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The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, I wish to speak briefly to this group of amendments, which contains a variety of points. I hope that I can help the Minister over "may" and "shall". This is really only a semantic matter concerning the use of the English language. Notwithstanding whatever precedent may have existed in other legislation, if you think of the question, "May I hit that old lady over the head?", the response, "No, you may not", is a definite prohibition. It does not allow for any kind of doubt whether or not that is a permissible act. The phrase, "You may not do it" is definite. I do not object to the use of "may" in the various contexts that we are discussing.
I do not want to speak about the responsible officer but I want to say a little about the alcohol treatment requirement into which we are moving. It is very welcome indeed that that has found a place within this legislation. It is a desperate and urgent need that has been far too little addressed in the past. However, I am not sure about the amendment containing the words,
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for his welcome of Clause 194. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for his welcome of the measures. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, implicitly welcomes the Bill's provisions although she wishes to modify them. Noble Lords are right to say that we have waited a long time for these measures. It gives the Government a great deal of pleasure to introduce these provisions to assist those who suffer so gravely. I endorse what the right reverend Prelate said in relation to alcoholism. I believe that sufferers usually say, "I am an alcoholic and I have not imbibed for X number of years"quite often 30 or more. Alcoholism is a pernicious and persistent condition.
We are now dealing with the drug rehabilitation treatment clausethe last group in relation to mental health. We have looked at the previous provisions under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act. The relevant provisions are identical to those of that Act. We did not change the drafting. Any inconsistency that the noble Baroness detects may
Amendment No. 218CJ seeks to change "may not" to "shall not", to emphasise that the conditions listed in Clause 191(2) must all be fulfilled before a drug treatment requirement can be imposed. The conditions state that the court must not impose a requirement unless it is satisfied that the offender is dependent on, or has a propensity to misuse, drugs; that his dependency or propensity requires and may be susceptible to treatment; that arrangements for treatment have or can be made; that a probation officer or youth offending team member has recommended the treatment; and that the offender is willing to comply with it. This amendment does not bring anything new to the operation of the clause.
As currently drafted, Clause 191(2) already ensures that the stated conditions are fulfilled before a court may impose a drug treatment requirement. Currently, under the drug treatment and testing order, it is the treatment provider who determines how and in what circumstances the offender is required to give samples for testing in accordance with the provisions of the order and guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
In giving directions as to how testing is done, the treatment provider can either do the test himself or delegate the task to others. The clause, as drafted, extends these powers to the responsible officer in order to achieve maximum flexibility and efficiency in determining the arrangements for drug testing. The test itself does not require specialist skills, although training is given on the use of equipment. Restricting the powers to specialists can make it difficult to arrange drug tests, as they are not always on probation premises. There are safeguards, as arrangements are subject to the provisions of the order and guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
We do not suggest that the analytical process be undertaken by anyone who is not skilled to do that. However, as the noble Baroness may know, the taking of the test itself can be relatively easily done by someone of modest skill who is trained how to do it. We want to be able to give people that opportunity. People in Turning Point, for instance, regularly have to try to do it to assist people on the ground. We do not want to do anything that would disable people from helping in that very helpful and proper way. Amendment No. 218CH would thwart that policy change and be unnecessarily restrictive. We understand the noble Baroness's concerns, but we do not think that they have any foundation in fact.
Amendments Nos. 218CK and 218CP seek to limit the length of the drug treatment and testing period and alcohol treatment to three years, as has been alluded to by the right reverend Prelate. That is again not necessary, as they can be imposed only as part of a community order or a suspended sentence order. Community orders cannot last longer than three years, as provided in Clause 159(5), and suspended sentences
Amendment No. 218CL would make all drug rehabilitation requirements subject to court review, rather than making that discretionary where the requirement is imposed for less than 12 months. Currently, DTTOs provide intensive drug treatment and testing, along with court reviews to monitor the offender's progress. The Bill brings the DTTO under the umbrella of the new generic community order, but also provides for a less intensive form of drug treatment which lasts less than 12 months and is not subject to a mandatory court review.
The aim is to provide for offenders whose drug problem is not so serious that it requires intensive treatment. To impose court review in all cases would be unnecessary and time-consuming. It might divert proper attention from those cases that really need intensity to try to make the difference. Nevertheless, the court has the option of imposing a court review for short drug rehabilitation requirements where it is considered appropriate and helpful.
Amendments Nos. 218CM and 218CN change the wording of Clause 193(2)(a) and (b) to emphasise that the court cannot amend a drug treatment requirement unless the offender is willing to comply, and cannot make any amendments to an order which has the effect of reducing the period of treatment below the six-month minimum. As with Amendments Nos. 218CK and 218CP, those changes are unnecessary. That is partly for the reasons that I have already given, but also because the current drafting is adequate in ensuring that the conditions are fulfilled.
The new clause would require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to courts responsible for community orders when deciding to introduce orders that impose two or more treatment requirements. I confess that when I looked at the wording of the draft clause, it appeared somewhat confusing, and it is not clear of what the guidance would consist and what its purpose would be. I was very grateful to the noble Baroness, who elucidated what she meant in her comments.
The probation service already provides advice to sentencers on suitable interventions for each individual offender in the form of a pre-sentence report. That would cover how requirements would fit together where a number are imposed as part of the same order, as well as any other relevant issues of which the court should be aware. In addition, the Sentencing Guidelines Council will issue guidance on sentencing matters for all courts. I believe the noble Baroness will find that, put together, all those issues meet her concerns in a fairly comprehensive way and do what she most wishes to be done. I hope that that explanation is helpful.
I, too, acknowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, has been very concerned about this issue. I know that he is not here today. He raised this concern and noble Lords will know that I wrote to him
I thank the noble Baroness for giving me the opportunity to state clearly, I hope, why we believe that the Bill as currently structured meets all the concerns that she reasonably has about this very difficult and sensitive issue.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for her patience in going through all the amendments in such detail. I believe that much of what she said will give a great deal of comfort to the voluntary sector, to the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, to myself and to Turning Point.
She will be aware of the difficulty that the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, had in raising these matters in Committee. We all accept that that would have been a more appropriate stage at which to obtain clarification. However, I believe that the Government Whips are aware of the situation that arose then. Therefore, I thank the Minister for her patience in giving such detailed explanations on Report. We are most grateful to her, and I shall read with great care what she said. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.