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Violence in Teenage Penal Institutions

7 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton rose to call attention to the report of the Howard League Commission of Inquiry into violence in penal institutions for teenagers under 18 entitled Banged Up, Beaten Up, Cutting Up; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I address the Motion, I should like to say that I am very pleased to welcome the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, to our debate. There has been some speculation as to whether or not he would speak from the Front Bench or the Back Bench. However, the matter has now been resolved. I warmly welcome him.

The report concentrates on violence in penal institutions for teenagers under the age of 18. I am glad that we do not have to deal with penal chains in this debate. The House of Commons was dealing with penal chains for women only very recently. The report reveals horrifying and totally unacceptable violence in institutions for the young--not only by bullying, but also, and particularly disturbing, self-harm and, in far too many cases, suicide or attempted suicide, however difficult the authorities seek to make it.

But the report goes much wider. It deals comprehensively with violence in society in general and particularly in the home which has led many young people to commit the unsocial and often violent crimes which result in their being given penal custody. The review was conducted against the background of the obligations which the nation owes to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by this country in 1991. I shall attempt to cover that wider ground.

The first matter I find disturbing is the fact that the Government do not pay due regard to the UN convention which they ratified such a short time ago. At that time the number of 10 to 16 year-olds guilty or cautioned was static or falling, as the Home Office figures for 1990-93 show. Those figures are given on page 19 of the report. That static or falling tendency has now been reversed, seemingly as a result of deliberate policy by the Government. The 1988 Green Paper Punishment, Custody and the Community, represented a real advance and seemed to have general consensus as well as reflecting government policy. I shall quote the extract from it given in the report:


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How long ago that seems now. The Criminal Justice Act 1991 reflected the spirit. It introduced a number of community-based penalties for young people under the age of 18 and limited custody for 15 to 17 year-olds to 12 months' detention in a young offenders' institution.

All that now seems to have changed. The general understanding then among those working within the criminal justice system was that many young people committing criminal offences were vulnerable, came from chaotic family backgrounds and were in need of special care and protection. That understanding accords with research by the Policy Studies Institute for the Home Office in 1994; alas, it does not seem to be appreciated by the Government.

It is clear that the Government have been blown off course by the panic outcry against so-called "persistent young offenders" and by the killing of James Bulger in 1993. Unfortunately, that combination led to confusion between the persistent, or very persistent, and the very serious offender. I believe that that was a mistake.

I suppose it is coincidental that the Government now behave as if they would prefer not to have acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and would prefer increased and more severe forms of custody and the reduction of punishment in the community. Hence some of the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

I should also mention what I can only call the infamous sound-bite at the Conservative conference that "prison works". Prison certainly does not work: upwards of 70 per cent. of its inmates offend again. Prison fails to inhibit re-offending among the young as well as older prisoners. The most successful young offender institution has a reconviction rate of 70 per cent.; others are much worse. How anyone can subscribe to the boast that prison works when we have a success rate of only 30 per cent. or less is beyond my imagination.

The abandonment of the 1988 White Paper ideals has led to overcrowding. Sentencing patterns have changed. That makes things worse for constructive regimes in our prisons. Overcrowding means that prison officers do not have the time (what with locking and unlocking) to conduct prisoners to and from education and other meliorative activities. Overcrowding tends to heighten tensions in prison and makes it much more difficult for prison officers to watch out for, and prevent, routine violent behaviour such as bullying. They are much more likely to be watching out for serious trouble. Even in the most positive regimes, programmes and activities (including leisure activities) become restricted or go by the board.

I turn to another major worry; namely, the conflict of interest and duty between the Home Office and some other government departments, notably the Department of Health. The latter department, certainly when it was the DHSS, was responsible for the welfare of children. But apparently that responsibility ceases when the child becomes a criminal which can happen at the very young age of 10. Indeed, it is even lower in Scotland and

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Northern Ireland. The child is still obliged to attend education, but the national curriculum does not seem to operate in prison.

Most penal establishments try to encourage all young people to attend classes, but the quality of facilities is low. The standard of literacy among prisoners, both old and young, is low and speaks for itself. An illiterate and innumerate prison society is probably a more violent society and, in any case, its members are unlikely to be eligible for any but the lowest paid jobs on release.

If the departments for health and education had a higher status as regards young prisoners, a far higher quality of regime could be obtained. I wonder whether the Minister can comment on the quality of regimes, particularly in education, and say whether the Children Act 1989 and its regulations are followed so far as possible where the young offender is concerned.

I reiterate that far too many children from violent and chaotic backgrounds are sent to penal institutions where they meet violence. Violence tends to breed violence. If children need to be locked up, they should go, preferably--I know this is an ideal--to local authority secure accommodation where violence is much less known than in penal institutions and where children are far better attended to than in prison custody. As the report shows and strongly recommends, the children would benefit and society would benefit if that were to happen.

