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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, irrespective of what other organisations advise the Government, the Government themselves believe that education without a spiritual and moral dimension is nothing more than a clinical and arid experience?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have already made clear, in answering an earlier question of one of the noble Baroness's noble friends, that the Government regard education with a social and moral dimension as extremely important.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, in today's first debate on youth crime, my noble friend the Leader of the House will, with the leave of the House, repeat in the form of a Statement an answer to a Private Notice Question in another place on the setting up of a Select Committee to investigate advance disclosure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget Statement. I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should not exceed 20 minutes from the end of the Minister's initial reply to the Opposition spokesmen, and contributions in the discussion should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, first, I should like to welcome the large number of noble Lords who intend to speak in this debate and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, who are to embark on the waters of this House for the first time under circumstances which mean that the ordeal will be quite brief.
Last autumn the Audit Commission published a seminal report on young people and crime. Its title is, Misspent Youth. It is a lucid source book for all those anxious to improve our practices. It draws attention not only to the volume, but also to the cost of crime to this country and to the modest results and the far from modest costs of what we are doing about it.
The report calculates, convincingly, that 28 million offences are committed every year at a cost to taxpayers and victims of £16,000 million. Our concern today is with young people. They contribute handsomely to that total. In 1994 two out of every five known offenders was under 21; a quarter were under 18 and that quarter accounted for around 7 million offences a year. Under one fifth of those offences were even recorded by the police and a bare 5 per cent. cleared up. Only a microscopic 3.1 per cent. of crimes committed resulted in any attempt at corrective action and that attempt often failed. While 1.8 per cent. led to a caution, only 1.3 per cent. ended in court. Of that microscopic 1.3 per cent., roughly a quarter were either discontinued or dismissed.
That leaves three quarters of 1.3 per cent. of all crimes committed ending in a conviction. Even of that tiny percentage who were convicted, one in four was given either an absolute or conditional discharge. I hope others will have time to talk about the prevention of re-offending; I alas have not. But it is clear that the majority of the tiny proportion who do go to custody re-offend after release. Can the Minister confirm that only 2.5 per cent. of all youth crime committed in this country results in any corrective action at all and that only just under 1 per cent. leads to a conviction? The 2.5 per cent. figure means one in 40.
Of course I agree that the assured prospect of being caught and punished would deter. But even if those figures are seriously flawed--and they are not--it would still be clear that the prospect of arrest and conviction never has been assured and never will be. Criminals, particularly the optimistic young criminals about whom we are talking, do not expect to be caught; do not expect to be tried; do not expect to be convicted, and expect least of all to be sentenced.
The effects of custody on the select few are minimal. In Gloucestershire, in a recent year, no less than 88 per cent. had re-offended within a year of release from custody. So, however draconian the sentences the courts hand down, their deterrent effect on the general offending population is very close to zero. Therefore prevention must be better than punishment.
As the general offending population commits around 32 per cent. of all crime at a rate of one or two offences each and at a cost of around £1,250 million, that really is a pity; and we must not pretend it is otherwise. Even significant improvements in any quarter's figures are simply the melting of a few splinters of ice on the bit of the iceberg that we can see--welcome but small. And at what a cost we melt them. Merely identifying a single young offender costs the police around £1,200; a successful prosecution costs a further £2,000; providing a place for a week in a local authority secure unit in Greater London costs over seven times as much as providing a place for a week at Eton College. Our combined efforts to catch and deal with young criminals cost the taxpayer roughly £1 billion a year. Prevention really must be better than such a ruinously expensive and grossly ineffective cure as that.
Happily, that was agreed by the last government at the beginning of its Green Paper and has been agreed by the new one at the beginning of their term of office. If this debate achieves nothing else, it should welcome and hold them to that conclusion and the policies that must flow from it. The aim must be to get people before they turn to crime, not afterwards. If these were our children we would act at once.
On 17th June the Home Secretary announced the Government's response to this new perception of the problem of youth crime in a glimpse of the forthcoming Crime and Disorder Bill. This major initiative--setting up a new task force on youth justice--comes, in my view, late; outrageously late; dreadfully late; far too late. The noble Lord may look startled; that is because he misunderstands me. I did not mean late in the life of the Government; I mean late in the life of the child.
