to the effective running of the lower courts and, as such, it transcends party division. The plain question is: are we going to interfere seriously with the ability of Benches to deliver realistic and fair sentences in order to produce savings which are probably illusory and almost certainly derisory? I hope not and I think not. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I should like briefly to support what the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, has just said. As your Lordships know, I am advised by the Magistrates' Association and the noble Viscount has more than covered all the points that it would want to make. The basic point is that youth court justices do not feel constrained by the present arrangements, so it seems strange that we should have these changes forced upon us. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to give us encouragement on this amendment, even if he does not accept it as drafted.
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, I should like to support the amendment. Unless one has been involved in sentencing, one does not realise how necessary it is to have all the up-to-date information that is available. Without that up-to-date information, there is a risk that one may be too harsh or, alternatively, that one may be too lenient. To an extent, one is sentencing in blinkers if one is thrown back on material which may, at the material time, be out of date.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, with the increase in drug abuse, it is most important that people's drug habits should be made known to the courts in case drug rehabilitation is more appropriate than another custodial sentence. Also, with so many people with learning difficulties in the community, such conditions should be known to the magistrates and the courts. I support the amendment.
§ Baroness Mallalieu
My Lords, I too support the amendment. It simply is not good enough to say that a safeguard is provided in the proposed changes in that 1207 magistrates can use an old report. New and up-to-date reports are absolutely essential because they contain information which no old report, even a relatively recent old report, can contain. An old report will not be able to deal, with, for example, the current offence; why it was committed; or with the defendant's remorse or likelihood of further offending. Even more important, an old report will not deal with the response to the sentence that was imposed for the offence for which that original report was prepared.
An old report will not deal with changes in circumstances. It is not good enough to say that no doubt a court will be alerted to such changes by the barrister or solicitor who is representing the young person. Often they will have spent only 20 minutes or half an hour with their client, sitting outside the court, trying to update the facts that they have been given about the background. A young person in those circumstances is scarcely likely to be articulate about the important changes that may have occurred to him, his family, his circumstances or his problems.
Nor will an old report deal with the sentences which are available currently to the court. Of course, a sentencer knows in general terms the various options that are open to him, but he may well not know of particular local community programmes to help an offender in that category. Nor will he have from the old report a recommendation from the probation service as to which of those possible courses is open and available to him and suitable for that offender at that particular time in his criminal career.
There is a vast range of options open to a sentencer dealing with a juvenile. That sentencer needs advice, guidance and in-depth information about the offender even more than he does with an adult. It is essential, particularly with young people, where circumstances and problems are subject to rapid changes, not to cut out the requirement that that report and information should be the most up to date possible. To try to do so in those circumstances, when it was considered to be essential as recently as October 1992, when the 1991 Criminal Justice Bill was enacted, is false economy. I hope that the Minister will feel that he can accept the amendment.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, we too support the amendment. It is not just that pre-sentence reports are, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said, more up to date; they have two other advantages over the remaining information that might be available to the court. One is that it is likely to be more impartial than any evidence or information produced by the defence solicitor and, through the defence solicitor, to the defence counsel; and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said, there will almost inevitably be far more information about the defendant's family background which is so important when trying to assess how he came to get into a life of crime, and, equally important, in trying to assess his prospects of rehabilitation in due course. That has the advantage of being impartial and fuller information than is otherwise likely to be available to the magistrate or the judge.
1208 I can only say, speaking for myself, having had the painful task of dealing with numerous young offenders, that the assistance given by a pre-sentence report has been invaluable, and I believe that miscarriages of justice would have taken place without it.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Mottistone said that he hoped that I would be able to give your Lordships some encouragement. I shall do my best to do so. No one disputes for a moment that pre-sentence reports are of enormous value and importance.
The Government's aim in providing the courts with the discretion to dispense with a pre-sentence report is in order to meet concerns which have been expressed, in the light of experience, by many sentencers who believe that the existing arrangements for imposing custodial and major community sentences are inflexible and that in its present form the requirement imposes unnecessary burdens on the courts and unnecessary costs for the criminal justice system as a whole.
The noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, said that the Government are doing this for entirely financial reasons. That is not so. It is not entirely financial. Of course finance comes into it, and we believe that a pre-sentence report is expensive and in some cases unnecessary.
The amendments would have the unhelpful effect of removing the court's ability to dispense with the requirement to obtain a pre-sentence report when considering whether to impose a custodial or a major community sentence on a young offender. The amendments would create anomalies.
It could result in one regime for over 18 year-olds, where they can dispense with the need for a pre-sentence report, and another for those under 18, where they could not. The Government have already imposed a requirement for the court to consider a previous report before the court can exercise its discretion to dispense with a report. They have anyhow to consider the previous one. That means that in every case involving a juvenile under 18 the courts will have had regard to a report on the offender. If the previous report is not relevant to the current offence or if it is out of date, the court would, of course, need to obtain a new one.
If the pre-sentence report which the court is bound to consider is relevant and up to date, it is pointless to turn round and get another one.
In order for the courts to satisfy the welfare requirement, which they are obliged to do under Section 44 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, we expect that the courts will obtain a new pre-sentence report in any case where there is any doubt whatever about the information in the latest report being up to date.
We have imposed that requirement precisely because we recognise that special considerations apply in the case of juveniles and because the court must have proper regard to their welfare requirements.
The noble Viscount said that it was common sense to have a pre-sentence report. I agree with him, but it is also common sense not to have a report if there already is one. The amendments would require the court to 1209 obtain a new report even though a recent one on that offender might contain all the information which the court needed to bring out the welfare argument. I suggest that the Bill as it stands provides the right balance. While I understand the reason why the noble Viscount has put down the amendments, I fear that they would involve arrangements which would be unneces-sarily expensive and bureaucratic.
§ Viscount Tenby
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this mini-debate, and who have, for the most part, put forward their point of view far more eloquently than I was able to do on the important points. I am also grateful to the Minister for his detailed and typically courteous reply to the points I raised. It showed, alas, that my hunch that there might be some movement on the Government's side was ill-founded. All along the Government's position has been that this is what they describe as a minor amendment. I do not so regard it. I am surprised that a government who were able, powerfully and rightly, to recommend that a pre-sentence report should be mandatory three short years ago could later argue the reverse without so much as a collective blush. That surprises me.
It is not a minor matter, but I should like to ponder upon what has been said tonight and exercise the right to return to the matter on the next occasion. So I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, can we have cleared up what is actually going to happen? Is the debate going to resume or is the "debate" which I see taking place on the Front Bench going to continue?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is always helpful. I was trying to suggest that it might have been helpful to him, as well as to other people, if we were to take the next amendment now even though the bewitching hour of half past seven has passed by about two minutes, as it is, even to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, uncontroversial.
§ Clause 20 [Secure remands for young offenders]:
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 13, line 27 leave out from ("words") to end of line 30 and insert:
but no substitution may be brought into force on more than one occasion.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is purely a drafting amendment. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Annaly
My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the Report stage begin again at 8.40 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.