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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

Volume 735: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2012

Committee (8th Day) (Continued)

Amendment 177AA

Moved by

177AA: After Clause 71, insert the following new Clause—

“Community supervision requirement for offenders aged 18 to 25

(1) In section 177 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, after paragraph (l) insert—

“(la) in a case where the offender is aged 18 or over and under 25, an intensive community supervision requirement,”.(2) The court if it makes a community order which imposes an activity requirement, may specify in relation to that requirement a number of days which is more than 90 but not more than 180.

(3) An activity requirement made under subsection (2) is referred to in this Part as an “intensive community supervision requirement”.

(4) A community order which imposes an intensive community supervision requirement must also impose—

(a) a supervision requirement, and(b) a curfew requirement (and accordingly, if so required, an electronic monitoring requirement).(5) A community order which imposes an intensive community supervision requirement (and other requirements in accordance with subsection (4)) is referred to in this Part as “a community order with intensive community supervision” (whether or not it also imposes any other requirement).”

Since my noble friend Lord Adebowale is not in his place and as I have my name to the amendment, I hope that I may say what I was going to say anyway in support of it. This amendment and the two following amendments to which I shall be speaking, Amendments 177B and 177C, refer to a group of offenders who traditionally have been disregarded for too long, certainly as far as the Prison Service is concerned: namely, those who are over the age of 18, and therefore no longer children, and those in the young adult group who are aged either 21 or 25. That latter age occurs increasingly in people’s thoughts. My noble friend proposes that a community supervision requirement for offenders aged 18 to 25 should be earnestly considered.

In 1997, when I was Chief Inspector of Prisons, I conducted a thematic review, which I entitled Young Prisoners, because I was enormously concerned that prisoners in this age group were simply not being looked after, particularly in view of the arrival of the Youth Justice Board. The Youth Justice Board was successful because it laid down conditions for the treatment of children in custody and in the community. However, in custody, in what were called split sites, where there were people between the ages of 15 and 18 and 18 and 21, the facilities were not sufficient to provide adequate support for both groups. However, to honour the requirements of the contracts laid down by the Youth Justice Board, the Prison Service made the facilities available first for the use of children and then what was left was available for young offenders aged 18 to 21. Unfortunately, this meant that very little provision was left in many places—little educational and employment provision and little use of gym facilities. In particular, given the demands of the Children Act, staff were not available to do much with these prisoners and far too many of them spent all their time in their cells doing nothing.

I advocated three things in 1997. My report states:

“While there is a policy section, no one in the Prison Service has operational responsibility for young people: consequently there is an absence of overall vision and leadership in the development of regimes to challenge criminal attitudes and behaviour and prepare young offenders for a future free from offending”.

The report also states:

“Young adults should be separately managed by a reshaped organisation within the Prison Service which should be led and managed by a Director of Young Prisoners accountable to the Director General for all establishments or parts of establishments holding young adults”,

and that:

“Units holding young adult prisoners should have performance criteria related to specific outcomes for young prisoners, some of which should be shared with other Criminal Justice and community agencies”.

Unfortunately, absolutely nothing has happened. There is still a policy branch in NOMS, but there is no one responsible and accountable for these people. That applies in NOMS, and therefore, more worryingly, both to prison and probation. There is no one responsible and accountable for seeing that proper programmes are designed for this group.

Following the riots, the Prison Reform Trust published a splendid document this year called Old Enough to Know Better, about young adults in the criminal justice system. The report stated:

“The criminal justice system is failing to divert impressionable young men and women from falling into a pattern of offending in the first place and doing little to help them turn their lives around when they do. The independent panel investigating the cause of the riots has specifically identified the lack of support for young people moving from the youth to the adult justice system”.

In other words, although change was called for in 1997, nothing is there. If there is nothing there, we must expect problems with this group—problems that have been graphically outlined by the independent panel investigating the riots, quite apart from consistent reports from my successors as Chief Inspectors of Prisons.

I should like to quote from the last such report that I read, which was about HM Prison Isis—the newest prison opened by the Prison Service, which is uniquely catering for young men aged 18 to 25. This is what the chief inspector said:

“The prison had made progress since it was first opened but there was still a long way to go … At the heart of the challenges … were poor staff-prisoner relationships … Overall, too many staff appeared to lack the confidence or motivation to deliver their responsibilities effectively … The most disappointing consequence … was its impact on prisoners’ education, training and work. Isis is a new, purpose-built, training prison for young men, opened at a time when the government has made keeping prisoners productively busy and occupied a key part of its prisons agenda. That being the case, maximising prisoners’ involvement in education, training and work should be a key objective for every member of staff. This was not so. Despite some good quality provision, there was no overarching strategy to ensure the prison delivered its central training role. There were insufficient activity places but of those available, only 60% were occupied and punctuality was poor … The prison claimed that prisoners spent an average of six and a half hours out of their cells a day, but we found that working prisoners could achieve five and a half hours and some prisoners as little as two hours. We found half of all the prisoners locked in their cells during the working part of the day”.

If that is the state in prisons where still no one is responsible—and there you have a purpose-built prison designed for this group, where half the prisoners are locked in their cells during the working part of a day, the working prisoners are only achieving something like five and a half hours, and the facilities are not being used—there is clearly a problem.

The amendment of my noble friend Lord Adebowale, who is now in his place, is talking not about the prisons but particularly about the community services. The reason I mentioned prisons first was because throughout these Committee proceedings and in the document, Breaking the Cycle, on which a lot of the Bill is based, getting people into effective community sentences has been mentioned as the best way of achieving the aim of reducing the prison population.

I am sure that my noble friend Lord Adebowale will mention an initiative which shows great promise if it is allowed to be developed. I refer to the intensive alternative-to-custody schemes run by Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire probation trusts, tailored to the specific needs of young adults. The lesson is that the present system is incapable of providing the goods in prison. If we have the classic example of intensive alternatives to custody being provided by the probation service locally, in the community, surely we should develop it. I am sure that that is what my noble friend will be saying and it is certainly what I support. Those programmes are achieving good compliance rates, and experienced probation officers to whom I have spoken say that they present to them their first real opportunity to create the requirements that will change offending behaviour. They are also strongly supported by the local magistrates in Manchester to whom I have spoken; I have not spoken to magistrates in West Yorkshire.

Bearing in mind that this group has always been a problem because they are neither children nor adults—they are in between and need to be prevented from going down the long road of adult crime—I return to what I have said on many occasions in this House on many aspects of prison: for heaven’s sake, please can we have someone in charge responsible and accountable for seeing that proper programmes are conducted? Unless we have someone like that, nothing will happen.

The policy branch to which I referred in 1997 is there. Nothing is happening. You can lay down policy until you are blue in the face, but unless someone is responsible and accountable for delivering it, it will not happen. This group needs it. We have the example of the intensive alternatives to custody. Please let us develop this for this age group in every probation trust in the country. At the same time, let us take on board the lessons from the inspection report on HMP Isis and make certain that, where they are in custody, there is proper provision and none of them is left idle in their cell, but that they are presented with full, purposeful and active days, which are the only thing that will enable them to live useful and law-abiding lives. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Amendment 177AA and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for being here when I was not and to the Minister for allowing me to speak. I apologise to the House for my tardiness; I could not get here fast enough, cheese and biscuits held me a little too long.

My amendment would introduce a new intensive sentence for young adult offenders, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned. We live in an age where we need to present excuse removers for not doing something about a critical problem. If we carry on doing what we have always done, we should not be surprised if we get what we always have had. Those aged 18 to 20 years old are a particular problem. I guess that the Minister, or at least his officials, will find some fault in the wording of my amendment, but I hope that he will be able to respond positively to the policy concerns that I am raising alongside the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham.

Young adults continue to be significantly overrepresented in the prison population, with a very high reoffending rate often following short periods in custody. At the end of September 2011, there were 8,317 young people aged 18 to 20 in prison in England and Wales. In the 12 months to June 2011, 12,509 18, 19 and 20 year-olds were sent to prison under sentence. The vast majority of them are young men; a disproportionate number are from black and minority ethnic communities. I am not sure that there are any official statistics detailing the exact number, but I know that almost 40 per cent of the population of young people in jail under 18 are from BME backgrounds, and we can assume that the figure for 18 to 20 year-olds is similar.

Although there are pockets of good practice, prison simply does not deliver for those young men, especially those serving short sentences. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons specifically raised concerns about young adults sentenced to detention in young offender institutions, describing his impression of,

“young men sleeping through their sentences”,

in Her Majesty’s Young Offender Institution, Rochester, for example. He has also noted a lack of engagement in work, education and training opportunities across the youth offending estate, which again speaks to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about leadership, and the fact that these things just do not work.

I have spent probably half a lifetime’s work in the not-for-profit and voluntary sector trying to help homeless and unemployed young people from disadvantaged communities to seize the positive opportunities available to them. I am actually optimistic about young people in Britain today, which is not something that you hear very often. However, none of us should be under any illusion about the negative temptations that most deprived youngsters face. I believe it is the responsibility not just of the not-for-profit sector but of the state to help those young men and women to turn their lives around when they have made bad choices.

