§ Vernon Coaker
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what guidelines he has issued to courts about detaining persistent offenders under 16 years who are(a) charged with and (b) guilty of non-violent offences; and if he will make a statement. 623W
§ Mr. Wills
The decision whether to grant bail or not is a judicial decision taken within the statutory framework provided by the Bail Act 1976. Judges and magistrates carry out their duties independently of the Government. It would be wrong for Ministers to seek to direct judges or magistrates in the way they exercise their discretion. Accordingly, no guidelines have been issued on the use of bail or the related powers in section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. For the same reasons, my Department does not issue guidelines on sentencing. Magistrates and judges are helped by decisions of the higher courts and, particularly, by the guideline judgments of the Court of Appeal. In R.v. Howells and others (1998) the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, in a reserved judgment, considered, at length, the factors which courts should weigh when considering whether an offence is so serious that only a custodial sentence is justified.