asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the latest available figure of the number of juveniles on remand in custody in British prisons and other detention centres, respectively.
On 31st March, of the 174 boys and six girls aged 14 to 16 who were in custody in England and Wales awaiting trial, 164 boys and two girls were in remand centres and the remainder in prisons. A further 262 boys and six girls who had been convicted were in custody awaiting sentence; of these, 257 boys and three girls were in remand centres and the remainder in prisons.
Does not my hon. Friend accept that it is monstrous that so many children should be incarcerated in Prison Service establishments, particularly as many of them have not been convicted of any offence and a substantial proportion of them are subsequently acquitted or given non-custodial sentences? Would it not be a better use of our resources if they were devoted to the social service and probation departments? What positively does my hon. Friend propose to do about this matter?
I accept that many boys and girls are in custody because of the shortage of secure places in local authority accommodation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services shares my desire to see fewer juveniles remanded to prison and remand centres and she has recently announced a building programme containing proposals for considerable additions to the community home system with secure establishments for observation and assessment.
Has the hon. Lady anything to say about the numbers of children who often have committed many crimes, are taken to the juvenile courts and subsequently sent home? Recently a magistrate said that there was no way under the Children and Young Persons Act of protecting the public from children who frequently stole.
If the hon. Lady will send me examples to illustrate the point, I shall consider them.