House again in Committee.
Clause 4 [ Consecutive terms and aggregate periods of detention]:
moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 5, line 15, leave out from (" that ") to ("; and ") in line 17 and insert (" the only appropriate method of dealing with him is to pass a custodial sentence on him ").
The noble Lord said: The Government thought it right to seek this amendment partly in order to harmonise the phraseology of the Bill, and partly to emphasise its purpose. In Clauses 3(1) and 5(1), we require a court, in dealing with an offender, to be satisfied that:
" the only appropriate method of dealing with him is to pass a custodial sentence on him ".
That is in negative terms, emphasising that no other method is appropriate.
Clause 4(5), on the other hand, expresses the same provision in the words:
" a custodial sentence would be appropriate for the offence ".
That has overtones of positive suitability, which we should prefer to avoid. This amendment changes that so that it is identical with the wording of the other two provisions. It therefore makes a small improvement to the text of the Bill, and I commend it to the Committee. I beg to move.
I think that the proposed amendment is an improvement, and I agree with it.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 [ Youth custody: offenders aged 15 to 20]:
moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 5, line 39, leave out paragraph (a).
The noble Lord said: Once again, this is one of my probing amendments and it is significant that the provision in Clause 5(1)( a) applies to 15 year-olds and upwards. There seems to be no alternative provision for 14 year-old girls. Statistics show that the highest increase in female crime is in the 14 to 17 age group. I have noted in passing that Clause 3 copes with 14 year-old boys and, although I do not want to differentiate between the sexes on this, the fact is that 14 year-old girls can be just as vicious as 14 year-old boys. I wonder whether my noble friend can tell me whether there is any provision and, if not, why not. I beg to move.
Paragraph (a) is an essential part of the framework within which the courts are to use youth custody. It sets the limits in terms of age and in terms of seriousness of offence. There is widespread concern about the use of custody for young offenders. The Government do not agree with all the restrictions yroposed for the limitation of custody on young offenders. But on the basic principle that it should be a last resort we do agree. That is indeed the principle on which the Bill is constructed.But my noble friend again refers to the provision specifically for female offenders, this time in the younger age group. Really, my answer to the last amendment which my noble friend moved before the dinner break—I think it was the last one—holds good on this occasion. It is that, because there is no prospect of a sufficient number of customers, as it were, to justify a central, national provision, simply because it would be central, young female offenders have to be I accommodated in places which are in other respects for older offenders. I sought to persuade my noble friend at that earlier stage that this was fortunately and coincidentally beneficial for the régime which they underwent. If it had not been so, it would have been a more difficult problem, but that is the way in which we tackle it.
I appreciate that my noble friend was initially trying to answer the amendment as though it was straightforward, but I was not altogether happy—otherwise I should not have moved that amendment—that this particular point of the young teenage girls has really been hoisted in as a problem which needs to be tackled. When we are able to read Hansard and can see all that my noble friend has said, we shall perhaps get a thread of it. But I have a slight feeling that this is something which the Government would like to avoid—I am not talking about this Government but about any Government—and have been avoiding. It is a very difficult problem of how to deal with young teenagers, particularly the girls, who have become a great problem in recent years. So, having made that point yet again—and I shall probably make it again on subsequent amendments—I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 17:
Page 6, line 13, at end insert—
The noble Baroness said: I spoke to this amendment when I spoke to Amendment No. 10, which I withdrew, saying that I would consider it further on Report. Therefore, I shall do the same regarding this amendment.
[ Amendment No. 17 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 6, line 13, at end insert—
(" ( ) Where a person who is not less than 15 nor more than 16 years old is convicted by a magistrates' court of an offence punishable on summary conviction with imprisonment then, if the court is of opinion that a youth custody sentence should be passed on him, the court shall commit him in custody or on bail to the Crown Court for sentence.").
The noble Lord said: I move this amendment in the names of my noble friend Lord Donaldson and myself. The point at issue here is a very simple one. It is to ensure that, when a lower court—a magistrates' court —wishes to impose a sentence of youth custody on a young offender, the lower court should refer the recommendation to the Crown court, which will impose the sentence. It is self-evident that to impose any form of custodial sentence, particularly on those young offenders susceptible to receive youth custody sentences, is a very serious step indeed.
As I understand the present position, in imposing a borstal sentence the magistrates' court regularly refers to the Crown Court, which imposes the sentence. Now that borstal sentences are no longer to be imposed, this is the logical requirement that we should like to see introduced in this Bill. I beg to move.
What is proposed here is, in effect, a special limit on the powers of a magistrates' court when it is dealing with juveniles. Magistrates' courts have power to impose a custodial sentence of up to six months on offenders of any age. That is the general limit of their sentencing power.The approach adopted in legislation is to place limits on the maximum penalty available to any court. These limits relate to particular offences. There are also limits according to the age of the offender. What the legislation does not do is set a special restriction on the sentencing powers of particular courts according to age; that is to say, any restrictions according to age are general. Thus, under this Bill the limit on the length of a sentence of youth custody which may be imposed on a juvenile—that is to say, a boy or girl under 17—is 12 months. But there is no special limit on the powers of magistrates in dealing with juveniles. What this amendment seeks to do is exceptionally to introduce a special restriction which would prevent magistrates from imposing youth custody sentences at all. No doubt this derives from the fact that magistrates cannot at present impose a sentence of borstal training. They have to commit to the Crown Court for this. But the new sentence of youth custody is not simply an equivalent to borstal training. This point becomes clear when we consider the range of powers which the Bill as it stands makes available to the magistrates' courts. Under the Bill a magistrates' court can pass a sentence of any length up to six months on a 15 or 16-year-old juvenile or on a young adult. It can commit the offender to the Crown Court for a longer sentence. The Bill sets a maximum of four months on a custodial sentence for a 14-year-old and of 12 months on a sentence for 15 and 16-year-olds. It is those maxima which are important. The law provides that in almost all cases the proper place for a juvenile to be dealt with is in the juvenile court. We should think long and hard before we start saying that a magistrates' court can be given the difficult and serious task of trying and convicting a young offender, but should be deprived of its usual sentencing powers, although it can try and convict. Both trial and sentence are serious matters —and we cannot say that a court is fit to carry out one task but not the other. This amendment would not, incidentally, have quite the effect which its sponsors desire. The usual minimum for a youth custody sentence will be four months, but there will be plenty of youth custody sentences much shorter than that, where the offender is unfit or ineligible for a detention centre order. Moreover, the four months minimum is, under Clause 13, movable by statutory instrument. If it went up to six months magistrates would in any case have to commit to the Crown Court for a youth custody sentence. We have made allowance for that in the amendment in paragraph 41 of Schedule 13, which we shall take later. If it went down below four months the effect would be that the Secretary of State, by order, would reduce the jurisdiction of the magis- trates' courts. That, I think, is not what we wish to do. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will perhaps think better of his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for providing me with some necessary education, and I am now wiser than I was and to some extent reassured and relieved by what he has told me. In view of what he has told me, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 6, line 19, at end insert—
(c) in a case where the court considers that the offender's detention in a detention centre would be unsuitable because of his mental condition, that there are special circumstances (whether relating to the offence or to the offender) which warrant the passing of a sentence of youth custody in that case ").
The noble Baroness said: This is a probing amendment, and it is in the same field as the various amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. I really move it in order to seek information. If a child is found to be mentally unsuitable for a detention centre but his offence is such that it commands a short custodial sentence, and yet he cannot go to the detention centre because of his mental condition, he is given a youth custody order. May I know exactly what happens if his mental condition is such that he cannot go to the detention centre? Does he then go to prison or to borstal? If so, does he get the necessary treatment there? If not, what happens to him, or her? I beg to move.
According to the White Paper, Young Offenders, 1980, the answer to the noble Baroness's question is that he goes to prison. If that is so —and that is the only authority I have for saying so—it is a scandalous and serious state of affairs. Here is a youth, or a boy or a girl, who needs the maximum amount of care who is simply dumped in adult prisons, if this report is true. This amendment is a probing amendment, but if those facts are accurate it is something that should be terminated forthwith. What we should like to know, if the Minister has the information, is how many are involved in that situation and what is going to be done about it.The proposal in the amendment is that that state of affairs should not be allowed to arise, and that rather than let that arise there should be no incarceration at all. But if any of the young people in this group are ending up in adult prisons that clearly cannot do them any benefit, and it is an intolerable situation. It is presumably impossible to provide facilities for them which are adequate, let alone separate facilities. According to the White Paper, Young Offenders, a comment made by the Prison and Borstal Governers' Branch of the Society of Civil and Public Servants—not an irresponsible body—is this:
The report of the Parliamentary All-Party Penal Affairs Group, of which the noble Baroness was a distinguished member, comments upon this in its report, Young Offenders, a Strategy for the Future, paragraph 227, by saying:" They are squeezed into a bank of cells at the end of a wing or landing or, in the case of one local prison, into a basement. Recreational facilities are meagre, and sometimes non-existent. The same applies to work and physical education. It is only remarkable that control and other problems are not more severe, but staff in local prisons will invariably highlight this group as the most difficult one to manage in prevailing conditions ".
This amendment does not go as far as that recommendation of the Parliamentary All-Party Penal Affairs Group, but it goes some way to achieving that aim by providing that a short custodial sentence should be imposed on such an offender only if there are special circumstances. I, and I am sure the Committee, shall await with concern and interest what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has to tell us either by way of asurance, or whatever it may be, to deal with what appears to be, if these facts as I have read them out are true, to be a scandalous state of affairs." We recommend that those young offenders for whom a custodial sentence exceeding four months is inappropriate but who are mentally unfit for detention centre régimes should not receive any form of custodial sentence. Since these are cases where by definition only a short custodial sentence is being considered, the offenders concerned will not be among those who represent the most serious danger to the community, and a suitable non-custodial sentence, where appropriate, involving treatment for the offender's mental condition within the National Health Service should be imposed ".
