Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord McNally: I recognise the dilemma that the Minister faces in drawing a line in these cases. Some experienced people and bodies are concerned about where he has drawn the line. I am sure that they will read what he has said this evening. We may have to come back and explore this again. I thank him for the spirit in which he responded. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

24 Feb 1998 : Column 650

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 225:

Page 40, line 40, at end insert--
("(4A) Before administering a final warning to a person a constable shall as soon as practicable refer the person to a youth offending team.
(4B) A youth offending team--
(a) shall assess any person referred to them under subsection (4A) above, and
(b) unless they consider it inappropriate to do so, shall arrange for him to participate in a rehabilitation programme.
(4C) A constable may administer a final warning to a person where it is considered inappropriate for that person to participate in a rehabilitation programme.
(4D) When a person has completed a rehabilitation programme under subsection (4B)(b) above, the youth offending team shall as soon as possible deliver a report to the constable referring the person under subsection (4A) above, indicating whether or not they are satisfied with the manner in which that person has participated in the rehabilitation programme.
(4E) Subject to subsection (4C) above a final warning may not be administered by a constable unless the constable has received a report from the youth offending team indicating that they are satisfied with the manner in which that person has participated in the rehabilitation programme.").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 230. Within the group is Amendment No. 233, and I can assure the Committee that I shall not move it when it is reached. For the convenience of the Committee, I say also that I shall not be moving Amendment No. 232A to Clause 53 when I come to it.

As my noble and learned friend said in regard to an earlier amendment, I believe that these amendments speak largely for themselves. They merely provide for a greater involvement of youth offending teams--a point to which the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, referred on an earlier amendment, as something that we should be pursuing--by making greater use of them. The amendments merely allow for greater use of the youth offending teams when final warnings are to be given. The amendment provides:

    "Before administering a final warning ... a person ... shall as soon as practicable",

be referred to a youth offending team which will then obviously assess the individual and, unless it considers it inappropriate, shall arrange for him to participate in a rehabilitation programme.

Amendment No. 230 suggests that the Secretary of State shall publish appropriate guidance on what should be included in a rehabilitation programme arranged for a person under the subsection. As I said, the amendments speak for themselves. I look forward to hearing the Government's response which I shall consider. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We return to consideration of a principle, which I sought to address in response to the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McNally. We believe that a final warning is critically important. If it is to be of central significance it must be administered quickly. There must be a clear link between crime and punishment or sanction in the mind of the young offender. Three months to Members of your Lordships' House is not a very long time. Three months in the life of a young

24 Feb 1998 : Column 651

offender is a lifetime. One must bear in mind that children are not just small adults, but that their perspectives are completely different.

I understand that the amendments are put forward with good motive, but they involve deferring the issue of the warning until after assessment by the youth offending team and, where appropriate, participation in a rehabilitation programme. I stress that I understand the good motive behind them, but they would undermine the Government's central objective. We are not talking about potential delays of a few days or even weeks. The interval between the offence being committed and the young person receiving a final warning would be many months. That would destroy the whole purpose, structure and concept of the final warning.

For an intervention programme to be successful, it will have to be tailor-made for each young offender. It will involve a detailed implementation plan, probably including counselling, reparation action with victims where appropriate, referral to some supervised community or youth activities and work to improve school attendance and performance. Those activities cannot be completed quickly, nor will the young person's commitment to the programme be clear in many cases until some time has passed. If the final warning cannot be issued until all those steps have been taken, with the youth offending team satisfied with the young offender's participation in the programme, there will plainly be significant delay.

Again, arguments of principle are involved. If a final warning is dependent on a satisfactory participation and intervention programme, assuming that an intervention programme continues for some months, is it fair that when a young offender fails to complete satisfactorily he is prosecuted for the original offence? That would be the implication of the amendments. We do not believe that that would be satisfactory in the interests of the individual child and it certainly derogates from the structure and the scheme which we put forward. The rehabilitation programme would not be the sentence of the court. Failure to complete it could not be dealt with in the same way as a breach of a community penalty.

As regards legal principle, there is the question of whether one ought to induce a child into an intervention programme with the possibility that if he fails to comply, and as a warning would not then necessarily be appropriate, prosecution might be the only alternative. We believe, therefore, that delay is the enemy of the young child. We want a warning delivered promptly so that it firmly focuses a connection between sanction and offence in the young offender's mind. Despite the fact that the amendments are well meant, we believe that they would have harmful consequences.

Lord Henley: I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful explanation. I ought to have listened more closely to the explanation which he gave to the noble Lord, Lord McNally. However, to offer the Minister some succour as we head towards ten o'clock, I assure him that I shall not return to this point on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

24 Feb 1998 : Column 652

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 226:

Page 41, line 3, at end insert--
("( ) Subsection (5) above shall have effect in relation to a young person who has attained the age of 17 as if the words "in the presence of an appropriate adult" in paragraph (a), and the words "and the appropriate adult" in paragraph (b), were omitted.").

The noble Lord said: There are a number of amendments before us tonight concerned with the requirement that an appropriate adult must be present when a warning or reprimand is issued to a young person. Obviously, that is intended as a safeguard for a young person at a police station and to ensure that the young person is aware of the consequences of receiving the warning or reprimand. An "appropriate adult" in the Bill includes a parent, guardian, representative of a care home, social worker or, if none is available, any responsible person of 18 or over who is not a police officer or employed by the police service.

The Government seek to make an amendment to the clauses which concern "appropriate adults". That is really to mirror the existing "appropriate adult" provisions under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. However, in one important aspect, as presently drafted, the Bill is not consistent with PACE. Under PACE a juvenile is a young person aged under 17 whereas Clause 52 regards 17 year-olds as juveniles. Therefore, there would be an anomaly and the consequence would be that a 17 year-old could go through the process of arrest, detention and interview without a parent or appropriate adult, only for one to be called in at the very last stage. That would be an absurdity.

That does not mean that parents should not be present when a 17 year-old receives a warning or reprimand. In most cases, if the young person is still living at home, the presence of one or both parents is a valuable means of ensuring that they are fully aware of the child's offending behaviour and, one would think, may well in some cases be a further sanction to assist in preventing further offending.

Therefore, we shall issue guidance to police forces to make it clear that the presence of a 17 year-old's parent or guardian should always be looked for and that obviously parents can play a critical role in helping a young person not to reoffend.

Where the parents or guardian are unable to attend the police station for some practical reason or, as in some cases, they simply refuse, there will be no statutory obligation to secure the presence of an alternative appropriate adult. On the basis of that explanation, I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Henley: I rise in a spirit of genuine inquiry. I have nothing against the amendment as explained by the noble Lord but I am perplexed by its drafting. I do not know why it should be drafted in such an obscure manner which makes it virtually impossible to understand exactly what the amendment is doing to

24 Feb 1998 : Column 653

subsection (5). Once those words are added on page 41 at the end of line 3, one then has to look at that and then refer back to paragraph (b). I ask the Minister to try to do that himself. Perhaps he will ask the parliamentary draftsman to find a simple way of achieving his objective. It should be possible for someone like me and for others to understand exactly what is intended without having to refer to the noble Lord's lucid speech which will appear in Hansard tomorrow.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page