That is why I was very pleased to hear about the young adult offender project, which was set by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, during her time as a Minister in the previous Government. Sadly, the working group that she set up did not survive her promotion to a different post, but one of the good things that came out of it, as was mentioned by the noble Lord earlier, was the intensive alternative to custody scheme—the IAC pilots around the country. The Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire IAC pilots were focused on the young adult age group in question, and over the past two years they have demonstrated great success in turning around the lives of young men who are on a path to becoming persistent offenders and perhaps hardened criminals. Experienced probation officers describe it as the first real opportunity that they have had to create a package of requirements that will change offending behaviour, and local magistrates are very supportive of this model.

These models involved tailored interventions, intensive supervision, enhanced monitoring, 30 hours’ activity per week, curfews, an accredited programme, unpaid work, court reviews progress and swift action on non-compliance—ingredients which are more likely to lead to a reduction in recidivism than what we provide at the moment. The Ministry of Justice funded the IAC pilot scheme but this funding ended in April last year, and the seven individual probation trusts are trying to find ways of mainstreaming it into their services as intensive community orders. Unfortunately, that is in just two of the 30-odd probation areas in England and Wales. The Prisons and Probation Minister, Crispin Blunt, told the other place:

“There was never an intention to extend funding centrally beyond the end of the pilots”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/5/11; col. 1362W.]

I accept that no commitment was ever given to extend this funding but I am not persuaded that there was no intention to extend the pilots should they prove successful. It seems bizarre that something should prove successful and that funding should then be stopped at a time of economic restraint. Of course, the real judgment is whether there is sufficient evidence of their success. That is why it is disappointing that we are still waiting for the Ministry of Justice to determine whether it will commission a full evaluation of the pilots. I do not wish to detain the Committee for much longer but I hope that the Minister will tell us today how this evaluation is going and whether it is now under way.

The Prison Reform Trust has just published a new report on young adults in the criminal justice system, as has already been mentioned. It specifically highlights the good work of the IAC, particularly in Manchester, and it is worth finishing with an example. Lee is currently 10 months into his 12-month IAC order after being convicted of theft with violence. His father and uncle have also both served time in prison. He spent the first three months of the IAC with a tag, which he found helped him to avoid getting into further trouble. The IAC team helped Lee to find accommodation, have regular contact with his baby daughter and complete his construction skills card. In his own words, Lee says:

“The IAC team has helped me grow up and come to a realisation that, even though this is a punishment, it is helpful. It’s pretty intensive when you come here. At the same time, it’s made me aware that reoffending is going to be more detrimental than anything. After twelve months in here, it’s not really something I’d do now. They’ve given me other options, like going on different courses. Plus, because my offence is drink related, I had to learn to curb my drinking. It’s made it a lot more unlikely for me to reoffend”.

Some of the issues facing young adults in the criminal justice system were raised in the House of Commons during the debate on an amendment to the youth cautioning regime. Responding to the debate, the Minister said:

“We need to ensure that, given the colossal cost of failing to turn this particular age group around, we find ways to get interventions and investment into it, which will then deliver savings to the Ministry of Justice, because of the huge advantage of getting these people better and making them pro-social members of society”.

He went on to say:

“I accept the … general point about 18 to 20-year-olds presenting a particular challenge, and we need to be imaginative about how we deal with that”.—[Official Report, Commons, Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill Committee, 13/10/11; col. 800.]

I hope the Minister will agree that this amendment is exactly the kind of imaginative thinking that his colleague wants to see.

My Lords, one of the advantages of these debates is that we will hear proposals for new ways to divert people from custody. Any amendment that carries the names of both noble Lords, Lord Adebowale and Lord Ramsbotham, needs careful and sympathetic attention because both their histories in helping particularly young people who find themselves in potential conflict with the criminal justice system are proud records, and they have a lot to teach us. We are sympathetic to the idea behind this amendment, not least because of its reported success in the pilot areas where it has been tried out.

Noble Lords will know that Section 177 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 includes a series of requirements for persons aged 18 or over who are convicted of an offence. Those requirements include,

“(e) a curfew requirement … (k) a supervision requirement”,

and the list goes all the way to paragraph (l). There are all sorts of different requirements, and there has been no reticence to acknowledge that divergence from custody and the treatment of the underlying issues—whether they be mental health or socioeconomic—are important and can be more effective than custody. It is not legislators who have been afraid of proposing alternative measures.

One of the problems is the availability of schemes which are often administered by local authorities, the probation services, youth offending teams or other diverse, multi-departmental agencies. The idea for a new community supervision requirement seems an amalgamation in one sense of powers (e) and (k) from the list that I read out earlier—but probably because it is a combination of the two, it is the stronger for it. It is a recognition that, in that transition to adulthood, a community sentence that helps to socialise people to realise that what they are doing is wrong can be a powerful and tough sentence.

There are two elements to the amendment that I want to touch on briefly. As has already been said, there is a growing recognition that there is not a cut-off point at 18 for beginning crime or carrying on with crime. The years between 14 and 24 are generally considered prime offending years, with delinquent behaviour tending to start in early teenage and tailing off at age 21 to 24. Perhaps these things are not entirely surprising; but because of them, it seems sensible to choose the ages between 18 and 25 for this new requirement. We are sympathetic to the amendment. If it has been as successful as has been claimed in the debate, the Government should be sympathetic, too. I look forward to hearing from the noble Baroness.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords for their amendment. Young adult offenders are a particularly difficult group and outcomes are not always as we would wish. I have a great deal of sympathy with the intentions here.

The amendment proposes a new requirement of the adult community order called,

“an intensive community supervision requirement”,

available for offenders aged 18 to 24. It is clearly intended to mirror the intensive rehabilitation order available for juveniles. I agree that we need to reduce the level of reoffending by young adult offenders and that more intensive engagement may very well have a role to play. However, we need to find ways of achieving this without further complicating the legislative framework and constraining how the needs of this age group will be addressed.

Affordability is, of course, critical. If we were to create extra burdens through statute by delivering intensive interventions, supervision and surveillance to this age group, the Government would not have the resources to deliver what we prescribed. We want to see more effective and efficient use of resources, with payment by results and competition being used to secure improved outcomes for 18 to 24 year-olds and other offenders. A range of interventions may be used to achieve these outcomes, and we wish to avoid prescribing which approach must be used with different age groups.

I heard about the problems at Isis, and the MoJ will be commenting in due course. I also note what noble Lords have said about intensive alternatives to custody. The Green Paper Breaking the Cycle said that the Government were looking at how the IAC principles could be extended nationally. The analysis of the reoffending rates of offenders who took part in the IAC pilots is under way at the moment. We will write to noble Lords as soon as the results are available. I hope that is useful to noble Lords.

The spirit of the amendment ties in very well with work that we are already doing to improve community sentences generally. In addition to provisions in the Bill to strengthen community sentences, we want to deliver a step change in the way they operate. They must address the problems that have caused the offending behaviour in the first place: the drug abuse, alcoholism and mental health problems that noble Lords have referred to. They must also punish properly and send a clear message to society that wrongdoing will not be tolerated. We are hoping to provide sentences with a much improved community sentence offering a robust and credible punishment to deal with both young and old offenders. To this end, we are currently conducting a review of adult community sentences and hope to publish a consultation document shortly. I encourage noble Lords to feed into that. In the light of my comments, I hope the noble Lord will accept that this is not a necessary step to take at this stage and will accordingly withdraw his amendment.

Has there been any cost comparison between the IAC model and the cost of keeping a young person in prison and the concomitant cost of recidivism? The Minister seemed to imply that there is a cost implication in the IAC. Has any work been done on the comparison?

We are acutely aware of the cost of keeping people in prison. Obviously it is not only for cost reasons that you try to keep people out of prison, but given that it is a costly route, other measures can be measured against it.

I am not quite sure that that is the answer. Like many noble Lords who have amendments to this Bill, I feel that we have not hit pay dirt here. We have what I, and I think many others, consider to be an excuse remover in terms of the IAC model and the leadership required, which my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham mentioned in his speech. I look forward to further conversations with the Minister on this issue. I do not feel it will go away and I do not want to be here in a couple of years’ time making the same speech as recidivism goes through the roof. However, if the Minister is open to a conversation with me and my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham on that matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 177AA withdrawn.

Clause 72 agreed.

Clause 73 : Referral orders for young offenders

Amendment 177B

Moved by

177B: Clause 73, page 53, line 9, at beginning insert—

“( ) In section 16(1) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (duty or power to refer certain young offenders to youth offender panels) for “18” substitute “21”.”

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 177C. These amendments are complementary to Amendment 177AA because they refer to the group called young adults. In this connection, I remind the House that on many occasions I have said in other debates that the trouble with the criminal justice system is that the Ministry of Justice simply does not know the cost of imprisonment or probation. That is not to say that it does not know how much money is given to it for prison and probation, but it does not know how much money is needed to do the things that it says it wants to do with and for offenders. Until it knows how much money it needs to do with and for, it cannot know how much it does not have and therefore what it cannot do, and therefore what it needs to ask for in order for it to be able to do more.