I wish to say a few words about training centres on the model of the glasshouse designed for defaulting soldiers. Children are not defaulting soldiers. Discipline designed for adult soldiers is not in the least appropriate for child offenders. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to say something about the proposed "boot camps" and whether she thinks they will offer less opportunity for violence to take place than local authority secure accommodation. The same applies to all secure training centres that are planned. I believe that the culture of violence revealed by the report in existing penal institutions is something which children should not be exposed to. I very much hope to hear from the noble Baroness that steps are being taken to make things better. I beg to move for Papers.

7.11 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Mackay of Drumadoon): My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, for affording me the opportunity of making my maiden speech on such an important and interesting topic. Perhaps before I pass to the short contribution that I seek to make to your Lordships' discussion I should begin with an apology for any confusion that may arise through the introduction of yet another Lord Mackay into your Lordships' House. I hasten to assure your Lordships that this is no part of a clan takeover. Moreover, now that there are three Lord Mackays in Her Majesty's Government your Lordships should not take that as evidence of the development of a clan within a party. My noble friend the Chief Whip has assured me that that would not be welcome.

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It is, however, a great privilege for me to make my maiden speech with my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in his usual place on the Woolsack. It is over 25 years since we first worked together as lawyers in Scotland. At that time I was a solicitor; indeed our first contact occurred when I was only an apprentice solicitor. Despite my lack of seniority, I was in a position of being able to give instructions to my noble and learned friend who was at that time in practice at the Scottish Bar. I understand that those days are behind me! In the fullness of time, with not a little encouragement from my noble and learned friend, I was myself called to the Bar. It was then that certain confusion began to arise. As is the position in your Lordships' House, we were not the only Mackays around. For that reason papers sent by firms of solicitors occasionally ended up with the wrong Mackay and--possibly more surprisingly--consultations were even arranged with the wrong clan member. Those clients of mine who came face to face with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor felt honoured by the experience. I regret to say that his clients did not take the same view when they came face to face with me. Reactions of annoyance and shell-shock were common. I trust that your Lordships will not similarly discriminate between our speeches in the future.

I should explain that throughout my practice as a lawyer I have practised almost exclusively in Scotland. It is only through membership of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board that I have had any exposure to those who have been detained in penal institutions for young people in England and Wales. Your Lordships will appreciate that on occasions such young offenders are themselves the victims of crimes of violence. They apply for criminal injuries compensation and on occasion they are held entitled to receive it. My limited experience of the situation in England and Wales does not really qualify me to comment in detail on the report which the Howard League has prepared. Rather I seek to content myself with a few observations based on my experience as a lawyer in Scotland. At different stages in my career both as counsel and as solicitor I have worked with juvenile offenders. I have both prosecuted them and defended them on charges ranging from the most trivial to the crime of murder. Of necessity I have had to visit clients in various institutions throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.

As the Howard League report helpfully reminds us, juvenile courts in Scotland were replaced in 1971 by the children's hearing system. That system deals with all but the most serious offences committed by teenagers generally under the age of 16 years. Children are referred to the children's hearing when they are deemed to be in need of compulsory measures of care. That can arise on a variety of grounds, whether they be accused of committing offences or whether indeed they have been the victim of such offences. As your Lordships will know, the children's hearing is constituted by lay members of the public who are properly trained in this important work. They work not only with the young offenders themselves but also with their parents, social workers and other professionals trying to address the whole needs of the child. As total a view of the welfare

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as possible is taken, and sometimes this can be dealt with by a non-residential supervision requirement. On other occasions some form of residence is required. Occasionally it is with another adult relative, and sometimes with foster parents, but from time to time the young people have to be kept in secure accommodation notwithstanding the fact that they are not yet 16 years of age.

I think it is well recognised that both within and furth of Scotland the children's hearing system is much admired but nevertheless those who pass through it do not always benefit from the approach which is adopted. The complete look at the welfare--the involvement of the parents and other professionals--does not meet with success in every instance. That seeks to illustrate the first point that I wish to make to your Lordships; namely, that it is unrealistic to expect that any one procedure for dealing with young offenders can be expected to achieve 100 per cent. success with every individual who passes through it. As any young offender passes through a system, whether it be the children's hearing system or the young offenders institution, or what have you, he or she benefits in a different way and to a different extent. One must bear that in mind when considering this important topic.

The other principal point I seek to make is to guard against a feeling of despondency. Those who work with young offenders, whether they prosecute them or defend them or whether they act as their social workers or their probation officers or they sit in court dealing with young offenders, are inclined from time to time to feel despondent about the problems these youngsters face and the serious problems they get into and, equally, about the serious problems they create for others. Indeed, reading through the Howard League report, that feeling of despondency comes across fairly forcefully in the text of the report itself. In my experience it is important to guard against such a feeling of despondency. Some young offenders learn quicker than others. Some benefit from their first experience in custody and resolve never to offend again. For others it takes longer. That is another important lesson which has to be borne in mind.

Undoubtedly the punishment element of youth custody is not confined to the loss of liberty. Bullying and occasional self-harm are major problems which require to be addressed. They are certainly being addressed in Scotland. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Blatch will explain in detail how they are being addressed south of the Border. Although these problems arise from time to time, it would be a serious mistake to imagine that every young offender who passes through an institution is faced with these difficulties. Not every inmate of a young offenders institution is either a bully or a victim of bullying. Many of them serve their sentence and get on with their lives when they come out. Certainly, my experience of working with them, both prosecuting them and defending them, is that they tend to be much more resilient than many of the very disturbing incidents which are discussed in the Howard League report suggest.