In rising to support the noble Baroness in probing through this amendment, I should like to underscore the concern felt by members of the Parliamentary All-Party Penal Affairs Group on this matter. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has referred to the White Paper, which makes it clear that young offenders are likely to serve in adult prisons in the circumstances of the Bill at this stage.My concern is the greater because when the matter came up in Committee in another place, the Minister said the Government had given further thought to what was said in the White Paper, and he said words to the effect that every effort would be made to place all the young people concerned who were under 17, and some of those who were 17 and over, in youth custody centres, but he added that some of those aged 17 and over would probably serve their time in adult prisons. This is a matter of great concern, although the Minister tried to sugar the pill by saying that they would serve their sentences either in a hospital wing or a young prisoners' wing. Anyone who knows the picture in local prisons would endorse every word of what the people who really know—the Prison and Borstal Governors' branch of the Society of Civil and Public Servants—have had to say about those establishments, They are scathing and they speak of a national scandal in relation to the detention of young people in adult local prisons. That merely adds weight, if weight were needed, to what the noble Baroness said.
I hope the Government will not shy away from the possibility of letting somebody free when they cannot be accommodated properly. That is what, in my opinion, the whole prison problem is about. Because the Government—the British Government for British justice, not just the Tory Government at the moment—are incapable of dealing with the number of offenders sent forward by the courts, they are piling them in a way that is unacceptable. This is a very small element of the whole, a certain number of very vulnerable disturbed young people, and the right answer is that if a proper place cannot be found to send them, let them free. Let there be no mistake; that is what should be done.
That may be a disaster. I am sorry to tell the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that, but, having been involved with the Mental Health Bill both in this House and another place, I can say that the tragedy is that there are some mental patients of all ages, including the young, particularly schizophrenics, who are totally vulnerable when not under some sort of control. Custody is one thing, and we are talking about prisons. I cannot but say that, because the matter is not going through in the other place as well as it should, there is strong pressure to say that civil liberty must ride above all. The trouble is that there are vulnerable people of whom some people—it has happened in the United States apart from here—are saying, "Let them free. That is the prime thing", and they are casting them into the gutter. That is what is happening. The legislation is just—only just—all right in another place, and for goodness' sake do not think that by saying, "Set them free", life will be made better for them. They are probably being condemned to disaster.
I must reply to that. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is talking about dangerous lunatics. Of course they should not be free, but they should not be in prison either.
Of course not.
Right, and we are talking about a prison sentence on these people, and that should not be confused with a medical sentence of insanity. It has nothing to do with that. These are people who are mentally unfit, but not in a position to be sent to a lunatic asylum, or whatever they call them nowadays. It is failing to meet the situation to talk about it differently. Of course, if somebody is insane, they should be certified and sent to a proper place. We are talking about children, or people slightly older than children, who are mentally unfit, who are unreliable, who are difficult, who are possibly even slightly schizophrenic, but not on a basis which would justify certification. This cannot be laughed off. It must be dealt with and it cannot possibly be dealt with by certification because they are not as ill as that.
I suggest there is right both in what my noble friend Lord Mottistone says and in what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, says. If these people are set free into the gutter, it is equally possible they could be sent to Wormwood Scrubs to the gutter. What we must try to do is find a balanced, sensible way between the two. Surely, nobody who is mentally sick should be in prison; they should be in hospital. I suspect there are large numbers of adult offenders in secure prisons when they should be in secure mental hospitals. I cannot say because I am not an expert on the subject. Having listened to that interesting exchange of views between my noble friend and the noble Lord, as is often the case in such circumstances, there is right on both sides.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is thinking of the more seriously mentally ill individduals who may come before the courts because of some very grave offence they have committed, and in that case they would, of course, be liable to be transferred by the court to a special hospital under Section 60 of the Mental Health Act 1959, and I think I am right in saying—the Minister may wish to confirm it—that Section 60 may be applied to young people as it is to adults. However, under the amendment I do not think Section 60 would be appropriate because we are talking about the young person who would not be given a custodial sentence of more than four months, so the offence would have been of a relatively minor nature. One assumes that the mental illness from which the young person was suffering would not be so severe as to warrant his detention in a special hospital under the powers of Section 60.There are, however, other powers in the Mental Health Act which enable a person to be detained for shorter periods. I believe that Section 28 allows for one month's detention, and there are other provisoins in the Act. Thus, when we are considering what is an appropriate disposition for a young person who may be found to be mentally ill when he comes before the courts, we should not neglect the powers which already exist under the Mental Health Act, which have nothing to do with offences but which, I think, might be more appropriate to the minor offences with which we are dealing in the amendment.
Perhaps I might respond to that by saying: Do not forget the gutter!
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is, with great respect, forgetting that we are dealing with persons sentenced to something less than four months' imprisonment. The picture he built up of the homicidal man who should be in Broadmoor is totally and absolutely irrelevant to what we are considering.
Perhaps I might intervene in this developing exchange to say that my noble friend Lord Mottistone is not entirely irrelevant in what he says because it is not only the dangerous and suicidal lunatic who is in danger of falling into the gutter if he is released into society without some other provision. I do not doubt that if we were addressing ourselves to an amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson—I am not suggesting by that that we prolong the proceedings on Report—he would say, "No indeed, that person should not be discharged into the gutter, but some other provision (some other supervision or care) should be provided".Returning to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Faithfull and the question she sought to answer, I would say that the noble Lord, Lord Ave-bury, was broadly right in saying that where you have the extreme case, there is provision under the Mental Health (Amendment) Act and the Mental Health Act itself to deal with it. My noble friend, however, was concerned about where juvenile offenders would go. When we come to Clause 11, your Lordships' Committee will see that we have put down amendments to make sure that juveniles are not held in prison; they will go to youth custody centres, or remand centres when we have them, appropriate to their care. They will not go into adult prisons. As to young adults, we intend to hold them in young offender establishments also, but I think that we must face the reality that, until the effects of the Bill and the effects of our building and refurbishing programmes reduce current pressures, some of them may have to go to prison. We arc talking now not about juveniles, but about young adults. We are talking not about the majority, but about a minority. Our best intentions are that none of them shall go to prison, but there is a possibility that, until we get it right, some of them will have to, and that I have to admit.
Can the noble Lord say how many are in that category at the moment? The report by the Prison and Borstal Governors' Branch of the Society of Civil and Public Servants is absolutely hair-raising. How many are they talking about? It is not known, I see.
The noble and learned Lord can see, if not from my face, from the faces of others, that I shall have to write to him on that point.
The Minister is saying that we must face up to reality. That is what the amendment is all about—reality. The reality is that, with all the magnificent provisions for young people, there comes a moment under detention sentence when the court says, "This person is not eligible for a short sentence in a detention centre because he is not fit mentally or physically ". Then what happens? That person is given 21 days, or whatever the period is, in a youth custody centre. As I understand it—the Minister has not made it clear—the régime in a youth custody institution is not suitable for a very short sentence. It upsets the training which is being provided in such a centre.So one is left with a group of people unfit for the short sentence in the detention centre—rogue elephants so far as the youth custody training system is concerned —and what is to happen to them? One understands that at the moment they are just put into a local prison, and it is that which the governors have described as a scandal. That is what is involved in facing up to reality. As I see it, the purpose of the amendment is to ask the Government to face up to reality. The reality is that these young people are going to go to prison, and that is a scandal. I suggest that the Minister has not answered the question of where they are to go, if it is not to prison. If it is to prison, it is a disgrace.
With respect, I think that, when the noble Lord reads Hansard tomorrow, if he does so, he will see that I said that the juveniles will go to youth custody centres and that the great majority of those of 17 and over will also go to young offender establishments. The pressures are such that I do not want to put my hand on my heart and say that none of them will ever again go to prison, because we have not reached that position. The noble Lord cast doubts upon the suitability of youth custody centres for this sort of treatment, saying that there would be rogue elephants —I think that was the phrase. Well, I taught for 10 years. I am not saying that it is a directly analogous experience to running an establishment in which young offenders are supposed to receive education and training. But the fact is that one can accommodate oneself to a certain number of people who are not capable of taking up the full benefits of a régime, or a curriculum, without throwing out the administration for the rest.We have all along in these debates been talking about flexibility, and I think that this is an area in which it is to be expected that these establishments will be able to cater for these people, will be able to provide the medical supervision that they require, and will indeed be able to give them advice which may follow them through into the community when they leave and be of great value to them. These are not simply disciplinary machines. We are not talking about detention centres which have a rapid and rigorous régime. We are talking about youth custody centres, which are specfically available to those for whom the detention centre régimes are not suitable, and I believe that we do less than justice to the service if we say that it could not cope. As to the prisons I accept that we do not want to send people there. I undertake that we shall do our best not to send any of them there, and as time progresses every effort will be made to see that such numbers as are sent there diminish. But I should be dishonest if in my response to the amendment I suggested that we could undertake that the kind of people whom we are talking about would never go to prison.
I should like very much to underline the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, was raising. The numbers here seem to me really vitally important. If it is a case of one person every two years, then one must be prepared to say, "All right, that's just bad luck" But if there are going to be tens of people a week, then the situation is much more serious. I would ask my noble friend whether he will request his advisers to produce the figures for information during the course of later debates on the Bill. I concede that the offices are probably now closed, but the figures must be available somewhere, and they seem to be very important.