This is something that always amazed me from the moment I went into the Home Office in 1995 because every year in the Ministry of Defence we used to go through what was called a basket-weaving exercise. We would be asked to cost the White Paper or whatever targets we had been given. We did that. Inevitably it came up that more money was needed to do what we had to do than we have been given, so the Ministers were asked to go and try to get more money out of the Treasury. They never did, so we then had to go through what we called a basket-weaving exercise, where you put what you had to do into “desirable”, “essential” and “nice to have” baskets. Then you went to the Ministers and said, “Look, here are the implications of not having enough money. What are we not to do?”, and then it was up to the Ministers to make the decision.

I thought, naively, when I went into the Home Office in 1995 and heard people saying there was not enough money, that this is what would have happened and the Ministers would therefore know what they could not do and what they needed to ask for. Nobody knew—nobody knows now. There is all this talk about not having enough resources—we do not actually know how many resources we have got to apply to which because we have not done the total sum. This is something that needs to be done in order to get discipline into the system. But that is by the way.

I welcome the reforms in Clause 73 that give flexibility to the courts in their response to individual offences and encourage specific support needed to reform a child’s behaviour. But that is talking about children. The purpose of these amendments is to extend this approach to young adults by requiring the Probation Service to replicate the work of youth offending teams with children in what are called referral orders. The figures suggest that these referral orders for children, which encompass a restorative justice approach within a community setting and have been available to sentencers since 2002, have the lowest reoffending rates of all juvenile court-imposed sentences. One-half of those given a custodial sentence reoffend within one year, and two-thirds within two, but the rate for referral orders is 37 per cent—not great, but a great deal less than that for custodial sentences.

The Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 made provision for referral orders except for offences so serious that they merited custodial sentences or so minor that they merited only a fine or an absolute discharge. This ruling was amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which laid down that referral orders must be imposed when children aged 10 to 17 plead guilty to an offence that is punishable with imprisonment but have not been previously been convicted of an offence. That refers to first-time offenders as children. Orders may also be imposed when an offender who is pleading guilty has already been convicted of another offence, or where a youth offending team recommends that a second referral order may be beneficial. That provided some flexibility in the system.

Courts determine the length of orders, which may be between three and 12 months, extendable for a further three, and under them children are referred to a youth offending panel of two volunteers representing the local community and an experienced youth offending team worker. The panel reviews offences and their consequences with the offender and his or her parents. Following that, the offender signs a contract, which can be varied according to circumstances but which has two core elements: first, reparation or restoration to the victim or the wider community; secondly, a programme of interventions that are designed to address the risk of reoffending.

The panel monitors the compliance of the offender and if at the end of the referral period the contract has been successfully completed, the conviction is declared spent. If, however, offenders are unwilling to agree a contract, or fail to comply with it, they are referred back to the court, which may revoke the order and impose an alternative sentence. Youth offending teams are required to provide regular reports on the operation of referral orders to judges, magistrates and their legal advisers. That process underlies some of the other things about which we have been talking because they provide flexibility and the ability to relate what is going on to the needs and problems of the particular offender.

Along with many others, I believe that the time is now right to build on this proven success and to extend referral orders to 18 to 20 year-olds or possibly even 18 to 25 year-olds in line with what my noble friend Lord Adebowale has just proposed. If this is accepted, a decision will have to be made as to who is to lead the panels. At present, the remit of youth offending teams covers children only up to the age of 18. Speaking to the chairman of the Youth Justice Board, I know that she would not be happy for the remit to be extended to the older group because the youth offending teams have to look after children down to the age of 10. Therefore, it seems absolutely natural that this responsibility should be passed to the probation service, which takes on the responsibility at the age of 18, and probation trusts, which is what I favour because they are the people who have the financial responsibility for this age group.

However, given the very high reoffending rates in this group, I believe that there are very strong grounds for requiring the probation service—I mean requiring it—to deliver more targeted interventions for young adult offenders and referral orders seem to be a very strong model to follow. Until now, the probation service has not had a strong portfolio of programmes suited to this group, which is one of the contributors to its very high reoffending rate. I beg to move.

My Lords, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply because this is a point to which he should give particularly serious consideration. Let me make two observations. First, if we are not doing this job thoroughly and well—the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has suggested that we are not—we are wasting all the money because considerable public expenditure is going into a task which is not doing what is needed. Therefore, if we want to get a proper return for the taxpayer, we should be certain that what we are doing is appropriate and effective.

Secondly, this age extension covers a crucial part of the young person’s life. It is the threshold from being young to joining the adult community. We should think of the amount of discussion and debate that we have in this House about higher education, further education, universities and all that. We are certain that we want to prepare our young people for the most productive and effective future possible. As things stand, we may be denying that possibility to people on this threshold and, through an inadequate response to what they really need, may be setting them off on a course which will result in one failure after another and, all too likely, reoffending and the rest.

From that standpoint, this makes eminent good sense. It will be a challenge to the probation service but it relates to issues that we have been discussing on other amendments when we have alluded to the probation service. I am really worried that its culture is changing so that, in effect, it has a kind of custodial role without the person actually being institutionalised, as distinct from playing a sensitive, imaginative and engaged role in dealing with young individuals, doing what is necessary to get them on a positive and constructive course and working out how that should be done. In asking the probation service to do this—and I think the amendment is correct in that sense—we must realise that there is an issue to be tackled in terms of the prevailing culture in the service itself.

My Lords, I have added my name to one of these amendments and I have great sympathy for what is proposed in the other one as well, so I strongly support what has been said. I would like to believe that not only will this work in terms of this being set out in referral orders and the probation trusts taking on their new role, but also that we could somehow link this to the previous discussion introduced by my noble friends Lord Adebowale and Lord Ramsbotham about provision for 18 to 25 year-olds. The more we think about this age group, we can see how important it is to ensure the possibility of young people growing up with enough of the right support, education and training to have a real opportunity of leading more ordinary lives and not reoffending.

I wish we had more figures on what the actual costs are, because I should have thought it would be worth working out the budgets and spending enough to make this work. I am quite certain that it would be much cheaper than the cost of someone continually going to prison. I hope that the Minister will give this serious consideration.

My Lords, I rise to add briefly to what has been said for two reasons. The first is the growing concern in the business about the lack of adequate work being carried out on behalf of people in this age group. They are missing out. In missing out, they bring in their wake a whole range of the problems and difficulties that we have been talking about. It means that they are more vulnerable and needy, and that they need more attention.

Anecdotally, I should say that I have sat in on referral orders, particularly the restorative conferences that are now run rather routinely. These are remarkable and really quite moving occasions. A young 18 year-old suddenly faces the reality of what it was they unthinkingly had done, and how important that is. It is also important in the context of the ongoing support that the referral order requires and thus implies in terms of support from the probation service. It is right to say that this does not come without a price tag, but when you compare price tags you realise where the dice should fall, and therein lies the challenge for the Government because everyone is judging them on where they are going to make cuts. It is an extremely difficult equation which does not really measure up, except to say that if we do not address this hitherto undersupported group, we are going to pay a huge price. The referral orders that are being discussed are really very creative and impressive, and mark a good way forward.

My Lords, I can be very short. These are amendments that appeal to us, too. Referral orders, which were created in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, seem to work pretty well. Increasing the age from 18 to 21 is a sensible course to take. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, asked whether they should not be extended to an age greater than 21. We talked in the previous debate about the crucial years between 18 and 25, and 21 seems a slightly arbitrary figure. I think that I understand why it is in the amendment, but it would perhaps make more sense if the age went between 18 and 25. Twenty-one is not an age where you begin to say, “This is where offending ceases”; it is usually a bit later than that, although it is very difficult to generalise on such things. If we are going to take this course—we will certainly be interested to hear what the Government have to say about it—to extend the age from 18 to 25 would be a better course than from 18 to 21.

As far as the probation service is concerned, there are great concerns, as my noble friend Lord Judd has said. The second amendment in this group quite rightly suggests that the probation service is probably the best venue for those over 21. Once again, we look forward to hearing what the Government’s attitude is towards this innovative idea.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, was a Minister in the Ministry of Justice during the previous Administration. In a number of debates, I have supported raising the age for referrals. Did the noble Lord undertake any costing at that stage in terms of what additional resources would be required, as against the benefit that would accrue? My fear is that the probation service in many parts of the country is nearly at breaking point. At the end of the day, the question of additional resources will boil down to whether money is available to do the work. Does the noble Lord have any information that might advance this debate further?

My Lords, our time in government retreats into the mists of time day by day, month by month, and my memory fails. I certainly am not in a position to answer the specific question that the noble Lord asks, but to say that there were not concerns about the probation service at the time would be to tell an untruth. Some of the cuts that our Government felt were necessary to make—as do the present Government, too—related to the probation service. One of the achievements of my then ministerial colleague, the honourable Maria Eagle, was to make sure that the cuts were not so great as originally planned and that the probation service had some extra resources that it was not expecting. However, I have to concede that it was not a period, particularly in the latter years, when the probation service was getting as much money as it needed to deal with the problem.

On costs, I think that the noble Lord’s noble friend Lady Linklater had it right, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. Comparing costs is very difficult throughout the Bill, not least in this particular area. I am sorry that I cannot help the noble Lord with more detail.

