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The same is true of measures to ensure offenders awareness of the effect of crime on victims. Of course that is important, which is why it is mentioned in the aims in the following clause, but it is an integral part of supervision and rehabilitation, not something separate.
I am grateful for the debate that we have had on these matters, which has helped to establish the context for the more detailed discussions that will follow. I agree with the noble Baroness that we will, I hope, be able to deal with them far more quickly, as we have now set the framework and the context for the debate. We could debate the precise wording and emphasis of the different subsections, but the fact remains that the probation purposes in Clause 1 are, as I have indicated, already well established. They have already been the subject of parliamentary debate during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act, and, with the addition of paragraph (f) on work with victims, they have served us very well indeed. I think that they work well as a foundation for the further provisions that follow. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
The Earl of Listowel: Before my noble friend does, I thank the noble Baroness for replying to my concern about fragmentation and partnership between businesses and governors. Perhaps I may encourage her to take away and consider, rather than responding now, the relative professional status of probation and prison officers. I add for her consideration that not only in the culture of probation but throughout the whole culture of social carethe noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, will be able to discuss this with her if she wishesgood supervision is fundamental. That is individual one-to-one supervision on a regular basis with a senior practitioner of that person working on the front line, to look not only at performance and check that the job that is required is being done, but also at the impact that working with vulnerable, damaged people has on that person at the front line. It is considered indispensable.
When one hears of the experiences of people who end up in custody, of their drug addictions, their learning disabilities and their other disabilities, it seems to me there could be three positives here: first, prison officers have a terribly challenging job to do and one might find them enjoying it more if they had better support; secondly, they would probably do a better job, in terms of engaging young offenders while in custody, if they had that support; and, thirdly, the cultures would be more similar if both prison and probation officers had a similar form of supervision. I am sure we will discuss these points later on, but I would appreciate it if she would take that away and think about it.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I apologise for not dealing with that matter. I will certainly take it away. I say to the noble Earl that we are already working very hard on prison officer training. They are undertaking some of the training courses with probation officers. Those undertaking that training have indicated that they very much enjoy it. We understand this issue. Getting a culture where both services feel conjoined in their efforts is very important, and we will continue to do everything we can to generate that ethos. I will be very happy to take the matter away and give the noble Earls issues further consideration.
Lord Ramsbotham: I am very grateful to the Minister for the way she has answered the question. I am also very grateful to those who have contributed. We have had an extremely useful discussion, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, to wind up the rather wider issues we have been discussing today.
I would like to reassure my noble friends Lady Howarth and Lord Listowel that I did not ignore commissioning, because commissioning is how the partnership will be processed. I was not going to raise that issue in this part, I wanted to make the point that they were working together, and that that was in the method. There are ways that the actual business of commissioning has to be obtained, and I deliberately left that out. On central management and the direction, and fragmentation, which my noble friend Lord Listowel mentioned, that is one of the reasons why I believe there needs to be a central management structure.
One of the weaknesses in the Prison Service, for example, is that there is no way to spread good practice. One of the most important things in spreading good practice is to have a system for doing so. From the chief of the Probation Service down through the director of probation and the chief officers is one way to do that. That is simple, clear and people know from who they will get direction. I am aware of fragmentation and it is to prevent fragmentation that I suggest that that structure should exist. That way, good practice will be spread.
I was very glad that the noble Baroness mentioned the enormous success that some chief probation officers have had in leading local criminal justice boards. That needs emphasising. Indeed, I go further to say that perhaps that should be regarded as the default position. Chief probation officers who have acted in that role to whom I have spoken have spoken warmly of the opportunity that has been given to them and said that their delivery of service has improved as a result of the relationships that have developed as a result of working in that way.
In that connection, I was interested because I thought that, at last, I had had an answer from the noble Baroness about what NOMS was. What she described was a system conjoining two services. I accept that; that is fine by me; I will buy that, because then we know where it stands. But then she called it a service again, so I was back to where I was.
I absolutely accept the need to commission according to need. Of course that is what will be done locally when it is determined what is needed to be done. Of course, as my noble friend Lady Howarth mentioned, certain things must be done nationally and certain things regionally. That is why, in introducing my amendment, I suggested that it was important that what was to be done at national, regional and local level should be laid down. Some things can and some things cannot be left to a lower level.
In the amendment, I describe the general method by which probation would be delivered, which emphasises the local levelI do not discount that. I accept what the Minister said: that much of my amendment is already enshrined in other Acts, but I understood that one of the Governments purposes in putting the provisions together in this way was to bring them together in the Bill so that people could know their purpose without having to rummage through to find where they were. All that I was doing was lifting things that I felt appropriate to the purposes and putting them all there, acknowledging that they all have another source.
