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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have supported this amendment. I also thank those who have worked behind the scenes. The Minister knows who they are. I thank the noble Lord for his charm and sincerity over this matter.

I am very concerned about something he said tonight. I believe that there has been a step backwards and I shall say now what I believe it to be. Having these specialised units in Holloway and New Hall, particularly in Holloway, is a retrograde step because at the moment the governor of Holloway will not have girls of 15 and 16 years of age there. They are not even allowed to get out of the van. They are sent on to the young offenders' unit at Bullwood Hall. The governor told us that when we visited Holloway a short time ago. One must think of the psychological aspects for a moment for the parents having a 15 year-old in Holloway. They will have to face up to the fact that a 15 or 16 year-old is in a very secure adult prison.

The decision--it may not have been taken by this Government--to have the units there presents a very worrying situation. I visited New Hall. There is another very worrying situation there. I suppose it is because of the lack of funds that they are lacking in probation officers. They had only 50 per cent. of the probation officers required. The ones that I met were very tired, were exhausted and very worried. It is a busy prison with many disturbed women there. There is a great deal of bullying and drug abuse. It is not a place in which to put young girls.

Before I decide what to do perhaps I may ask the Minister this question. Will he say, "We shall put the 15 and 16 year-olds in a secure unit unless there are very special circumstances"? That would be a great relief. One would then know that they are receiving education and that they would not be in an adult prison. Two weeks ago there were only 30 of them, but when one considers the 17 year-olds, there were 88 of them. There were only 30 young girls. I am sure that the Government can find a way of accommodating them outside a large adult prison.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, a number of your Lordships want me to say things which I cannot conscientiously do unless I am able to guarantee delivery. If there are so few 15 and 16 year-olds, as the noble Baroness said--and that is right--I still have to accommodate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, about keeping young girls in appropriate

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units close to home. I am sorry to say this, but since the numbers are so small I am not going to be able to deliver those commitments.

All I can say is that I recognise the present circumstances are not satisfactory. I have demonstrated what we have done so far. I have given more detail since our last meeting together. Standing here I cannot give guarantees that I am not certain that I shall be able to deliver.

The noble Baroness made specific reference to Holloway, New Hall and the probation service. If she would give me more detail, I shall have it investigated immediately; but I cannot give responses to specific requests without knowing that there is ample resource so that we can deliver on it--not least on the question that some of the girls are serving quite small sentences. I recognise that for young people time travels in a different way than for those of us who are older. I can only repeat what I have already said. We wish to work towards an ending of this situation. I am wilfully putting myself under the yoke--I did it deliberately last time--of coming back to report on progress. I know that there is no one in this House who will not keep me to that.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but because I have seen some of these girls and because some of them are first-time offenders, I feel that I must seek to divide the House on this matter so that noble Lords may vote according to their consciences.

9.19 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 41) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 50; Not-Contents, 69.

Division No. 3

CONTENTS

Ackner, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Annaly, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Blatch, B.
Byford, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chesham, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
De Ramsey, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Goodhart, L.
Hampton, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hooson, L.
Hylton, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B. [Teller.]
Munster, E.
Northesk, E.
Palmer, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Seccombe, B.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Tenby, V. [Teller.]
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Tordoff, L.
Wharton, B.
Wigoder, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Archer of Sandwell, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Chandos, V.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howell, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Paul, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Varley, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

31 Mar 1998 : Column 250

9.27 p.m.

Clause 56 [Reprimands and warnings]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 42:


Page 44, line 38, leave out from ("been") to ("and") in line 40 and insert ("convicted of an offence").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is designed to clarify that where a young person has previously been convicted of an offence and goes on to commit a further offence, he or she may not in an circumstances receive a reprimand or warning. That has always been the position of the Government as set out originally in the consultation paper Tackling Youth Crime published last September. As currently drafted, subsection (1)(d) would prevent a young person from receiving a reprimand or warning not only where he or she had a prior conviction but also in a range of other situations where a prosecution had been initiated but had resulted in a technical outcome that fell short of conviction but was not formally an acquittal or discontinuance. These include, for example, situations where the case was withdrawn by the prosecution in court before a plea was entered, cases where the prosecution was stayed for abuse of process and cases where the young person was jointly charged with an adult and the examining justices considered that there was no case to answer and discharged the defendants.

31 Mar 1998 : Column 251

The Government do not believe that it is appropriate that there should be an automatic prohibition on receiving a warning or reprimand for an offence following an earlier prosecution which resulted in one of these technical outcomes, which in their nature are far closer to acquittal than conviction. The amendment is designed to restrict the scope of the automatic statutory prohibition in subsection (1)(d) to circumstances where a young person has a prior conviction.

There is, however, a further category of cases involving a prior prosecution where the Government believe that a warning or reprimand will usually be inappropriate. That category includes cases where the young person has been charged with an offence and the proceedings are still ongoing and the young person commits a further offence while on bail. In those circumstances, the use of a warning or reprimand could undermine one of the basic principles of the final warning scheme--that the response to offending by young people should be progressive. We therefore intend to make it clear in guidance that further offences committed by a young person on bail following charge should not in the vast majority of cases receive a reprimand or warning. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, this is a small step in the right direction. One has to look on it as a correction of a defect in the drafting of the Bill rather than a movement of principle in the right direction. Obviously we will not oppose it, but we continue to be sorry that the Government have seen fit to impose the degree of rigidity which they have done upon the power to issue warnings.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


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