The press release shows that every item on the agenda of that task force is punitive. I do not object to the punishment of crime--far from it. But I object to waiting for the crime to be committed and, worse still, waiting for the criminality to develop. There is a temptation to wait because of the difficulty of deciding who exactly is going to turn into a criminal. Massive research has produced an impressive list of pre-disposing conditions but none of them is certain in its effect. Applying statistical rules seems worse than random choice.
In one series of experiments four out of every five children indicated as embryo criminals, without their knowledge, grew up to be absolutely respectable citizens. There are two important lessons to be learnt from that. It is not just that if we try to spot budding criminals we will almost certainly get it wrong. It is that in the process we may do needless and possibly serious harm to those who have been wrongly labelled. Had those children been told that they had been labelled as criminal material and treated as such, the result would
Yet it may be said that we cannot prevent juvenile delinquency if we do not know in whom it is going to break out. I believe that to a large extent we can, partly by identifying stages in children's development and areas of their activity in which easily defined deprivation or other circumstances make the risk obvious; and partly by a modest redeployment of government expenditure to unlock a formidable and under-exploited resource.
That enables the teaching, explicit or implicit, of the simple lesson that must undergird our society if it is not altogether to fail, and by which social behaviour ultimately is judged: that the first duty of citizens is not to look after themselves; it is to look after each other.
Anyone who has seen the school-age child of a school-age mother attempting to cope with herself becoming a school-age mother, will recognise the danger in which she and her child stand. That is an acute example of a need for education in parenting, very often met in milder forms, which has concerned many of us for many years. The paper published by the noble Lord's then honourable and now right honourable friends last November shows that they take it seriously. I hope he will tell us a little of their concrete plans now that they are in government.
The next area of obvious risk is school--not every school. I am not one of those who believes that the whole of our education system has become degenerate since so-called "child-centred education" made its damaging appearance. But in those schools which do not provide, and firmly enforce, standards of behaviour which the pupils can understand and identify with, which are backed by all staff--academic and non-academic--and explained to and supported by the parents; or where individual children fall irremediably behind their peers in both academic and non-academic work until they are starved of both achievement and self-esteem; or where a pupil insecure or persecuted at home can find no friend among the staff in whom to confide; or where they are conveniently, but prematurely, labelled as trouble or troublesome pupils--those children are at risk.
If pupils are at risk in school, they are at greater risk out of it. A recent survey for the Home Office showed that 22 per cent. of non-truant pupils were offenders--that is a shocking figure in itself--but more than 30 per cent. committed crimes while they were temporarily excluded; 50 per cent. of truants and no less than 78 per cent. of those permanently excluded from school committed criminal offences.
If they are boys they also have a need for rivalry, to excel at something and for the addictive thrill of adrenalin in the bloodstream. In that environment, where every exciting activity is illegal, breaking the law has its own cachet among the young; escaping the law can be very exciting if you are prepared to take the risks and the thrills of the chase. Joyriding a stolen vehicle is of the essence. I do not want to legitimise that crime. It is costly, dangerous and altogether deplorable. But I want the House to understand its fascination and the need therefore to provide other, better, legal occupations. Imagine the tedium for a 12 or 15 year-old of 12 weeks with absolutely no provision for recreation. Of all people, surely your Lordships should best recognise the call of the chase after a long summer with no sporting activity!
An even more dangerous, and more easily obtainable, stimulus is provided by drugs. Suffice it to say that, with a quite modest habit of, say, £50 a day, and the street value of a decent stolen car stereo at £20, a single young addict has to break into 18 cars a week to stay solvent.
These crimes are the product of unrestricted idleness. Yet the country is full of responsible young adults, anxious to preserve the standard of life in communities threatened with a flood of juvenile crime and needing only advice and a modest amount of cash to start up anything from a jazz band to a football team--and many points in between--to offer youngsters challenging activities and the chance to grow up into happy, contributing members of society.
Educational excellence is the business of professional teachers and the DfEE. Yet adults exist wanting only training and the entree to schools to serve as mentors to youngsters whose home life and school careers may be equally unstable. As chairman of the Divert Trust, which funds both sorts of activity, I declare an interest and tell the Government that there is a sleeping army of volunteers out there that they cannot afford to neglect. For a list of other organisations I refer them to the lecture last Wednesday night on youth justice of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice.
