|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
This apparently straightforward amendment sits entirely outside the rest of the proposals in Part 1. It deals with the arrangements that we currently have, whereby local probation boards operate in accordance with the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000. It seeks to require local probation boards and other organisations that are involved in the supervision of offenders, such as the Prison Service and other organisations that are designated by order, to co-operate with one another. Now we know that that is really all that it does.
The amendment is technically deficientI do not complain about that because it was what the noble Baroness was saying that was important, not the technical deficiency; we could, I am sure, cure that if we thought that we should doand it fails to connect with the rest of the proposals in Part 1. It also fails to offer any real alternative to what we do now. None of us is naive enough to think that a simple duty to co-operate, without any worked-out system to underpin it, will change the way in which agencies work together. The amendment certainly will not facilitate the greater involvement of voluntary sector providers, nor offer more flexibility in the commissioning of services. It will not, for example, enable any services to be commissioned regionally or across the prison gatethe noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, mentioned that. It maintains the existing divisions between agencies and geographical areas, which our proposals aim to bridge.
I welcome this debate and the support from all sides of the House for the principle of co-operation, but this amendment will not help us to achieve it. I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, to withdraw her amendment. This has been a valuable debate because it has reinforced again the fact that there is no disagreement in this House about the importance of co-operation or about the need to embed it between all agenciespublic, private and not for profit. We are all conjoined in our belief that that is the only way in which we will reduce reoffending in our country.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her full, thoughtful and helpful reply. I am also grateful to all those who participated in this short debate. I confirm that there was no
27 Jun 2007 : Column 611
Of course I am aware of the range of agencies and of the way in which things have come on since the 1970s. One or two very important points have been raised. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, if everything was perfectif we were all co-operating so wellwe would hardly need to be here. My noble friend Lord Dholakia gave a very important example involving the simple addition of a duty to co-operate. Co-operation is of course in peoples mindswe all want co-operation but, in reality, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, will know, there are often pressurised, difficult and competing demands and the things that you would like do not necessarily occur.
I have not made much of the slight anxiety that contestabilitywhen agencies may be pitted against each othermay further undermine what we are suggesting; we seek to facilitate co-operation and ensure that it does indeed occur. After all, here we are. We all agree that this is an aspiration devoutly to be wished, but we want it to be more than an aspiration that may occur a great deal of the time. I understand that a lot of Part 1 is predicated on the assumption of co-operation. Ours is a simple, but crucial, added adjustment. It moves the Bill from the aspirational, and very often the real, to the obligatory. I simply cannot accept the possibility, suggested by the Minister, that the amendment would diminish the Bill and create divisions. This is an important core issue regarding how we all work together to make the Bill as good as it can bethe duty to co-operate is an important element. Having said that, I seek the opinion of the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, again I mention a subject which was discussed at considerable length in Committee. At that time I proposed the removal of the word punishment from the principles of the Bill, as I did not think that punishment was the right word to apply to the activities of the Probation Service. During the discussion points were made by several noble Lords, which I have read and considered with great care. I read in particular the comments of the Minister. She said that she understood that punishment was included in the Bill because:
That was not the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, when Home Secretary, and others, which was that prison was punishment and that the deprivation of liberty was the punishment awarded by the court. It is not a sense of loss of liberty; it is an actual loss of liberty. A sentence is an actual thing, not a sense of something.
I accept that punishment is an integral part of the sentence because it is the sentence. However, it is the sentence awarded by the courts, not the Probation Service. As many noble Lords pointed out, the duty of the Probation Service is to execute the order or sentence of the court. It is required to do that over a period awarded by the court, and it has to do it in a manner appropriate to the sentence, the crime that led to the sentence and the needs of the offender, which have to be worked out; hence, the whole basis of the offender management systemend-to-end offender management based on the needs of the offender and aimed at rehabilitation. What is the aim of the Probation Service in this? Clause 2(4) sets out very clearly five aims:
Those other fourprotection of the public, reduction of reoffending, ensuring offenders awareness and rehabilitationare aims and proper purposes for the Probation Service and are what it is all about; but punishment is not its role. If we are really being helpful in describing to people what probation is all about, we need to have a doing word that explains it better.
I am grateful to those Members of the House who mentioned other words. The one that seems to me to fit the bill best is enforcement. That explains that there has got to be some enforcement of what the court says. This is not something to be treated lightly or wantonly; this is something that has to be done on behalf of the public to protect them, and it has to be done properly. What is it enforcing? It is enforcing the order of the court. The court determines that people come into the hands of the Probation Service. Therefore it seems to me that it is much better than having the wrong word punishment to have the right word enforcement of what it is that the court determines that the Probation Service should do. Again, because this is an important Bill and we hope that it has in it the proper description of what the management of offenders should be, and although we are playing with words, we should get those words right. These are the words that, having reflected on our discussion in Committee, I suggest to noble Lords are better than the word punishment, because they describe what is required and they refer to enforcement, which many noble Lords felt ought to be in the Bill. They emphasise that it is the courts which are responsible for the sentence that has to be enforced.
Lord Judd: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, why in the spirit of the whole case that he has put does he use the word enforcement rather than implementation? It seems me to that the use of the word enforcement is open to the interpretation that it is partly about ensuring that punishment happens.
