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Baroness Walmsley: I rise to support Amendments Nos. 54 to 57, which are probing amendments. Although I am always pleased that the welfare of children is well to the fore in the minds of all who deal with them in the criminal justice system, I do not think that the child's welfare should ever be seen as justification for bail conditions or anything to do with custody. It is not for the justice system to decide on the child's welfare, but youth offending teams and the social services. Non-custodial responses should always be the norm for children and it should only be in exceptional circumstances that they are not granted bail. I find it difficult to see how it could ever be in their interests or for their welfare for them not to be granted bail.

As I said, I support the amendments as probing amendments. I shall be interested to hear how the Minister responds to the amendments and what reassurances he can give us.

Lord Hylton: I am puzzled by the amendments. Clause 13 appears to set out cases in which bail conditions may be imposed. Am I right to say that, in such circumstances, bail will be granted?

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): In speaking to Amendments Nos. 54, 55, 56 and 57, I want also to speak to Amendment No. 58, which is grouped with them.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is right in saying that Clause 13 is concerned with circumstances in which bail would be granted, but granted on conditions. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, is right to say that Clause 13 follows a recommendation made by the Law Commission. I shall explain why, and I hope that in doing so I may provide the assurance that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, sought.

As things stand, under the Bail Act 1976 a defendant under 17 can be remanded in custody on several grounds. One of those grounds—it may not arise frequently, but it is there—is if it would be for his or her own welfare or in his or her own interests to be remanded in custody. That power exists at the moment. We have no provision that would enable bail conditions to be imposed in the same circumstances.

The Law Commission pointed out—rightly, in the Government's view—that, in circumstances in which the court was of the view that it was necessary for the welfare of or in the interests of the young person to take a step, custody would, at the moment, be the only option. I accept that those may be unusual circumstances and that that is not the usual reason for refusing bail. If conditions had been imposed—a good example might be a condition to reside in a hostel—the court would be of the view that custody would not be necessary and it would be satisfactory to grant bail on that condition. Subsection (1) amends the Bail Act 1976 so as to provide that additional option, an option beneficial to the young

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person because it provides the possibility, which would not otherwise exist, of allowing bail in circumstances that otherwise could lead to a refusal.

It is not expected that the provision will be used to impose conditions on young defendants that are inappropriate or in inappropriate circumstances. As I explained, the objective is to fill a gap in the current provision, which might result, as the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, said, in someone being remanded in custody when he or she could have been released on bail if only appropriate conditions could have been imposed. That is the intention behind Clause 13(1). I hope that that explanation of the limited circumstances in which it arises will reassure Members of the Committee who spoke.

Amendment No. 58 is simply a drafting amendment, as the Committee will see. At the moment, the provision to which it refers talks about "Part", without identifying what it is part of. The amendment makes clear what that is. I hope that I have persuaded the noble Lord not to press the amendment.

Lord Dholakia: Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him two questions in relation to Clause 13. The Bill does not propose to remove or amend paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the 1976 Act under which the defendant need not be granted bail if the court is satisfied that he should be kept in custody for his own protection or, if he is a child or young person, for his own welfare. If that is the only reason to refuse bail, some other secure setting should be provided. This is allowed under Clause 13(2)(c) and Clause 13(3)(b). Can the Minister confirm that this would apply in such cases?

My second point concerns pre-sentence or medical reports. Can the Minister further confirm whether the lack of timely preparation of such reports would not act adversely in terms of refusal of bail. Many times it is not the fault of the individual; sometimes the court and its officers do not prepare their reports in time. The individual ought not to suffer because of that.

Lord Goldsmith: As regards the first point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, I agree. It would be unsatisfactory if it were necessary to detain a young person in custody when some other secure place could be found short of custody which would satisfy the requirement of providing the protection that the young person needs. The clause provides that by enabling a condition to be imposed—for example, the young person resides in a hostel which thereby provides a secure place and obviates the need for custody.

Turning to the second issue raised by the noble Lord, he will know that it often is required and is very much in the interests of the defendant—whether a young person or not—that particular reports are prepared before a sentencing decision is reached by the magistrates or by the court. It is very important that the court should know the background and circumstances and therefore have the full range of options available. In many cases there will be a

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statutory requirement not to proceed to a sentence or a particular form of sentence without such a report being obtained.

In order that those who provide these reports can do their job properly, it will sometimes take time. It will always take some time. I have no doubt that the courts, and the probation service where it is responsible, will do all that they can not to prolong unnecessarily the time taken. During the period that such a report is being prepared, it may be necessary to provide a secure place for a young person. It is not their fault that that is happening, but it is a requirement that in their own and the public's interests a proper report should be obtained. I hope that deals with the questions posed.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his explanation of this group of amendments. He has assuaged our fears; I am not sure that our fears were not groundless in the first place. I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 55 to 57 not moved.]

Lord Goldsmith moved Amendment No. 58:

    Page 9, line 7, leave out "that Part" and insert "Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the 1976 Act"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14 [Offences committed on bail]:

Lord Goldsmith moved Amendment No. 59:

    Page 9, line 42, leave out "the defendant"

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 59, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 60, both standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Scotland of Asthal. These are both simply drafting amendments. The word "defendant" appears in what is grammatically the wrong place. The intention is to correct that grammatical error with these two amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Goldsmith moved Amendment No. 60:

    Page 9, line 43, at beginning insert "the defendant"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 14, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

8.45 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Articles 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights have very important safeguards—the right to liberty, the presumption of innocence, respect for private and family life, and freedom of association. The proposal in Clause 14 is that bail should be refused to an adult defendant who is on bail in criminal proceedings on the date of the offence. The only exception is if the court is satisfied that there is no significant risk that he would commit an offence if released on bail which reverses existing bail presumptions. By opposing that Clause 14 stand part of the Bill we are concerned to

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inquire of the Government precisely what is the thinking behind this change? The presumption moves from a right to bail unless there is a significant risk of offending or absconding to entirely the other way round. We look forward to hearing what the Government have to say.

Lord Renton: It was the present Government who persuaded both Houses of Parliament to pledge the convention on human rights onto our statute book. I was in favour of that. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, pointed out, we have to be very careful in ensuring that our own law does not in any way conflict with the convention, even in minor matters. The Government should consider carefully the effects of Clause 14 upon the Act embodying the convention on human rights. For that reason I am glad that the noble Lord has moved that we should rewrite Clause 14.

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