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The Earl of Longford: My Lords, as the noble Viscount has mentioned me, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene. Does he realise that in the unit to which he referred, which is a fine place to which I pay tribute, there have been children of 12 along with young people of 17? But there is no perfection. It is a great mistake to talk as though there is a magic in it.
Viscount Tenby: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Earl for that intervention and I daresay that we shall continue, with the greatest deference to each other, perhaps slightly to disagree on this. I yield to no one in my admiration for the noble Earl's knowledge of prison matters. I am just a flea in comparison. However, I have stated my view and I am afraid that I shall have to stick to it.
It is true that a further 270 places in local secure accommodation will be coming on stream to add to the 254 currently available. Again, my figures differ slightly from those of my noble friend Lord Allen of Abbeydale. Perhaps the noble Baroness the Minister will be able to set us right about that. But I sense--I hope I am
Like the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, I have, as a Welshman, been very disturbed by the lack of any secure local accommodation in Wales, resulting, as the report says, in teenagers being remanded to two of the more inadequate local prisons at Swansea and Cardiff, where bullying is prevalent and conditions are sub-standard. Thankfully, secure local accommodation is coming on stream in Neath later this year, but a Welsh boy sentenced to an STC at some date in the future can, for example, expect to be no nearer to his country and his family than Campsfield House in Oxfordshire, and that is if he is lucky.
While it is true that custody, whatever the form it takes, is for the protection of society, not to try to make something of the material once it is inside so that the risk of re- offending on release is considerably reduced, is a form of corporate madness. We all understand that, surely, but nevertheless 88 per cent. of 14 to 16 year-olds re-offend, as do 77 per cent. of young--17 to 20 year-olds--adult males. So prison only works on the level--and admittedly it is a very important level--of the protection of the community.
Can we not be a little more adventurous and constructive and look for additional benefits from prison, like turning a boy whose life is a mess into a useful citizen? Why cannot we at least ensure, as an absolutely basic requirement, that every effort is made to educate these young people when they are inside, for that at least provides some hope for them, some hope of breaking the vicious circle, on their release? What is certain is that the conditions described in this valuable report offer little chance of future progress or success.
Viscount Brentford: My Lords, I congratulate my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon on his speech and look forward to drawing on his Scottish experience in the future. There are a number of ways in which English prisons can draw on the benefit of the different attitudes in Scottish prisons. Perhaps that will be able to come to pass, although I appreciate that the situations are very different.
I am glad that the name of the new clan on the Front Bench is Mackay and not certain other names beginning with "Mac", or we might have had my noble friends bearing the name Campbell going on the warpath in your Lordships' House. I also express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, for introducing the debate, which I believe is proving valuable.
I approach the subject from the point of view of what I said in the debate on the Loyal Address. At col. 183 of Hansard on 20th November last year I made the point that 82 per cent. of our young offenders in custody being reconvicted within four years was a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, a view with which I gained the
The report raises two questions. First, can action be taken to minimise the violence and force which young offenders receive both from inmates and from staff? Secondly, is detention, particularly in prison, being over-used for young offenders? Neither of those questions is easy to answer.
Reference has been made to bullying and self-harm. It is clear that there is less of both in secure accommodation than in prison. Page 76 of the report makes that clear. One main reason may well be that in secure accommodation counselling and group meetings can take place, something for which there is no opportunity in prison. That is one reason why secure accommodation is so important.
Pages 82 to 83 of the report give examples of control and restraint. There is reference to taking hold of clothing or of certain parts of the anatomy. The report states that, if it is necessary to grasp limbs, then they should be held at the knee or elbow to reduce leverage.
