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Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: I thank the noble Baroness for that very full and interesting reply. I thank, too, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for his very useful contribution and, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.
Voting and fixed penalty notices is like the comparison between apples and pearsI shall leave it at that for the time being. I am very interested to hear that the pilots have produced some results. They were not available to us, but we look forward to reading them because they obviously have a bearing on the pilots' further development and use. We look forward to following that up.
Given the lateness of the hour, I would just remind the noble Baroness that I am very interested in what concrete plans are in place to complement the kind of procedures that we have been discussing to enable young people and children to be kept out of the criminal justice system. I mentioned the YISPs in particular, but there may be others. I do not know whether the Minister wants to respond now or later.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I beg the noble Baroness's pardon. In fact, I have a big long list of the things that we have done, including Sure Start, children's fund and education. I cannot run through them all now, but I will write to the noble Baroness and give her as full a response as I am able. I apologise for not having done it in my rather rapid, short-fire response tonight.
The Earl of Listowel: Perhaps I might take this opportunity to raise one further point with the Minister. It was raised by the noble Baroness, but I am not sure that the Minister replied to it in her response. I refer to 16 and 17-year-olds not being in employment, education or training. They are poorer than their 19 or 20-year-old neighbours. I believe that we are unusual in that 16 and 17-year-olds receive less benefit than their European counterparts. I think that the Government do this because they are keen to see these young people in education, training or employment and do not wish to provide them with incentives to be outside employment. That is controversial, but there are two sides to the argument. It suggests that the fines for 16 and 17-year-olds should be lower to reflect their financial climate and gives further weight to the concern about how these young people will pay the fines.
The noble Lord said: This group of amendments seeks to modernise the Bill a little. The Bill gives powers for people to charge fixed penalties for those who inconsiderately ride their bicycles on pavements where pedestrians have right of way. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but pavements are not the only places where bicycles are ridden without consideration. They can be ridden in parks and other places, in open spaces, in building courtyards and so on. Two of the amendments would simply remove the restriction that makes the penalty possible on footways alone.
The other two amendments are directed to widening the scope to deal with a modern phenomenonthat of skateboards and in-line roller skatesor roller bladesand roller skates themselves. These are all, on occasions, used somewhat to the danger of pedestrians using footways properly, but also in parks and so on. We believe that it would be reasonable to invite the Government to consider whether the fixed penalty should be extended to those particular uses if they are inconsiderately used in areas where the public are expecting to be able to walk in peace and safety. I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Chief Whip is muttering that I ought to be very sympathetic to the amendments, and in spirit I certainly am. There are questions of practicality, however, and I shall deal with the amendments in turn.
Subsections (3) and (6) of Clause 41 give community support officers and accredited persons the power to stop cyclists so that they may issue a fixed penalty notice. That power is restricted to occasions when an offence of cycling on the footway is suspected. Amendments Nos. 173 and 176 would remove this restriction. The amendments would give community support officers and accredited persons the much wider power, which is currently available to police officers. Police have that wider power in order to enforce a number of cycling offences. I am sure that we all wish that they would do that rather more frequently sometimes.
Amendments Nos. 172 and 175 appear to be intended to create a new offence of skateboarding, roller skating or in-line skating on a footway. They are not in fact effective, if that is their purpose, as the amendments do not create the new offences. However, I shall deal with them as a matter of principle.
The amendments would also provide community support officers, accredited persons, and police officers with a power to stop individuals engaged in these activities. I understand the concerns behind the amendments. There is no doubt that skateboarders, in-line skaters and roller skaters can cause irritation to pedestrians in particular localities. They have irritated me from time to time. However, the amendments would move the legal use of skateboards and roller skates from footways to roadways. These devices are not designed for use in trafficthat is for sureand displacing them on to roads would undoubtedly be
In addition, there are already sufficient powers to make by-laws to deal with this kind of nuisance. Section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972 enables local authorities to enact by-laws in regard to use of skateboards, which can prohibit such activities in certain locations or regulate them throughout their district. There are already several local authorities that have made it an offence to skateboard or roller skate in designated areas, punishable by a fine on summary conviction.
The debate takes me back to the debates on the Police Reform Bill in the previous Session, which were dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and myself. It is not our intention in general to expand the powers of community support officers, unless there are very strong arguments for doing so. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches were very concerned about the range of powers and duties that would be available to community support officers. I think that at the time we were generally agreed that there had to be strong arguments for extending those powers. For those reasons, I question this particular approach. Nevertheless, as I said, I have not only personal sympathy but a more general sympathy for the proposal. I therefore suggest to the noble Lord that, at this stage, he should not press his amendments.
Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for his response, and indeed for his sympathybut there is an old saying about an ounce of health being worth a tonne of sympathy. It is not the use that we are concerned about; we are concerned about the inconsiderate use. There is that distinction. I think that I shall probably need to consider whether we want to bring this forward again, perhaps with slightly amended wording. Meanwhile I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to restrict the power to issue fixed penalty notices and stop vehicles to police officers and community support officers only. There is concern about public transparency, accountability and professional capability and about the piecemeal extension of police powers to civilian bodies not under the direct supervision of the police. Despite the offences covered being minor, the principle of extending police powers to non-police civilians is a concern. As the PACE codes of practice outline, the key principles of using stop powers and the danger of misuse is highlighted. We see the creation of second
The purposes of subsections (5), (6) and (7) of this clause are to extend, in a focused and appropriate way, the powers available to persons accredited under the Police Reform Act 2002. The amendment would remove all of those provisions. The powers made available to accredited persons are the power to stop cyclesso that, as I said, accredited persons may assist in enforcing the offence of cycling on the pavementand the power to issue certain penalty notices for disorder.
As with all the powers made available to accredited persons under the Police Reform Act 2002, there are a number of safeguards already in place to ensure that the powers are given only in appropriate circumstances. Chief officers will be responsible for ensuring that anybody given these powers is suitable and, more importantly, properly trained. As an additional safeguard, the clause allows the Secretary of State to determine which penalty notices for disorder should be exclusively for police and which are appropriate to be extended to community support officers and accredited persons.
Communities want lower level incidents of disorder dealt with quickly and effectively. Penalty notices for disorder provide a useful method for dealing with such offences. Extending this power to properly trained accredited persons will provide people already involved in community safety roles with the powers they need to take more effective action. Given the value of these powers, the way in which they have begun to work and the safeguards against their misuse, I suggest to the noble Baroness that it would be inappropriate for her to press the amendment.
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