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Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 244:

Page 48, line 30, leave out from ("be") to ("24") and insert ("not less than 4 months or more than").

The noble Lord said: I hope that the Minister will smile on me. This is a very simple and straightforward drafting amendment. Clause 60(5) currently states that detention and training orders,

No further discretion is allowed other than that the order should be for one of those seven specified times. My amendment suggests that it should be not less than 4 months and not more than 24 months, allowing the court to choose its own time within that band. That seems a much simpler way and leaves greater discretion to the court. I do not know why the Government drafted the matter in the way they did. I shall be very interested in the noble Lord's explanation and to know whether he could allow the court that little bit of extra discretion. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am sorry that I smiled at the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. I shall try to improve my behaviour in future. The noble Lord has indicated the consequence of his amendment if it were accepted. We have gone to discrete periods of four, six,

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eight, 12, 18 or 24 months because we want to make the orders readily understandable to the offenders; to try to prevent inconsistencies in sentencing; to help in designing constructive regimes and sentence plans; and to have equitable early and late release arrangements. I quite understand that a view, which could reasonably be come to, is that proposed by the noble Lord. We thought about it with some care because this is an unusual sentencing regime. But for the reasons that I have briefly mentioned we came to the conclusion that this was the better way forward.

Lord Henley: I find that a fairly extraordinary response. The Government wish to make the matter understandable to the offender. I do not see why they cannot understand the court giving a sentence of 22 months, 20 months or whatever, and some figure other than four, six, eight, 10, 12, 18 or 24 months. I take it that our education system has not come to such a pass that the only numbers that offenders can understand are the seven numbers put in front of them. I would have thought that other numbers would be within the grasp of most offenders. However, I take the noble Lord's point.

The second argument he put forward was that he desires consistent sentencing and I support him in that. But I fail to see how setting out seven discrete periods increases the possibility of consistent sentencing. That is a matter we shall come to later on. We all like to see a degree of consistency, but I fail to see why one cannot have consistency when the court has the discretion to choose any time between four months and 24 months. Having said that, I do not believe that this is an amendment of fundamental importance. I shall look again very carefully--

Lord Renton: Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may with humility intervene, to say that it is an extraordinary situation to find such a provision in the Bill. Normally, we try to give the court discretion to impose a sentence to fit the crime and the offender's previous record. Under Clause 60(5), although a court could impose an order for four, six, eight, 10, 12, 18 or 24 months, it would be excluded from imposing a period of detention of, say, 14, 15, 16, 20 or 22 months, which is quite absurd. I implore the noble Lord the Minister, who is generally so open-minded, to think again before my noble friend withdraws his amendment.

4 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The provision does not take away discretion from the courts but places the discretion in discrete bands. The court will have to put its mind to whether a term of four, six, eight, 10 or 12 months is appropriate or, in more serious cases, 18 months or, in the most serious cases, 24 months. We believe that useful device will have two consequences--consistency of sentencing and maintaining the principle

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that one ought, where possible, to give the courts sufficient discretion in sentencing. Our present scheme encompasses both objectives.

Lord Henley: I noted carefully what the noble Lord the Minister said, which is that the provision is not taking away the discretion of the court but placing it in discrete bands. That seems to me to be taking away a degree of discretion but, at this stage, it would probably be best if I were to take away my amendment. In doing so, may I say how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Renton for his support. I will read carefully what the Minister had to say and I may possibly return to this matter at a later stage, when we can look in more detail at the noble Lord's argument--which I am afraid I do not accept. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [Duties and powers of court]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 244A:

Page 49, line 24, leave out ("take account") and insert ("reduce that term by the length").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment provides that time on remand should automatically reduce the term of a detention and training order. Clause 61(6) as it stands requires the court to take account of time spent on remand in custody when sentencing a young offender to a detention and training order. The amendment provides that time spent on remand will automatically reduce the sentence. Prisoners on remand are not only deprived of their liberty but are usually held in the most restricted conditions in the prison system. It would be unjust to make them serve this time twice over.

It may be argued that courts should be permitted to disallow remand time from counting when the defence has wasted time before a trial. There is, however, a risk that defendants will thereby be penalised for the behaviour of dilatory or less than competent defence lawyers and that, in cases involving co-defendants, one defendant could be penalised for delays caused by another. We prefer to see the problem of time-wasting before trial dealt with by the rigorous application of time limits applicable to both prosecution and defence at each stage of the pre-trial process. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will have plenty of other occasions to make what I shall describe as a benevolent smile of sorrow in my direction. I am not convinced that I can support this amendment because I am a little worried about automatic backdating. I know that is part of the English system but I want to speak briefly about the Scottish system, which can be characterised by the fact that the defence solicitor or agent makes a plea to the sheriff for the backdating of the sentence in the event of the defendant having been in custody before sentencing. That provision allows the sheriff to grant backdating provided that the individual who has been in custody did not deliberately waste time or was in some

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way positively unhelpful. I am a little worried about automatically granting a backdated sentence when a person may have been positively unhelpful.

Lord Acton: My noble friend Lady David has made an overwhelming case. Although she has not had much luck with the Minister so far this afternoon, I very much hope that a great beam is crossing my noble friend's face even now and that he will grant this amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The purpose of these new orders is to run for a set period that will be clearly understood by all concerned--the defendant, his or her family, the supervisor and victim. The period must be long enough but no longer than is required to allow effective intervention and rehabilitation insofar as that may be brought about. We want to protect that clarity and to allow for effective intervention. We have therefore taken a different approach to the crediting of remand time.

Currently, remand time is deducted after the sentence has been passed and the residue is served in custody. We want the courts to be in a position to be as flexible as possible. If the amendment were carried, the courts would be obliged to reduce the term of each detention and training order by the period spent on remand. That would take away the court's flexibility to take account when sentencing of the time spent on remand. I put in parenthesis our determination to rid the system as far as humanly possible of dreadful cumulative delays.

If a court decides, having considered things carefully and taken into account the time spent on remand--and it may be, the reasons for that time--that four months is the right period for the individual to have, I repeat without apology, a positive and constructive regime intended to prevent reoffending, we believe that the court ought to be able to say, "Four months is the appropriate length. We have taken into account the time spent on remand. There will be no automatic deduction".

Baroness David: We are getting used to stonewalling by the Minister and to lack of a generous response. I thought that everybody was very worried about the length of time that young and older people are kept on remand, thereby filling prisons and other places of custody, such as secure accommodation--which seems altogether bad. Many times, people who are kept on remand are not given a custodial sentence. The whole question of remand ought to be looked at seriously. I thank my noble friend Lord Acton for his support. Again, of course, I am disappointed at such an ungenerous response. I shall read what the Minister said but I give no guarantee that I shall not return to this matter at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clause 62 [The period of detention and training]:

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