On both the issues of bullying and restraint the report makes clear that national policies and guidelines need to be in place and that there should be training on their implementation. I was glad and encouraged to read in a letter from my noble friend Lady Blatch last month, a copy of which she placed in the Library, that in the present financial year there is a 25 per cent. increase in the training budget for the Prison Service College. It will be able to spend £17.5 million this year on training compared with only £14 million last year. That is encouraging. We need to think of the point of view of the prison staff as well as of the point of view of the inmates, particularly young offenders. It is fair to the staff as well as the inmates that more training and help should be given to staff. I am encouraged. I hope that it will prove helpful in the context of the subject we are discussing.
I turn to the question of punishment. It must be purposeful. While I accept that a danger to the public requires secure detention, we need to ensure that the purpose includes creating a situation where an offender will not want to re-offend and where other people will be deterred from offending themselves. The impression I have from the report is that imprisonment further damages young people already damaged. That is a tragedy. I appreciate the problems, but we need to try to look beyond them.
There is no evidence in the report that the purpose I have outlined is being strengthened either by non-custodial punishment, by secure accommodation or by prison. The statistics on page 58 make it unequivocally clear that there is no clear improvement
I wish to emphasise again what the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, said about the 1988 Green Paper dealing with encouragement and help for young offenders. That is still crucially important. Judge Tumim makes the same point on page 24 of the report. We need to help young offenders to rebuild inter-personal relationships. The significance of relationships was stressed by the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester, my noble friend Lady Faithfull and others. We need to concentrate on that. We need trained staff to be able to help avoid recidivism. May we please not swing too far away from the 1988 position and keep researching the use of non-custodial sentences where appropriate.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Henderson of Brompton for having brought to the notice of your Lordships this report by the Howard League Commission of Inquiry. As a fellow Scot, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, on his balanced maiden speech.
As a member of a board of visitors of a borstal and then a young offender institution for many years, I know that the problems of violence among young people under 18 years of age, both inside and outside penal institutions, is a very serious and disturbing matter and one which must be addressed.
It is so ironic and tragic that a headmaster with the qualities and calibre of Mr. Lawrence should no longer be alive, because it is people like him that society needs in order to lift these damaged young people out of the paths of crime and, even more important, to stop them getting involved in the first place. Unless there are teachers and concerned people like youth leaders with the energy and leadership skills to guide young people out of their criminal environment, there will be little hope for many of them achieving a successful crime-free life.
Many people will say, "Lock them all up, put them away". But the dangerous situation is that when they come out some months or years later they may be more likely to commit even worse acts of violence and crime unless they have undergone meaningful education and rehabilitation and can see a way forward into useful employment. If, however, they find that crime is their only way of financial gain then many of them will think that it is a risk worth taking.
I believe that this report is well presented and a great deal of time and work has gone into its preparation. I do feel that it is disappointing, through no fault of the Howard League, that because two of the prisons which refused visits hold young women and teenage girls the commission felt that it was not in a position to make recommendations about the treatment of young women and teenage girls.
The commissioners were concerned, however, after visiting Low Newton and talking to staff, about the high levels of prescription tranquillisers used and the amount of self-harm in women in that establishment. I ask the Government, because of this omission, and the fact that serious problems have been found at Holloway Prison by the Inspectorate of Prisons, to instigate an independent inquiry such as the one before us, but just for young girls and women under 18 years of age held in all penal establishments.
The number of females in custody is far fewer than for men, but the problems can be far more complicated and long lasting. If one has been at a boarding school, be it for boys or girls, there is always the risk of bullying and teasing even with young people from what might be termed privileged homes. Penal institutions having inmates with so many problems such as sexual abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, and violence and aggression often being entrenched as normal behaviour, must make bullying 100 times more likely to occur.
Vigilant, experienced staff who get to know the young people and who keep themselves alert to what is going on are the best form of prevention, as well as having a strict anti-bullying policy which is adhered to. The report worries me when it states:
There seems to be a high level of stress, bereavement and family break-up among all persistent young offenders. Many of them are excluded and truant from school. Would it not be beneficial if all the under-16s did a full day's work, with homework and sports activities, and all others under the age of 18, if not in full-time education, did a full day's work and were encouraged to be useful citizens rather than being banged up in their cells for so long? The devil finds work for idle hands. I am sure that this would reduce the violence and bullying. Some of the remedial teachers I have met over the years have been committed and interested and many of the lads respond well to education in small groups.