Some youth crime is unavoidable, but much is unnecessary. That sleeping army--with the huge advantages of enthusiasm and commitment and the fact that they represent none of the authorities with which children may be in conflict--needs funds. It is brilliant at raising them. A survey of clients of the Intermediate Treatment Fund showed them raising £5 from other sources for every £1 of government money. But the many who do not get lottery money are up against it. Thanks again to the lottery, they are increasingly reliant on corporate donors--i.e., commercial companies prepared to shave a little off the dividend to give to
Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, I crave the indulgence of the House to make my maiden speech. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on his choice of subject because crime truly is a major problem in Great Britain today. It is an activity which impinges on the lives of millions of our fellow citizens. It affects their happiness and well-being.
Sadly, levels of crime have risen sharply over the past 18 years. Home Office statistics show that since 1979 recorded crime has doubled--I stress the words "recorded crime"--violent crime has almost trebled--and rose by 11 per cent. during last year alone--and the chance of being a victim of a burglary has risen from one in 32 in 1979 to one in 11 today. The reverse side of that coin has been that the number of people convicted of these offences has slumped by a third. In fact only one crime in 50 results in a conviction and only one in 750 in a prison sentence. The chance of a criminal being convicted of burglary has fallen from one in 11 to one in 33.
The number of crimes committed by youngsters--those under 18--rose by around 36 per cent. between 1984 and 1995, yet the number of young people cautioned or convicted slumped by 36 per cent. Delays have worsened, costs have risen and in some areas persistent offenders have got away with scores of offences before any effective action has been taken.
One of the five early pledges in Labour's manifesto referred specifically to youth crime. It referred to "fast track punishment for young offenders". I am very pleased that the Home Secretary is honouring that pledge by announcing that the Government are to bring forward a major crime and disorder Bill which will include overhauling the failing youth system. In practical terms, the Home Secretary has made an excellent start with the establishment of a task force on youth justice which has been formed to drive forward the Government's proposed changes for dealing with young offenders.
I think perhaps that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary might like to give consideration to another task force which would consider preventing young people embarking on a life of crime in the initial stages. I should also like to offer a small criticism of the committee that my right honourable friend has established in the sense that it is very heavily
I shall concentrate briefly on two issues in the proposed Bill. The first is the fast-track system which proposes to halve the time it takes from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders and to streamline the youth court system. This measure is truly long overdue. In my 23 years as a Member of Parliament, first for the Newton constituency and then for the St. Helens, North constituency, I have been only too well aware that nothing infuriates the residents of housing estates more than seeing a persistent young criminal who everyone knows is a thief or a vandal, or frequently both, being arrested time after time by the police, getting repeated warnings from the police but simply carrying on with a life of crime; or worse, being taken to court, often getting bail, and then proceeding to commit dozens of further offences and finally winding up with a community service order which he then proceeds to ignore. One thing that has emerged from that is considerable cynicism among people about the attitude of the police and the magistrates. Too often the attitude seems to be, "Your insurance will cover the burglary, the car theft or the car break-in". To halve the time between arrest and sentence will be welcomed by the victims of criminals everywhere.
The second measure is the proposition to give courts new sentencing powers, with an action plan order, a new reparation order and a parental responsibility order to make parents face up to their responsibilities. That is also welcome because much more emphasis needs to be placed on making young offenders face up to the consequences of their actions for themselves, for their victims and for the community.
