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Lord Cope of Berkeley: Some amendments give rise--as this one has done--to much more interesting and wider debates than one anticipates. We have debated the difference between guidance and regulations. As I said, this has been an interesting debate which has given us something to reflect on before the subsequent stages of the Bill. For the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 6, line 8, at end insert--
("(za) one magistrate appointed by the court which made the referral order;").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment we should discuss Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 with which it is grouped. The amendments are related in that they concern the question of who should serve on the panels. Amendment No. 30 suggests that the panels should include at least,

Amendment No. 33 suggests that a magistrate appointed under that provision should,

    "preside over each meeting of the panel".
The origin of the amendment lies in the White Paper which discusses youth panels at paragraph 9.35 on page 33. It states,

    "The youth panel would contain a mix of youth justice practitioners--a magistrate (if possible one of the magistrates responsible for the referral) a Youth Offending Team member, and perhaps a police officer".

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The White Paper describes the training of members of the panels and the servicing of the panels. However, the Bill does not provide that a magistrate will necessarily be on a panel. I believe it is important that there should be a magistrate on the panel and indeed that that magistrate--or one of the magistrates, as there could be more than one--should preside over it. I do not think it quite right that a magistrate should sit as a junior member of a panel under the chairmanship of someone else. I also believe that to have a magistrate both as a member of, and presiding over, a panel helps to emphasise that the panel operates through an order of the court and will in due course report back to the court as regards what has happened; namely, either that the contract has been agreed and has been carried out satisfactorily or that it has not been either agreed or carried out. The court will then initiate another procedure. In that sense the panel acts as a sub-committee of the judicial process.

However, the panel also decides what I was given permission earlier today to call the sentence; that is to say, a financial penalty, restrictions on movement and all the other penalties which can be prescribed. Therefore it seems right that a magistrate should be not only involved but should be seen to be presiding over those proceedings. We all know that those who preside over matters are not necessarily those who take the biggest part in making the decisions. However, they are in control of the process and that seems to me the right role for the magistrate in this instance.

Since tabling the amendment I have realised that there is a difficulty with the matter. The organisation, Justice, has commented on the Bill. It is unhappy that youth offender contracts are attaining the characteristics of a sentence as they result from a court order. Justice would prefer--as I read its comments on the matter--police or prosecuting authorities to refer offenders to youth offender panels and to establish the conditions of a contract before the young person comes to court. Justice feels that such a way of dealing with young people avoids stigma and facilitates their co-operation in the whole process.

However, the Government have not chosen that course. They have chosen the course whereby the offender goes to court and the court refers him or her to a panel. I believe that the Government are right. However, as Justice has said, that makes the procedure a judicial process. Justice draws attention to a snag; namely, that such a process may trigger provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly with regard to Articles 1 and 3 and the right to legal assistance. That makes one cautious about going down that road. However, according to Justice, we are already a long way down that road without the amendment. I should be interested to hear the Minister's reaction.

Amendment No. 32 takes up the suggestion in the White Paper that a police officer should be a member of the panel. That is a sensible suggestion. After all the police will need to know what is in the contract because it is they who are likely to notice if a breach of the contract occurs. If a young offender discovers that he can flout a contract under the nose of a policeman without the latter being aware of it, the contract will

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soon be brought into disrepute in the locality concerned. I believe that the police will inevitably be involved in helping to ensure that the terms of a contract are being met. That does not apply to every provision in a contract--obviously the financial aspects will be monitored by other people--but I refer to restrictions on movement, for example, which may be incorporated in some but not all contracts.

Therefore I believe it is sensible that a police officer should be a member of a panel. It is also important that the policeman concerned should be appointed to the panel by the chief constable rather than by the youth team. I do not say that because I lack confidence in the youth team. I merely believe that the chief constable is the right person to decide how his policemen spend their time and which policeman carries out which duty.

As I said, Amendment No. 30 states that a panel must include at least one magistrate appointed by a court. We could also adopt the suggestion in the White Paper and insist that a police officer should also be a member of a panel. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: I wish to support Amendments Nos. 30 and 33. It is important that the youth offender panels should make decisions which are consistent with the responsibilities that the magistrates themselves have. There can be no harm whatever in having a magistrate on such a panel. Indeed, it could have the advantage of the panel receiving guidance which would result in there being a consistent attitude. Therefore I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.

In mentioning this matter, perhaps I may draw attention to Clause 6(4), which states:

    "The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision requiring persons appointed as members of a youth offender panel to have such qualifications, or satisfy such other criteria, as are specified in the regulations".
It is relevant to the amendments moved by my noble friend to inquire of the Minister what the Government have in mind concerning the provision to be made by the Secretary of State under such regulations. Will the Secretary of State say "Well, there must be a magistrate"? If that is so, then the point made by my noble friend would be met. But there is no indication in subsection (4) or elsewhere that that should be so. My noble friend has made a very important point and I warmly support it.

I have to say, however--although I shall keep an open mind for the time being--that I am not quite so certain that it would be right to have a police officer on such a panel, from the point of view of public relations. One must bear in mind that, although the public mostly respect the police, many members of the public feel that the police are never on their side. As this is an impartial panel--just as magistrates are impartial--I very much doubt there is an advantage in having a police officer serving on it.

7 p.m.

Lord Warner: I suggest that this amendment--while well-intentioned--is slightly wide of the mark in terms of achieving our objectives in this area of change. The

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court will have made its decision, through a referral order, to put this matter to the panel to agree a programme, enshrined in a contract with the young offender, which will change his behaviour. Youth offending teams have access to the kind of resources, programmes and interventions which are likely to be effective in that particular area. They also have links with a large number of other people who work with and have knowledge of young people and who can be extremely effective in effecting changes in behaviour. I am thinking of people such as teachers and those in voluntary organisations, who have a depth of experience but who may well not be police officers or magistrates.

If we take the line that we must always have a magistrate and a police officer, we will restrict the capacity of communities to bring in people who would be very effective in the work of the youth offender panels. It would limit the creativity and effectiveness of the programmes and contracts which emerge.

The issue raised by Justice would make the panels look much more like sentencing type bodies. We should not rule out the possibility of magistrates serving on the panels, but they should not serve on the panels because they are magistrates but because they are people who are likely to negotiate the effective contracts which will change offending behaviour by these youngsters. That is the objective of this whole exercise. We should keep these matters open. As I recall the White Paper, this particular proposal was put out to consultation rather than being written in stone.

Lord Dholakia: I support the noble Lord, Lord Warner. Magistrates make a large number of orders in the courts--probation orders, community service orders and attendance centre orders--and no one in their right mind would expect magistrates to be part of the teams which implement this scheme. There is a danger that, if magistrates are seen as part of these panels the offenders who appear before the panels may see them as judge and jury. That would be wrong in principle. Ideally, magistrates and police ought to keep out of this. People who are well qualified in dealing with young offenders should serve on these panels.

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