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Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 230:



"(c) that his dependency upon, or propensity to misuse, drugs is related to his offending behaviour, such that it is relevant and proportionate for the court to require treatment, and
(d) that the option of voluntary treatment provided concurrent to the order would be unsatisfactory."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 230, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 233. It is the first of three groups of amendments to Schedule 22.

I return to the amendments to Schedule 22 to ensure that the powers to attach drug treatment and testing requirements to action plan and supervision orders would be used by the courts only if alternatives of voluntary treatment had been considered and rejected as unsatisfactory. That would build in safeguards to ensure a more appropriate and proportionate response to young people who use drugs.

I am concerned in principle at the prospect of children being compelled, on pain of the criminal offence of breaching a court order, to undergo treatment, even though they might benefit from it. The voluntary route is by far the best. The amendment would ensure that the serious step of using court compulsion to treatment would be taken only where absolutely necessary, and where voluntary options had already been considered and tried.

The Government have already shown a commitment to interventions that are relevant and proportionate. For example, in Committee in the Commons, the Minister stated:


    "the court would include a treatment requirement in the orders if it was satisfied that that would be relevant and proportionate intervention. That test is very important".

It is surely therefore vital and valid to incorporate such an important test into the legislation that provides for those powers.

Similarly, in relation to voluntary treatment, the Minister in another place stated:


    "It is open to any misuser of drugs—anyone with a problem—to seek voluntary treatment at any time".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee B, 11/2/03; col. 976.]

While that statement is perhaps generally true of adult drug users, I must question whether it can fairly be said that every child aged 10 and over has the kind of knowledge and confidence to access a young person's treatment service of the kind that the statement would imply.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General for his recent letter about the increase in resources for drug treatment. While growth in young people's community treatment services has recently been rapid, there are in many areas still few new services and they are often unknown to young

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people in the area. This is perhaps even more true for those young people who have become disengaged and have started to get into trouble.

As the provider of young people's drug treatment, the Children's Society, which has briefed me, knows that for many children who get involved in offending and drug use their involvement with the youth offending team's drug specialist will be the first time they have become aware of the availability of youth-centred drug services. As a matter of course and good practice, the society believes that the possibility of voluntary treatment should be pro-actively encouraged by both YoT agencies and the court and considered to be the preferred option before the necessity for court compulsion can be shown.

I had the pleasure of an interesting briefing by the National Treatment Agency yesterday afternoon and it is clear that a great deal of progress is being made. However, it had to admit that there is still a long way to go in providing drug treatment programmes that are relevant and appropriate to young people. It also accepted that there are serious challenges in ensuring that these services are well known to and can be easily accessed by young people. In the light of that, I believe that there is a need for the additional safeguards of these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, at earlier stages of the Bill I supported the voluntary principle as set out in the noble Baroness's amendment. I am happy to do so again and I am convinced that if it can be applied it will lead to more satisfactory and effective treatment.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 230 and 233 would additionally require the court to be satisfied that the offender's dependency on or propensity to misuse drugs is related to his offending behaviour and that the option of voluntary treatment is considered unsatisfactory. In the past, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has suggested that the provisions of the schedule are disproportionate and that a programme of treatment should be imposed only when it is quite clear that there is a definite and problematic habit which is linked to the offence.

We want to take every opportunity to identify and address, as early as possible, dependency on or propensity to misuse drugs, so as to minimise the chances of a young drug user entering a continuing cycle of drug misuse and offending. We believe this to be important regardless of whether or not that dependency or propensity is directly related to the particular offence or offences for which the community order is being imposed.

We all accept that there is a strong correlation between drug misuse and offending among young people. We also know that drug misuse is a serious problem which, if left unchecked, can blight young people's lives and lead to a cycle of drug misuse and repeat offending. The aim of the treatment requirement is to reduce and, if possible, eliminate the young offender's dependency on or propensity to misuse drugs.

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Under these provisions, the offender's dependency or propensity has to be such as requires and may be susceptible to treatment. It is likely, therefore, to be an underlying problem which has contributed to the offence for which an order is being imposed. However, not all drug users go on to commit crimes specifically related to their offence. We therefore consider that it would be over restrictive to put such a condition, as proposed in these amendments, on the face of the Bill. For those reasons, therefore, we intend to resist this part of Amendments Nos. 230 and 233.

The schedule ensures that the courts can include a treatment requirement in these orders only if it has been recommended as suitable for the offender by an officer of a local probation board or a member of a youth offending team. Such a recommendation should be made only if the requirement is relevant—I repeat, relevant—to the offender. Clearly, a court will take relevance and proportionality into account in deciding whether to include a treatment requirement in each case.

The inclusion of paragraph (d) in Amendments Nos. 230 and 233 would make it a condition that the court must be satisfied that voluntary treatment concurrent with an order would be unsatisfactory.

Views have been expressed which reflect the concerns of the Children's Society and other organisations about the coercive nature of including a treatment requirement as part of a court order for young people. We understand that their preferred option would be voluntary treatment rather than treatment under the requirement of an order.

However, it is not the case, as has been suggested, that children are being compelled on pain of breaching a court order to undergo the treatment they need. The clause ensures that the court may include a treatment requirement in these orders only if offenders who are 14 or over consent to its inclusion. As I have said, the requirement as to treatment must also have been recommended to the court as suitable and therefore appropriate for that offender.

We agree that treatment is more likely to be effective and successful with the active compliance of the individual concerned. If an offender is already undergoing treatment or is committed to undergoing a treatment programme, this would be taken into account by the supervising officer when considering whether to recommend including a treatment requirement in an order. We anticipate that these provisions will be used primarily for problematic drug-misusing offenders who lead a generally agreed chaotic lifestyle. These individuals would benefit from a more structured, integral programme.

The purpose of this schedule is to provide for treatment to be included as a component of an order so that the offender's drug misuse can be addressed as an integral part of the order. We know that young drug-misusing offenders are likely to have complex problems which require integrated approaches. If treatment were to be undertaken under separate arrangements, the real benefits of this integral approach could be lost. Moreover, there could be less

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incentive for the offender to remain in a treatment programme. Were an offender to drop out of such separate "voluntary" treatment, there would be no way for the court to ensure that his drug-using behaviour was effectively addressed.

If an offender who has consented to the inclusion of a treatment requirement, as part of an action plan or supervision order, then failed to participate in the treatment programme, or withdrew his consent, this could be taken into account in deciding how best to deal with that offender. Decisions would be taken in the context of a continuing aim to help him address his drug-using behaviour.

We know that young people undergoing drug treatment often lead the chaotic lifestyle to which I have referred and that despite the best efforts of everyone involved there could well be breaches of the drug requirements. We want to help young people with these drug problems and there will certainly not be a "one breach and you are out" policy.

Multi-agency youth offending teams and specialist drug workers who support them are well used to working with young people with multiple problems, including drug misuse, and will help support and encourage them. In addition, guidance to the courts and youth offending teams will make it clear that breach action should be undertaken only as a last resort.

I hope that having heard more background and a description on how we see the provision working, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.


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