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Children And Young Persons Act 1969

Volume 22: debated on Thursday 22 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the operation of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 in respect of those matters for which he has responsibility.

We have included in the Criminal Justice Bill the measures that we consider necessary to improve the operation of the 1969 Act.

As, since 1975, on average over 40 per cent. of all burglaries committed in the West Midlands have been committed by under 17-year-olds, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the 1969 Act is largely a paper tiger? Will he confirm that the Criminal Justice Bill will restore definite powers to the magistrates to ensure that parents are truly accountable in the courts for the actions of their children?

The Bill strengthens the jurisdiction of the criminal courts under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to make parents of juvenile offenders liable to pay their fines, compensation orders and costs orders. It also increases to £500 the maximum sum in which they can be bound over to exercise proper care and control. Those will be useful additions to the weapons available to the courts.

Given that we imprison twice as many juvenile offenders today as we did a decade ago and that 75 per cent. of them re-offend on release from penal establishments, will the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that there should now be a major shift of emphasis and resources away from custodial techniques to treatment and care in the community and, particularly, that more resources should be provided for measures such as intermediate treatment?

It is desirable that, wherever possible, and consistent with the safety of the public, young offenders should be kept out of custodial establishments. That is why, for example, in the Criminal Justice Bill we are introducing a residential care order, which will enable a young offender to be kept out of custody. I recall that that measure did not win the support of the hon. Gentleman.

Before the final stages of the Criminal Justice Bill, will my hon. and learned Friend consider whether there are sufficient powers for the courts to require parents to pay to the court a small sum each week, part or all of which they could get back after a year or two if their child did not re-offend?

I note my hon. Friend's suggestion. At a later stage he may care to secure that it can be debated in the House.