I did not have the opportunity to hear the noble Lord who introduced the original amendment, but, as a magistrate, I am becoming completely confused about who these people are. We are told that they would probably receive sentences of no more than four months in prison; I think that that was the maximum quoted. We are also told that they are vaguely schizophrenic. Now, you cannot be vaguely schizophrenic; either you are schizophrenic, or you are not schizophrenic.Last week I had a group of young people over here from Malta and three of them were robbed by other young people in Oxford Street. Your Lordships' Committee might regard that as petty and unimportant, but when it cames to a court hearing I think that these are the kind of people whom we would be talking about. I am not quite clear how they come to be in such numbers. The noble Lord on the Front Bench nods his head, but I am wondering about the ages that have been referred to. I should like to have some idea of the offence for which they have been brought to court in the first place. Then we could know whether we were dealing with someone who was genuinely disturbed, or someone who, as it might have been said in the old days, was simply committing an offence. Nowadays nobody seems to be able to commit an offence; they always plead diminished responsibility, or something like that. But I feel that there are some people who actually commit offences. This is a terrible area of confusion. Who are we actually referring to in the amendment?
As to the numbers, I shall do what I can to help your Lordships' Committee. Whether or not the people who robbed the noble Baroness's friend were mentally disturbed, I cannot say; that would he for the court to decide—
They were not caught.
I did not catch the allusion. I think that we shall do better if only the person standing up takes part in the debate. I shall be very happy to sit down for as long as noble Lords wish. But the thing is—
The noble Lord did not catch what was said. The trouble was that the offenders were not caught, either.
In that case we shall never know whether or not they were mentally disturbed.For the benefit of the noble Baroness, who came into the Chamber after the amendment was moved and therefore did not hear described the people in question, I shall say merely that they are people who are thought physically or mentally unsuitable for detention in a detention centre. My noble friend and various other noble Lords have said that such people ought not be thrown out on to the street, nor ought they to be thrown into an adult prison. I have said that the Government have no intention of throwing juveniles into anything except youth custody centres, and that we also wish to put people of 17 and over into young offender accommodation. But I would be less than honest if I said that we could bring this about by the time the Bill reaches the statute book. Of course, it depends on the future practice of the courts; but I can tell my noble friend now that we would estimate that up to 100 people at any one time, with a variety of conditions—some serious, some minor—may be concerned throughout the entire prison population. It is a small percentage, but for them, of course, each case is 100 per cent. I take very much the anxiety that noble Lords have. I was earlier on in my as yet brief political life in the Department of Health, where I saw these people at the other end, as it were, of the tug of war, and I recognise this as a profoundly disturbing thing which worries me deeply. I said earlier that I was interested in the sick prisoners. It is actually this form of illness which I find most compelling and in which I have the greatest interest. So noble Lords need not feel that this is going to be left idle on the sideboard until the next legislation. All I am saying is that, keen as I am to get this set right, I really cannot undertake to do it before the legislation gets on to the statute book.
May I make one additional point before the noble Baroness concludes the debate? Now that we are armed with the figure that the noble Lord the Minister has given to us—we know that there are up to 100 of these young people who are mentally ill at any one time who get dumped in the prison system—does the noble Lord agree that it would provide a strong incentive to the Home Office to get on with the job of providing these youth custody centres for up to 100 young persons if this amendment were put on the statute book now?
Indeed, yes, but I should point out that these are all unfit people and not just mentally unfit people. The noble Lord will agree, I think, that there is a difference between putting somebody who has a mental illness to cope with in a youth custody institution, or indeed in an adult prison, and somebody who has a hernia, for instance. They are really of rather a different order.
I thank all noble Lords for taking part in this debate. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, hit the nail on the head. We are in impasse. I think I should say that there are of course places for the mentally ill under youth custody orders, but there are not enough of them to deal with all the mentally ill young offenders.I had hoped that my noble friend the Minister could have talked a little bit about adult secure units, which were recommended by the late Lord Butler. If such units are recommended for adult prisoners, should there not be adolescent units for young people attached to such centres? In the mental health service we have a service for the adult patients and we have adolescent units for the young patients. It seems to me that one of the most constructive things we could do would be to have adolescent units in secure units for the mentally ill prisoners. This is what I hoped might perhaps be considered. We obviously cannot get very far on this tonight. It is a vitally important problem, but at this point in time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 [ Provision of premises for young offenders etc.]:
I have to tell your Lordships that there is a misprint in the Marshalled List. Amendment No. 20 should read "leave out from beginning to second (' and ') in line 2 on page 9".
moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 8, line 37, leave out from beginning to second (" and ") in line 2 on page 9.
The noble Lord said: I did not spot the error. With the leave of the Committee, with this amendment I should like to take Amendment No. 38, because they are similar. I was planning to take them separately, but I really think that I have dealt thoroughly enough with female delinquents. Perhaps I might find myself associated with Mr. Gladstone; that would be the Liberal Party, and that would all be a disaster!
The amendments are similar because it is not clear from the provision which I seek to leave out in Amendment No. 20 whether remand centres are going to be set up for females over 14 years of age. There is none in the London area at the moment. Holloway used to be used, but is no longer. In connection with Amendment No. 38, there seems to be no provision for attendance centres for young females. Such centres would be especially important if no other provision for under 17 year-old girls is made.
So part of the point which I hope my noble friend will be able to respond to is the question of what to do with the very young, new offenders of around 14 years old of the female sex. What are the Government going to do about providing means for accommodating them under the different circumstances dealt with in Clause 10 and later in Clause 17? I beg to move.
We appreciate the reason for this amendment, and we have already had a full debate on the detention centre order. If we are to have the order, we must have somewhere to put those sentenced under it. This amendment would deprive the Secretary of State of his power to provide detention centres, which is an integral part of the Bill's provisions. We shall in due course lay before Parliament draft detention centre rules which will set out more fully the way in which those institutions are to be run. I am afraid the Government cannot accept this amendment, and I hope my noble friend will not press it.
That is a most unsatisfactory reply. I took the trouble to write to my noble friend to tell him that these were probing amendments and what the reasons for them were. I also said that this one was going to relate to Amendment No. 38. My noble friend Lord Sandys replied to it as if it were just a straightforward amendment, but it was not. I wrote a special letter and I got a special "Thank you" reply from my noble friend. It really is most unsatisfactory to have that pat answer. The advisers really must he spanked.
I think I ought to intervene to shelter my noble friend and the advisers, and possibly provide a magazine to slip down the trousers. I apologise if the answer went astray, but, as the noble Lord had linked it with No. 38 and my noble friend was about to take that, I handed it to him, and this is where the slip came between the cup and the lip.There will be three units in remand centres for young women—at Pucklechurch, Brisley and Lower Newton—but no unconvicted girl under the age of 17 can be remanded in custody, though 15 and 16 year-olds can be committed to a higher court for sentence. There are six attendance centres specifically for girls; there are nine attendance centres which take girls as well as boys. I hope that that is more the sort of material that my noble friend wanted.
I am deeply grateful to my noble friend for that reply. It was one I had hoped for in the first place. It is the sort of answer I was seeking. I really do think that if one takes the trouble to write the bloody civil servants should do their job properly.
I hope that my noble friend will withdraw what he has just said.
Of course, I will withdraw because the Committee would like me to withdraw.
A very ungallant remark.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 9, line 7, at end insert—
(" ( ) No person detained in an institution provided under this section shall be required to share a cell with another person.
( ) Dormitories in institutions provided under this section shall provide a minimum of 60 square feet per person if inmates are confined in them for 10 hours or less per day, and a minimum of 80 square feet per person if inmates are confined in them for more than 10 hours per day.
( ) The Secretary of State shall make regulations prescribing standards with respect to air volume, ventilation, heating, floor space and window space in cells and dormitories, bathing facilities and sanitary facilities, to which institutions provided under this section shall conform.").
The noble Lord said: It will make for the peaceful atmosphere of this Committee if I move this amendment. The Committee may be very surprised to learn that there is no statutory provision anywhere for prison accommodation in this country. One hears speeches, one hears of reports, one hears of White Papers criticising the accommodation that exists, but nobody can refer to a standard. There are other standards to which I hope to refer the Committee briefly; but what this amendment tries to do is to set down for the first time some standards and the Committe may feel that we are making a good start when we do that in respect of juvenile offenders.
I said that there were other standards and the first thing that I should like to do, if I may, is to refer to the standards that are set by the 1973 European standard minimum rules. Rule 8 provides that prisoners should be lodged during the night in individual cells. Rule 9 provides that prisoners' accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation. Rule 11 provides for sanitary facilities and says that they must be adequate to enable every prisoner to comply with the needs of nature when necessary and in clean and decent conditions.
There were references to the standard rules in the May inquiry into the European prison services. Noble Lords will remember that in 1979 that report was issued. It concluded in this way in regard to the standard minimum rules. It said that it required a target of a minimum of no enforced cell sharing except in regular dormitories, incorporating continuous ready access to lavatories or integral sanitation as appropriate.
It is hardly to be thought, hardly to be anticipated, hardly to be prayed for that juveniles who go into this sort of condition which now all too often prevails will come out with a respect for society and in any way cured in regard to their habits of living when those who are placing them in custody put them into completely uncivilised conditions. So, although we may be doing it for the first time, we should comply with European obligations and the obligations, you may think, of a civilised society. What we must do in the Bill before us is to set down standards which I hope the Committee will think are absolutely minimal standards for any decent incarceration.