My Lords, I was very struck by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, dividing things between those which were desirable and those which were essential, and pointing to the need to prioritise. It has struck me that this Bill is above all about prioritising. It would be wonderful to be in government when there was a great deal of money to lubricate things but, even when that is the case, not all problems are corrected. We have just heard of an earlier period where, certainly during the early years, there was much more money to lubricate things yet problems persisted.

As I mentioned on the last group, we very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that young adult offenders present a real challenge. We agree that improved outcomes among this group need to be achieved. The referral order has a specific place in the under-18 sentencing framework, with compulsory conditions requiring courts to make one—in most cases—where someone aged under 18 is being dealt with by the court for the first time and pleads guilty. It has characteristics that would not be appropriate for young adults. The noble Lord referred to one of these—that the young offender is required to appear before a youth offender panel with their parents to explain their offending. The offender must agree to a contract which will include reparation to the victim or wider community and a programme of activities designed to rehabilitate them.

An important feature of the referral order is that the court can require the parents of under-18s to attend the panel, so they are directly engaged by the process and encouraged to take responsibility for their child. The process also provides an opportunity for parents who need help in dealing with their child to be directed to parenting programmes which can provide them with the skills and confidence to become better parents.

The referral order is an effective sentence for young people under 18 years of age and through it we wish to promote the increased use of restorative justice. Yet we cannot simply extend it to cover 18 to 20 year-olds. Our commitment is to build capacity and capability for restorative justice, including the adult justice system, which is why we are investing over £1 million in funding for training and the provision of best practice standards and guidance in the youth and adult systems. We will also be consulting shortly on the use of restorative justice in the adult system as part of community sentences and on how we can encourage good practice in this area. Doubtless, the noble Lord will feed his very interesting idea into that.

As I have already indicated, the Government have—as ever—considerable sympathy with the noble Lord’s motivations in tabling these amendments and seeking a more focused approach with this age group from probation trusts. However, resources are limited. Probation trusts use individual assessment to determine the needs of offenders rather than designating need because of their age group. This is evidence-based and, in our view, the best way to use limited resources. We believe that payment by results will be a sustainable way of bringing in new approaches that will help to deliver better outcomes for offenders, including young offenders. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment.

My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed. The noble Baroness has encouraged remembrance of a phrase that I have ringing in my brain, though I cannot remember from how long ago: “There is no such word as can’t”. I feel that that there is no such word in this connection. I hope in raising this amendment that I have accentuated the need to look at this age group. I deliberately said that I saw no reason why it could not be extended to 18 to 25 as opposed to 18 to 21 because there has been a debate about this for a long time. It is time that that was ended.

Young adults ought to be categorised, stopping at either 21 or 25, but not going on with the lack of clarity which means that no arrangements are made for the group that really needs help, either as adults or as young adults. That is why I go back to the fact that until and unless someone is made responsible for doing that, nothing will happen. I appeal to the Minister to think very closely about appointing somebody to do it. I hope that they will then lead a debate in which I know that all noble Lords who have spoken here and many others would be very willing to co-operate. This is too serious an issue to allow to go by default. I hope that we may have a discussion about this before Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 177B withdrawn.

Amendment 177C not moved.

Amendment 177CA had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 73 agreed.

Clauses 74 to 78 agreed.

Amendment 177D not moved.

Amendment 177DA

Moved by

177DA: After Clause 78, insert the following new Clause—

“Youth rehabilitation order: restorative justice requirement

(1) In section 1(1) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (youth rehabilitation order: requirements), after paragraph (o) insert—

“(p) the court may include in a youth rehabilitation order a restorative justice requirement.”(2) Schedule (Restorative justice requirement: Criminal Justice Act 2003) shall have effect.”

My Lords, this group of amendments seeks to address an opportunity to introduce restorative justice into the Bill. Indeed, in the previous group of amendments, the noble Baroness spoke of the Government’s enthusiasm for restorative justice and the amount of money that they are investing in it. Restorative justice was referred to in favourable terms in the original Green Paper. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, has spoken, too, with real strength of feeling on restorative justice. He has said:

“Restorative justice is not a soft option. Facing up to wrongdoing can be a difficult and unpleasant process”.

I agree with that, but I add for myself that I think that it is a necessary part of the restorative justice process. I take it as read that all parties are in favour of adding a restorative justice provision to the sentences tool kit.

My Amendments 177DA and 177G specifically address youth sentences. Magistrates in youth courts need to have confidence, of course, that non-custodial alternatives to custody will work, and restorative justice, including conferencing, has a definite place in the right circumstances. If it were a specific requirement of a youth rehabilitation order, which is the burden of my amendments, it would emphasise its value and ensure that restorative justice is at the front of the sentencers’ minds when they come up with the sentence. The whole principle of youth sentencing is that youths often lack the maturity of adults and, in particular, may well not have considered the effects of their behaviour on their victims. It is true and proven that restorative justice can bring this home in a powerful way.

I accept that at present a restorative justice requirement could be requested as part of a supervision requirement or activity requirement. These obviously already exist, but the advantage of introducing a specific restorative justice requirement would be to keep that option at the forefront of magistrates’ or judges’ minds when they are sentencing.

The amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, take a more ambitious approach, in that he specifically addresses the question of remand and having a pre-sentence restorative justice programme which would form part of a pre-sentence report. Presumably—although the noble and learned Lord will speak to the amendment himself—the sentencing bench would take into account how effective that pre-sentence restorative justice programme has been.

In conclusion, I regard restorative justice as an effective tool in the box. There is a substantial body of evidence that it works. I have made the point before, but I shall make it again, that judges and magistrates see the consequences of these community sentences when they fail. We see the failures, because it is the job of magistrates and justices to come up with further sentences when people fall down on their community sentences, whether in the youth or the adult courts. But I believe that restorative justice has a proven benefit and that this group of amendments presents an opportunity to put it into the heart of this Bill. On that basis, I beg to move.

My Lords, it may be appropriate if I speak now to Amendment 177DAA, which is in my name. Your Lordships will see that the amendment is supported by a trio of very distinguished names. Perhaps I may say a word about the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, who cannot be here today. Unfortunately, he has been ill but I know he was very anxious to be here to support the proposal in any way he could. The other distinguished name which I mention with deference is that of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. He is the president of the Prison Reform Trust, and I am proud to indicate that I am its new chairman. The Prison Reform Trust and the Restorative Justice Council are very enthusiastic about these proposals.

I was grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said in regard to his own amendments because I certainly endorse what he said about their virtues. He also indicated that my amendment perhaps goes a bit further. That is true but although I claim no credit for this, because others more able than I played a part in it, I draw attention to the fact that the amendment proposes, first, to give the court discretion as to whether it remands,

“the case in order that the victim shall be offered the opportunity to participate in a process”.

Because I know that the issue of costs will be high in the minds of those who appear on behalf of the Government, I also draw attention particularly to the proposal that the,

“court may not remand the case for the purpose specified … unless it is satisfied that arrangements for a process of restorative justice can be or have been made in the area where the offender will reside”.

This proposed new clause is really meant to cover the situation which I believe we are in.

The virtues of restorative justice are becoming more widely known because of the hard work that has been done by various organisations in different parts of the country. I was pleased to hear what the noble Baroness said about the Government's intention on restorative justice. I am of course aware that the Minister has also spoken in its favour. Regarding this amendment, I urge that it can do something very positive. It can put the stamp of approval on restorative justice into a statutory form. It can then allow the process that has already started to continue, and as and when the positive aspects of restorative justice can be brought into practice in different areas, arrangements can be made. In this way, there can be a growth of the use of restorative justice which is in keeping with the nature of the exercise.

In appropriate cases, it very often has a most markedly positive effect, first of all upon the victim. When we are dealing with criminal justice, it is important that we should not neglect anything that might be positive for the victim, and I am sure that the Government do not intend to do so. The other aspect is that it helps the process that, as I understand it, the Government propose to adopt and will ease the exercise that needs to be performed.

I suggest that it would be a mistake to take forward the experiments in compartments so that one looked purely at the compartment marked “Young offenders”, then at the compartment marked “Young adults” and finally at the compartment marked “Adults”. It is something that should be used and adapted for the appropriate case. If the amendment in my name is adopted, one advantage is that the courts will be able to develop the expertise and learn the skills that are needed so that they can readily identify the cases that this process is suited for. It is not suited for all cases—you have to learn from experience how it should be applied—but if it is appropriate to apply it, it will help the process of justice. I hope that Ministers will welcome the amendments that we hope have been drafted in a way that makes them attractive to the Government, and will feel that they should give serious consideration to them.

My Lords, the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, has just made is very important: that we should bring the concept of restorative justice into the mainstream of our approach to penal policy and do not leave it, as it were, as an interesting experiment only by particularly enlightened administrators within the penal system. To endorse it officially as part of penal policy is a very good principle.

This is an immensely revolutionary concept for the whole of penal policy. It takes us away from the impersonal application of the law to the sphere of direct human relationships in which people can begin to understand the implications of what they do for the lives of other identifiable people, and that is a very important learning experience. It would also be very strengthening for society; if it took off in a big way, it could have big implications for building a strong and responsible society—what we do has consequences for other people and we have to face up to those consequences, not in terms of theory but in terms of real people with whom we are dealing in reality.