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I hope that those observations from north of the Border will be of assistance to your Lordships in this very interesting debate.

7.20 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, I should like to express the pleasure of the whole House at the maiden speech which has been delivered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon. He spoke from the Front Bench, but his interest in the matter as a Scottish lawyer and his concern for the needs of the child are widely appreciated. I am sure that the House will draw on his experience as a successful Scottish advocate.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for enabling us to have this debate on this sombre report by the Howard League. The House will know that I speak this evening on a subject on which I have no great expertise. Many Members of your Lordships' House have great knowledge of the subject. Nevertheless, I speak in the debate because of my concern about the position in Wales as revealed by the report. The report devotes four separate subsections to the situation in Wales, and they too make for sombre reading.

I am bound to begin with the prisons in Cardiff and Swansea, where most Welsh juvenile defendants on remand are placed. I believe that 11 teenagers have died in those two establishments during the last 11 years. The report itself deals at some length with the circumstances surrounding the death in Cardiff Prison in 1994 of 17 year-old Joseph Stanley. An inquest was duly held, but the commissioners describe its proceedings as a farce. They have come to the conclusion that there may never be a full explanation of what happened to young Joseph.

Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness what is the policy of the Home Office towards the sudden death of a juvenile within a place of custody, the need for a thorough investigation of the facts and the need to ensure that legal aid is available so that there can be representation of his or her family at an inquest.

On page 28 of the report we are reminded that since the suicide of 15 year-old Philip Knight in Swansea Prison in 1990 the Howard League has consistently warned of the danger to young people in Welsh prisons. It now warns that that danger has not gone away, and overcrowding must make it worse.

We are bound to ask why so many juveniles on remand are being routinely locked up in those two prisons for up to 22 hours a day with two or three in a cell, as described in the report. Why are there no education classes, no training and work facilities? Why is there that virtually complete inactivity?

The report rightly acknowledges that some improvements have been made since Judge Tumim's report in 1992. But it is also plain that conditions are still far below what could reasonably be expected. I sympathise, and I support expenditure on patching and improving old buildings in response to the pressing needs of the present. At the same time it should be

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emphasised that that is also expenditure on a structure and a system which are beyond redemption. What is required is expenditure on new secure care units in the community in the context of a long-term programme.

My second topic concerns the slow pace of reform in Wales. Since 1989, reflecting a movement in England, there have been a series of reviews of secure care facilities in Wales, followed by a substantial review in August 1991 which recommended that there should be a single all-Wales unit of 18 secure places outside prison for boys only.

It will be next summer before the 1991 recommendation will be implemented. Plainly, and understandably, it cannot solve all the problems overnight. However, with support from the departments of state--the Home Office and the Welsh Office-- I believe that it has a substantial contribution to make to the development and improvement of the service for young delinquents in Wales. However, given the anxieties expressed on page 75 of the report, I ask the noble Baroness what will be the regime for that unit.

There is worrying evidence that the Welsh courts in recent years have adopted a more punitive approach to their work. One senior prison officer at Swansea summed it up:


    "I've never seen such a percentage of juveniles coming in".

Further corroboration can be derived from another Welsh Office document that since October 1992 the courts in Mid Glamorgan--the area where I live--have dramatically increased the use of their powers to remand juveniles. I wonder whether the Welsh Office and the Home Office are seriously seeking an explanation for that increase and examining its implications.

The Howard League commissioners were also particularly concerned that the number of juveniles in Welsh prisons who had been through the care system was very high--it could be as high as 90 per cent. according to one witness--suggesting as it does a failure in the residential care system. I should like to know whether that linkage is being examined as recommended on page 75 of the report.

Those are my greatest concerns.

7.27 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I should like to echo the thanks expressed to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, for his maiden speech. I do not know how often a maiden speech has been made from the Front Bench, and I have certainly never heard one before, but it was a great pleasure that the noble and learned Lord was able to bring to our attention experience from Scotland which might otherwise have been passed over.

Perhaps I should say, following the two previous speakers, that I speak from an English point of view. What I have to say is based on experience which may be somewhat out of date in many ways, but the report brought to my mind contacts with borstals which between 1960 and 1970 I had as a college chaplain in Oxford. My own college joined with four or five others in running camps in Wensleydale in which an equal

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number of undergraduates and borstal boys shared a common life for a week. It included a two-day hike up the dales, sleeping out, and another week inside the borstal. In the 10 camps of which I had personal knowledge I do not remember a single occasion of a borstal boy absconding. Friendships were formed which in many cases have continued. I hope I do not embarrass the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, if I say that one of my most vivid memories is of her playing ping-pong with the borstal boys, and generally winning. I use that example to illustrate one of the points that I wish to make forcefully, which is the importance of personal influence.