It is. a particular pleasure to me, having been asked by my noble friend Lord Harris to move this amendment, to find how well the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has done it. He has, in fact, anticipated a great deal of what my noble friend asked me to say, but not quite everything, so I will add a few points. Parliament's attention was drawn to our failure to lay down statutory standards in penal establishments by a very distinguished old friend of mine who alas! is now dead, Pearce, who was, most imaginatively, appointed by the present Home Secretary as the Inspector of Prisons as a result of the May Report recommendations. He was rather a splendid man. I do not think it would be right to talk about this without some reference to him.It was his first report and, as the first holder of the office, he pointed out that, like the rest of us, he was gratified by the announcement of an increase in prison building but clearly this will take many years and it was clear to him and his colleagues that it was unsatisfactory that there were so few specific standards laid down. This point the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, made clearly as far as cell accommodation is concerned. It seems to me, it seemed to my noble friend Lord Harris and to Bill Pearce who made this report, that it was about time we started somewhere. You cannot start everywhere; so why not start with youth accommodation'? This is what this amendment is about, as the noble Lord said. The standards laid down in this amendment were laid down first by the American Correctional Association. They insist on a minimum of 60 square feet of floor space if prisoners' confinement does not exceed 10 hours and at least 80 square feet if prisoners were confined for more than 10 hours a day which, alas! quite often in this country they are. They insist that prisoners should be housed singly. In order to be accredited by the Association, the city authorities must comply with 90 per cent. of all the standards classed by the American Correctional Association as essential and 80 per cent. of all standards classed by them as important. Both my noble friend Lord Harris and I and, no doubt, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, have seen something of the prison conditions in the United States. I went to the Tombs about 10 years ago and, frankly, it was the most awful thing I have seen in my life. It "blew up" about three months later and has since been closed. There is every sort of variety in American prisons but the Tombs was an experience. The top floor was kept for the psychopathic chaps and there were numbers of loonies wandering around. It was the most dangerous experience in my life. There was this with the noise from the uncovered floors with people wheeling food cannisters about. It was high time that the American correctional standards were reinforced and I think we here should do something about it. The standards movement has been of great importance in improving conditions in American penal establishments and I think it has a part to play here. I do not think you are going to get standards improved with the difficulties there arc in improving anything, without setting them down in advance and giving people something to aim at. The prison governor has got to be able to say to the Home Office: "I am terribly sorry: I cannot do this because it crosses the standards I am obliged to hold up". If you do not do that, he has no power at all. He has to do what he is told, and the result is more or less disaster. Last December the Prison and Borstal Governors' Branch of the Society of Civil and Public Servants declared its position. It said this:
Let me say, the 1982s: we still settle for that now." The first essential step is to set minimum standards for prison conditions in the 1980s ".
The Home Secretary has not included this legislation in this Bill, so we are putting it forward to help him. My third point is that we do indeed have obligations on this matter under the 1973 European standard minimum rules. Rule 8 provides that the prisoners should normally be lodged during the night in individual cells. Rule 9 provides that prisoners' accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation. In this country we can skip the climatic conditions, but everything else is highly relevant. Rule 11 states that," These should be based on the European standard minimum rules and should be incorporated into English law. In practice, this means the outlawing of compulsory cell-sharing and the abolition of ' slopping out '. We have asked the Home Secretary to include this legislation in the Criminal Justice Bill ".
I know that in a sense this is asking for the moon and with over 44,000 prisoners in prison at the moment it is not something that can be done under, say, seven or eight years; but I believe that in relation to young offenders this could be done now. I do not ask the Government to say that this should be put into the Bill, but I ask them to give me some assurance that they will at least aim to do this within three years for young offenders. It seems to me something they could do, something that they ought to do, and something over which they are going to be in breach of European regulations very soon if they do not. Following the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I beg to support this amendment." sanitary facilities should be adequate to enable every prisoner to comply with the need of nature when necessary and in clean and decent conditions ".
I should like to make just two points. One is that the situation is very strange since standards are laid down by the Department of Education and Science for all their establishments and standards are laid down by the Department of Health and Social Security for all their establishments. In addition, many of the establishments run by the social services departments take young offenders. How, then, does it happen that two Ministries have very strict standards and one—the Home Office—does not?I should like to make a further brief point, which concerns the requirement to share a cell. There are some who are gregarious and who like to share a cell, and there are others who find it really difficult. I once saw a girl in a community school for education and asked her: "Why are you in a room by yourself?" She said: "I jumped on matron's foot and hurt her." I asked: "Why did you do that?" She said: "To get sent to a place where I would be in a room by myself." It just means that some people cannot tolerate—some can but some cannot—sharing a room and there does need to be some flexibility. For these reasons, and others, I support the amendment.
I should like to make a couple of observations. First I should like to refer to the European standard minimum rules, which have been referred to several times in the course of this debate. As I understand it, the rules were drafted in 1973 and so they have been there as a model for us to aim at for almost 10 years. During that period, if anything, we have gone even further away from the realisation of the aims set out—such as allowing people to sleep in a cell by themselves if they want to—than we were at the beginning of that period.I should like to ask the Minister to address himself in the course of his reply to what exactly is the status of the European standard rules. Obviously they are not justiciable. You cannot seek an injunction that the governor of a particular establishment should bring it up to any of the standards set down in those rules. You cannot bring an action against the Secretary of State for his failure to observe them. So may I ask the Minister this. Have these rules any force whatsoever, or are they just a set of pious platitudes to which we have no intention of ever adhering? If the latter is the case, I cannot see the point in having a document which, as the noble Lord recently told me in a letter which he was good enough to write to me, is available in the libraries of all our prisons in England and Wales for anybody to refer to. That would be a very good thing, if the prisoners on reading it could see any chance of the admirable standards laid down ever being attained. But if they can see that the Government have no intention of providing the kind of standards which are laid down, then it is stimulating unrest in the prisons not only among the wretched prisoners themselves, but also among the staff who have to cope with the appalling conditions that have been described. The second point that 1 want to make relates to the certification of accommodation in prisons as being fit for occupation. Under the prison rules, the medical officer has to certify every cell in every penal establishment as being fit for the occupation of prisoners. What I should like to ask the noble Lord—and this is something which I have tried to pursue in the course of correspondence, both with him and with the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, when he was in office—is how the medical officer does this job. He goes and looks at a cell and can see what are the dimensions, the amount of light, of heat and so on. but what are the objective yardsticks by which the medical officer judges the suitability, or otherwise, of the accommodation for a certain number of prisoners? If he does not have the European minimum standards, or any other internal guidelines which are laid down by the Home Office, it is asking a great deal of a medical officer. I do not think that such a duty should be imposed upon him, and the prison rules ought not to lay it down that the medical officer has to carry out a duty for which he is given no guidance whatsoever. So an amendment of this kind, if it were confined, as has been suggested, to juveniles, would begin to set the pattern which would then be extended throughout the whole of the prison system. I agree with those who have said that it would be far too ambitious to try to aim at meeting anything like the European minimum standards for the 44,000 people whom we have in custody, but I believe that we can make a start on the juveniles and that we should do it while we have an opportunity in this Bill.
I am not totally happy with this amendment, not because I do not agree 100 per cent. with the aims behind it, but because I wonder what happens if there is not the money to do it. If we legislate for something which has to be done, and then there is no money, the law comes into disrepute. What happens if somebody is put inside in a double cell? Can he get an injunction stating that the courts are imprisoning him illegally, so that he then has to be let out?The standards of our prison accommodation should be vastly improved. The thought of three people in a cell for 23 hours a day, with just a chamber pot each, is quite repellant and very barbaric. But to put these standards into legislation would bring the law into disrepute. And let us be quite honest; there are no votes in money for prisons. My right honourable friend the present Home Secretary deserves a great deal of credit for managing to extract out of a very tight-fisted Treasury—quite correctly—money for prison building and such like. But if we put such an amendment into the law, it will be counter-productive.
If I may answer that, we are talking about a limited number of people. It would be quite possible to say that we have to deal with these 3,000 or 4,000 people. We could begin with 500 and bring them up to standard, and have a programme over the next three years to bring the remainder up to standard. This is the kind of proposal that we want to get from the Government, but we never get it. What we want them to say is that they agree with what we say ought to be done. They could say that they do not have the money to do it all, but they could make a start and provide a programme. But can we get it? The answer is, Never.
I shall try to be brief and to satisfy your Lordships. The first point from which we started was the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, of which there are both United Nations and Council of Europe versions. These cover much of the ground in the amendments, though without specifying quantities or dimensions. The standard minimum rules have the status of recommendations to guide legislation and practice. In administering the prison system, the Government endeavour to comply with the rules, so far as is possible, but they are not—I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—conventions subject to signature and ratification, as capable of enforcement. They are, as it were, international guidelines. I recognise the attraction of what is proposed. It puts noble Lords who have tabled the amendments—whoever moves them—on the side of the angels. They are very attractive in some respects.However—I urge noble Lords to bear with me beyond this paragraph—before I go on I have to point out the difficulties. If we set standards high enough to inspire and stretch management, there will inevitably be many failures to meet them in the less favoured establishments. If we set lower standards which can be met, the exercise has a diminishing point to it. If in statute we set different standards for different parts of the prison system, as is now proposed, we should introduce a degree of complexity and enshrine inequity in statutes or regulations. As circumstances change over time—for example, in respect of public expenditure levels and priorities, staff recruitment or industrial relations—a particular code of standards may become obsolete fairly quickly. Yet the amendment of statutes takes an inordinate length of time. Futhermore, the setting of standards does not in itself increase the resources available. It must be recognised that there will still be other pressing demands for the expenditure of public funds which noble Lords, who put down these standard minimum rules, may well feel equally enthusiastic about. However, those are all arguments for caution. This is not to say that nothing should be done. The Government have given considerable thought to the arguments for setting standards. We recognise that this is a case in which we must try to surmount the difficulties. We have decided that we should try to draw up a code of standards as a basis for discussion. This would cover and may well focus on the main elements of prisoners' accommodation and living conditions, but we ought also to look at régime activities as well. The two, in terms of resources, are inextricably linked because resources are required to get people supervised out of cells, just as they are required to put them in cells which are relatively congenial. It is too early to say how far we could go in setting quantitative criteria, but we recognise that they are needed if standards are to bite and that we should go as far as possible in this direction. It will not be easy and it will take time. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, asked for some sort of target. I cannot give a commitment. The noble Lord will realise that a good deal of consultation, some of it quite difficult, will be required. However, we should be aiming at about 18 months.
