Joint Committee on Human Rights First Report



I. Part 7 of the Bill: Bail for, and Detention of, Young Persons, and other Criminal Justice Measures

93. Clauses 132 to 135 of the Bill were introduced by way of Government amendments during the Bill's Committee Stage in the House of Commons. They were thus not covered by the Home Secretary's statement of compatibility under section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998, made when the Bill was first introduced to the House of Commons. Clauses 132, 133 and 134 would make provision for certain children and young people charged with criminal offences to be remanded in custody to local authority secure accommodation, or to be given bail subject to a condition that they accept electronic monitoring while on bail. The provision for remand in custody engages the right to liberty under ECHR Article 5.1, but seems to us to be justified by reference to the purposes for which the remand in custody would be imposed, either to enforce an obligation not to commit offences (Article 5.1(b)) or as being reasonably necessary to prevent the person from committing offences (Article 5.1(c)). Electronic monitoring engages the right to respect for private and family life under Article 8.1, but the conditions for such monitoring appear to meet the justifying criteria of Article 8.2, as long as courts satisfy themselves in each individual case that the monitoring is necessary in a democratic society (i.e. represents a proportionate response to a pressing social need) in order to prevent crime.

94. Clause 135 would allow juveniles to be remanded to secure training centres in certain circumstances. This might cause them to be accommodated with convicted adults in some circumstances. ICCPR Article 10(2)(b) and (3) and CRC Article 37(c) require juveniles to be detained separately from adults, and those on remand to be separated from convicted prisoners. The United Kingdom has entered reservations to those provisions which effectively prevent them from binding the United Kingdom. It follows that clause 135 would not give rise to a violation of the United Kingdom's obligations in international law. However, we are concerned that the United Kingdom appears to be refusing to accept international standards on the treatment of juveniles in custody. We therefore asked the Minister whether the Government intend to maintain those reservations, and, if so, why they wished to do so. In a written response, the Government stated that they 'have no immediate plans' to remove the reservations.[117] The Government accept that, ideally, young people in custody should be kept separately from adults, and unconvicted prisoners should be accommodated separately from convicted prisoners. However, having reviewed the position in England and Wales with the advice of the Youth Justice Board and HM Prison Service, the Government have concluded that the limited number of sites offering secure accommodation for young people, the relatively small number of young women and girls in custody, and the desirability of offering a range of facilities and activities to people in custody make it organisationally and financially impracticable to ensure that juveniles will always be accommodated and undertake activities separately from adults, and that unconvicted detainees will be accommodated and undertake activities separately from convicted prisoners. Indeed, the Government point out that resource constraints mean that the objectives of keeping convicted and unconvicted prisoners apart will not always be compatible with the aim of separating juveniles from adults and that of keeping young people in detention as close as possible to their homes and families.[118]

95. In the light of this, we accept that there are good reasons for maintaining the reservations, but we hope and expect that the objectives of the international instruments will be regarded by policy-makers and decision-makers in the youth justice system as weighty considerations when exercising discretion at both individual and general policy levels.


117   Home Office Supplementary Memorandum, para. 2. Back

118   Home Office Supplementary Memorandum, paras. 4-13. Back


 
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