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Lord Skelmersdale: It is even worse than that, is it not? The young offender may well be aged 17 and a half. Why on earth would one want to review a sentence that has been running for only six months?

The Earl of Listowel: The amendment allows me the opportunity to raise a point that I should have raised earlier—the Committee will tell me whether I am in order. That is the issue of registration on the sex offenders' register. Although young people aged under 18 who are registered may end up with only half the tariff of an adult sex offender—so they would get seven years if the adult were to get 14 years—there is concern that if a 14 year-old, say, were entered on the sex offenders' register for seven years, he may change a lot in two or three years. Children change at a faster rate than adults. It may then be appropriate to review his presence—his enrolment—on the sex offenders register.

Will the Minister tell us whether consideration is being given to how the sex offenders' register is applied to children—to the review of their registration, to how a child is placed on the register and to involvement of professional groups in advising on the appropriateness of including a child on the register?

An especial concern of mine is that the use of the sex offenders' register may change in future and that it may become a much more public document. I also understand that it may be useful to have a child on the register—because the child is dangerous or to make clear to the child that it has committed a serious offence for which it is being held responsible.

Baroness Noakes: It may help the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, to know that we have tabled later amendments that specifically concern children and the sex offenders' register. He may welcome a debate on that issue when we reach those amendments.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness,

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Lady Walmsley, for two reasons. First, all children in prison should be covered by the Children Act 1989 and be given the proper care and concern that children have under that Act. Secondly, when a case is reviewed, the programme of treatment that may or may not have been given is reviewed, as is the level of dangerousness. So that is not only for the welfare of the young person but for the protection of society. One may decide that the young person is so dangerous that other action needs to be taken before the young person is released back into society. So the provision is both ends on: it protects victims as well as the welfare of the young person.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is right: if, as a very young person, one is sentenced for a very long period in prison for a sexual offence, it would be an incredibly serious offence. In considering the length of sentence, the court will have regard to the age of the defendant and the seriousness of the offence. That judgment must be made at the beginning. It would not be appropriate in relation to any offence for the sentence to be reviewed when the person reaches the age of 18, unless that is in accordance with the normal parole arrangements. It is important to have regard to society as a whole, but especially the victims and what they would feel about that. It is difficult to see justification for the amendment in relation to the long sentences.

With regard to the shorter sentences, the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is right. It is inappropriate to sentence someone at, let us say, 17½ and then to have a review shortly thereafter. It would make the position of the sexual offender unique as regards a particular concession in sentencing. I believe that the right course is to leave the matter to sentencers. While understanding the reasons for the amendment, we cannot support it.

Baroness Blatch: The Minister did not respond to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. The amendment asks for the sentence to be reviewed, not for an assessment of the treatment given or the handling of the case. I agree with almost every noble Lord who has spoken: that someone sentenced to prison at the ages we are discussing should be subject to treatment and proper remedial programmes. However, the amendment seeks review of the sentence.

Baroness Walmsley: I thank noble Lords who have both opposed and supported the amendment, and thank the Minister. Perhaps I may reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that in bringing forward the amendment I have no lack of sympathy for the victims; indeed, quite the opposite. I accept that the approach underlying my amendments relates to the offenders themselves because they are damaged young people whom society has failed. However, in treating them appropriately it is to be hoped that we shall prevent them from reoffending, thereby protecting other children. If those young offenders are released into society without treatment, other children may be abused by them. If we deal properly with the situation, there are children who will never suffer the anguish of

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sexual abuse. That is why I seek review at appropriate stages, appropriate treatment, expert assessment and all the other matters I have been arguing for.

I see no reason why the age of 18 should not be significant. It is a significant age for children in care. For example, better treatment may have become available since the original sentence. I argue for special arrangements for these young offenders because of the special nature of the offences. In 99.9 per cent of cases, the offences are the result of mental and emotional problems brought about by years of neglect, abuse and violence against those young people. At the end of the case history, those of us who visited the centre to which I referred earlier asked, "Do you have any patients who have not been subjected to some of these terrible situations?" The answer was, "No. They may not manifest themselves when the young person comes to us but when we dig a little deeper we always find them".

These are special, unfortunate young people who commit appalling offences; I am the first to accept that. I want to protect other young children from their predations. However, I ask the Committee to bear in mind that a review at 18, half-way through the sentence, or whenever the court thinks appropriate, will be a positive factor, moving things in the right direction. Research and treatment programmes are moving on all the time. If we can review periodically what is happening to these young people, there is a better chance that they will leave custody able to enter society with the absolute minimum of risk. That is what we all want. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

Clause 15 [Arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 73:


    Page 6, line 19, leave out subsection (1) and insert—


"(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally arranges or facilitates something that he intends to do, intends another person to do, or believes that another person will do, in any part of the world, and
(b) doing it will involve the commission of an offence under any of sections 9 to 14."

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to make clear that the offence of "arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence" can consist of arranging or facilitating child sex either for oneself or for others. The amendment also makes clear that the offence applies wherever in the world the sex is intended to take place. I beg to move.

Lord Brennan: I welcome the amendment introduced by the Government, first, because it deals with a most serious international problem affecting children, especially those in the poorest countries. I declare a connection with the organisation in this country, Consortium for Street Children; and with Anti-slavery, an NGO which has a particular interest in protecting

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children in those poor countries from sexual exploitation by those deviants in the developed world who go to those countries to take advantage of children and in doing so commit offences ranging between those set out in Clause 9 up to that in Clause 14. That is a commendable objective.

Secondly, although the clause refers to anywhere in the world, it embraces equally the commission of the offence in this country. Anyone who has served on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, as I and others have, will readily confirm that organised paedophilia, nationally and internationally, is a major source of damage to children here and abroad. I commend the Government's amendment.

I note that it is to be associated with two related courses of action that I understand the Government are presently considering. The clause attacks the organisers but the offenders directly involved would be sex offenders if convicted. And the Register of Sex Offenders, I understand, is subject to review as to how long a trip abroad can be undertaken by a sex offender, within which time he is required to give notice of the trip abroad to the local police in this country. At the moment, because of regulations passed in 2001, a foreign trip of eight days or more qualifies for the giving of notice. If the Government's intention is carried through, I understand that that period is to be reduced to three days, which makes it effectively impossible to get to the countries in question.

What is the consequence of that for sex offenders? It curtails their activities abroad. That fits in with Clause 15 and the people organising those trips. If we add to that another intended government action—that the sex offenders' register will embrace in future the commission of offences abroad, not just in this country—the register will be effective for crimes committed anywhere against children; the timescale will be short; and Clause 15, coupled with that, will give much greater protection to children than we have been able to give in the past.

I close my welcome to the clause with one comment. It is to be noted in Clause 15 that the penalty on indictment for the commission of the organising of paedophilia is up to 14 years' imprisonment. I confidently expect the courts to impose draconian sentences against the organisers of this kind of national or international paedophilia, against which offences this clause is commendably directed.


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