If accommodation for young prisoners could be brought up to standard within 18 months I should have no comment.
The noble Lord has entirely misunderstood me. What we are saying is that there should be guidelines, that there should be something like the SM Rs—a target, a standard which ought to be reached and adhered to. That means quite a bulky document, as the noble Lord will realise if he has looked at the European and United Nations equivalent. To get that out may take about 18 months. Then we have to bring the accommodation up to standard. How long that will take I cannot say until we know what the standards are and how far we are below them. However, we intend to do what the noble Lord wishes us to do—not by statute, though, but by guidelines.
I am grateful for that; it is very slightly more than nothing, I admit. May I just point out that in prison building this has been done over the last 30 years. I was chairman for 10 years of Grendon where the conditions are at least three times as good in every way as they are in ordinary local prisons. If you can do it in prisons, why can you not do it for youth custody? Why can you not have one which is right, and the others you will get right later? You will never move if you do not do that, I assure noble Lords.
Is not the standard for prisons laid down for Northern Ireland extremely high—individual flushing lavatories in cells, which is what we should all aim at, and one prisoner per cell? Has one not seen photographs of that at Long Kesh? I may be wrong; I am speaking off the top of my head.
I asked a specific question: how medical officers are to carry out this function which they are obliged to do under the prison rules. So there is a statutory obligation on prison authorities that medical officers should certify a cell as being fit for accomodation by prisoners. What I wanted to know was, in the absence of any quantitative standards, how is the medical officer to know that a cell of any particular dimensions, having windows of a particular size and heating to a particular temperature, is in fact adequate for accommodating prisoners?
I think it would be—I am so sorry.
If the noble Lord was going to emulate his noble friend and answer the question for me, I will be only too happy to give way. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has raised a point which I regret f am skirting because I have set the relevant piece of paper on one side. The Prison Rule 23, Borstal Rule 25 and Detention Rule 5 all say much the same. Neither the legislation nor a prison department guidance sets the precise standards to be applied and, in practice, accomodation is certified by governors and medical officers operating under regional oversight. In setting certified normal accomodation levels, they are enjoined to determine the uncrowded capacity of the establishment and, in so doing, to bear in mind such factors as the size, shape and general condition of the accommodation; the number and position of doors and windows; ventilation and lighting; heating; and access to ablutions and lavatories.To say that such prisons as I have seen in Northern Ireland had individual flush toilets is not so; far from it. But because of population pressures the CNA serves as an index rather than a limit to the capacity of accommodation. It is a sort of Plimsoll Line and sometimes we sail rather deep.
Does this mean that there are no criteria by which the prison medical officer certifies whether something is fit for occupation or not? I have often wondered about the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, but I understand from what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was saying—and he is always so helpful—that there are no criteria laid down at all. It seems that the medical officer takes a look and then says, Yes, or, No. Is that right—that there are no criteria at all?
The level we are talking about is the certified normal accommodation. If a prison medical officer thought that it was exceeded to a level which made things not only uncomfortable but dangerous to health, then obviously he would have a duty to intercede. The CNA is what the prison is regarded as being designed for. As I have with tireless regularity told your Lordships, it is something which we are forced to accede. This Bill is among the armoury of things which we are using to bring that excess down to a lower level.
Does that mean that one medical officer can say that a cell of a certain size will accomm- modate one prisoner while another medical officer at another prison may say that a cell of precisely the same size can accommodate three prisoners?
No. As I think I said, this is done under regional supervision and the regions themselves are under the hand of central Government, so there are not wide discrepancies about the standards. The question of the extent to which CNA is exceeded depends on a great many different factors in different areas—catchment area, the types of offenders, and the number of establishments available in a particular area. Therefore, there is more overcrowding in some prisons than in others.The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, mentioned Grendon, which is a special psychiatric prison. Therefore, the accommodation there is rather different and I do not believe it would be appropriate to use that as a benchmark for all the others. I was trying to say that we must have standards—I agree with that. We want to make them applicable throughout the system—we agree with that. When we have them, then it is a question of whether one should concentrate on bringing one bit of the service up to standard ahead of another or not. I do not doubt that that is something to which we shall return when the guidelines are available.
Why is the Minister being so coy about this business of certified accommodation? If one looks at the Prison Department's annual report one can see in the appendix that every single prison is listed there and a figure is given for certified normal accommodation, which is the figure arrived at by the judgment of the medical officers using the process which the noble Lord the Minister has described. He said that this exercise of the judgment of medical officers was under the supervision of the regional prison departments. What I want to know—and what I am sure the noble Lord who moved this amendment and noble Lords who are signatories want to know—is how in a particular region the medical officer and the governor together arrive at the figure for certified normal accommodation. And if there is any difference between one region and another, what is the rationalisation for that? On the other hand, if there is a figure which applies throughout the whole of the prison department establishments of the amount of floor space, the cubic content, the level of illumination, the level of ventilation, the level of temperature and so on, if such things are uniform throughout the prison system, why is it the noble Lord cannot give us the figures? If it is not uniform, could he tell us what the variations are between one region and another. I think the Committee must know the answers to these questions before coming to a decision on the amendment.
The amendment addresses itself to standardising these criteria. I have said that we endorse that proposal. There will he variations, do not doubt, of circumstance from one region to another. It is the function of the prison governors and the medical officers to see that minima are observed in setting what is certified normal accommodation. Almost every establishment is above certified normal establishment, and of course that is what we are trying to reduce. I cannot produce a handbook of guidance which is of a national level, because as far as I know it does not exist, and that is exactly what noble Lords opposite are enjoining us to create and that is what I am saying we are going to do. It hope this satisfies the noble Lord.
On a very minor point, what possible difference can there be in sending somebody to prison in Durham and Cornwall, and why should there be a regional variation in standards? I find it incomprehensible.
If one prison was built in 1896 and another in 1920, the rooms are likely to be a different size and they are liable to be a different size which is not modular to adjust to prisoners; you either have one and three quarter prisoners or one and a half or half of one prisoner. I would have thought this was elementary, and I think we were straining at a gnat. The principle the amendment is after has been conceded, and I do not see why we go on with the debate.
It is quite obvious from the number of noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, and indeed the time we have taken on this amendment, that we have hit upon a very vital subject indeed. I think it would be quite wrong at this time, and with the size of the Committee as it is at present, to take the matter further at this stage. I therefore ask leave to withdraw the amendment, and will come back to it, if I may, or may be someone else will be coming back to it, at Report stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 22:
Page 9, leave out lines 10 to 14.
The noble Lord said: This is a comparatively harmless amendment, unlike many of the others we have been concerned with. It is really a probing amendment. The national Association of Probation Officers take a very strong view that it is just as wrong to mix young women with older women as it is to mix boys and young men with older men. The Government, as far as I know, take exactly the opposite view. My own view is at the moment undefined, and I wanted this to be discussed in the Committee. It seems to me that the danger of a girl being corrupted by an older woman who is of a criminal mind is about the same as the danger of a boy being corrupted by an older man who is of a criminal type. I am not aware of any argument in the other direction. But I have no experience of either, so I am hoping to get some information from the noble Lord or other people. This is purely a probing amendment. I think it is important that if we are going to give the Government the leave, which this part of the Bill does, to mix older women with younger women and girls we ought to be very sure what we are doing. I am not in a position to give advice on this and I am asking for information. Are the Government sure that it is right to say that this is a perfectly good thing to do and have they any information of any kind, derived from any scientific or other examination, to support it? The National Association of Probation Officers have a great deal of widespread experience about this and take the opposite view. I have no experience myself and I am interested to know what has happened. In order to find out, I beg to move the amendment.
I can quite understand the noble Lord's interest in this subject because I also find what I have discovered rather surprising. The arrangment is, in fact, intended for the benefit of the individuals concerned. It is the case that the present law does not distinguish between prisoners on the basis of their age; and in the women's and girls' system over 21s and under 21s subject to sentences of imprisonment, which start at the age of 17, have been held together for many years. That has not been done casually or in response to the need to solve an ad hoc problem; it is a practice well founded on management experience.During the preparation of this Bill we specifically consulted the governors of women's and girls' establishments about the reasons for, and the results of, this mixing. Their experience is that to hold selected adult women with young offenders brings benefit to both sides. I shall return to the matter of selection in a moment. However, their firm advice is that it is essential because young women in custody can react in a volatile and over-emotional manner, and this seems to be reinforced where an exclusively young population is kept together. The presence of adult women prisoners has a stabilising effect upon them—a matter to which I referred earlier. From the point of view of the adult women, the opportunity to mix often gives them a greater sense of responsibility and maturity. By contrast, young men are more likely to challenge older male prisoners and themselves to be exploited by them. That is not to say that there are no risks at all with women, but they are more limited and can be dealt with by a proper selection. If I have said enough to satisfy the noble Lord, then I think I shall leave it at that because the other considerations arise from the administrative arrangement which would flow from the amendment if it were accepted.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. However, I think that we ought to have some evidence. The noble Lord says that consultations have been held with prison governors. It would be interesting to know what they said. I think that this is rather an important point. I shall certainly not press the amendment to a Division because I think that it is quite likely that the Government are right. But I think that there has been a rather generalised "everything is all right" line. What does the Governor of Holloway say? What does the last governor of Holloway say? What do other women governors of whom many are very distinguished—say? Could we have a symposium from half a dozen of them and hear something about it? I am not asking for this before Report but I think that it should be done before the British nation adopts a particular policy which is logically difficult to explain. I am not saying that there is not a good reason, but I should like more backing for it. Anyway, I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said and I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
( Amendment No. 23 not moved.)
moved Amendment No. 24:
Page 10, line 7, at end insert—
(" (8) The Secretary of State shall at monthly intervals notify the Crown Court and magistrates' courts of the number of vacancies available in institutions provided under this section.").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 24. We have been discussing—and discussing with great interest and with an endeavour to do something about it—overcrowding in prisons. Your Lordships may think that it is suitable to come out at least with some amendments which are of a constructive nature to try at least to do something about it.