The value of the camps, especially in preparing the borstal boys for release, was commended by all the borstal officers and governors. I should like to testify to the high quality and caring nature of the officers who came to the camps with the boys. What is relevant to part of this report is that I remember clearly their regret at the borstal system having been taken over by the Home Office and the changed ethos which resulted from that.

Most of the colleges were linked with open borstals but my own was with the closed borstal which had been built as a prison at Everthorpe near Hull. What I read on page 24 and the following pages of the report awakened memories of Everthorpe and the sensation of being locked in there. I do not know how many Members of your Lordships' House have spent nights locked into a prison, but it is a rather terrifying experience. That brief experience of being in prison enables me to understand what is stated later in the report about the pressures which lead to suicides and attempted suicides.

Another memory from those days bears on the use of adult prisons for boys on remand. In the 1960s many boys were sent after sentence to Wormwood Scrubs while it was decided which borstal they should go to. While there, they picked up a prison mythology--the glamour (I do not think that that is too strong a word) of the more notorious and longer serving prisoners in the Scrubs who were talked about. There is great danger in putting young people with older prisoners. Therefore I agree with and strongly support the recommendations at page 67.

I recognise that since 1970 things have changed. The number of young offenders has increased. I recognise that there are always likely to be those who do not respond. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, mentioned them when he said that no system can ever be 100 per cent. effective. However, the need to treat them all as persons remains. Caring must be a central element, and that requires a large number of highly trained and caring officers. I hope also that an imaginative way of using young people of similar age as volunteers, as we did in the borstal camps, may be found. Personal contact, personal influence, is valuable and important.

The 15 to 18 year-old young offenders are as much part of our future as are other young people who are still at school, and they should be treated and cared for as such. The report, I fear, lays out facts which indicate how far we are from carrying that out at the present time.

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7.33 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull: My Lords, perhaps I may join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for initiating the debate. Perhaps I may also say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, that he joins two other luminaries in this House--two other Mackays. We should not mind a few others coming down from Scotland as we greatly admire what is done with juveniles in Scotland.

I have read the report of the Howard League Commission of Inquiry. However, I hope that in addition to commenting on the report I may be forgiven in this short speech for drawing upon my personal experience, and that of my committee and staff, on the Oxford City Council Social Services, prior to that in the children's department, and even further back in the Home Office and Ministry of Health Inspectorate.

The profound belief of the Oxford department for which I worked was, first, that there should be a close working relationship between education and social services offering a preventive care work service to vulnerable families to prevent the break-up of families and to give support and a service to vulnerable children. We could wish that such a service had been given to the boys involved in the Bulger case, already referred to. If that had happened, the Bulger boy might be alive today.

Secondly, wherever possible and practicable, children found guilty of an offence and committed to care should be dealt with in the area in which they live. They should be kept in close contact with their families. To a large measure, that prevents suicides. I believe that on discharge children would join their families and have a better relationship with them. Furthermore, they could be kept in touch with local clubs, training facilities and the psychiatric services. I have to say that we had a splendid child guidance clinic to help the children and support the staff. It is an indictment of our time that a proportion of children sleeping rough are from residential establishments, not having been kept in touch with their families.

Thirdly, as the remand home (now called secure unit) was local, a sound relationship could be encouraged between the staff, the parents and the child. To this end parents could visit weekly, often at weekends. They could also attend case conferences and could be helped to understand their children and experience a sense of responsibility for them. Furthermore, the parents could help the staff to understand the problems and the background of their children. In my 18 years of service in Oxford City, only about 12 children were sent away from the city and many of them live to this day as happily married men with families within the city.

The underlying philosophy in dealing with juvenile delinquents is that it must be clearly understood by parents, children and social workers that there is a state of mind which understands that there is right and wrong. There may be extenuating circumstances leading to wrongdoing, but they cannot and must not be an excuse for committing crimes.

There is much good work being done by some local authority secure units, remand centres and youth treatment centres. However, there should be well trained

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staff, social workers, residential care staff and educationists. It is a sad reflection on our services that there has not been training for those seeking to work with children and young persons in a residential setting who have committed offences. A voluntary organisation has set up a training college for residential staff; namely, the Caldecott College. I declare an interest in the college as I am chairman of the Caldecott Community. I pay tribute to the staff of the college who have set up this new venture; and I also pay tribute to Sir Evelyn de Rothschild who is helping to make the training possible.

It is on the statute book that there should be five secure training units, each with 40 children aged 12 to 14 years at a cost of £30 million a year. That may or may not be a successful project. But I believe that it is an expensive one and I do not believe that it is the right one. Where possible the care, control and training of juvenile delinquents should be carried out in the area in which they live, mixing with the people they know and learning to make personal relationships with those with whom they have been brought up.

I cannot believe that the prison type of strategy is the right one for training our children. Many of them suffer emotional disturbance and, sadly, we have to send some children away from the area in which they live because there are very few therapeutic units that are able to help children locally. Of course, it is a very expensive area.

