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(1A) Subsection (1) is to be read with paragraphs (a) and (c) of section 142A(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (which require a court dealing with an offender aged under 18 also to
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(1B) Accordingly, in determining in the case of an offender whether it should take steps as mentioned in subsection (1), the court shall also have regard to the matters mentioned in those paragraphs.
(1) Where a court passes a sentence of detention in a young offender institution in the case of an offender who is subject to a detention and training order, the sentence shall take effect as follows
he shall be treated for the purposes of sections 102 to 105 above and of section 98 above (place of detention), Chapter IV of this Part (return to detention) and Part II of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (early release) as if he were subject only to the one of them that was imposed on the later occasion.
(6) Where, by virtue of any enactment giving a court power to deal with a person in a way in which a court on a previous occasion could have dealt with him, a detention and training order for any term is made in the case of a person who has attained the age of 18, the person shall be treated as if he had been sentenced to detention in a young offender institution for the same term.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I remind noble Lords that I speak as former national president of the YMCA which of course works very much in this area. I should also like to place on record my warm appreciation to those who put their names to this amendment. Indeed, I have heard that more noble Lords wanted to put their names to the amendment than were able to do so, which illustrates the strength of feeling on this issue in the House.
The amendment is quite complicated, legallyI recognise thatand as I said in Committee I am very grateful to those with good legal minds who told me how it should be phrased. I was happy to accept their advice. The purpose of the amendment is to move to a situation in which no young person or child is put into custody unless special purpose-provided accommodation is arranged by the local authority, wherever it may be.
Some have argued that to say that a child must never be put into custody unless those purpose-provided arrangements are available is pushing it too far, because there will always be exceptions. That sounds a very reasonable observation, but my experience is that it is a very dangerous one. As long as one recognises the possibility of exceptions, there will always be a tendency for people to rationalise that a particular case is an exception and that therefore it is necessary to put a child into the wrong kind of custody. That is sometimes just from inertia and sometimes just out of convenience. We have reached the stage when we must say that it is never going to happenso we need to make sure that the alternative proper accommodation is available. Other countries have done this, and I cannot see why we have to lag behind.
Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that custody should be a measure of last resort, and for the shortest possible time. I do not want to pull punches this afternoon, because it would not help my noble friend if I did. Our profligate use of custody does not conform to that principle and, too often, in effect, still constitutes a form of state-inflicted
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It is no exaggeration to say that custody kills children. In 2007, three 15-to-18 year-olds and four 19-to-20 year-olds took their own lives in prison. Since 2000, 79 people aged under 21 have committed suicide in prison. More than 1,000 incidents of self-injury by juveniles in prison were recorded in 2006. I cannot believe that I am alone in asking what kind of society we are living in that we just drift along accepting this nightmare and what is happening under our noses.
Prisons do not work for young people. There is very little exercise, activity or education, even in the juvenile prisons that have had huge additional funding. In Feltham, for example, a new education block was built, but it can accommodate only half the juveniles at any time. In Brinsford Young Offender Institution, the Chief Inspector of Prisons found that children never went outside for exercise, and that prison holds 473 boys aged 15 to 21.
The training and educational levels required of prison officers remain fairly minimal. I do not in any way want to underestimate the daunting task with which they are confronted, nor do I want to underestimate the heroic efforts of some prison staff in dealing with young people, but in this general context, it is disturbing to note that prison officers recently asked for stays because they cannot control children. I hope that I can take an example from my own experience in education: it was from a much more primitive age, but in a first-class school to which I was privileged to go. Some masters used the cane and some taught. Perhaps that is an oversimplification, but discipline problems did not arise with some members of staff who managed to engage the attention and participation of the young. Others had to rely on deterrents to encourage the young to learn. Similarly, it is worrying that the first thing that happens to a young person on reception to prison is a forcible strip search.
Secure training centres exacerbate the problem. I question whether there are not real moral issues involved in the concept of running children's jails for profit. What are children's jails aboutprofit or the very things that we discussed at length and in depth on a previous amendment? Whatever the arguments in that context, secure training centres clearly fail to solve the children's problems. They have had serious incidents of disorder and death, and they rely on excessive use of physical violence by staff.
I am sorry if I sound irate about this issue, but I am irate about it. I feel, powerfully, that as a civilised society, the time has come to take a complete change of direction. We have to say that this kind of custody is never going to happen any more. Until we say never and therefore have to introduce alternative purpose-built accommodation, that will not happen. And, please, do not let anyone in the tabloid media or elsewhere say that what is being argued is the soft option. It is the tough option. What has too often been called for by the ill-informed media is something which in effect makes a bad situation worse, causes more crime in society, further distorts the odds against the young and is totally counterproductive. In the spirit of all that my noble friend said in introducing the government amendment earlier, I profoundly hope that he can be really reassuring to the House this afternoon. I beg to move.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I should point out, in the first line of subsection (2) of the proposed new clause, that it should read Criminal Justice Act 1948 rather than 1984.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, my reason for supporting the amendment is contained in two phrases in the proposed new clause, the first in subsection (1)(1) and the second in subsection (1)(2). In the first, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, includes the term under 21, whereas we have mostly been talking about juveniles under 18. In the second, he talks about suitable accommodation. He has already given examples of totally unsuitable accommodation.
I could bore your Lordships with endless descriptions of totally unsuitable accommodation, unsuitable treatment and unsuitable conditions for young offenders which I have seen round the country. In many cases, instead of designing suitable accommodation for young people, existing accommodation has been adaptedso-calledfor their use. I suppose that the classic example of total inappropriateness is the old convict penal establishment at Portland built at the beginning of the 19th century. It is about as unsuitable for young people as anywhere could be. Feltham, one of the few places that was purpose-built, was built to a design taken from America and suitable for a warm climate in California, not for the spaces beside Heathrow Airport.