It is generally agreed that, over the years, the prison service has been placed in an impossible position by being asked to accommodate and to look after more inmates than it has the resources to cater for properly. All this amendment asks—and it is in accordance with a report of the Expenditure Committee from which I shall briefly quote in a moment—is that reports are issued monthly which enable the courts at least to know what the availability of prisons is in order to ensure that those which happen to be under-occupied, if there are any, at least receive a correct number of prisoners. This quite obviously applies also to those institutions which happen to be overcrowded.
The quotation that I want to make from the 1978 report of the Expenditure Committee on the reduction of pressure on the prison system reads:
" The sub-committee desire to make it clear that they would not wish to interfere in any way with a right of a court to send a person to prison. We feel, however, that it would be helpful to provide regular status reports on prison and borstal institutions, giving information about the accommodation available, and we recommend that such information should be available to all Crown Courts and magistrates' courts."
When this was dealt with in another place, the Minister —and I believe that this was on 23rd February—although not prepared to accept the amendment, agreed that the courts should be aware of the pressures under which the prison system operates and said that he would look seriously into the matter to see whether the frequency or the scale on which the courts are informed of the state of the prison population in various establishments could be improved.
I ask this question—hopefully because this may make me take a certain course in regard to this amendment: what has been done since 23rd February to carry out what the Minister said he would do? If something constructive has happened, it will obviously help my friends and me to know what we ought to do about this amendment.
As the noble Lord said, this amendment is similar to one which was tabled and discussed, though not formally moved, in another place. Although it is well meant, the Government do not believe it is quite the right approach and, indeed, if brought into the Bill it could produce some confusion. The demand for places in the prison system is, in effect, determined by sentencing decisions taken by a judiciary operating within general but not specific limits imposed by Parliament. A statutory provision requiring individual courts to have detailed population returns at regular intervals could indeed exert an overt influence on individual sentencing decisions. I do not say that those responsible for taking sentencing decisions should not have relevant information about custodial provision and about the problems the system faces. On the contrary, that is an aim that the Government share. The problem that we face is how best to do it.I accept that the extent to which the executive should seek to influence the judiciary is ultimately a matter of judgment, and that it would be possible to take different views from the ones I have just implied on how far it is right to go in this direction. But on a more practical level, I do not think that the amendment would work in the way its proposers wish. Population levels in institutions can change rapidly; in detention centres and remand centres they change from day to day. So that information to the courts could rapidly become out of date before it was repeated. Furthermore, overall vacancies in, for example, the youth custody system could, as with borstals at present, mask pressure on secure establishments and, indeed, pressure on all establishments in large areas of the country. And I should add that for unsentenced people the criteria for refusing to grant bail are clearly defined, and I cannot see any scope for a system in which courts would or should be influenced by figures about vacancies in remand centres. Generally, it would be difficult for the courts to interpret monthly figures except in the broadest sense. Decisions about the movement of offenders within the prison system are made on the basis of daily figures. Detention centres are in fact the only type of young offender establishment to receive sentenced offenders direct from court. By contrast, places in youth custody centres, to which the amendment also relates, will be filled by allocation from the establishments which first received the young offenders from court, and their level of occupation at any one time will not reveal the ebbs and flows of a changing situation. That said, we are anxious to see whether the ways in which courts are informed of population levels can be improved in an effective way, and since the discussion in another place we have given further thought to how we might do it. Taking detention centres first, magistrates' courts are already requested to inquire about vacancies before passing sentence. This is not—as is sometimes thought—with a view to their being refused places but so that, where necessary, offenders can be committed to centres under less pressure. We propose that a modified inquiry system should continue when the changes in this Bill are brought into force and the courts will, therefore, continue to be aware of fluctuating pressures on the detention centre system. Such a system would not be useful for other young offender establishments because, as I have explained, they do not receive offenders direct from courts. Courts are made aware of pressures in the prison system generally by Ministers, officials and others—including, indeed, Members of your Lordships' House—drawing attention to them, and through publications such as the annual prison department report and accompanying statistical volume. I doubt that there is a court in the country which does not know that the prison system is generally under great pressure at the moment. For our part, the Government will continue to make known these facts and encourage the dissemination of relevant information. As to the formal transmission of this information a committee of the Magistrates' Association does in fact receive six monthly statistics about population levels. Before Part I of the Bill is brought into force, we will have a look at these arrangements to see if there is any scope for change. Plans are also well in hand for the issue by the Judicial Studies Board of a bulletin of material of interest to sentencers. We may be able to build on this. These various approaches are, I think, likely to bear more fruit than the one reflected in the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord feels that we have not been idle since the proceedings in another place.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord the Minister. The Committee will be grateful that the amendments in another place and in your Lordships' House have produced some practical results. I repeat our gratitude to the Minister, and in the circumstances beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Clause 11 [ Accommodation of young offenders and defaulters etc.]:
moved Amendment No. 25:
Page 10, line 8, leave out (" the enactments mentioned in ").
The noble Lord said: The first of these amendments in line 8 is purely to simplify the wording of the Bill. I shall speak to the next amendments as a group, if I may. I beg simply to move this amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendments Nos. 26 to 29:
Page 10, line 17, at end insert—
(" (1A) Subject to subsection (9) below, an offender aged 16 years or less who is sentenced to youth custody, other than an offender who falls to be detained in a youth custody centre by virtue of subsection (1) above, is to be detained in a youth custody centre or in a remand centre as the Secretary of State may from time to time direct unless—
(a) the term of his youth custody sentence is treated by virtue of section 67 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 as reduced to less than 21 days; or (b) he has been sentenced under section 15(6) below to youth custody for less than 21 days; or (c) the Secretary of State gives a direction for his detention in a prison under subsection (2) below.").
Page 10, line 18, at end insert (" ( a)").
Page 10,line 20, after (" above ") insert ("; or
(b) an offender who falls to be detained in a youth custody centre or a remand centre by virtue of subsection (IA) above,").
Page 10, line 24, after (" above ") insert (" or an offender who falls to be detained in a youth custody centre or a remand centre by virtue of subsection (1A) above ").
The noble Lord said: I am sorry. I have this slightly confused because I changed over folders at this point and the folder to which I was changing was not present briefly on the Front Bench. Therefore, I have leapt ahead of myself and your Lordships. May I now beg to move Amendments Nos. 26, 27, 28 and 29 en bloc.
I was nearly denied the opportunity of thanking the noble Lord for giving effect to suggestions in anotherplace, which are embodied in Amendments Nos. 25 to 29. It is a good thing to introduce a little calm, gentleness and gratitude in what at one time became a most unlordly display.
I cannot forbear to thank the noble and learned Lord for his calm and generous response. Nothing would mortify me more than through my own ineptitude denying myself the pleasure of being thanked by the noble and learned Lord.
On Question, amendments agreed to.
had given notice of her intention to move the following amendment:
Page 10, line 28, at end insert—
(" ( ) No offender who is less than 17 years of age shall be detained in a prison under subsection (3) above other than for a temporary purpose.").
The noble Baroness said: In view of Amendments Nos. 25 to 29, for which I thank my noble friend—they are amendments to be welcomed—I shall not move my Amendment No. 30.
[ Amendment No. 30 not moved.]
had given notice of his intention to move the following amendment:
Page 11, line 6, leave out subsection (7).
The noble Lord said: I am caught out, much in the way the Minister was temporarily caught out a few moments ago. Even worse, I have no brief. Therefore, I do not propose to move the amendment.
[ Amendment No. 31 not moved.]
Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 [ Release on licence of young offenders]:
moved Amendment No. 32:
Leave out Clause 14 and insert the following new clause:
( " Release on licence of young offenders.
14. Subsection (5A) of section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 shall cease to have effect.").
The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to make the length of licence for those young offenders released on parole the same as that for adults. The licence would then end at the remission date. In general, distinction between young and adult offenders is made with the intention of benefiting the young offender. That is the general pattern and policy. However, the present parole arrangements have the opposite effect and can put a young offender in a worse position than an adult in similar circumstances.
The Bill improves on the existing arrangements under which parole for young offenders extends to the latest date of release, rather than the remission date, but in our view it does not go far enough. A young offender released on parole could still be subject to licence, and therefore to recall, for a longer period than an adult serving the same length of sentence. That also means that the young offender who is subject to recall is liable to spend a longer period in custody, as the unexpired part of the licence will be longer. The amendment would remove that anomaly and therefore the potential for a serious injustice would be expunged.
When this amendment was debated in Committee in another place the Minister of State, Mr. Mayhew, after hearing the debate, commented:
" I am very willing to look again at what has been said in the debate…there is no commitment on my part to change, but I would welcome the opportunity to read again what has been said ".
Perhaps rather anodyne words that have fallen from the lips of Ministers of various Governments from time to time. During the debate the Minister acknowledged that he could see the attractions of the argument that there should be equity of treatment between young offenders and adults released on parole. The Minister was, however, concerned to maintain,
" a kind of equality of treatment between young offenders as a class ",
as he described it, and therefore about how the amendment would affect those released on parole compared
with those released in the normal way on licence. We hope the Government will give earnest consideration to the matter so that the iniquity which is at present a possibility in many cases between young and adult offenders will be removed. I beg to move.
