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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I understand that free legal advice will continue to be available in a similar way to the present provision. In such circumstances, it will be helpful if it is because it will enable the person who has been arrested and is perhaps the subject of allegations to be represented. It means that he will be able to present himself better in dealing with the police and it is in everyone's interest that that continues to be the case. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord's point.

I wanted to make a further point in response to an issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. I wanted further to clarify what might happen when a police officer is considering giving street bail to someone and it becomes apparent that the person's understanding is not as full as perhaps would be desirable in that circumstance. If the officer cannot speak the language, and it is clear that he is not achieving a level of understanding, it is unlikely that he will go the extra step further and use street bail. It would, or could, be misunderstood by the person he was arresting or seeking to arrest. In that circumstance, it would probably make good operational sense to take him to a police station where interpretation can be properly arranged and where he can be fully appraised of his rights and responsibilities. Police training will need to tease out those issues so that they are properly clarified for all concerned.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I thank the Minister for his full and careful response, in particular for his statement that the Government will consider some of these issues during the Summer Recess. The amendments examine the practical end of how to achieve street bail in the best way because, as my noble friend Lord Alexander of Weedon said, we support it.

I welcome the Minister's comment that in regard to Amendment No. 11 there will be a standard form clearly setting out the consequences of failure to surrender. I was grateful for his further words addressing the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond.

The disappointment is that he could not see fit to accept my Amendment No. 17. My noble friend Lord Renton is in his place and he is always assiduous in trying to reduce the number of words in a Bill. I was trying to do my little bit but I was delighted to hear the reason prayed in aid by the Minister for saying, "No, you can't chop those words out". He said that there should be a fulsome explanation and he welcomed it. Those words will come to haunt him in the future when I press other amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 11 to 13 not moved.]

30 Jun 2003 : Column 640

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 14:


    Page 3, line 24, at end insert—


"(8) In cases where the person arrested is a child, bail will only be granted in the presence of an appropriate adult to whom copies of any notifications must be given.
(9) "Appropriate adult" has the same meaning as in the Codes of Practice under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60)."

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 14 is a probing amendment, the purpose of which is to ensure that in cases involving children the granting of bail will take place only in the presence of an appropriate adult. As we have heard, Clause 3 removes current requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 for a police officer to proceed to a police station as soon as practicable after arresting a person. It also allows police officers, on arrest, to give bail to the person rather than take the person to a police station at that point. The Children's Society and other children's charities are concerned about how that might affect children.

The clause has the legitimate aim of making the best use of police time and of reducing the time that police officers spend on administrative tasks. It also means that the total time that people are deprived of their liberty will be reduced, as the "custody clock" starts not from the time of arrest but from the time detention is authorised by the custody officer at the police station.

The children's organisations are concerned about the impact of the changes on children and the removal of current safeguards under the PACE codes of practice. The organisations are seeking assurances about how the new provisions will comply with the UK's obligations under the United Nations minimum rules for the administration of juvenile justice to ensure that parents or guardians are immediately informed of any arrest. It is difficult to see how that can be done on the street.

As currently drafted, we believe that the clause will result in the wholesale sacrifice of the additional safeguards provided under the PACE codes of practice for children, with four possible consequences. First, there is the risk of a lack of understanding on the part of the child of the significance of the duty to answer to bail at the specified police station at the specified time and the implications and consequences of non-compliance, bearing in mind that failure to answer to bail is an offence.

Secondly, those responsible for the care of the child are not directly informed of the fact of an arrest, nor the requirement to answer bail. A child may have what they feel is a valid reason for not informing their parents or carers. That may result in censure of parents or carers who are totally unaware of their responsibilities because they have not been passed on to them by the child.

Thirdly, the presence of "Failure to answer to bail" on an individual's record, no matter when it dates from, means automatic exclusion from any compassionate release provision if a person is serving a custodial sentence. That could be very serious for the

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young person some way down the road. Fourthly, there is the possible re-emergence of "guided tours" of scenes of offences with the arrested individual asked to identify which was "their" offence.

Part of the reasoning for the introduction of the codes of practice was that particularly vulnerable suspects should not incriminate themselves without the advice and safeguards they introduced. That is even more significant given the proposed provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill for indeterminate and extended custodial sentences.

To conclude, we believe that in cases involving children it is imperative that safeguards are put in place to ensure that parents or guardians are informed of an arrest and that children are supported throughout the process of arrest and bail. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I support the amendment, which is tabled in my name also. I shall not speak at length because the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, put the argument in a convincing, unassailable form.

As currently drafted, the Bill means that we would throw overboard a whole series of safeguards for children. I believe that that would be done at our peril and should occur only after careful thought. I look forward to the Minister's response as to why the Government feel that these safeguards properly can be jettisoned. At the moment I am not persuaded.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Hylton: I do not want to speak on the question of bail for children. Nevertheless, it would be helpful if the Minister replying to the amendment would confirm that information about the arrest of a child at any age up to 18 is always given to the parent or guardian or, failing that, to the next of kin. I raise the point because it is one which for many years caused great worry and anxiety in Northern Ireland. I hope that the position is satisfactory in England and Wales.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I, too, shall be brief. The case has been effectively put by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Clearly, arrest on bail is a good, additional power and should save time. However, I believe that in that respect the Bill has not been child-proofed as there is no indication in the Bill of any different treatment of children.

As a past juvenile court magistrate, one aspect which would worry me is the reaction of the child. I am afraid that in many cases the child would not just not tell but would be frightened of telling the parent or guardian. That again, as we have heard, could result in an offence for the individual of not reporting but also could be problematical for the parent. No fewer than eight children's societies are concerned about this matter. I very much hope that the Minister will bear in mind what has been said and accept the amendment.

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Baroness Howarth of Breckland: I support the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the eight children's groups which have raised concerns. I also speak from my own experience.

I am sure that the Minister will see how inappropriate it would be to issue bail to young people on the streets without the presence of a responsible adult. As has been said, it would leave young people with the responsibility of telling their parents and of accepting guilt in circumstances where we know that many young people do not have the level of understanding to recognise exactly what they are accepting and agreeing to. They desperately need their own rights considered in those circumstances.

They will also find themselves carrying an undue burden of personal anxiety. Some might say that such young people probably deserve that if they have got themselves into trouble. My experience is that these are some of the most vulnerable young people in our society, who are experiencing considerable difficulties. Their families are not supportive. I have spoken to many children who, had they gone home and told of what had happened, would have put themselves in danger of a very severe beating. That would not have been reported because they would have been fearful of further beatings. There is something to be said for the right time and place and having the right authorities and a police officer with you rather than going home and telling about this yourself.

It is crucial that the PACE regulations are kept in place. I shall not go through them again because the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, did so. Such regulations are in place to protect children in these kind of circumstances. It would be a very retrograde step in our child care were we to lose such regulations.

I also believe that there is great anxiety about granting bail to people with learning difficulties, particularly young people but also vulnerable adults on the street. They will have the same problem about not necessarily understanding what they are agreeing to in terms of an offence that might or might not have been committed. If I was on the street and someone was to say I had done something, it would be easier to accept it and pay the fine than to battle. I have only three points for speeding and that is because I was in a 50 miles per hour limit when I thought I was in a 70 miles per hour limit. It is very easy just to say, "I accept" because the reality is before you. With people who are more vulnerable it is significantly more difficult.

I believe that that would be a real step backwards. I hope very much that Ministers will see fit to protect children and vulnerable adults in these circumstances.


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