Restorative justice has some other interesting spin-offs, which I have read about and been encouraged by. For example, it enables victims not only to have the satisfaction of recompense, which is crucial, but to become more understanding about the whole situation. I have read more than one account of how victims have begun to see that the person who perpetrated the crime against them was actually a victim themselves. That is in certain circumstances; I am not letting this argument run away with me. I am not saying that that is true in every situation, but it applies in quite a number. If we are going to have a decent society and minimise crime, it is important to see the origins of that crime and the reality of the shaping experiences in the lives of those who commit it.

This is a significant development. I take my hat off completely to those who have pioneered it; we should give them all possible support. Endorsement in legislation would be significant assistance in what they are trying to achieve.

My Lords, I am delighted to lend my support to this amendment. I am in good and powerful company: the amendment is promoted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, and has the blessing of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. Let me not exclude my noble friend Lord McNally; he and I have had numerous discussions on this matter and he has left me in no doubt that restorative justice is an essential element of the criminal justice system. The question is what procedure we adopt.

The case for restorative justice is on the Government’s agenda and its success cannot be disputed. We now need to provide the machinery which will enable retrospective justice to be set up on a clear statutory footing and give criminal justice agencies the impetus to refer cases. This is the clearest finding of the evaluation project undertaken by the University of Sheffield for the Government. We also know that victim participation rates were extremely high, with up to 77 per cent of victim participation cases involving adult offenders and up to 89 per cent of cases involving young offenders. The Government have often proclaimed that victims must be at the centre of the restorative justice process, and that is precisely what happens.

My noble friend Lord McNally has been very sympathetic in various meetings with groups operating in the criminal justice field. We now have a former Lord Chief Justice and a former Home Secretary, with their vast experience in such matters, getting together to amend the Bill by introducing a provision to enable criminal justice agencies to offer restorative justice to victims pre-sentence when the offender pleads guilty at the first appearance. The process allows victims to participate in face-to-face meetings with offenders, thus bringing closure to their fears and trauma. Victims show satisfaction but, most importantly, the frequency of reoffending is reduced.

Let me declare an interest: I said earlier that I chaired the Magistrates’ Association commission on the future of summary justice, and our report will be out soon. We took evidence from across many parts of the country, and participants included offenders and victims. In almost all cases, victim satisfaction was highlighted. The chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, John Fassenfelt, said that he has seen impressive evidence of victim satisfaction with restorative justice when it is organised to a high-quality standard and the insights it gives to offenders into the consequences of their offending. He said that if Parliament approves the amendment, the magistrates will be able to rely on probation to propose the most suitable cases, but the courts will only make the final decision to proceed if they are satisfied that it is in the interests of justice and in accordance with the wishes of the victim.

Research studies point to the international dimension, and cases in Australia and the United States, like those in Britain, delivered very high victim satisfaction accompanied by a reduction in reoffending.

Using the Ministry of Justice’s own data, there are potential cost savings, based on 70,000 cases, of £185 million over two years. In the present economic climate, this is something that we cannot ignore. It is value for money, as it saves £9 for every £1 spent. I fully support the amendment.

My Lords, I support these amendments but have one cautionary tale for the Government. Before that, I echo the words of my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf towards the end of his speech, when he said that restorative justice is not for everyone. This I remember being made very clear to me some 15 years ago when I was introduced to restorative justice by Sir Charles Pollard, then the chief constable of Thames Valley Police, to whom all those interested in restorative justice owe a huge debt of gratitude for the determination with which he has followed it.

Not long ago, he asked me whether I would like to attend a restorative justice conference at HMP Pentonville, which was extremely ably chaired by a young policeman. The case involved three young women whose flat had been burgled by a young and chaotic man to fuel his heroin habit. During the early part of the conference it was discovered that this young man had been born of a teenage mother and had three young children himself by teenage mothers. He could not read and had an alcohol problem. The girls explained why they felt so strongly about their flat being burgled and everyone was in tears. The agreement was that the young man should be put through a drug treatment course, taught to read and put on an Alcoholics Anonymous course. As he left, and there was a spirit of hope in the room, one of the young women said to him, “Furthermore, will you write to us every month to tell us how you’re getting on?”, which I thought was an extremely good addition. They left in a spirit of hope and I then said to the governor of Pentonville, who was there, “How much of that can you deliver?”. He said, “None”. I said, “How dare you let those people go? Unless you can support what is being recommended, all the hope engendered by this process is dead”.

Therefore, if, as I hope, the Government accept these amendments, I hope they will add the rider that those who are responsible for staging the conferences and seeing that they happen must make certain that what is agreed actually happens, so that the whole process is not undermined.

My Lords, bearing in mind the cautionary tale of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, I nevertheless, like him, strongly support these amendments. First, these amendments seem to suggest practical effectiveness. Most of the crimes that we are concerned with in this general purview are committed by immature young men. The evidence for restorative justice is that it gives them a sharp wake-up call and makes a dramatic contribution to their growing-up process, which is a very good reason to use restorative justice techniques.

Secondly, restorative justice of the type that has been discussed is cost-effective. From my experience of practice, I can imagine many marginal custody situations of a kind that come before magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court every day of the week—common burglary, criminal damage, lower-level assaults and other offences at a similar level—in which effective restorative justice conferences might mean the difference between custody and a community penalty, and result in a substantial saving of money to the state.

Thirdly, I strongly support the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, that this should be put into statutory form. I have a feeling that we might hear that it is not necessary to do so because it is, after all, open to judges and magistrates to adjourn cases for good reasons in any event. However, placing this in statutory form will have a number of effects. Although judges try very hard not to make law whenever possible, they try even harder to respond to the law that has been given to them. If they see this kind of provision in statutory form, it will have certain—and I mean certain—repercussions. One is that the training of magistrates, from which the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, gave us some graphic illustrations earlier, will undoubtedly place greater focus on restorative justice.

Those of us who from time to time attend what used to be called the Judicial Studies Board, which is now called the Judicial College, know that immediately the Judicial College, in its search for new and interesting courses, introduces new modules on restorative justice because it is included in statute, there will not be a judge in England and Wales—magistrate or judge at every level—who does not begin to focus on the potential of restorative justice conferences and opportunities. It seems to me that the key to this measure in many ways is putting it into statutory form, as that would highlight its potential throughout the judiciary. I hope that we will hear my noble friend the Minister responding in a way that not only is positive about restorative justice—we know that he will be positive—but that recognises the advantages of putting it into the statutory form suggested.

My Lords, the Minister regaled us earlier with some literary allusions, and Dickens featured largely in those. I would like to follow his example—something which I am not always disposed to do, but on this occasion I will—by making another literary allusion to the famous Sherlock Holmes story concerning the dog that barked in the night. Watson pointed out that the dog did not bark and Holmes said that that was the mystery. The mystery about restorative justice is that it is not yet in the Bill. I hope that as a result of tonight’s deliberations and following the line of thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the Bill will include references to restorative justice for precisely the reason that he gave—namely, it would send a very clear signal of the Government’s expressed intent to promote restorative justice.

As has been indicated already, restorative justice has been around for a considerable time and has proved successful. Some 85 per cent of victims who have been through the process are satisfied with it. That is a very high proportion, particularly in these circumstances. The Home Office estimates that restorative justice has reduced reoffending by some 14 per cent. Again, that is a very significant reduction. To follow again the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, financial savings can be made in this respect. The Restorative Justice Council estimates—presumably on the basis of an equivalent 14 per cent reduction in reoffending—that in the case of adult offenders something like £185 million would be saved simply as a result of the reduction in offending quite apart from other savings that might arise. Therefore, we are talking about significant figures and a significant impact.

Mention of the adult aspect of this matter encourages me to endorse very strongly the reference of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, to the need to spread the concept across the age range. At the moment, it is mainly concentrated on children and young offenders. Only 1 per cent of adult offenders go through a restorative justice process. Expanding that would be significant and would lead, in the view of the Restorative Justice Council, to the savings that I have mentioned.

The Government have expressed their enthusiasm not only through the Minister’s words but in the Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle, which was published some 14 or 15 months ago. That document contains positive references to restorative justice, describing it as a,

“well established concept in youth justice”,

but pointing out that,

“restorative justice for adults is sometimes viewed as an afterthought to sentencing”.

The Green Paper went on to say that the Government were looking at how they might change that, whereby in appropriate cases restorative justice became,

“a fundamental part of the sentencing process”.

The paper stated that this was,

“likely to involve using restorative approaches as a better alternative to formal criminal justice action for low level offenders where the offender and victim agree the outcome”,

including apologising, replacing items or making good damage and so on.

The Green Paper continued:

“Secondly, in instances where a court case is likely to lead to a fine or community sentence, [the Government] will explore how it could best be used at the charging stage”.

“At the charging stage” goes beyond the amendments before us, and it is an interesting concept. The Government said that they would explore how best it could be used then, and pointed out that, if used, restorative justice,

“would be delivered as part of an out-of-court disposal, for example as a condition attached to a conditional caution”.