I understand the concern which underlies the amendment. It can sometimes be difficult for the probation service to deal with young offenders who resent being supervised, and their task is not helped when the offender feels he is an adult and should not therefore be treated differently from people who are sentenced as adults, and it may help if I explain why the Government have included the provision in Clause 14 and why, therefore, we are not disposed to accept the amendment. We take the view that all young offenders should on release be subject to a period of supervision. An offender who has been in custody is likely to be in a vulnerable state and a supervising officer can provide him with both firm guidance and support of a practical kind. The period of supervision is an integral part of the sentence.At present those released from detention centres, borstals and sentences of imprisonment of less than 18 months are under supervision for a period of 12 months. The Government take the view that that is too long. The general rule that we introduce in Clause 15 is that all young offenders will be supervised until the date on which their full sentences would have expired. That can be called the remission period. The period of supervision is therefore related to the length of the sentence, but with a minimum of three months and a maximum of 12 months. However, we do not intend that the new arrangement should interfere with the young offender's chances of being released earlier on parole. At present young prisoners are eligible for release under the parole arrangements in the same way as adult prisoners. The only difference between the two categories is that the parole licence of a young offender runs until the end of the full term of his sentence, while the parole licence of an adult is shorter; it runs until the two-thirds point of his sentence. That is the date on which he would otherwise have been released without any supervision. The amendment to Clause 14 would abolish the difference between adults and young offenders released on parole. The Government intend to retain it because it balances the general principle underlying the custody and supervision of young offenders. In general, offenders released under Clause 15 will spend two-thirds of their sentences in custody and one-third under supervision. Those released early on parole under Clause 14 might spend one half of the sentence in custody and one half on licence under supervision. That means that there is some equality of treatment as between young offenders as a class, and that is the Government's aim. If the amendment were to succeed, it would make a severe inroad into the general approach to young offenders. It would introduce as well a dramatic difference between the way that we treat those who are released on parole and those who are not. So in seeking equity in one area, it would create inequity in another. Let me illustrate the point in the case of two young offenders who have three-year sentences. One is released on parole after 19 months, and under this amendment he would spend 19 months in custody, five months on licence under supervision, and then he would be scot free. The other is released in the ordinary way under Clause 15. He would spend 24 months in custody and 12 months under supervision. The second offender would be released under supervision on the very day that the first became free of supervision. I have said that the Government intend to retain the existing parole arrangements for young offenders which are set out in Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967. While that is generally true, it does not explain the small adjustments that we are making to Section 60 in Clause 14 of the Bill. The purpose of those changes is to harmonise further the provisions for parole and those for supervision. I think that rather than carry forward the argument to what we shall be saying about Clauses 14 and 15, I shall say that I hope the noble Lord sees that what we are proposing is at the very worst the lesser of two evils. It is less inequitable than what he proposes.
Although with his usual courtesy the noble Lord has explained in full the effects of the Government's decision in this matter, with the very greatest respect to him, I do not think that he has really justified the distinction drawn between young offenders in this case. The general policy of the present Government, and of previous Governments, has been to expunge that difference. Indeed, in this very Bill there is a very substantial provision that deals with making time spent in custody by young offenders count as against eventual sentence in exactly the same way as for adult offenders. Having therefore endorsed that principle of equality, why should the Government fly in the face of their own basic philosophy in this matter? We are mildly disappointed, but not altogether dismayed by the Government's attitude, and we hope to return to the matter at another stage, at, one trusts, a more propitious hour than the present. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 14 agreed to.
The next amendment is Amendment No. 33, and I should draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that if it is agreed to it will not be possible for me to call Amendment No. 34.
Clause 15 [ Supervision of young offenders released otherwise than on licence]:
moved Amendment No. 33:
Page 13, line 29, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
(" (1) A person over 17 and under 22 years of age who is released otherwise than under section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 from a term of detention under a detention centre order or a term of youth custody shall he under the supervision of a probation officer from his release until the end of the supervision period.
(1A) A person released as in subsection (1) above who is under 17 years of age on the date of release shall be under the supervision of a probation officer or a social worker of a local authority social services department from his release until the end of the supervision period.").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 33, which stands in the names of my noble friend Lord Donaldson and myself. The purpose of this amendment is to clarify a grey area in penal practice, as to which of the two services, the probation service or the social services, should be responsible for the supervision of young offenders, out of custody, depending on their age. There remains, and will remain if this amendment is accepted, a grey area in respect of young people under 17. My understanding from the probation service, at any rate, is that that grey area is sorted out quite satisfactorily between the two services at local level.
Our concern is in regard to the older ones, those who are 17-plus, and it is my feeling, from some experience, that it is necessary to stipulate that the probation service—which is, after all, the service serving the courts —with its particular training and with its familiarity with the more strict controls and disciplinary supervision which are sometimes quite necessary for young people of that age, should be given the specific responsibility for young people of that age and above.
The clause as it is worded, if your Lordships would glance at Clause 15(1), lumps together all young offenders under the age of 22, and goes on to say that such an offender,
" shall be under the supervision of a probation officer or a social worker of a local authority social services department from his release until the end of the supervision period ".
It does not make any distinction at all; it leaves it to be sorted out locally. I repeat that it is our feeling that this distinction should be made, and this is what we have done in this amendment. I beg to move.
I am obliged to the noble Lord for exposing his interest in this matter so clearly. Under Clause 15 there is provision to continue the existing arrangement whereby certain juveniles released from detention centres and borstals are supervised by local authority social workers. Mainly these are youngsters who would have been under the care or supervision of the local authority when they were sentenced, and whose continuing supervision by the same local authority social worker is considered to be essential.It will probably help the Committee if I indicate the sort of case that I have in mind. There is, for example, the case where the whole family is receiving effective help from the social services department. It would be disruptive and unnecessary for the family to have the probation service involved with one child, even though he might be over 17, on release from custody, while a social worker has responsibility for the rest of the family. There will also be those youngsters for whom the local authority will have a continuing legal responsibility under the Children and Young Persons Act, who will, on release, be returning to local authority community homes. The clause enables the continuity of supervising officer to be maintained in those cases where it would be beneficial. The effect of either this amendment or a later one which I suspect my noble friend will be speaking about —1 hope I have not leapt up ahead of him, if he was intending to speak—would be to prevent any continuing involvement by the social worker even in those cases where it is thought essential, and make the probation service responsible for supervision in every case. Each case needs to be considered from the point of view of what would be best for the young person concerned. At the moment, local authority social services departments co-operate with the probation service in an arrangement to decide in each case who should supervise. Although the lion's share is taken by the probation service, there are and always will be cases, such as those that I have illustrated, and others, where it is without doubt for the benefit of the recipient of care (if I may so describe it) that he should be overseen throughout his career, including the interlude (we hope the solitary interlude) of custodial treatment by the same caring adult. That is what we propose and that is why the area is grey, but in a beneficial and not a muddled sense.
I was pausing hopefully to get some support for this amendment from any other quarter of the Committee. In view of the late hour, it is obvious that I do not wish to press on and insist on dividing a small Committee. 1 have fully understood what the Minister explained, the circumstances which can arise particularly in the family situation and the need for continuity. I am still not entirely happy that there should not be something more specific about the responsibilities of the probation service as distinct from the social services as a general rule. I should like to think about this and to consider coming up with something else at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 34:
Page 13, line 33, leave out from (" officer ") to (" from ") in line 34.
The noble Lord said: This is linked with the previous amendment, but I wish to follow a slightly different line. I am advised that, whereas supervision of difficult young people carried out by probation officers is of a good standard, there is experience that, unless monitored from the courts, the social workers do not always carry out the supervision as intended. They seem in many cases perhaps to lack the training for this task. I suppose they have a wider range of things to deal with, and difficult young people may be particularly difficult for them. We know that my noble friend Lady Faithfull is very experienced in this area and did extremely well in Oxford; but I am talking about London area where perhaps the ability to have people so well trained in not so great. But almost more importantly—and this is something that my noble friend could perhaps comment on—whereas the probation officers are quite clear about their authority to give instructions and to see that they are carried out, the social workers do not seem to carry the same authority. In general terms, one would be grateful if my noble friend could clarify whether there is any step being taken to ensure that social workers who get the opportunity of dealing with young people of the offender type, the difficult ones, are trained up to the same standards as the probation officers for doing what is essentially similar work. I beg to move.
If I may elaborate on what I have said, the social workers have perfectly ample authority to cope with the most difficult cases, and they do so: in my last job I saw them do it and was impressed. As to training, there is a common element in the CQSW course and therefore I feel that the social workers are as well equipped as the probation officers for this work.The reason why I hesitate in speaking is that I do not want to mount a hobby horse, but I should like to say there has been a habit in the past of some sort of rather ungrateful rivalry between the social work departments and the probation services, and each has perhaps been happy to advance its own expertise at the expense of the other. I believe that those days are behind us and I am just wondering whether the noble Lord's disquiet stems from memories or perhaps the persistence of an unhappy case where each service felt that it was in some way better than the other, when both were doing the same job. Of course that is manifestly unproductive. It is also manifestly diminishing, it if is not extinct. If I may return to my noble friend's point of anxiety, I am confident that the social worker has adequate authority. In many cases it is greatly to the advantage of the young person to be dealt with by someone he knows and, hopefully, already respects. Where there is an advantage in changing oversight, the advantage is perceived, and because the social work service and the probation service discuss these cases on the occasion of the young person coming to court, they can profit from the opportunity to change the supervision. But there will always be cases where it is better to have care through from before to after sentencing.
I am most grateful to my noble friend for his very full reply and for reassuring me on a point on which I was advised that there had been difficulties in the past. In view of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
Amendment No. 35: 1 understand that there is a misprint here. The amendment refers to line 26 and not to line 25.
moved Amendment No. 35:
Page 14, line 26, at end insert (" subject to the limitation that the length of any period of custody is not such that an offender would spend longer in custody than under the original sentence.").
The noble Lord said: This is a very simple amendment which is involved simply with what is down there. It is in order to make sure that a greater punishment than originally imposed on the offender by the court cannot be incurred as a result of this. I do not think it is very likely that it would be, but it is possible, and we should guard against the possibility. I do not think I need say more at this point. The Chief Whip wants us to be quick, and I always do my best to comply. I think the case is perfectly clear. We do not want to see this subsection enabling the offender to be given a longer time in detention than he would have had under his original sentence. I beg to move.