Regional rivalries seem to be a problem. This could be a way of identifying and wanting to belong and to support each other, so as not to be an anonymous, institutionalised number. The bigger the institution the more problems there seem to be. When visiting Moorlands YOI near Doncaster I noticed that many things were thrown out of the windows, but at Wetherby YOI I hardly ever saw that happen. The buildings and surroundings seem to make a difference to the behaviour patterns. It is interesting that new buildings do not necessarily mean better behaviour and fewer problems.
Pressure of numbers often makes a prison like a conveyor belt, with a lack of case work for the individual. The homeless young person with a criminal record and no family support is the most difficult among the many problems. The future for him must seem very bleak when shut behind bars. I wish the report success in making people think about how society can tackle the many problems encompassed in it.
I should like to end on a hopeful note. I attended the carol service at Wetherby YOI just before Christmas. It was a very happy occasion with staff, young people (the inmates) and visitors all sharing in an ecumenical service with all the churches and the Salvation Army taking part, and a choir with music from the local church. There are many people who help within the Prison Service and the chaplains as well as the staff and members of the boards of visitors all try hard to prevent the very worrying situations which are highlighted in the report. They need support to keep up morale and to run establishments which are fair and safe and able to release young people with more of a chance to succeed than fail in the community to which they return.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I join in the congratulations to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, on completing his clan's hat trick in such a distinctively Mackay style. Just in case the noble and learned Lord should be tempted to think that he might enjoy a monopoly, perhaps I may advise him that we are debating a report produced by a Kennedy, so he will have a certain amount of company.
In thanking the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, for introducing the debate, I thank him also for bringing to our attention this really excellent report. There are very few gaps in it, but a great deal of balance and a great deal of good sense. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, has just drawn attention to one of its very few gaps. That gap exists because the Howard League was unable to gain access to two out of the three women's prisons which it tried to visit. I am afraid that recent events have given us some indication of what it may have been missing.
The other big issue on which I did not read very much was the problem to which the Lord Chief Justice called attention, the sending of mental health patients to prison. But I did start to wonder when I read that 80 per cent. of the women who had indulged in self-harm had previously been victims of sexual abuse. That is a line which leaves a great deal to the imagination.
I got the impression from the report that the Government are following two contradictory policies. On the one hand, they believe that we should have more people in prison and longer sentences--the prison population has increased by 25 per cent. in two years. On the other hand, the Government believe that there is an imperative to cut taxes. I shall not discuss either of those policies, but I am not sure that we can have both. We are getting what the report described as,
It stated that almost all of the prisons that were visited contained more people than the official limit. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, is right about containment. Everything else more constructive is being cut back because of staffing shortages.
We on these Benches would not increase spending and taxation on everything--by no means. We think that this is one case where by rather shorter sentences and by not using custodial sentences at all in some cases expenditure could be significantly reduced. However, there is a staff shortage and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was right about work for idle hands. If Saatchi & Saatchi were to summarise the content of this report, there would be no difficulty in arriving at the slogan, "Prison isn't working".
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, touched on one leg of the Home Secretary's belief that prison works, the reconviction rate. I touch on the other, which is the Home Secretary's belief that while people are in prison they are not committing crimes. I have some sympathy here with the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, although I do not think that he will expect me to believe in the efficacy of his suggested remedy. However, when somebody carves a name on a man's shoulder, that is a crime which, if committed outside prison, would carry a fairly severe prison sentence, so I am not convinced that prison reduces crime; it merely changes its location. When someone says, "I hit him because he comes from Bristol, not because he is black", I do not think that that makes it any better.
