Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Denham: The legislation is not perfect, but I hope that it is getting better at addressing the nuisance that noisy households create for other households. The ASBO procedure should not be used if one member of a household creates a lot of noise that distresses another, which is implied by the amendment. The purpose of ASBOs is to address annoyance, nuisance and disturbance to members of other households.

An entirely separate debate exists about whether legal procedures that deal with internal issues such as domestic violence are adequate. I am quite certain that that process should not be mixed up with ASBOs, and we would experience great difficulties if we tried to do that.

Mrs. Brooke: I thank the Minister for his comments. He reminded me of a situation that my part of the country suffers from at great length. I understand the purpose of sharing information, which is important for everybody's welfare, including travellers, whose living conditions are a great welfare issue.

If a situation occurred with an individual—perhaps a young person—there should be supportive measures if an order were imposed because, otherwise, I have a real fear that people would be driven to crime because they had nowhere to go.

I have made many of my comments because I want them added to the guidance. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman: According to the programme motion, we must conclude proceedings on clause 62 by 7 pm. At 7 pm, I shall go through the clauses. If there is a Division in the House, we shall have to come back to conclude the business.

Amendment made: No. 266, in page 52, line 24, at end insert—

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    '(7A) In subsection (10) of that section (penalty for contravention of order), for ''shall be'' there shall be substituted ''is guilty of an offence and''.'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Clause 55, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 56 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 57

Orders in county court proceedings

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 271, in page 53, line 25, at end insert—

    '(4A) If a relevant authority obtains an order under this section it may apply to the court for the party subject to that order to be named by the court in open court regardless of the age of that party, and it shall be for the party subject to the order to establish exceptional reasons why he should not be so named.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following:

Amendment No. 272, in clause 58, page 54, line 16, at end insert—

    '(3A) The court may direct, having made an order under this section, that the offender subject to that order be named in open court regardless of the age of the offender, subject to the offender showing any exceptional reasons why he should not be so named.'.

New clause 20—Anti-social behaviour orders: naming in court—

    'After subsection (4) of section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37) (anti-social behaviour orders) there shall be inserted—

    ''(4A) If a relevant authority obtains an order under this section it may apply to the court for the party subject to that order to be named by the court in open court regardless of the age of that party, and it shall be for the party subject to the order to establish exceptional reasons why he should not be so named.''.'.

Mr. Hawkins: In the light of the approaching guillotine, which I regret, I shall have to address the amendments quite briefly. The Minister knows that my party and I oppose such programming of Committees because it means that matters must be either rushed or not debated at all. I shall be grateful if the Minister would write to me with any response that he does not get chance to make on this important issue.

I move the amendment because of a specific case in my constituency. The chief executive of my local authority, with the support of the police, asked me to raise the matter, and no doubt the Minister will research its various legal aspects with his advisers. My local police and local authority were disappointed by a situation, although that would be too weak a word because the headline in my local paper talked of police anger at a judge's ruling. They were very upset at failing to obtain the full effectiveness of an ASBO in relation to the two most serious young criminals in my constituency. They finally obtained an ASBO, although the police, local authority and everyone in the community safety partnership in my area were annoyed by the bureaucracy and difficulty involved. The police felt, however, that the order would be fully effective only if the twin brothers were named and shamed.

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Traditionally, we have had specific legal rules, the basis of which all lawyers and citizens will understand, which state that juveniles should not normally be named. The point about ASBOs, however, is that they are supposed to be different and to have a wider aspect, so that people in the community of a person who is the subject of an ASBO know to whom the order applies.

The situation in that particular case is slightly complicated because although the original district judge—who used to be known as the county court judge—refused to lift the anonymity of the two brothers, the police felt so strongly about the matter that they appealed to the High Court, where Mr. Justice Elias overruled the district judge's decision and sent the case back to the lower court to be reconsidered. However, to the regret of the police, although the High Court judge believed that the first district judge had applied the wrong criteria, he did not withdraw the brothers' right to anonymity. Most lawyers would understand that he was giving a firm hint to the district judge who reconsidered the matter that the case should be treated in a different way. Again, to the fury of the police, the second district judge reached the same conclusion as the first district judge, did not take the hint from the High Court judge and did not lift the right to anonymity, but he did so for a different reason. Who knows whether there will be yet another appeal?

I do not expect the Minister to accept the amendments, but I hope that he may, at least, be able to consider the matter over a longer period, in his usual helpful way, and decide that it is a serious issue. The local police and local authority in my constituency contend that ASBOs are different and that the normal rules concerning the anonymity of juveniles should be reconsidered. I am not suggesting a wholesale reform of the law or a whole new policy for juvenile courts, because in normal circumstances there are good reasons why anonymity should be retained. However, the strong view of senior police officers, the chief executive and those in my local authority who support him, based on the difficulties that they experienced in that case, is that we should introduce a provision to the effect that, in normal circumstances juveniles who are subject to an ASBO will be named and shamed, but that exceptional reasons may be argued as to why anonymity should not be lifted, introducing a reverse burden. I have put the issue before the Committee fairly and squarely, and I look forward to the Minister's response.

Ms Munn: I shall be brief. I fundamentally oppose the proposal. When I was in a partnership that dealt with anti-social behaviour orders, we agreed that the police would always oppose the naming of young people. The reason why we do not name young people in criminal proceedings is well founded. The characters of young people under a certain age are still being formed and are open to change, so naming young people is counter-productive. I believe that that holds good for anti-social behaviour orders. Many local people in areas where ASBO's are applied for know who is involved. They may even have given evidence in a case. There is no evidence to show that those young

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people should be named. Naming them gives them notoriety. That is likely to make it harder to bring about the change in behaviour that the ASBO seeks to achieve. It will also make it harder for them to get a job or to be accepted within their community should their behaviour change. It should be strongly resisted, and the presumption should remain that young people should not be named and shamed.

Mr. Denham: Although I have the greatest respect for my hon. Friend and for her expertise in the matter, I am inclined to agree more with the hon. Member for Surrey Heath in this instance, but to resist the amendment. The Government's position is reflected in the training material for magistrates produced by the Judicial Studies Board. It says that

    ''enforcement of the order will normally depend on the general public being aware of the order and the identity of the person against whom it is made.''

There is a case for suggesting, as many people have done, that publicising an ASBO is necessary in order for it to have its fullest impact. However, there has to be balance. Local outcomes have not always been as satisfactory or as consistent as we might like, but this is new legislation.

As a civil proceeding, the ASBO is not subject to automatic reporting restrictions, whatever the age of the defendant. Therefore, the defence has to ask for a reporting restriction on the basis of the age of the defendant under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, so the case has to be argued from a starting point at which it is assumed that the person will be named. It is different in a criminal case, which the Bill introduces for the first time. In that case, there can be a discretion to lift reporting restrictions. Our view, generally, is that we are sympathetic with the case for there being publicity, but we are not persuaded of the need to change the surrounding legislation. There are issues concerning the understanding of magistrates and others of how the legislation is intended to work. They will best be addressed through training and education.

 
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