I am much comforted by the fact that the noble Baroness, representing the Government as a whole, said that what we have said will be taken away and considered carefully in the processing of the Bill. In that spirit, I am very happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 25. I fear that we have not quite left the issue of liststhe overarching broader brushstroke, as it werebecause my amendment would insert the words:
We recognise the considerable, indeed central, work of the Probation Service in connection with the release and recall of sentenced prisoners. The Home Secretary recognised in the other place that this part of the role of probation officers is a core task and should be reserved to the Probation Service alone. In general, their skills are deployed in assisting the courts by providing impartial, accurate, reliable, skilled and professional advice when a decision is being taken, whether in the youth courts, the magistrates courts or the Crown Court. Where this is pre-sentence advice, it may be written or verbal and, wherever appropriate, will offer alternatives to custody.
The clause refers to assessments of people who have committed offences. These may include assessments of factors that are likely to contribute to the reduction of offending, such as their needs, the risk of harm to others and the risk of reoffending. This is an area where public protection and safety can be an issue, so it is vital that the probation officer is in a position to assess risk and dangerousness. Apart from the Parole Board and the Secretary of State, this may also involve the courts and the Prison Service. This assessment and advice is of course based on professional skills and is inextricably linked with the process of managing offenders. It requires a knowledge and understanding of the individual concerned, continuous assessment of how they are coping with their lives, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. All this stems from the quality of the relationship between the probation officer and the individual.
The management of risk and dangerousness may be involved, and the process of serving a community sentence is organic. For the assistance to the courts to be meaningful, it requires ongoing knowledge of the dynamics of an individuals life. This cannot be detached and farmed out to some other provider to be the offender manager, as the probation officer would no longer be in a position to discharge his duty to the courts adequately. In turn, this means that offender management is also a core role that should be dedicated to probation. It was decided in the other place that this should be the case, but only for three years. This is wrong and should be amended so that these interlinking roles can be carried out properly.
Each year, the Probation Service starts the supervision of some 175,000 offenders. At any one time, the caseload is more than 200,000. Seventy per cent will be on community sentences, and 30 per cent will be imprisoned with a period of statutory licence. There will be about 246,000 pre-sentence reports, and 20,000 bail and information reports. Advice is given on the early release of prisoners, which is specific to this amendment, in 87,000 cases a year. Finally, there are about 50,000 cases in which victims of serious crimes will have chosen to express their concerns and the impact of the crime on their lives, and it will be included in the report. This is part of the process of working restoratively with victims and their families, and it both benefits the victim and contributes to the offenders better understanding of the effect of the crime that he has committed. It is important that this highly skilled and very important part of the service provided in probation is recognised and put in the Bill.
The same arguments apply to Amendment No. 25 as they did to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, at the beginning of this debate. We often tread similar ground as we go through these amendments. I hope that I can add usefully to the debate. Amendment No. 25 would insert the words enforcement of court orders, which is, of course, what the court expects to do when it has taken its decision on punishment. However, while attempting to ensure compliance as far as possible with the terms of the court order, should that not be possible, the probation officer will be expected to return to court for a revision of the punishment and the order. Beyond giving advice on the circumstances of the offender and as much background information as possible, the probation officer has no part in the courts decision on the type of punishment. Nor can he add or detract from that decision. This provides the offender with a safeguard, and reassures the public, by depersonalising the concept of punishment at its point of delivery.
There is a parallel in the role of prison staffthis was clearly gone into by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in an earlier discussionvis-Ã -vis punishment and the decision of the court. If custody is the punishment, it is the role of staff to enable the prisoner to do his time in such a way as to be more able to lead, as we have heard, a good and useful life on release as stated in the prison rules. A person is sent to prison as a punishment but not for punishment. Prison officers are not people who are themselves expected to inflict further punishment on a prisoner. Indeed, if suspected or found to have done so, they would be very likely to find themselves being disciplined. The expectation is that all concerned will be using their skills to make the experience of prison constructive and positive. This is extremely difficult in the current situation, but that remains their role.
There is a perception that community-based penalties involving unpaid work and a whole range of options in a community order mean that somehow the offender is getting off lightly or not being properly punishedwalking free from court, as we often see in the newspapers. This is the perception of the tabloid press in particular and nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, as all the recent studies and polls show, as I mentioned earlier, the public have no appetite for prison as punishment. The really difficult thing is change. These are huge issues which have to be addressed in the context of a persons life in the community.