I know that the Home Office is concerned about developing an anti-bullying strategy, but I noticed from the report that in many prisons--Swansea is mentioned particularly--it is impossible to carry out that strategy for lack of staff. You really cannot make bricks without straw and if you want to do things, you have to spend the necessary money.
I was disturbed by the case of the prisoner in Doncaster who was found wearing only a towel because all his clothes had been "taxed" off him. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, said about Doncaster and I noticed what the report said about Doncaster--that there did not appear to be very much awareness there of best practice. I think that the words "safe custody" should mean exactly what they say. We cannot rely on grassing; prison culture is too much against it. The only protection is to have enough staff to see what is going on. This is another case in which efficiency is not efficient.
I agree with many noble Lords that adult prisons are not suitable for the young. I think that we are doing as much harm as good--and possibly a great deal more--by putting young people there. I also think that combating crime is something that needs the carrot as well as the stick. You do not need to establish only that crime does not pay; you need to establish also that it pays less than going straight. That means that we must not only make crime unattractive, but that we must make going straight attractive. We have heard a lot recently about St. George's school, which is a mile and a half away from where I live. The next-door ward, which is in the catchment area of the school, recently had 37 per cent. of its adult population on means-tested benefits. That does not really make going straight quite as attractive as it ought to be.
Going along the educational ladder is not as attractive as it used to be. It leads to poverty and debt. The noble Baroness has heard me too often on that subject for me to bore her with it any further.
Being a 16 or 17 year-old is not particularly attractive. I was talking to one in the Strand yesterday, thrown out by his parents. He said, "It is no use my trying to look for a house until I am 18". In that case, thank God, the Salvation Army had moved in and he had something to eat. But in South Glamorgan, among 16 and 17 year-olds without employment, the word "shopping" means shoplifting. Although I agree with what the Government say about individual moral responsibility, to put people into that position is to lead them into temptation. I do not believe that that is a good idea.
Finally, those people whose lives are in many ways being ruined by the lack of an adequately financed policy are the people upon whom we rely to earn the money to pay our pensions. I do not think that that is very clever.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are specific and there are more profound reasons to be grateful for the debate. The specific reasons are the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, in opening the debate, the excellent, well-informed and civilised maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and the quality of the speeches in general as the evening has gone on. The more general and profound reason may not be so much the quality of the Howard League report upon which the debate is based as the importance of the report's findings to all of us who claim to live in a civilised society. It is up to us to be as responsible and careful as we can in seeking solutions to the problems which are graphically revealed in the report.
In the limited time available I wish to say something about the nature of the problem to which the report draws attention; to say something about present policies and their adequacy; and then to look at possible solutions to those problems.
The first thing that has to be said about the nature of the problem--perhaps the Government should be and will be congratulating themselves upon it--is that for some years juvenile crime has been decreasing, and decreasing to a considerable extent. Throughout the 1980s, the number of young people and children given custodial sentences was also declining. Of course there is always a difficult gap between the making of political policies and the social trends to which those policies are supposed to relate. We are not discussing the issue tonight in an atmosphere of panic about juvenile crime as a whole. That is just in contradiction to the facts.
But it is true that in the past two or three years, as a result of deliberate policies introduced by the present Home Secretary and his immediate predecessor, there has been a substantial increase in the total prison population and in the prison population of young people. That can be related directly to political policies and attitudes of the Government.
I am not going to say now, or at any time, that there is no place for custodial sentences for young people. Much as I admire the Howard League report, I am unable to subscribe to those parts of its conclusions which say that we should be working towards the elimination of custodial sentences for young people. It is not realistic to deny that there are young people who the safety of the public requires should be taken away from their homes and put into some form of institution from which they cannot escape.
However, we have only to look at the evidence from the report and from many other people about the kind of people who are in custody to realise the inadequacy of the regimes to which they are subjected. The obvious example is that there are far too many prisoners of all ages, including young people, who are in custody on remand, when a high proportion of them will not receive custodial sentences in the end. One way of reducing the prison population, and overcrowding, and solving the problem of inadequate staffing, is to do something dramatic about the excessive use of remand in custody.