I recognise that the Home Office has a difficult task and I know that my noble friend Lady Blatch understands the problems. It is the wish of both the Department of Health and the Home Office to work together. I hope that we may help the children of our areas by setting up good local secure units with good trained staff working with the parents, social workers, clubs and youth training centres in the areas in which the children live. In that way I believe that we will prevent children from sleeping rough on our streets.

7.41 p.m.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, if anyone is interested in my views on young offenders, I suppose I may recommend my book Young Offenders, published two or three years ago. However, like everyone else tonight, I am subjected to the iron discipline of the House with its seven-minute sound bites. I may have to use most of that in offering congratulations, especially to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. There are so many reasons why he is admired in this House that I shall only add one more. It is that, as president of New Bridge, which I founded 40 years ago, he has made a tremendous success of that organisation.

All of us concerned with young offenders, young children and young people, look up to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. She has gained a kind of sanctified status in the area. Perhaps that is almost embarrassing but I find it a great privilege to follow her. I also look forward to hearing my acting Leader, my noble friend Lord McIntosh, because he will make sure that the impression that the Labour Party is not so interested as it once was in penal reform is a delusion.

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I must not forget to congratulate the Minister, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, the maiden speaker. The right reverend Prelate wondered whether anyone had made a maiden speech from the Front Bench. I am sure that people have. I myself made one from the Front Bench 50 years ago. I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on his.

I have only a few minutes, so what can I say? I shall not deal with the most difficult problem, which was just touched on at the end of the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and which is that some people have to be sent away. In the most severe cases, such as that of the young schoolboy who murdered the headmaster, I do not think it is enough to say, "Let the local authority provide some accommodation". The state has to take a responsibility in that case and the Department of Health has institutions of a suitable kind. I am only saying that if people are to be sent away outside the local authority area, the Department of Health and not the Home Office should be responsible.

I would rather spend these few minutes on discussing what are called "local secure units". A certain magic is beginning to be attached to their name. They are fallible, like everything else in this world. Last week I visited one which it was suggested to me might be the best. I also visited a prison which I know very well, although it is not called a prison: it is the Feltham Young Offenders Institution. I was able to make a comparison. It is worth spending a few minutes on considering the two kinds of institution.

No one can doubt that if one had a young person in whom one was interested, one would rather he went to the high-class local secure unit than any kind of penal institution. But the facts may not be in the minds of most noble Lords: they were not in mine. Orchard House, which I visited, is a fine place where 70 staff look after 28 young people, eight of them in a totally secure unit. That is 70 staff to 28 young people. I also visited Feltham, where there are two units. In each unit there are 64 young people under 18, looked after by 16 staff. So the ratio in a secure unit at the moment is 10 times as good as in prison. If we are talking about prison, we must realise that we are not talking about a level playing field.

What are the implications? I am not the devil's advocate. I have never, so far as I remember, said a good word in this House for Mr. Michael Howard's policies. However, I almost began to feel sympathetic at one point, relatively speaking, though I shall not dwell on penal reform to the extent of coming out for Howardism. The fact is that prisons are not really quite so bad as the report makes out. Its heading is Banged Up, Beaten Up, Cutting Up. I pay my tribute to the Howard League for producing it and to the secretary who is giving a new impetus to the league. However, I hope that when the Howard League produces another excellent report it will not reproduce that cover. It is a totally misleading account of life in prison. No one who goes to prisons every week as I have done this morning could assume that that is life in prison. Perhaps I may put before the Howard League, with great respect, that I hope that it will not spoil an impressive report with that kind of nonsense on the cover.

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That is by the way. Looking at the future, what do we think? I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, that there are a few people who should go somewhere else under the Department of Health. I do not say that there should be five units of 40 people, but at any rate some ought to go. Otherwise I am all for saying that no one under 18 should be in prison. We should transfer them to places that are much better, but that means spending money.

Let us face the implications. If we are considering giving effect to the Howard League proposals, we are talking about spending money and giving young people under 18 a much better regime than they have now. There is no way of getting round it. It is not just an ideological question; it is a question of money. I leave that thought before the House, because it did not occur to me until I went to those two places last week and saw the enormous difference. The governor of Feltham or anyone else can go there tomorrow and say: "If I had the money, of course I could do a much better job". That is one important point.

The other point expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has been mentioned before in these debates. The training of staff in secure units is by no means satisfactory. It may vary greatly but it is not satisfactory. There again, we must spend much more money on training staff.

7.49 p.m.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale: My Lords, when I read this report I could not help recalling how bullying and self-harm were among those problems with which we had to cope when, a long time ago and even before the reminiscences of the right reverend Prelate, I had some direct concern with the running of prisons and borstals. The problems, indeed, are not new. But we had smaller numbers; drugs were not so prevalent; the gang culture of those days--Mods and Rockers notwithstanding--had, I think, a smaller element of violence than today; and the public was not that much concerned about prison conditions. It meant that, when resources were being handed out, prisons and borstals came a long way down the queue. But at the same time we were left to grapple with our problems in comparative obscurity and the Home Office spokesman in the Lords did not have to face debates on prisons every other fortnight or a so-called "Prisons Minister" appear on the box night after night.