Again, a variety of action might be agreed—paying compensation to the victim or making good the offence in other ways. I do not know whether the Government have pursued that to any significant extent. Perhaps the noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate might comment on that. If not, she might follow up the point made at paragraph 80 of the Green Paper to see exactly how far the Government have gone. There is considerable potential in all this, and the amendments certainly should assist the process.

Restorative justice is usually discussed in terms of the face-to-face encounter between victim and offender, and that is perhaps the most obvious use of the term. However, it can be used in the broader sense of what is sometimes also called justice reinvestment—that is to say, in schemes such as community payback, whereby instead of individual reparation the offender is putting something back into the community, and not necessarily into the community that has suffered directly from his or her depredations, but into the community generally.

There have been some encouraging schemes around this concept. In my part of the world, two schemes in particular stand out that involve the successful restoration by offenders of two Victorian parks—Albert Park in Middlesbrough and Saltwell Park in Gateshead—where in both cases mainly young offenders worked under supervision and made a significant contribution to a local amenity as part of their punishment. The process had two effects: first, it of course gave the community an asset; but, secondly, it gave the offenders a skill and an experience of useful employment. Restorative justice can be applicable in that wider concept. In my own ward of Newcastle City Council there is a church with a large graveyard in which many local dignitaries of the 19th century are buried. It was in a poor state and there is now an ongoing restoration scheme that is facilitated in part by a group of offenders on a community payback scheme. That is another good example of restorative justice in that broader sense.

Both approaches to restorative justice are potentially valuable. I hope that the Government—in addition to endorsing the concept, as I am sure the Minister will—will ensure that the concept is enshrined in statute to give an impulse to its spread in practice, particularly but not exclusively among adult offenders. This would also ensure that the good intentions of the Green Paper, with which we on the opposition Benches certainly agree, were translated into reality at both individual and community levels.

I congratulate noble Lords who brought this matter forward in these amendments. I hope the Government see their way to accepting these amendments and, arguably, to expanding them in the way that the Green Paper appeared to advocate.

My Lords, where but in the Lords would we be having such a wonderful debate, run through with humanity, after 10 o’clock at night?

I acknowledge noble Lords’ support for the principle of restorative justice. The Government are indeed committed to delivering greater use of restorative practices across the criminal justice system. It is one of our key priorities. For example, we have already begun providing more than £1 million-worth of funding to youth offending teams, probation trusts and prisons for restorative justice training and practice standards, and we are currently setting up neighbourhood justice panels based on restorative principles. It is excellent to have noble Lords’ support for restorative justice. However, the Government believe that the amendments are unnecessary, although we are sympathetic to the intentions behind them.

On the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord, Lord Ponsonby, as I think he realises from what he said in his speech, a court already has sufficient powers under the existing requirements of the youth rehabilitation order and community order to make restorative justice activity a formal part of those orders. The activity requirement allows the court to consider the use of restorative justice where it has been advised that the victim and offender have agreed to take part and provision is in place to deliver such a requirement. The amendments make no provision for ensuring that both the offender and the victim are completely prepared to participate in a restorative justice process. That is crucial to the restorative ethos and to prevent victimisation, but I understand what the noble Lord is aiming at.

Turning to Amendment 172DAA in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, the courts already have powers to adjourn sentencing for the provision of restorative justice to be undertaken if they believe it will inform the sentencing process. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be reassured that the Government are looking at taking that process further to allow for restorative outcomes to help inform the courts as to what appropriate sentence should be handed down.

However, the amendments do not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent the ineffective use of remand resources to adjourn sentencing and hold offenders in custody in cases where the victim does not want to participate. The amendments also do not seek to impose a restriction on the length of remand, which poses additional risks not only to delay in court time but also around the proportionality of remanding an offender in custody for a significant length of time without sentencing.

Therefore it is much better for the courts to retain discretion to decide when and in what circumstances restorative justice can be effectively undertaken, although we understand people's concern to ensure that it is high on the agenda. In practice, that would most likely need to be in cases where the court has already been notified of the willingness of both the victim and the offender to participate in the restorative justice process.

As I mentioned, it is crucial that the victim should have the opportunity to consider and undertake restorative justice if they so wish, and the offender must also be completely willing to participate—which the proposed new clause does not provide for. Any circumstances in which the offender is not completely prepared to participate in restorative justice—which cannot be signalled simply by a guilty plea—presents serious risks for the victim being revictimised because the offender is falsely or forcibly engaged in the process.

We have heard a great deal about the potential of this approach, which is of course very encouraging. Before we can make any determination as to whether further, specific legislation is necessary for restorative justice, we must make significant steps to build capacity to deliver it. Once we have begun to make greater strides in embedding restorative justice across the system and helping areas to put necessary provisions in place, we will reflect carefully both on whether to widen the application of restorative justice using the law and on how to do so, if it proves necessary to take this approach. Although I understand noble Lords’ enthusiasm to enshrine this now in statute, there is work to do before we reach such a stage—persuasive though noble Lords undoubtedly are, and we certainly agree with their principles. Although we share a common interest in the increased use of restorative justice, at this stage I nevertheless urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I particularly thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. He emphasised an important point which I forgot to emphasise, which is the importance of victims and how restorative justice can be of benefit to them. I also thank my noble friend Lord Judd. His central point was the importance of bringing restorative justice into the mainstream of sentencing—a point on which all noble Lords who spoke tonight agreed.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, gave some statistics about victim participation rates. I found them surprisingly high—much higher than my own experience of restorative justice in youth courts, where our main problem is getting victims to agree to participate. That is a substantial problem that I have come across, but if the noble Lord has other experiences, I am encouraged to hear that.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, gave his cautionary tale. I am afraid that I can give cautionary tales as well. Nevertheless, restorative justice is a good thing to aim towards and to try to implement. I was amused that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, predicted extremely accurately what the Minister’s response was going to be to this group of amendments.

Having said all that, I am encouraged by the noble Baroness’s response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 177DA withdrawn.

Amendment 177DAA

Tabled by

177DAA: After Clause 78, insert the following new Clause—

“Enablement of courts to remand cases for restorative justice arrangements

(1) Subject to subsection (2) where—

(a) at his first hearing, a defendant pleads or has pleaded guilty to an offence, and (b) there is an identifiable victim of that offence,the court may remand the case in order that the victim shall be offered the opportunity to participate in a process of restorative justice involving the offender and any person or persons affected by the offence.(2) A court may not remand the case for the purpose specified in subsection (1) unless it is satisfied that arrangements for a process of restorative justice can be or have been made in the area where the offender will reside.

(3) Where a court does not remand the case the purpose specified in subsection (1) at the first hearing it may do so at a subsequent hearing.”

I was not intending to move this amendment, although I wanted to add one or two words to what has been said, in which case perhaps I should move it. Like the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, I was very grateful for noble Lords’ contributions, which were of an extremely high order. I think that restorative justice is something that we now need to seize hold of and take forward. Although I listened with interest to what was said by the noble Baroness about the fact that the amendment may not be needed, I ask her to take it away and think about it, and I do so for two reasons. First, if she will—

If the noble and learned Lord is proposing to continue with his speech, would he allow me to put the Question, as I think that strictly speaking we are out of order? We need to put on the record that the amendment proposed is Amendment 177DAA.

I apologise—I should have given the Deputy Chairman that opportunity. Perhaps I may continue with what I was saying about the possible misinterpretation of the amendment. If I understood the noble Baroness correctly, she said that one of the shortcomings of the present draft is that it does not take into account the situation of the victim, who must of course consent before he can take part. The whole core of the first subsection of the amendment is to give the victim the opportunity—I emphasise that word—to participate. It is absolutely of the essence of the amendment that the victim must consent.

I have not taken part in many of the debates, but I have the strong impression as I have listened to parts of debates—and a significant part of this one this afternoon and evening—that there is a danger that we are putting off everything until another time. We will find ourselves in exactly the same situation. If noble Lords wish to spend the time that the legislation deserves by examining it in detail, it is like a dash of cold water for amendment after amendment to be turned down when, for example, as far as drafting goes, the matters outstanding are well capable of amendment in a few minutes by a meeting with the Bill team.

There is a serious point at stake which goes to the heart of the legislative process. We have too much legislation but when legislation is introduced we must examine it with care. We must not lose the opportunity, by delaying tactics, of making amendments that can properly be made. I beg to move.

I support the noble and learned Lord. I was surprised to hear the Minister say that it is very important that the victim should consent. Amendment 177DAA states that,

“the court may remand the case in order that the victim shall be offered the opportunity to participate”.

It does not say in any sense that this will be imposed on the defendant.

I refer noble Lords back to the concluding remarks that I made. I fully understand that amendments may not be phrased quite as we might wish but I hope that I addressed the principles. We are very supportive of restorative justice. I gave reasons why we feel that we want to take this further forward and see it in practice before building it into statute. My noble friend Lord Carlile anticipated that I might say something like that, and I expect that the opposition Front Bench thought likewise. We can continue to discuss this. We accept the principles and wish to take it further forward. Whether that means that it will go into statute is another matter. I hope that on that basis the noble and learned Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Taking into account what has just been said in coming to my conclusion, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 177DAA withdrawn.

Clauses 79 to 81 agreed.

