My honourable friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Tony McNulty) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Parental Compensation Order (PCO) is provided for by Sections 13A to 13E of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (CDA 1998) which were inserted bySection 144 of and Schedule 10 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.
The PCO powers will be commenced initially in 10 local authority areas (Gateshead, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Wandsworth, Southwark, Leicester, South Tyneside and York). The use, impact and cost of the PCO will be evaluated as part of the wider use of early intervention.
Attempts to secure voluntary reparation should always be made. The PCO should be used only where that approach fails and when its use would be desirable in the interests of preventing a repetition of the behaviour in question. However, we hope that the existence of the PCO will encourage reparation and wider behavioural change on a voluntary basis.
By requiring the parent(s) or guardian(s) to pay compensation, the PCO is designed to provide compensation to those affected and to prevent further behaviour by the child of the type which caused the order to be made. The PCO will therefore encourage parents and their children to understand their responsibilities and to take responsibility for behaviour.
A PCO is designed to be used as part of a wider strategy to increase the parents' skills and improve their child's behaviour, to address risk factors and underlying problems experienced by the child and family, to steer the child away from involvement in anti-social or offending-type behaviour, to keep the child safe and to encourage positive outcomes.
A magistrates’ court may make a PCO on application from a local authority when it is satisfied:
that the child (who must be under 10) has taken, or caused loss of or damage to property in the course of
(a) committing an act which, if he had been aged 10 or over, would have constituted an offence; or
(b) acting in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself; and
that it would be desirable to make the order in the interests of preventing a repetition of the behaviour in question.
Before making an order, the court must consider:
(a) the views of the person affected by the damage, loss etc. about whether an order should be made in his favour; and
(b) the child's family circumstances and the likely effect of the order on those circumstances.
It follows that local authority practitioners should form a view about the suitability of a PCO following assessment of the child, parents and family circumstances and in light of experience of trying to resolve the dispute on a voluntary basis. The PCO would be a viable option only with the support of the person affected by the damage, loss etc.
The effect of a PCO is to require the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the child to pay compensation to the person affected. Compensation is limited to £5,000. In deciding the level of compensation the court must take into account:
(a) the value of the damage etc. caused to property by the child;
(b) any further loss which flowed from the taking of or damage to the property, or from its loss;
(c) whether the child or parent has already paid any compensation, and if so how much;
(d) whether the child or parents have made any reparation, and if so what it consisted of;
(e) the means of the parents; and
(f) any lack of care on the part of the person(s) affected by the taking of the property or its loss or damage.
The court is responsible for enforcement of the order and has the same enforcement powers as it does for fines.
The court can make a parenting order when making a PCO provided this would be desirable in the interests of preventing a repetition of the kind of behaviour which led to the PCO being made.
Guidance on the PCO is being completed with DfES following limited consultation with key stakeholders including the Welsh Assembly Government. Feedback from practitioners will help inform the improvement of the guidance. It is intended that there will be a wider consultation exercise on the guidance before implementation of the PCO across England and Wales.