For many probation officers the term enforcement is a very strong one, at odds with their rehabilitating role. This is entirely understandable because they stand at the very interface between punishment and rehabilitation. Enforcement describes a duty, but the spirit in which it is carried out will be determined by the nature of the relationship with the offender, the skills of the officer and the manner in which this duty is exercised. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, for the way in which she has explained her amendment. Not only has she genuinely rounded off the debate on Clause 1 and purposes but she has also added to the concerns that we had earlier about how one can get into difficulties when one tries to draft lists. When I read Amendment No. 11, I had some deep concerns, most of which she has allayed. Obviously the noble Baroness is talking about services to courts and, when she refers particularly to the Secretary of State being given assistance, she is really referring back to the Parole Board, the first part of her amendment, and early release matters.
When I read the new subsection, my immediate concern was whether it would be appropriate for the Secretary of State to be given assistance from probation services, for example, on matters such as those relating to people who are subject to extradition proceedings and foreign prisoners and whether they should be sent back overseas. The way in which the amendment is drafted means that the probation purposes will go much broader than I would wish them to go. I wish to see the Home Secretarys role in making executive decisions retained. But I appreciate now that the noble Baroness means something rather different and that she is referring only to early release matters. I certainly sympathise with that and I hope the Minister will tell us that matters such as what happens to someone on early release are already covered by the list we have before us.
Lord Ramsbotham: I am extremely glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, has proposed the words in the amendment because, as she so rightly says, this takes one step further our earlier discussion on punishment. Certainly the terms she has used should be considered to describe that particular part of the aims which, at the moment, we think is inappropriately done. The way she has described will be hugely helpful to my thinking on what I bring back on Report.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: As a previous member of the Parole Board, I no longer have to declare an interest. However, I support the amendment because it makes very clear how important it is that the Probation Service and probation officers retain the role. If this is accepted, we will only be able to ensure that that happens for the next three years but, beyond that, no doubt there will be other opportunities to argue it further, if it is appropriate at that stage.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I rise to answer this useful debate, in part to give my noble friend Lady Scotland a little respite from the rigours of the Dispatch Box. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, for tabling the amendments. They have enabled us to have a little extra focus on some issues that have already been exorcised somewhat over the six and a half hours that we have been at it so far.
Amendment No. 11 usefully seeks to explore and, in its drafting, add the assistance that probation gives to the Parole Board and the Secretary of State to the probation purpose, and which the noble Baroness describes as a list. That is fair enough. That is exactly as it appears.
Probation involvement in the parole process is already sanctioned by specific provisions in the Parole Board Rules 2004, and in the formal directions to the Parole Board made under Section 32(6) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. Examples of such provisions are the requirement to include a home circumstances reportwhich, among many other things, seeks to reflect the attitudes and concerns of the victim and their familiesand the inclusion of non-standard licence conditions. The proposed revision of the Parole Board Rules will see them take the form of a statutory instrument rather than the previous administrative means by which they were framed, so they will be given extra authority.
That involvement forms part of the primary functions of probation in supervising and rehabilitating people convicted of offences. Probation advice is given because of the expertise and knowledge that probation staff obtain in exercising those functions. That does not mean that the resulting assistance should itself become a primary probationary function and be referred to explicitly in the Bill. That is not to diminish the importance or significance of that work, but in our view it does not need to be set out in terms in the Bill in the way that the noble Baroness suggests.
Amendment No. 25, as the noble Baroness said, touches on similar territory to Amendment No. 2, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, which has had an extensive discussion. I do not particularly wish to go over the ground that has already been covered, but the case is that the amendment seeks to replace punishment with enforcement of court orders, and while that might act as a descriptive term, we do not believe it accurately reflects the position. As was said earlier, society has always expected that those who break the law should be punished, and we have enshrined that expectation in legislation. I well remember the form that debate took when we were discussing the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill back in 2000. That Bill became an Act, and it currently governs the Probation Service. The same spirit is contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which sets out the purposes of sentencing. That punishment is an integral part of these purposes and enforcement is now a well established concept, and I am afraid that the amendment fails to recognise that fact.
We have not heard from the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, whose Amendment No. 26 is also in this group. I am therefore reluctant to deal with the amendment he would ordinarily, I am sure, have spoken to.
I hope that the noble Baroness, having heard what I have said and what was said earlier, particularly about the second of her amendments in this group, will feel able, having had some extensive discussion on that part at least, to withdraw her amendments today.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this mini-debate and for the support that I have had from around the Committee. I listened with care and interest to what the Minister said. We have, as has been agreed, been over this territory already, although I feel that the assistance given to the court and the Parole Board of is central importance. Now that it has been recognised by the Home Secretary as a piece of non-negotiable core work, it has a place. I also confirm that I recognise the place of punishmentit depends who is the source of the punishment, and enforcement should be the role of the probation officer rather than the court. I will cogitate on the Ministers reply. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Bill was returned from the Commons with certain Lords amendments disagreed to but with an amendment proposed in lieu thereof and with the remaining Lords amendments agreed to. The Commons reason was ordered to be printed.
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