It seems to me all to the good that there are now some signs, however faint, of a social conscience about the way in which those committed to custody are treated; and that it has proved possible to carry out improvements, some of them quite expensive, without affronting public opinion. But there is obviously still some considerable way to go. One trouble is that the very nature of prison life always has been a fertile breeding ground for bullying. Boredom, aggression looked on as normal behaviour, limited access to prison currency like tobacco, the reliance sometimes put by the officers on the prisoners' own pecking order, the reluctance of individuals to tell on their fellows, all add up to the creation of a state of affairs where bullying

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can too easily flourish. I could continue at length on this topic, but time is short. I shall limit myself to four simple questions.

The first relates to official guidance. On 20th December, answering a Question about Holloway (at col. 1603), the Minister stated that the Government took the issue of bullying in all prisons very seriously and that clear guidance had been given to establishments on how to address and reduce the problem. She will have seen the suggestions in this report that, when seen from the other end, as it were, in the prisons themselves, the application of the guidance seems to be patchy and uncertain. I hope that the Minister will feel able to comment.

Secondly, does the Minister see any hope of ending altogether the practice of holding 15 and 16 year-old boys on remand in adult prisons such as Kingston upon Hull and Gloucester, as well as Swansea and Cardiff? The undesirability of keeping boys locked in their cells for much of the day and, equally, the risk of undesirable associations, speak for themselves. The Minister may agree that the educational facilities which it is possible to provide for boys of school age who are detained on remand in prison leave a good deal to be desired.

My third question links directly with the previous one. It relates to the programme for the provision of more local authority secure units. When we were discussing the 1994 Bill, I recall that we were told that there were some 270 places and that the Health Secretary was providing financial aid for a further 170--not all of them, I appreciate, for those who had been through the criminal courts. But, far from there having been an expansion since then, the total seems, so far as I can make out, to have shrunk and the provision of these units seems to be even patchier than it was. It would be most helpful to know what the prospects are. It looks as though the programme is running very late.

It is probably quite unfair, but I cannot help wondering whether there is just a hint here of divided responsibility, and whether this is the long-term consequence of the decision, which I regretted so much at the time, to move the children's department from the Home Office, where it helped to provide a human face to what is inevitably otherwise a somewhat austere department.

My fourth and last question relates to the comments in the Howard League report about the privately run Doncaster prison. Tribute is paid to some of the facilities, but it is suggested that there are no proper programmes in place to deal with bullying and self-harm. Those who visited the prison came away with feelings of concern about the ability of the inexperienced staff to provide a safe and caring regime for young people. Those comments do nothing to lessen the apprehensions that some of us have felt all along about the ability and qualifications of the staff of the new secure training centres to cope, among all the other difficulties, with the problems of bullying and self-harm. I am pretty sure that the Minister does not share these apprehensions and will no doubt say so. However, I fear that my doubts cannot be easily removed. Only time will show whether, as I hope, I am wrong.

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7.55 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, there is much in the report that we are debating, for which our thanks go to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. The report is to be commended and very carefully read. However, that view has to be tempered by the continued attitude contained therein of those who wish to approach the problem of crime or thuggery committed either in prison or outside with a "soft glove", which is an offence to decent citizens and undermines the very fabric of our society.

I want to concentrate on just one word in the report--"bullying". It is described on page 33 as,


    "conduct motivated by a desire to hurt ... or frighten someone",

which takes several forms including actual assault or threats of violence which all too often lead to actual violence and in some cases death. It is admitted that bullies can make life unbearable for their victims. The report further admits that if bullying is allowed to flourish it creates no-go areas, not only in prison but, increasingly, outside. We have all heard of the no-go areas of Brixton and Liverpool. But now, even in my own local town of Harrogate, which was always traditionally recognised as a rather gentle spa where life goes on in a very pleasant and gentle way, there are now areas where even the police fear to tread.

It is sad, to say the least, and worrying at worst, that the Youth Treatment Service declares (page 91) that it,


    "does not view it as acceptable to 'bully the bully'"

It declares that,


    "The normal punishment is [merely] to reduce ... privileges so that the bully gets early bed, no pocket money ... no access to certain parts of the unit".

That cannot be, and is not, good enough. There is nothing much left to deter from his ways the young thug who has been committed to prison. Indeed, outside prison the thug in the street has little to fear from a custodial sentence. He will think nothing of setting to work to bully, beat up, rob, maim and sometimes kill people of whatever age. The only way to counter this evil is to give the bully some of his own medicine. By that I mean a flogging.

I know that that suggestion is anathema to organisations such as the Howard League, and perhaps to some Members of this House and many Members of another place. But it is not anathema to many hundreds of thousands--in fact, I should think the majority--of citizens outside these Houses. Flogging has the purpose of making the bully aware of his own aggression and making it hurt. It is also humiliating. Not even a bully likes that.

I am well aware that Britain is associated with various conventions, and not least with the European Court of Human Rights. However, if by such association the very fabric of our life is threatened, there is every justification for withdrawing from such affiliation.