The other problem is that those between 18 and 21 are totally ignored throughout the penal system. A juvenile system under the Youth Justice Board looks after those under 18, and the prison system is designed for adults, but those between 18 and 21, called young offenders, fall between the two stools. No one is responsible for them within the prison system. They come under the guidance of area managers round the country who have responsibility for many different kinds of prisoners. In young offender institutions that contain both juveniles and young offenders, referred to as split sites, most of the facilities are given to the juveniles, because the Prison Service is under contract to the Youth Justice Board to provide for them, and the 18-to-21s, of whom there
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We have an opportunity to do something about this. As I mentioned in Committee, one opportunity is a design called an academya term deliberately chosen in view of the academies being produced by the education department. It is run in the East End of London by an organisation called East Potential. This organisation is proposing a new site consisting of a custody centrea foyer; a place that holds young homeless people; and a combination of work, education, drug treatment and other suitable facilities, all on site and designed to cater for the needs of a particular catchment area under the guidance of a local authority. It has the advantage that young people will not be taken too far from home. Once they get into the hands of the criminal justice system they will receive continuous mentoring, tutoring, teaching, training or whatever. Furthermore, the local area will be involved in looking after its own as opposed to the scourge of young people, particularly 18-to-21 year-olds, being sent all over the country to where there is a bed rather than to where they should be treated.
I very much hope that, in the spirit in which the Minister has listened to and taken on board some of the points made so far on the Bill, he will take on board the need to do something about this group of young offenders to whom the noble Lord, Lord Judd, drew attention.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I was in the queue of noble Lords who wished to add their names to the amendment and I am very pleased to have been lucky enough to do so as it deserves support. It refers to accommodation and appropriate care and support. Recently I have tabled Written Questions on the number of mental health experts available to treat young people in secure establishments but the Government were unable to tell me how many there are. I shall pursue the matter but it indicates that there is still a very long way to go on this issue.
Since we debated this in Committee, Anne Owers published her shocking report on Oakhill, which deals with some of the matters to which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, alluded. She discovered that there was a 59 per cent turnover of staff. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked what we are running these homes for. Is it to make a profit or to rehabilitate young people? G4S obviously does not have the same inspection system as a local authority establishment, and if it did it would have been taken into special measures, which is, I think, what Anne Owerss report was aiming to do. A local authority establishment would never have got away with doing nothing after four critical inspections.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, made the important point that the amendment must be fit for purpose. About three or four months ago I went round Reading Young Offender Institution which has the historic interest of containing Oscar Wildes cell. However, it should be turned into a museum as it contains very
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Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I, too, support the amendments and give the example of what went right when two young children were placed in secure accommodation and remained there until they were aged 18 and 19 respectively. I refer to the Bulger killers, Thompson and Venables. I dealt with an aspect of their case and saw the reports on them. They had been very well cared for in two separate places of secure accommodation where they were able to learn of the appalling crime they had committed, to understand it and to move on from it with a great deal of help from, among others, psychiatrists, whose reports I saw. One has only to consider what might have happened to them if they had been slightly older, but well under the age of 18, and had gone in to one of the institutions that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, told us about today and in the past. With any luck, they will, under new identities, live respectable and responsible lives. Their rehabilitation was made possible in good, secure accommodation units.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, I very much support the amendment. I would have added my name to it, but it was too popular and there was no space left. It provides a welcome opportunity to talk about the inappropriateness of most of the accommodation in which children and young people are held and to see if we can persuade the Minister that we can do better, given our recent, small successes.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for the way that he moved the amendment and for what he said about Brinsford. I am grateful to the Printed Paper Office, which always sends me the reports of the Chief Inspector of Prisons. When I do not have time to read all of the reports, I always look at the sections on time in the open air. I have to tell noble Lords that, so far, one in 10 establishments, including those for juveniles, allow time in the open air every day. That is astonishing, considering that one of the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners is that everyone shall have time in the open air every day.
Our starting point is that we are discussing vulnerable young people. The starting age for placement in an institution of this nature is, I think, 12. If I am wrong, I am sure that the Minister will tell me. About 200 of the juveniles who are locked up are put in local authority secure childrens homes that are run according to childcare principles, as my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss has told us. The rest we put in prison-like establishments that are run either by the Prison Service, according to its rules, or in secure training centres.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights very recently published a report on the use of restraint in secure training centres. The committee had tried to
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We were alarmed by the headings of some of the redacted sections, namely hair grab, strangle against the wall, strangle on the ground, kicks standing and kicks on the floor. It was not possible to ascertain the content of these sections
One of the secure training centres that trains people according the manual is called Oakhill. The Chief Inspector of Prisons and Ofsted recently inspected it, and I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for referring to the inspection report. The chief inspector said:
For some time, Ofsted and the YJB have been concerned about the centre, particularly the lack of sufficient order and control, without which the safety of both children and staff cannot be assured. As a result, in July 2007 the YJB limited the number of children at the centre to 56 and required the contractor to put in place a recovery plan.
Sadly, our inspection confirmed that staff at Oakhill continued to struggle to maintain order and to control safely the children in their care ... The scale of the centres difficulties was illustrated most starkly by the staggering levels of use of force by staff, often in response to the all too frequent assaults by children on staff and on other children. In the nine months before the inspection, force was used 757 times. On 532 occasions
We had some confidence that the new direction could, given time, turn the centre around, but this required the YJB to provide certainty about its future, which was ... unlikely while matters remained at such a low ebb. It might be more realistic for the YJB to empty the centre briefly, so that it can be re-launched with a properly trained and reinvigorated staff.
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