To check vice in others as well as me,
I wonder we ha'n't better company 'pon Tyburn tree".
Then, specifically looking at young people in custody, how many of them--how far too many of them--are disturbed young people, those who have been experimenting with drugs or are addicted to drugs, those who are mentally sick, those who are inadequate in all sorts of other ways, those who are uneducated, who have been abused, who have spent their young lives in care, who are homeless, who have broken up with their families, and who, if they are old enough, have been unemployed. The experience of everyone who knows young people in custody is that, although some of them need to be custody, they do not need the kind of regime which is available to them.
Present policies involve two major types of institution. One is local authority secure accommodation, to which reference has been made. It is well known that we support the Department of Health initiatives to expand that accommodation, and that we wish it would go further. The second is the Prison Service. I need not repeat the criticisms which are made in the report and which have been made by many speakers, about the inadequacies of Prison Service accommodation for young people and in particular of privatised Prison Service accommodation, as evidenced by Doncaster.
A third type of institution is supposed to be the secure training centre. We went over that ground in 1994, and of course there are no secure training centres. Although the element of training proposed is to be commended, nevertheless the whole concept of secure training centres, with its emphasis on persistent young offenders, their remoteness from families because there are to be only five of them, the size and other aspects of the conditions, are all as objectionable to us now as they were when they were first proposed.
What slightly disappoints me about the report is not so much the description of conditions in custody--bullying, self abuse and so on--but the lack of analysis about what kind of regime in custody works. I am sure that my noble friends Lord Longford and Lady Farrington are right when they say that to deal with the problem for those who find themselves in custody will require considerably greater resources, particularly staffing resources.
The contrast made by my noble friend Lord Longford between the best local authority secure accommodation and Feltham, in terms of staffing, is dramatic and vivid. Nothing other than the allocation of greater resources will deal with that effectively. The result of all that custodial treatment of young people is--the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, made a very thoughtful speech on the subject--an unacceptably high level of re-offending and recommitment.
The noble Viscount described some of the evidence which demonstrated the differences between custodial and non-custodial sentences in terms of re-offending. That is a very difficult statistical ground because, clearly, some of those who are serving non-custodial sentences are less convinced criminals than others. But nevertheless, if we are concerned with the protection of the public, it is by no means clear, despite what the tabloids say, that an increase in custodial sentences will provide greater protection for the public.
The truth of the matter is that our motives in putting away people, whether they are adults or young people, are hopelessly confused and self-contradictory. I believe that we no longer talk about vengeance. Some of us--the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, among others--speak a lot about punishment. Most of us talk about deterrence and rehabilitation. Nowadays, we all talk about the protection of the public and the community.
But we must recognise that the objectives of incarceration are sometimes in conflict with each other. As many noble Lords have said, there is no easy solution. I do not believe that we shall get anywhere by
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, I begin by offering the warmest possible welcome to these Benches to my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate. He has served the legal profession in Scotland with distinction. His wisdom and experience were reflected very well in his impressive and thoughtful maiden speech. I know that the House will benefit richly from his future contributions to our proceedings and I look forward with eager anticipation to his involvement in our debates.
I welcome the opportunity that has been presented by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, for this far-reaching debate on issues which are at the heart of juvenile justice policy. The terms of reference of the commission give violence in penal institutions as the clear focus. However, the report, and indeed today's debate, span the breadth of issues encompassed in our arrangements for the care of teenagers who become subject to the proceedings of our criminal justice system.
The report makes a number of recommendations that teenagers under 18 should not, in the view of the Howard League, be held in prison custody. I would like to say a few words about the Government's approach to dealing with young offenders and, in particular, our views on the use of custody. I make no apologies for the fact that we believe that custody should be used for some young offenders. The public has a right to be protected from the most serious and the most persistent offenders, whatever their age. In some cases the only way to achieve that will be a custodial sentence. There is nothing in this approach which is inconsistent with our commitment to the principle in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that custody should only be used as a last resort. That was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton.