Of course, ideally we have a responsibility to try to provide the right environment, wherein thuggery has no place. It would be highly desirable to prevent it from birth. The trouble is that bullying starts in the home. I say "the trouble" because today so many mothers need to go out to work that the upbringing of the young very

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much takes second place. I do not want to be taken the wrong way. I have absolutely nothing against women playing a very active part in life. In particular, there are many areas in which women are far better qualified than men. But one cannot have it both ways. If a mother is away from home, her guidance of the family evaporates and trouble starts.

Another way in which we can lend a hand in turning young people into useful members of society is by gainfully occupying them. Perhaps some form of national service would be ideal and beneficial in many ways. At school stern punishment could well be applied without the governing authorities forever living under the threat of being sued or taken to the all-powerful Court of Human Rights.

Unless such matters are addressed in a more practical and determined way, I fear that within a comparatively short space of time citizens of this country will be driven to taking the law into their own hands--in my view, rightly so. As we know, that has been demonstrated recently by two people who were invaded by violent burglars. I find that prospect frightening. It leads inevitably to anarchy.

Parliament has a responsibility to tackle these problems in a positive and determined fashion, which excludes a pussy-footed approach to those who have no desire other than to maim, kill or injure to satisfy their sick minds. Some of that does not feature in the report.

8.2 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I too should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, on initiating this debate. I agree with the extremely interesting maiden speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, and in particular with his point that no system in the world will be perfect and achieve 100 per cent. success. Some very important points have been raised, in particular the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale.

There are two issues of great importance raised by this report. The first is that, notwithstanding the dedicated commitment of the overwhelming majority of staff who deal with young offenders in the institutions in which they are put into custody, there is uncovered a degree of bullying, self-abuse, suicide attempts and sexual assaults among those young people which is unacceptable in a civilised society as behaviour occurring while that society is responsible for keeping them--children--in the establishment. Secondly, there is the issue of the prevention of crime and protection of people in the community from future offences that could be committed by young people.

I cannot agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, about the second of those issues, the prevention of further offences committed by people who have been deprived of their liberty. To a certain extent the question as to which institution by name children and very young offenders are committed is, in one sense, less important than the kind of institution to which they are committed and the regime that is possible. Many of those young people have themselves

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been the victims of violence and abuse. I cannot believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in particular, would want to condone turning a blind eye to continued violence and abuse while they are in custody.

I have met many such young people when lecturing in a voluntary capacity to young people in prisons. Many of them indicated that they had serious problems very early in their school careers. Often they are within that group of young people who are at risk because of behavioural problems which do not necessarily stem from the school but from a variety of circumstances--the community, the school and the home. I do not feel that it is helpful always to blame the parents. Sometimes the prevailing attitudes of peer groups make it extremely difficult for parents to counter that influence.

But there is a need within the provision of care for non-statemented special needs pupils to strengthen the preventive work that is done with very young children when first problems become apparent. The report highlights the fact that by the age of 11 years many such young people are truanting. Teachers will tell anyone who talks to them that they are aware that there are young people--they can be identified--who need, above all else, time: time from responsible, trained, experienced adults who can deal with young people who have behavioural and social attitude problems.

Therefore, the thread that runs through the answer to the challenges posed by this report is how we have a society which has so many people with a high level of education who are unable to be employed while at the other end of the spectrum work remains to be done. I make the point again. From conversations with prison officers and people working with young offenders it is clear that the most valuable resource of all--human time from adults--is denied to the system on the scale that is needed.

In this category I should like to refer with great sorrow--I am glad that my noble friend Lord Longford has returned to the Chamber--to the fact that I do not believe from my limited experience that the threat of bullying and physical and sexual abuse is, as he indicated, something which never or seldom occurs in penal establishments. I apologise to my noble friend if I misunderstood him.

I believe that our penal establishments--this is of particular concern when it affects young people--are understaffed to a point at which containment, instead of an attempt to reform and change attitudes, becomes the only means open to those working in the prison system. I believe that if we wish to see a change of attitude and want to protect members of the community from offences committed in the future by those young people, then as a society we must have the courage to say, "Custodial sentences--yes; but if the person is a child or a young offender, that custodial sentence must be in an appropriate institution". We must have the courage to fight those who believe that revenge is all, in the interests of preventing future offences occurring on the scale that occurs when young people are put into a system where they are abused and taught to be more violent and more uncivilised by the time that they leave.

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8.10 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: My Lords, along with other Members of this House, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for initiating this debate on this, as he puts it, "sombre" report. Also, I add my voice to those congratulating the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, on his maiden speech.

The report continues the work of the Howard League in drawing attention to the need for special care of young offenders and to the fact that prisons are, by and large, an inappropriate response to offending by young people under the age of 18. I should declare an interest as a member of the council of the Howard League. I want simply to concentrate on one issue; that is, the issue of suicide and self-harm.

Your Lordships will recall from the report that the commission found widespread self-harm throughout the prison system, even in prisons with well developed anti-bullying tactics. The figures given in the report speak for themselves. While improved recording measures may have had an impact on some of the figures, it is surely misleading to attribute the increase primarily to that factor. The focus therefore needs to be directed, as other noble Lords said, towards the effects of overcrowding, the failure of key elements in the Prison Service self-harm and suicide prevention strategy, and the increasing levels of violence and alienation affecting young prisoners.

