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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes, the noble Lord is right.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 235ZA and 235A not moved.]

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 235B:

Page 43, line 8, at end insert ("; and
( ) humiliating or degrading treatment of the offender.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall address the amendment in the name of my noble friend. The amendment seeks to add to the conditions in relation to reparation orders, which already require that they should avoid conflicting with the young person's religious belief, work, or schooling, a further requirement that whatever is required in the reparation order should not be humiliating or degrading.

One of the points of reparation schemes is that they should be agreed with the victim of an offence. There is a danger that in his or her desire perhaps for revenge,

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the victim may demand some aspect of work or task which the offender may find humiliating or degrading. It tends to be counter-productive if people are humiliated or degraded. They are more likely to become sullen and resentful and to commit further offences. It is not likely to be reparative, restorative or helpful in rehabilitating them. This is intended to be an additional condition which would restrict the types of reparation order that might be made. It is intended that reparation orders should essentially be constructive measures for the victim and the offender. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I support the amendment. The noble Baroness reminded us that in order that a reparation order will work, especially one related to doing work for the victim, there must be a double coincidence. There must be an offender who is suited to reparation and a victim who is also suited to reparation. By that I mean someone who can discuss with the offender what he or she has done dispassionately, and with no retribution involved.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am grateful for the two contributions that have been made on the amendment. I agree with my noble friend that the purpose of a reparation order is a constructive one, not just for the victim but for the offender. In those circumstances, I can assure her that the amendment is unnecessary. If the offender's experience were humiliating or degrading, it plainly would not be a constructive one.

As I have said, the clearly stated purpose of the order is reparation: the chance to repair the damage done, both physical and mental. Not only will the victim be helped to understand the circumstances which led to the commission of the crime, and to receive some recompense for his suffering, the young person will be faced with the consequences of his actions, and the effect of those actions, and be assisted in his reintegration into society. If both those aims are to be achieved, there is plainly no room for humiliating or degrading treatment. I hope that if that is the base for the reparation order, my noble friend will see that there is no need for the amendment.

Viscount Colville of Culross: Before the noble Baroness decides what she will do about the amendment, I imagine that there would be a right of appeal against the making of a reparation order, and that if the person against whom it was made considered that it was humiliating or degrading, one of the matters that could be raised would be a failure to comply with the European convention. That will be a good ground of appeal as soon as the Bill that is going through Parliament takes effect. In any event, I should have thought that it would be a ground for doing something else on appeal, rather than imposing humiliating or degrading orders upon someone who came up from a lower court with such a provision.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am not sure whether it would be a breach of the European convention, but it would be contrary to the purpose of a reparation order.

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If anyone had imposed upon them a reparation order that a higher court believed was humiliating or degrading, then such an order should be set aside.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Is a reparation order a new device solely for young offenders and not adults?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes, it is primarily for young offenders.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: Before withdrawing the amendment, I wish to ask the Minister whether there will be guidance incorporating his welcoming words about the intention of the reparation order. Will his words be sufficient, or will there be Home Office guidance?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: There will be Home Office guidance and I expect that to reflect what I have said.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 agreed to.

10.45 p.m.

Clause 55 [Reparation orders: supplemental]:

Lord McNally moved Amendment No. 236:

Page 43, line 36, after ("comply") insert (", without reasonable excuse,").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 236 and 237 are intended to make the Bill have a little less machismo and a little more common sense. In that spirit, I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Subsection (2) of Clause 55 and subsection (2) of Clause 57 place several requirements on the court which it must fulfil before it imposes a reparation order or an action plan order on a young offender. One of these is that the court must explain to the young offender what may happen if he should fail to comply with any of the requirements of the order. The amendment proposes that in addition to all of the requirements already in the Bill, the court should be required to advise the young offender of the possible consequences if he should fail to comply "without reasonable excuse". The amendment would add the words, "without reasonable excuse".

We believe that such amendments would add nothing of real value to the clauses as currently drafted. Failure to comply with the requirements of reparation and action plan orders are dealt with in Schedule 4 to the Bill. Paragraph 3 indicates that a breach of proceedings would be brought before the court by the responsible officer whose duty it is to supervise the reparation required by a reparation order or the action required by an action plan order. That responsible officer will be acquainted with the young offender and his difficulties and can reasonably be expected to use his discretion

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when deciding whether to bring breach proceedings before the court. Breach proceedings in community sentences are normally a matter of last resort.

If there is a reasonable excuse for the young offender not to have complied with either the reparation order or the action plan order, we would expect that the responsible officer would not regard it as appropriate to bring the matter back before a court. But even if that were the position and, contrary to expectations, the responsible officer did bring the matter back to court when there was a reasonable excuse, one of the options open to the court if there is a failure to comply with either orders is to make no order. Obviously, that is the appropriate action when it has concluded that there was a reasonable excuse.

In the light of those two safeguards--namely, the responsible officer and the power of the court to make no order if satisfied, for example, that there was a reasonable excuse--it seems to us that there is no need to include in the explanations given to the young offender the words, "without reasonable excuse", when explaining the effects of the reparation order and the action plan order. Indeed, there is a lot to be said for not including that. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured by that explanation and I invite him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McNally: With such a reassurance, I have no other option. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Enforcement etc. of reparation and action plan orders]:

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 236A:

Page 90, line 30, after ("custody") insert ("or local authority accommodation").

The noble Viscount said: The noble Lord, Lord Williams, knows that I am very concerned about the decreasing age of young offenders who unfortunately are coming before the courts. In a letter a little while ago, I gave him a particularly severe example of the failure of the system to be able to contain a boy who was hardly 14 and was in the process of committing an enormous number of dwelling-house burglaries.

I am very much looking forward to the opportunity of being able to use reparation and action plan orders, although I dare say they will be used more by the magistrates' courts and the youth courts than by the Crown Court. However, in Schedule 4, paragraph 3(2)(c) provision is made for when such an order made by the Crown Court unfortunately fails. If it fails, the first thing that happens is that the offender is taken in front of the magistrates' court or possibly the youth court.

The youth court, of course, is capable of committing a person under the age of 15 or 16 to secure local authority accommodation. No other court can do so. Neither the magistrates nor the Crown Court can do that. There is a hiatus here which is highlighted in the

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wording of that paragraph because the only alternatives are custody, which is not possible for the very young, or a release on bail which very often, in the circumstances of a failure, will lead to the young offender absconding and not turning up at the Crown Court to be dealt with.

What do the Government have to offer? It is a problem. It may not affect that many people but the problem is ever-growing and the offences which are committed are ever-increasing in severity. The victims are suffering more and more. I hope that I can trail this matter this evening. We shall return to this matter when we reach Clause 80. But if the noble Lord can offer me any comfort as regards this predicament, I should be very grateful. I beg to move.

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