Young offenders account for an incredible estimated 7 million crimes a year. The Audit Commission in its report Misspent Youth last year revealed that the youth justice system cost the taxpayer £1 billion a year. It is obvious that the system that deals with them is in urgent need of radical reform. We want a youth justice system that is more effective and efficient and in the longer term reduces crime dramatically.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, it gives me particular pleasure to follow the last speaker and to congratulate the noble Lord on a powerful and well-researched speech. It will have whetted our appetites to hear more from him in the near future. The noble Lord enters this House from another place with a fine reputation. He was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, he has been chairman of the Labour Party and he has held important offices from a political point
There has already been one reference to the speech which was delivered by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice on Wednesday, 25th June entitled "Justice for the Young" which was given to the Prison Reform Trust. It was a wide-ranging and highly informative speech. It ended with what was referred to as "One last thought". That thought was,
I urged the setting up of at least the Advisory Council on the Penal System because it is clear that our penal policy is in a mess. In 1990, followed by the legislation in 1991, imprisonment was carefully established as the punishment of last resort. About three or four years later, as a result of rather low-grade jury speeches to the party faithful, it was suggested that more use should be made of prison. As a result the prison population has gone up by 50 per cent. in the past four years and it has reached a crisis state. It is increasing at something like 200 prisoners a week--in other words, the capacity of a prison ship in a fortnight--and that is the situation as regards to which a different answer has to be found.
Dealing with the question of evaluation in the last moments of injury time, so to speak, I invite your Lordships' attention to a handbook Community Programme for Young and Juvenile Offenders, produced this year by the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency. In a foreword by the Director of Public
In none of the examples given in the handbook is there any evaluation. These are the essential reasons for suggesting that the matter should be the subject of a careful, balanced and non-political inquiry of the status of a Royal Commission or the like.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for bringing the issue of youth crime to our attention and I am pleased to contribute to our debate in this my maiden speech. It seems that crime is a young man's game, and I say "man" advisedly because it seems to be young men rather than young women who are most prone to crime. The peak age is between 16 and 18. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, in his introduction said that if these were our children we would do something about it. I am sad to say that many of them are our children.
In a confidential poll carried out recently, 67 per cent. of boys from that age group admitted to committing at least one offence. The good news is that most grow out of crime by the age of 30; the bad news is that some do not. Of those sentenced in court, nine out of 10 have no educational qualifications, two out of three are unemployed, one-third are involved with drugs and one-quarter have no fixed accommodation. The most worrying statistic for me is that it seems that four out of 10 of those locked up in young offenders' institutions have previously been in care. That is a vital connection: the link between youth crime and parenting. Most young men grow out of crime, but it would be better if most never grew into it. The seeds of crime are planted at a young age and it seems that we should also be planting the seeds of the cure at that same young age.
I recently visited a primary school on one of our large housing estates. The head told me that he had had a bad day. A nine year-old child had, in the words of the head, "flipped his lid" that morning and had gone out of school, shouting and swearing. By the time the class teacher had found another adult to look after the class, the child had left the school, was out of the school gates and well on his way home. The teacher went after him. The child saw the teacher coming and jumped on the back of a passing milk float, pulling a couple of crates of milk on top of him. The teacher, to his horror, saw the child lying on the ground, covered with broken glass and milk. The milk float driver stopped, went round, saw the carnage and began kicking the child, at which the boy got up, ran back down the road, climbed over the school gates and said to the teacher, "Do him, sir". That child might well have had a very wobbly sense of right and wrong--certainly, he had not been listening to my school assemblies--but he had a clear sense of where his true friends were, in the school. Sadly, for many children from wobbly homes, the primary school is their only place of security. Surely that is where we
When I visited another local estate school I saw a classroom that had been turned into a parents' centre. Carpet had been laid on the floor, comfortable chairs had been brought into the room and tea and coffee-making facilities were provided. A teacher was even allocated to the room for an hour or so every afternoon to be around when the young parents arrived. That teacher then encouraged those young parents--some no older than children themselves--with their own literacy and parenting skills, under the guise of helping them to help their children with their homework. I believe that that is time and money well invested.
One of our neighbouring parishes has an even more ambitious project--again, aimed at young adults. The project is located in a church hall and is funded by both public and private finance. It teaches young mothers word processing and computing skills--very marketable skills in today's world--but at the same time it provides a nursery and a creche. Those young women are getting companionship, dignity, skills for the world of work and skills for the world of parenting. I believe that as a result their children are far less likely to fall into crime.
Another strategic group which we should be targeting if we are serious about crime prevention comprises first-time offenders. The aim here is surely to divert those young people from custody and from becoming involved in more serious crimes. Eighty per cent. of those receiving a formal caution from the police in the presence of their parents never offend again, whereas 80 per cent. of those locked up in custody do offend again. Those are dramatic statistics. Obviously, the gross overcrowding in young offenders' institutions at the moment makes it difficult for the regime to give any attention to education or rehabilitation, but the fact is that intensive supervision in the community pays dividends in changed lives.