In fairness, the Prison Service has sought to develop a more coherent strategy to reduce self-injury and suicide and of course no system can ever be foolproof if an individual is determined upon that specific course of action. But the report draws attention to the serious gap existing between policy and practice.

In April 1994 many Members of this House joined me in meeting the parents of some of the young men who had harmed themselves while in custody. To meet the families of those people was a heartbreaking experience. Many tell stories of not knowing where their children were within the system; of being unable to obtain adequate help for them; of being unable to visit them. As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, reminded us, an important element which needs to be emphasised over and over again is the element of holding families together. We need to break the cycle of violence and despair. Only time and affection can do that, as we know from our own experience of everyday living. My own children--two of whom are graduates and one of whom is still an undergraduate--are still extraordinarily dependent upon me and my wife, and the same surely applies to all young people in relationship with their parents. Therefore the idea that imprisonment is a safe and simple way of protecting the public ought to be questioned, as it is in the report.

Of course some young people are committing serious and deeply anti-social offences. But to concentrate on incarcerating damaged and delinquent adolescents in large and soulless institutions, often a long way from their families, is both harmful and inhumane. We are not protecting the public when up to 90 per cent. of

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young people reoffend after being in prison. We are not protecting dedicated prison staff when they are called to do a job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances without adequate support. And we are not protecting young people and helping them with their offending behaviour when we simply lock them away.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, mentioned, many of those adolescents have been in care for much of their lives. Many have been excluded from school or have excluded themselves from school for one reason or another. Very few of them have ever had a stable relationship. I remember visiting a young offenders' institution many years ago near the open prison in the west country. I remember going into the dining hall and talking to an officer, looking across at a young lad laying out a knife, fork and spoon on a table. The officer told me that he had had to teach the boy how to set out a knife, fork and spoon on a table because the boy had never had a meal in proper, ordinary, dignified circumstances. That is the level of some of the problems with which the Prison Service attempts to cope. Unemployment, alcoholism, violence in the family are the background to their childhood.

The evidence is that we still spend vast amounts of money producing increasing numbers of damaged and recidivist youngsters whose ability to cope with normal life or engage in positive relationships is reduced by the process of institutionalisation. We know that there are alternatives which can work; the evidence of the 1980s amply demonstrates that. We know, too, that experienced practitioners from both the probation and social work services can indicate positive ways forward. Can we not, for once, listen to that experience?

8.17 p.m.

Viscount Tenby: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, on his excellent maiden speech and, if I may be permitted to say so without presumption, one well up to the "Mackay" standard (as we call it in this place).

The recent report from the Howard League on conditions for teenagers in penal institutions makes-- I use the word without apology--sombre reading. We must accordingly be grateful to my noble friend Lord Henderson for giving this House the opportunity of discussing it. The fact is that sentencing policies for young people are in some disarray; disposals for young people are in some disarray and nothing illustrates that point more than this disturbing report.

Unlike many noble Lords, I suspect, I have had to send men and women to prison on occasion--not, it is true young offenders, but one is depriving people of their liberty just the same and committing them to an unattractive future which, quite frankly, can only be fully comprehended by those who have visited prisons.

There are two main reasons for custodial sentences; one unnecessary and the other necessary. The unnecessary category consists of those who are going to prison because they have come to the end of the legal road and the law does not provide for any other disposal. That is regrettable and a compassionate society should

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by now have provided suitable alternatives. The other, necessary, category consists of those who have to be removed from society in order, rightly, to protect its citizens and to show society's displeasure at what has been done. That, I have no doubt whatever, we should continue to do.

There is therefore a clear need for custodial sentencing for all but the youngest serious offenders. However, I am concerned with what happens in prison to people who are there and that is why the report makes such disturbing reading. I made clear at the time that I was, as I still am, opposed to the establishment of secure training centres for a whole variety of reasons which were well aired in this House during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill last year. I believe that the money set aside for those centres--of the order of £30 million--could much more profitably be spent on secure local authority places. Indeed, it is likely that the average weekly cost for inmates of the new STCs will not be far different from that for someone in a local authority unit.

Why is it preferable to look at secure local accommodation as an alternative to YOIs, STCs or prisons? This report tells us why. Staffing ratios may be 1:2 as opposed to 1:30, enabling constructive relationships to be developed. Security is, if anything, tighter, as it is bound to be with such a staff presence. Education for younger children--and there is a requirement for those under 15 which staffing levels in prisons and a lack of resources usually make unattainable--is a priority, and the secure local unit I visited some time ago, which is the same local secure unit visited by the noble Earl, Lord Longford--though I must say I came back with a slightly different interpretation from the one he has given today--was very impressive indeed. Bullying, so rife in adult prisons and remand wings of adult prisons, is easier to contain, again because of staffing levels and the relatively small numbers involved. In short, for me, local secure units have made their case.


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