The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Thomas of Walliswood): My Lords, the noble Lord is out of order. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, needs to move his amendment, and I need to do my little piece, and then the noble Lord can have his argument.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I support the amendment, to which I have added my name. It involves the substitution of the proper punishment of offenders with the proper enforcement of court orders. Simply, it reiterates the strongly held view of so many in the field as well as those speaking in Committee that the role of those working with offenders in the community or in prison is to see that the wishes of the court are carried out properly and are enforced. Those court orders, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, are the punishment, and it is the role of the court to punish. The principles underlying a sentence are the protection of the public, the reduction of reoffending, the needs of the victim, the awareness of the offender and rehabilitation. The responsibility for those in the community is to see that the courts wishes are adhered to and to facilitate their completion. If that fails, there is a return to court for a further decision on punishment. We would all be appalled if we found that probation officers or prison officers, or any other person working with offenders, had taken it on themselves personally to punish an offender.
There is considerable confusion in the Bill in the use of aims, purposes and services. Indeed, there is a perception in the Probation Service that it and the public are confused about what its true purpose now is. Its core work had been to advise, assist and befriend, but that has developed as the years have gone by into a role that is now perceived to be much more to do with enforcement. This does not sit easily with those earlier values that many in the Probation Service still wish to adhere to.
As an erstwhile social worker, though not a probation officer, I believe that unless we can not only restore but keep the true enabling, restoring and supportive role, predicated on a proper professional relationship in anyone providing probation services, we will be doing all of us a great disservice. For it is the belief in that capacity to change, for someone to move from being an offender to a citizen again, that makes possible the rehabilitation and the cessation of reoffending that we all earnestly desire.
Part of that process is that officers do all in their power to ensure that the courts orders are carried out to a successful conclusion and, therefore, they are indeed the agent of the punishment imposed by the court. That is very clear. There is a fine line which distinguishes that role between the enforcer and the enabler, which is not merely semantics, but makes a difference between a humane, constructive and affirming role and the negative, counterproductive trend that we have started to see. This is evidenced by such things as the fourfold increase in breaches in the past five years, mechanistic processes and the concern of the Lord Chief Justice, for example, that the automatic recall of released offenders for technical breaches has become a trapdoor to prison, as he put it.
Punishment has indeed got its place, and we must never forget that. However, we also know that if punishment of our children is enforced by and through fear and rigid approaches, we will produce angry and rebellious offspring. It is a matter of
27 Jun 2007 : Column 616
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said that we are playing with words. I think that he is wrongwe are working with words and words are hugely important in a Bill such as this. My inclination, subject to what the Minister will say, is to support the amendment, because it is important for the understanding by prisoners and probation officers and for the relationship between them.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, I, too, think that words are extremely important and I support the amendment. As most noble Lords who have been present throughout our proceedings will know, I was quite distressed by this mistake, as I would describe it, when it originally came up in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill in 2000. I protested then against the use of the word punish. I imagine that the reason it was introduced was to give the impression that everything was toughening up. It seems to me that it was a fantasy to think that the public read Acts of Parliament to see that the Government are toughening up by putting in punish when it was not there previously. I am not sure that it had any effect whatever in making people think that things had toughened up. It always seemed improper to ask public servants to punish someone; that can be a role only of a court. Of course, punish is not what is actually meant, because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, said, I imagine that the Minister has no intention whatever that probation officers should start punishing people. If they were to do so, presumably they would be subject to some disciplinary action. All they can do is implement, administer and enforce orders passed in some judicial way.
The use of the term confuses the offender, who is not sure what sort of person a probation officer is, and it confuses the probation officer, who is not sure what sort of person he or she should be. It also works against effectiveness and against helping people to give up crime. We know what helps people to give up crime: it is a close relationship with a supervisor who is respected by the supervised offender; it is rebuilding local links and giving a person a stake in everyday life; and it is giving that person an identity other than criminal of which he can be proud, such as worker, student or member of society.
Since we started our debates on the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has constantly talked about rehabilitation. I am certainly with him in saying that, if we could delete all instances of the words management of offenders and replace them with rehabilitation, the Bill would be much more evidence-based. Certainly, it would not include the word punishment as a function of probation officers. I very much support the amendment and I would not even object to the formulation of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, of implementation rather than enforcement.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, when I spoke at Second Reading, I declared my interests as set out in the register of being on prison and national offender management boards. However, any views that I express are mine and mine alone.
I am opposed to the amendment, although I share the view that to some extent this is an argument about words. The subsection that we are looking at also refers to the protection of the public, the reduction of reoffending and the rehabilitation of offenders, which are all things that a sentence can be designed to achieve, but a sentence can also be designed to achieve what it is suggested should be taken outnamely, the punishment of offenders.
I appreciate that others are arguing very differently but I think that it sends a wrong message to suggest that the Probation Service has nothing whatever to do with the punishment of offenders. The Probation Service is part of the criminal justice system, and punishment is part of that system and of sentences, in the same way as are seeking to achieve a reduction in reoffending, rehabilitation and protecting the public. Some may argue that penalties given by courts are basically about punishment. Doing unpaid work may have a rehabilitative effect but it is also a punishment that can be imposed. If we delete the reference to punishment of offenders from the clause, I think that we will send the wrong message about one of the roles of the Probation Service.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him whether he is therefore in favour of amending the Prison Act to say that one of the functions of prison officers is punishment.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I am speaking to this amendment and have said that, when decisions are made in relation to sentences, the courts have to indicate the purposes of the sentences. The purpose of a sentence can be to achieve a reduction in reoffending, to protect the public and to rehabilitate offenders; it can also be to punish.
Lord Judd: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, on reflection, is he really saying that, if part of the offenders rehabilitation is the requirement to undertake unpaid work and that unpaid work is in the form of community service, it will help to bring him to an understanding of the nature of society and responsibility within society if the idea grows that this is a punishment?
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|