I will try to match the noble Lord's brevity. I do not think I can quite do it, but I think he would like me to make it clear that the provision in Clause 15(6) is not some form of recall or return to custody. It creates a new and separate offence like any other offence, and sets a maximum penalty for it. That penalty is available whether the offender is under supervision after being in custody for three years or three weeks. It does not provide an easy way for the court to pop someone back inside when they seem to be going astray. The imposition of a custodial sentence under this provision will be subject to all the restrictions in the opening clauses of this Bill, including social inquiry reports, legal representation and so on.The court is simply sentencing for a fresh and separate offence of which the offender has been convicted. No doubt it would look at the offender's previous custodial history, but it should not be bound by it. It is highly unlikely that a court would impose a sentence with a maximum of 30 days on someone whose original sentence was a few days less than that. The Government's view is that this is a matter which can properly be left to the discretion of the courts and that what is proposed amounts to, as it were, excessive fine tuning.
I will accept that, but I am not entirely happy. It does not seem to me that a sanction for breaking is the same as a new offence. It seems to me a wrong use of words and I believe the noble Lord should look at this. The position is really quite clear. The offender is given some orders to comply with and fails to comply with them. This is part of the old offence. It is arguable. 1 do not want to go into detail at this hour. I am not happy, but it is not worthwhile dividing the Committee on the amendment. I shall think about it, but I am sure that shall not come back on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 36:
Page 14, line 26, at end insert—
(" (6A) A person released from a custodial sentence imposed under subsection (6)(b) above shall not be liable to a new period of supervision.").
The noble Lord said: This is a slightly more substantial amendment, which is based on the knowledge that those of us who work in this field have acquired from people who are professionals in it about what the offender feels. We are trying to ensure that a person released from a custodial sentence imposed under subsection (6)( b) shall not be liable to a new period of supervision. The point is that he has had his punishment, he has failed to keep to the orders that he was given, he has been punished for that and released and
that should be the end of it. He should not then have a further period of supervision.
I think that I have said it as clearly as it can be said, and there is no point in elaborating. My own view is that he should pay his penalty and then be free and not have a further period of supervision. I hope, at least, that if he cannot agree now the noble Lord will look again at this amendment, because it is more important than some of those that we have been dealing with. I beg to move.
This turns also, to some extent, on the concept of whether what happens is a new offence or, as it were, a distortion of the old conditions. I see one attractive side to the noble Lord's argument, which is that there is a danger of somebody being trapped into a constant recycle of offence, breach, offence, supervision and so on. But the period of supervision on release under Clause 15 is an integral part of the young offender's sentence. During that time, he must comply with the requirements in his notice of supervision. These will be quite simple and mainly concerned with keeping in touch with the supervising officer. If he fails to comply, he will be guilty of an offence carrying up to 30 days in custody. Plenty of other offences might result in a young offender being given up to 30 days in custody. The question is: should this offender be treated differently from all other offenders?All custodial sentences of up to 30 days will carry three months' supervision. An offender's breach of supervision will be quite serious if he is given the maximum penalty of 30 days. Should he, unlike all other offenders, be exempt from supervision altogether on release? On balance, I think not. If an offence—be it theft, breach of supervision or criminal damage—is serious enough to warrant a custodial sentence, it will also automatically attract the period of supervision. We should be very reluctant to start modifying the structure of the sentence, according to the type of offence. I can see what the noble Lord will say in reply, because he wishes to relate everything that happens after release from the first period of custody to the original offence. What I am saying is that, in the period of supervision, the offender is required to conduct himself properly, both in respect of all other pieces of legislation affecting the whole population, and also in respect of the orders which apply to him because of his case. If we treat an offence against one differently from an offence against the other, we introduce principles which slightly worry the sentencing authorities. I do not see an unbreakable cycle of reconviction and re-supervision breaking out, because the courts will be aware of this danger and will conduct themselves accordingly and not giving 30 days' supervision to somebody who appears to be unsupervisable. They might possibly expect him to conduct himself properly for three or four.
One of my least worries is upsetting the sentencing authorities. That is not at all a problem in my life. The noble Lord has not noted that Section 14(8) already allows continua- tion of the existing licence to its normal termination. The more I think about this the more I am inclined to think that it is rather an important amendment. It would be quite wrong to divide the Committee when there is nobody here. Therefore, I shall raise the matter again at Report. It is an injustice that somebody who commits an offence, who is given a supervision order, who breaches that supervision order and is then punished for the breach which, clearly in his mind, is part of the whole sentence, should then be given further supervision when he comes out. It is not acceptable, and I think that I should like to fight it. However, I shall withdraw the amendment this evening. I will gather my forces, consider whether I can put something down at Report and then see what support I can get.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 [ Provision, regulation and management of attendance centers]:
moved Amendment No. 37:
Page 14, line 36, leave out (" may ") and insert (" shall ").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 37 which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and myself. My purpose in doing so is simply to make an inquiry or to probe what the Government have in mind by using the word "may" rather than "shall". I hope that I am not reading into the Bill, as Clause 16(1) is worded, any lukewarmness or doubts on the part of the Government about the value of attendance centres. My understanding is that attendance centres are serving an essential purpose and that, by and large—they are variously administered around the country—they are doing the job well. When he replies I should like the Minister to explain why the word "may" is used. It looks almost as though the Government may drop the idea of attendance centres after the passage of the Bill. I beg to move.
I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that there is no intention of displaying any degree of lukewarmness in this area, as I hope my remarks will show.The Government are committed to the provision of attendance centres. Clause 16(1) preserves the Secretary of State's power to do so. The Government made clear their commitment in the White Paper which we have all been looking at—Cmnd. 8045. We noted that there were 71 junior attendance centres for boys aged 10 and under 17 at the beginning of 1979 and a mere two senior centres for young men aged 17 and under 21. Today there are 117 attendance centres in England and Wales. That is an increase of 44 in three years. I hope that helps to demonstrate to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the enthusiasm which the Government have for this particular measure. I think it will be agreed that the Government are making good use of the existing power in Section 48(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1948 which subsection (1) replaces. The 1948 Act power is expressed in terms of "may". It would not be customary to provide that the Secretary of State "shall" provide attendance centres. I have suggested that it would be unnecessary. Of course a future Secretary of State might take the view that attendance centres were no longer an appropriate form of response to juvenile offending. For the foreseeable future it is difficult to imagine so cost effective a disposal being given up. But more to the point, the substitution of "shall" for "may" would be ineffective. Attendance centres are provided in centres of population. This must be so, since the young offenders who attend there for two or three hours on Saturdays have to be able to travel there without undue difficulty. Absolute comprehensive coverage for the whole country could not be achieved since centres could not be maintained in sparsely populated parts of the country where the number of young offenders within reach of a centre would be too few to make it viable. Thus, the Secretary of State must have the discretion as to where centres can be maintained. Even if subsection (1) allowed the Secretary of State to maintain attendance centres he could—and I emphasise the word "could"—decide that few were needed. Indeed, the fact that until recently there were only two centres for young men aged 17 and over bears out this point. The amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, would not prevent that neglect. I venture to hope that the Committee will agree that the Government can and should be trusted to use the power to set up attendance centres properly and that the amendment should therefore be withdrawn.
Could the noble Lord help by saying how many of the 44 youth attendance centres are senior ones?
I do not have that information immediately to hand, but I believe it may emerge in the course of later discussion—possibly on the next amendment.
I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for his admirable brief and for making it so clear that there is no sinister inference to be drawn from the word "may". I feel very comforted by that, while being somewhat puzzled by the extraordinary interpretation put on the word "shall". I would have thought that the word "shall" was pretty binding and would give the Secretary of State more power to his elbow to develop the attendance centres up and down the land, but with the assurance that the noble Lord has given me I am not going to press this point, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill?
I want to say one very brief word about attendance centres. The All-Party Penal Affairs Group, of which I am the pilot secretary, and which has done a certain amount to produce amendments which we have debated today, feels very strongly that the attendance centre is one of the most useful non-custodial penalties for young offenders. We have not had an amendment which has enabled us to discuss this subject, so I just want to stress that point. I would like to point out also that the Home Office research study on junior attendance centres published in 1980 found that junior attendance centres appear to be satisfactorily achieving the objectives set for them by the courts; that they are used for a wide variety of offenders; and that there are no contra-indications to their continued use for any particular type of boy. Indeed, their use might be extended to include some of those to whom the courts reluctantly award custodial penalties. Your Lordships will see, therefore, why my noble friend Lord Hunt and I wanted "shall" instead of "may" in this category.
Perhaps in response to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, I might say that while being very grateful to him for his comments, I believe it will be appreciated by all your Lordships that this clause re-enacts with amendments the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1948 which enabled the Secretary of State to provide attendance centres for offenders under the age of 21 and for persons under 21 who fail to comply with the requirements of a probation or supervision order.Rules for the regulation and management of attendance centres may be made by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument and the Secretary of State may also make arrangements with local authorities or police authorities for the use of their premises for attendance centres purposes. Most attendance centres are held on school premises as these provide the most suitable range of facilities. Few are held in police training schools or in an operational police station. Attendance centre orders have been found to be a very useful non-custodial sentence for young offenders and the system is being rapidly expanded with centres now available for girls, either separately or at mixed centres. In particular, more centres are being opened for young adults aged 17 to 20. This does give me the opportunity, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, to say that, of the centres recently opened, there are 12 senior centres, of which 10 are new.
Clause 16 agreed to.
[ Amendment No. 38 not moved.]
Clauses 17 to 19 agreed to.
Although we have perhaps not got quite so far as I would have wished this evening, I think in view of all the prevailing circumstances, that this is the time when we might call a halt to the day's proceedings. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.