Amendment 177DB

Moved by

177DB: After Clause 81, insert the following new Clause—


(1) Where a magistrates’ court has fined an offender who did not respond to a summons and who was absent from the court when convicted, or has imposed any other financial penalty in the absence of the offender, at any time—

(a) the court may suspend or withdraw a warrant of enforcement given to a bailiff, and (b) the bailiff may return the case to the court which convicted the offender or such other responsible court within the jurisdiction of the area in which the offender resides (“the responsible court”).(2) Regulations shall be made enabling a court, Her Majesty’s Court Service or any person employed to enforce a warrant against a convicted person, to suspend or withdraw the warrant and return the matter to the court which convicted the offender or the responsible court as in subsection (6).

(3) Any person enforcing a warrant for a levy of distress or an execution against goods on behalf of a magistrates’ court shall be paid a single fee in respect of the work undertaken on the warrant to recover the fine or debt.

(4) Where any person enforcing a warrant for a levy of distress or an execution against goods following a fine or other order imposed by a magistrates’ court fails to recover the payment of the fine or discovers no or insufficient goods exist, that person shall return the matter to the court which imposed the fine or the responsible court in subsection (1) in order that another enforcement method for the recovery of the money owed may be undertaken.

(5) Regulations made under subsection (2) shall include the steps to be taken in a case where following conviction it is discovered that the convicted person falls into a “vulnerable category” for the purposes of page 9 of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents or as may be prescribed.

(6) Where on enforcing a warrant for a levy of distress or an execution against goods, the person enforcing the warrant discovers that the convicted person falls into a vulnerable category for the purposes of page 9 of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents or under regulations made in subsection (5), it shall be the duty of the person enforcing the warrant to return the matter to the magistrates’ court or the responsible court as the case may be for further consideration of the enforcement steps to be taken.”

My Lords, this is a probing amendment supported by the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust—Z2K—and Citizens Advice. I am grateful to Z2K in particular for its help. The amendment would end legal confusion when bailiffs are on the doorstep of vulnerable and impoverished debtors and fine defaulters. The confusion arises between, on the one hand, the judgment in the case of R v Hereford Magistrates ex parte MacRae, which states that once magistrates’ courts have passed a fine to the bailiffs for enforcement it cannot be returned to the magistrates for reconsideration; and on the other hand, the current advice of the Ministry of Justice, which states that it can be returned to the magistrates under Section 142 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980.

In its briefing note, Citizens Advice says that when a county court issues a bailiff’s warrant—a warrant of execution—for enforcement of a debt, the debtor can apply to the court to have the warrant suspended and the court can make an order for payment of the debts by instalments. However, no such facility currently exists in the magistrates’ court for a person who is subject to bailiff action to enforce an outstanding magistrates’ court fine.

Once the fine has been passed to the bailiffs for enforcement, the debtor has no clear channel to ask the court to suspend the bailiff action on the grounds of hardship or vulnerability. In such cases, the only option for a defaulter or the advice sector is to try to negotiate instalment payments with the bailiffs directly. However, as numerous cases seen by the CAB service show, bailiffs will often refuse to accept an affordable instalment. Instead, they demand full payment or large instalments that fine defaulters are unable to afford. Some of these cases highlight how the magistrates’ court gives these often poor and vulnerable defaulters no help or support, refusing to take the warrant back from the bailiffs.

I shall give an example. A problem arose in a case dealt with by Z2K. A collection order was issued by Wycombe magistrates against a lone mother with three young children, threatening arrest, bailiffs, referral back to the court with the fine increased by 50 per cent, et cetera. She had failed to pay for her TV licence and then failed to pay the fine of £210 plus £60 costs levied in her absence by the magistrates. At the bottom of the collection order was written in capital letters:


In a panic, she borrowed £400 plus £260 interest from Provident. She then went to the court and paid the £270 she owed in an envelope into a machine, which did not give her a receipt. Later the court told her that she paid only £170 and it wanted the remaining £100. She genuinely believed that she had paid and thought there must be a mistake by the court. Threatened by the bailiffs again, she reluctantly agreed to pay off the £100 at £5 a week, but no payments were received by the court, which then sent out the bailiffs. The bailiffs sent two letters and called twice, adding £150 to her fine. She described the conversation as follows:

“I tried to explain that I had already paid the fine he had to collect and that I shouldn't be paying it again, let alone another £150 fee for a bailiff. He said no way I could pay weekly, he would give me two more weeks to pay it. I tried to explain that I am on Income Support and that there was no way I could pay him £250 in two weeks. He said that was not his problem and he would be at my house at 1.00 pm on the 15th June. He phoned on the 14th. I explained again to him that I didn't have £250 and that I am on Income Support with three young children. He said pay me the money on Friday or I will get a locksmith and break into your house and take your possessions, he said it with quite an aggressive tone, which made me feel intimidated and quite scared. I then tried to contact Drakes [the bailiffs’ firm], however all you get is a machine with options none of which are to talk to someone”.

I am sure that noble Lords have experienced just that, but not in such stressful circumstances.

Since March 2006, bailiffs have had the power of forcible entry. There is a tendency to use the threat on the doorstep without proper consideration of the circumstances of defaulters. At this stage, Z2K heard of the case. It immediately wrote to the court asking for a rehearing of her case, but the court stood by the MacRae decision and refused to take the case back. Z2K then wrote to the Ministry of Justice pointing to page 9 of National Standards for Enforcement Agents, which gives bailiffs discretion to return cases in vulnerable situations. The MoJ replied that,

“enforcement officers can be prevented from continuing with the execution of a distress warrant. This can be done by a single magistrate”,

under Section 142 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980.

In the event, the court reheard the case on receipt of a written request. A McKenzie friend presented a statement of her income, expenditure and debts and related the circumstances of the case to the magistrates. The magistrates reduced the fine, arranged for it to be paid by deduction from her benefits at £5 a week, accepted that she had already paid £170 and ordered that she be repaid £40. The bailiffs were withdrawn without their fees being paid.

That is part of the problem. The bailiffs enforcing magistrates’ court fines are private companies. They make their profit from the fees paid by the fine defaulters. If they return cases to the magistrates, they lose their fees, so they obviously prefer the MacRae judgment to the MoJ guidance. They should not lose money for doing the right thing, so the amendment proposes a fee which is paid whether or not the fine is collected. I understand the fee structure is under consideration and consultations are due to take place.

Finally, the national standards for enforcement agents have been issued by the MoJ since 2002. They have proved ineffective because there is no duty in law on bailiffs to abide by them. In many cases that would otherwise be referred back to the courts, the defaulters or their advisers could negotiate reasonable instalments of the fines with the bailiffs if the rules were enforceable, otherwise the pressure on bailiffs to collect their fees for their managements and the fines for the courts can wreak havoc in the finances of impoverished lone parents, where the fine for TV licence evasion or fare evasion is disproportionate, and there is no avenue to seek the justice of proportionality so precious in British law.

This is a modest amendment, which seeks to clarify an area of confusion in the law and to do so in the interests of often very vulnerable citizens. I hope that the Minister will be able to give it sympathetic consideration or, if it is defective, to come forward on Report with an alternative amendment. In doing so, she would be making good a promise in the coalition agreement that:

“We will provide more protection against aggressive bailiffs”.

I beg to move.

My Lords, my name is attached to this amendment.

My neighbour’s wife was parking her car in the car park nearest to the Wrexham Council offices some months ago and she put the sticker, which cost her 80p, on the windscreen but it fell on to the seat. It was still visible there but those who were collecting in the area decided that this was in breach of the regulations, so she was charged £40. A certain amount of correspondence took place with Wrexham Council, as you might imagine—indeed, the ticket was produced—and it was pointed out that there was no need for this, but nothing happened.

In the end, a magistrates’ court warrant was issued, after a lot of argument, and it was enforced. By this time, the 80p that had been paid for the sticker had become £450. The bailiffs alleged that they had been to the premises on a number of occasions. There was no sign of them having done so and the people concerned were in throughout the period, but that is what they said, and they charged an extra fee for every attendance at the property. There was absolutely no control over what they were charging. Of course, as has been stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, they said that a distress warrant cannot be withdrawn. Indeed, on a bailiffs’ website that I have just looked at, they say precisely that, that it is impossible to withdraw a warrant once it has been made.

I decided to look at the case that the noble Baroness referred to, the MacRae case at Hereford and Worcester Magistrates’ Court in 1998. According to the judgment that I read, the procedure was based essentially on publications in 1990 and 1992 of the Home Office’s best practice advisory group on fine enforcement and relied substantially on a computerised fine enforcement system. When an offender is in default and has not contacted the court to request more time to pay, the court issues a final demand. If there is no response to that, the computerised system produces a draft distress warrant, which passes through certain manual checks to ensure that there are no known circumstances that would make it inappropriate to issue the warrant. MacRae decided that once that computer has produced the distress warrant and one or two people have looked at it, that is the end—the bailiff can do nothing about it.

The noble Baroness referred to Section 142 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980. That was the response received from the Ministry of Justice. Section 142(1) states:

“A magistrates’ court may vary or rescind a sentence or other order imposed or made by it when dealing with an offender if it appears to the court to be in the interests of justice to do so”.