Forty years ago Leicester was the location for the first college which trained youth leaders. Sadly, in more recent times the youth service has been decimated. That means that we must all co-operate in running bail clubs, community service schemes and employment training schemes. A partnership must be developed between the police, the education service, the Probation Service, the social services, the churches and the voluntary agencies. Too many of our young people are being lost to crime. Too many of our young people are lost morally and socially. Now is the time to hold hands and to reverse the trend.
Lord Gisborough: My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester on a predictably excellent speech. His voice, so familiar on the eight o'clock programme, will become even more familiar here, but I hope that he will not allow his love of the marathon to influence the crispness of his speeches. He has climbed every tower and spire of his diocese; he has climbed a new one here today, and most successfully, and I congratulate him on that.
By the year 2000 there will be 10,000 teenage criminals, each one responsible for some 20 crimes. The effect of every crime on the victim can be catastrophic. On becoming adults, that very small minority of youths are likely to cascade a criminal role model to their children. As my noble friend Lord Elton described, few are caught and even those are seldom punished, so prevention is the better course than cure.
Steps to prevent youth crime need to be taken by a wide range of agencies before those at risk start to offend. Parents need to be helped to bring up their children to respect the law. Schools play a major role. Social services, health, housing, leisure, youth training and drug and alcohol services all need to be involved. Both central and local government need to commit resources to implement crime-prevention initiatives, particularly aimed at this minority group.
I can personally speak of initiatives already in place within the Cleveland Constabulary. The force has recently appointed a community safety officer for youth issues. It has produced a youth strategy to encourage an appropriate local response to the needs of all young people. It is seeking to work with and to encourage young people through public, private and voluntary organisations to address underlying social issues which contribute to crime and to anti-social behaviour. That police force has, with other agencies, been seeking to divert youth from criminal activities.
I should like to give some examples of its outstanding work. All juveniles in the "Prison! Me! No Way!" scheme are required to attend a presentation by prison officers and a member of the cautioning support project as part of the cautioning procedure. The prison officers frankly describe prison life and a video recording charts the life of a juvenile from the commission of a criminal offence to his entry into the prison regime. Some mothers attending with their sons become distraught at the prospect. The post-cautioning support project then offers support in an attempt to divert the juveniles from re-offending. The support offered consists of positive help and a realistic plan for the future for that individual to remain crime-free.
Another project, the Safe in Teesside Project, has negotiated discounts with the leisure providers, cinemas and fast-food outlets. Discount cards are offered to all young persons in Teesside aged 11 to 18. The aim of the scheme was to divert young people from offending through boredom during the summer holidays by encouraging them to make more use of the leisure and recreation facilities available across the area. There was a very high take-up of the offers available.
A summer leisure activity programme, sponsored by the local authorities, takes place annually during the schools' summer holidays. The scheme has attracted 1,500 young people to take part in 54 quality leisure activities. Several young persons with convictions attended the scheme which thrived throughout the summer. The area saw a reduction in crime during that period, some of which must be thanks to the
There are 15 junior crime prevention panels in the force area. One such panel, at Grangefield School, Stockton, is acknowledged to be the most successful junior panel in the country. Started four years ago as a direct result of crime within the school, the panel has raised thousands of pounds to finance security systems for the premises, virtually eradicating crime. The Learning from Landscape scheme has also been very successful.
Police liaison with schools continues to foster citizenship to build mutual trust and understanding. A drugs awareness package has been produced by the force in partnership with the health authority. It is aimed at children in primary education. The scheme has significantly raised the level of awareness of drugs by children in the nine to 11 year-old age group.
There is another field of initiative set up by Youth at Risk, a national charity that devises schemes to enable offenders to face the future without crime. That has had great success in the provision of places at a cost of £6,000, compared with £50,000 per place at an offenders' institute. Divert is another organisation, and there are many more. I hope that the Government will support these highly cost-effective charities, along with the methods that have been successfully used in Cleveland and elsewhere by government agencies.
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