Most young offenders are not of course remanded to custody or given custodial sentences. The proper use of cautioning by the police and effective community sentences have an important role to play in helping children who offend to return to a law-abiding life. Through guidance and national standards we have taken steps to help ensure that community penalties and police cautioning are used in an effective and constructive way which gains the confidence and support of all concerned.
For those young people for whom a custodial sentence is judged to be appropriate, the main concern is not whether the institution is run by the Prison Service, a local authority or the private sector, but rather whether the regime is constructive, disciplined, secure and appropriate to the age of the young person. We recognise that it is particularly important for young people who are remanded in custody to be placed near to their home and that their needs are therefore better met in the local authority sector rather than in Prison Service accommodation, a point made so well by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. That is why we have provided funding to local authorities for a major 170-place new building programme. I understand that the majority of those places will be available by the end of 1996. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, will be interested to know that we are committed also to ending the remand of juveniles to prison custody once sufficient local authority secure accommodation is available. That is a point which matters as much to Wales as it does to England.
The Prison Service can and does provide constructive and positive regimes for sentenced young people; so too will secure training centres; so too do local authority children's homes. The report offers specific and general criticisms of the regimes in Prison Service establishments to which I shall refer in a few moments.
As regards local authority secure accommodation, which I know vexed a number of people, the responsibility for ensuring that staff in secure units are properly and adequately trained rests with the local authorities as employers. I am pleased to see that the Howard League urges local authorities to develop training and inter-agency collaboration, for that really is important too. Central government assist with a £35.5 million specific grant to local authorities through the training support programme.
The Department of Health, with the National Children's Bureau and a number of social service departments, recently secured a secure accommodation training curriculum with the aim of ensuring a consistent and thorough approach to the training of staff in the area. In addition, the Department of Health, through its training support programme, is funding the production of a specific training package to assist staff in all children's residential settings in approaches to the care and control of difficult adolescents.
There is, in particular, criticism that overcrowding has led to increasing numbers of 15 and 16 year-old remand prisoners being placed with older and more physically mature teenagers. While there has been a small increase in the juvenile population in prison, there is no overcrowding among that group. Prison Service policy is that, so far as is practicable, unconvicted male prisoners aged under 18 should be accommodated separately from unconvicted young adult males. Again,
The report deals at length with the issue of bullying. Bullying is a social problem which exists in all walks of life inside and outside prison. It is an unfortunate but inevitable fact that where young prisoners, many of whom have been convicted for violent offences, are gathered together, bullying may occur. On rare occasions bullying can have tragic consequences, as we all know. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, asked whether the Government were taking steps to improve matters. I can say that the Government take bullying in prison very seriously. Since 1993 the Prison Service has operated a national anti-bullying strategy and provides clear advice to establishments on how to reduce the problem. The strategy draws on many years of experience and good practice from individual prison establishments. Indeed, I have visited young offender institutions where the bullying strategies are being tackled and where they are working well. The effect of the strategy has been encouraging, especially in prisons holding young people where the Prison Service is determined to push home the message that bullying is anti-social, cowardly and will not be tolerated.
It is unfortunate therefore that the report does not recognise the hard work of staff in many young offender institutions in its conclusions on the incidence of bullying in prisons. It is suggested that the bullying strategy is a paper exercise and that it is not widely implemented. Those charges simply do not stand up. Successive reports from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons have praised the commitment and dedication of prison staff in young offender institutions who are in the front line in the fight against bullying and who make the strategies a reality.
The report states that very few prisons segregate bullies rather than their victims. That is at odds with the findings of inspectorate reports, many of which comment favourably on the work of prison staff to support victims and to segregate bullies. I see that the noble Earl wishes to intervene. I give way.
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