So there is power, which is contrary to what was said in MacRae and to what appears on current websites by bailiffs, and which is in accordance with the advice given in the case to which the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, referred.

However, there is confusion. My neighbour eventually paid up the £450 because his wife and children were in tears. Rather than keep that scene of distress going on, he produced his chequebook and paid up. What is happening is that people are being bullied on the doorstep. This amendment would put that right. It would make it clear and would clarify what is currently wrongfully being done, in my submission to your Lordships, by bailiffs.

The amendment states that a warrant of enforcement may be suspended or withdrawn but very importantly it states that a,

“person enforcing a warrant … shall be paid a single fee”.

There would not be any of these ghost returns clocking up the fees for every attendance at the property. The amendment makes specific provision for those who are in a vulnerable position and are not in a position to stand up to these bailiffs when they come round to collect. That situation has been a disgrace. This is an opportunity for the Government to put it right and clarify what the law is so that we all know what should happen and what the proper procedure should be. I support the noble Baroness in her amendment.

My Lords, a powerful case has been made for this amendment in two powerful speeches from noble Lords. We look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I have listened carefully to the case made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, in support of this amendment. I am also aware of the arguments made by Citizens Advice and the Z2K Trust. There are essentially two issues as regards the amendment. The first relates to the current law relating to the power to withdraw warrants for non-payment of fines, which has not been particularly explored in these discussions but to which I will return.

The second relates to the practice of bailiffs enforcing those warrants particularly against fine defaulters, especially those who may be considered to be particularly vulnerable. I understand the concerns that many people have about bailiffs enforcing warrants. However, many people are concerned at the level of fines that remain unpaid. There is a balance to be struck between the need to have an effective way to collect unpaid fines, and therefore to enforce the orders of the court, and the need to allow for some flexibility in the treatment of fine defaulters.

The national standards for enforcement agents were revised last month. They set out specific standards—for example, for dealing with vulnerable and socially excluded people—and I hope that the noble Baroness has seen them. It includes a list of those who may be potentially vulnerable, including the elderly or people with a disability or where someone has a difficulty in understanding English. In addition, the contracts with bailiffs include several conditions relating to their behaviour and treatment of vulnerable people. The Government remain of the view that the national standards, guidance and contractual arrangements are the best and most effective way to ensure the appropriate use of enforcement powers.

With regard to the first issue under the amendment, which relates to the legal powers to suspend or withdraw warrants, the Government think that this area deserves further consideration. We do not think that there is any doubt that a court has the power to suspend a warrant that it issues but there is at least an ambiguity about the question of whether a court or a fines officer can withdraw or suspend a warrant issued by a fines officer. I am willing therefore to take away these points and to consider whether there is a need for a change to the primary legislation and whether that change can be made in this Bill or at a later stage. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for his support and for another cautionary tale that he related to good effect. I would remind noble Lords of the very strong language he used. He talked about “confusion” and people being “bullied” and that it is a “disgrace”. I think that those words are warranted. I also thank the Minister for her response, in particular for leaving open the door on the second part. In taking away these issues, I wonder whether she would be willing to commit to meeting with the Zaccheus 2000 Trust and Citizens Advice to talk through the possibilities. The question is: if not in this Bill, in which one? It seems that we have an opportunity here and the Minister has shown an openness of mind that perhaps there is a case for clarifying this in law. I hope that the noble Baroness will seriously consider it for this Bill because another opportunity may not come up for some time. In the mean time, we may see other cases of people being bullied or rebuked and very vulnerable citizens being put into difficult situations. I do not think we should delay when we have an opportunity in this Bill. However, given what the Minister has said and the lateness of the hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 177DB withdrawn.

Clause 82 agreed.

Schedule 10 agreed.

Amendments 177E to 177G not moved.

Clause 83 : Amendment of bail enactments

Debate on whether Clause 83 should stand part of the Bill.

My Lords, I shall be as quick as I can. Clause 83 is one of the shortest clauses in the Bill. It states:

“Schedule 11 (amendment of enactments relating to bail) has effect”.

If we turn to Schedule 11 on page 193, we see that it sets out the proposals for amendments to the Bail Act 1976. If there was ever a need for a Keeling schedule, it is here. Amendments to the 1976 Act are set out in various paragraphs of Schedule 11, and frankly, it is not good enough. There really ought to be a proper Keeling schedule of the amendments being made to the 1976 Act, and I really would ask the Minister to arrange for one.

My substantive point is this. Schedule 11 would subject bail in adult cases where a person has been accused or convicted of an imprisonable offence, or where a person has been released on bail but fails to surrender to custody, to a new test where bail could not be withheld if there was no real prospect that the person would receive a custodial sentence upon conviction unless he might, if released on bail, commit an offence involving domestic violence. It would also remove the court’s power, where an adult is accused or convicted of a non-imprisonable offence, to remand them in custody on the current available grounds: likelihood of failure to surrender to custody and/or previous arrest for breach of bail to commit offences or interfere with witnesses or obstruct the course of justice. It would create a new ground for withholding bail on the grounds that he might commit an offence involving domestic violence. There is a power to withhold bail, but the grounds are only that the accused might commit an offence involving domestic violence.

Of course it is a good idea to prevent remands in custody where the system can, and we support that. But the concern is—and here I am grateful to the organisation Justice for what it has to say about this matter—that the new test leaves no residual discretion to the court to withhold bail even where there is strong evidence that a defendant will commit a violent offence, intimidate witnesses or otherwise interfere with the course of justice on bail. The exceptions in the Bill relating to domestic violence, while welcome, are confined to too narrow a class of case, providing no protection for other deserving grounds; for example, where there is a substantial risk of violent intimidation of a victim of crime not of the same household as the defendant—so not domestic violence.

A further issue is the new “no real prospect” test, because it may in practice be difficult for a court at an early stage in criminal proceedings, or even up to the end of a trial/guilty plea, effectively to assess the likely sentence. Even more seriously, there may be a legitimate expectation aroused by the conclusion that there is no such real prospect at an early stage. The sentencing court, with full relevant information before it, may take a different view of the case and there should be no question of its being influenced or, particularly, bound by the court’s earlier view.

While we understand the desire not to remand in custody people who should not be so remanded, we feel that the Government have not thought through sufficiently the great gaps in these proposals. For example, somebody who might intimidate a witness would have to be granted bail under these circumstances because imprisonment was not available as a possible punishment for the crime that they were alleged to have committed. There are too many holes in the provision which, I am afraid, will be breached, and it takes away the discretion of the court.

The Bail Act 1976 has worked pretty well in practice. I do not say that it is perfect, but I wonder whether Clause 83 is not so full of holes that it will be abused by defendants.

My Lords, intimidation of witnesses is itself an offence, so one has to put these things into perspective.

The noble Lord mentioned a Keeling schedule. I note the point that he has made and shall take advice on it.

I am slightly amazed that either Justice or the noble Lord has cavilled at this proposal. It is said that decisions regarding remand and about sentences are completely separate. So they are, as the law stands; the question asked by this government proposal is whether they ought to be.

The Government consider that, in general, defendants should not be remanded in custody where it is apparent to the court that there is no real prospect of their being imprisoned if convicted. Let me be clear: this is not any Alice in Wonderland idea of sentence first, verdict afterwards. The court will not engage in a sentencing exercise in advance of the trial. The provision affects only cases where it is clear at the outset that the alleged crime is not serious enough to warrant a custodial sentence. Where that is the case, remanding the defendant in custody is generally disproportionate and not a sensible use of prison space. That sort of defendant will not pose a serious threat to public safety. Those defendants who pose such a threat will not pass the “no real prospect” test and so will still be liable to be remanded in custody.

Some respondents to the Green Paper argued that special considerations might apply where offences are committed in a domestic setting, in that an offence that does not require custody might nevertheless imply a risk of domestic violence if the defendant were bailed—the noble Lord raised that issue. We recognise the force of that argument, and have taken account of it. The provision incorporates a special exception to deal with that sort of situation. However, remand places are too expensive to waste on defendants who do not need them. We want to ensure that they are used only where it is necessary to protect the public.

I take note of what the noble Lord has said. I will consider and reflect on it but we believe that this is one simple way of stopping the use of scarce prison accommodation for people who, once they are tried and sentenced, are not going to be sent to prison. Clause 83 and Schedule 11 should stand part of the Bill.

What would the noble Lord say to the case of failure to surrender? It is very common in magistrates’ courts to get people who repeatedly commit low-level offences and have no regard for court orders. They just do not turn up to court. Is the noble Lord really saying that there should be no threat of keeping them in custody until their trial?

They can be tried in their absence and of course they can be picked up and put into custody. We are trying to deal with a very large number of people who go through our court system, are held in custody—taking up valuable prison space—but who from the very beginning it is clear will not receive any kind of prison sentence. If people do not turn up, of course they are in danger of being either tried in their absence or picked up and held in custody. If people try to intimidate witnesses, they commit a further crime for which they will undoubtedly end up in custody. In many ways, both Justice and the noble Lord are straining at gnats here. We are trying to deal with the very bottom end of cases. I will reflect on what he said, particularly on the Keeling schedule, and come back on Report.

Clause 83 agreed.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 11.08 pm.