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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I assumed that it was a team effort and that the noble Lord would bring us to the end. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has an amendment, but he did not refer to the fact that he
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It was free indeed. Every time one refers to the magistrates' court it is not necessary to put in the words "family proceedings". That is made clear in subsection (6), to which the noble Lord, Lord Meston, referred. The Government have a number of technical amendments all making the same point. Perhaps I may indicate what they are for the sake of completeness. They are Amendments Nos. 124, 189, 299 and 303. Those amendments seek to add in family proceedings for the purposes of the 1989 Act. We too want them to be family proceedings for the purposes of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, which refers to family proceedings. The amendments to which I have referred also pick that up, and I do not think that there will be any real dispute about that.
I turn to the point about a parent or guardian attending. Amendments Nos. 119 and 127A seek to strengthen the ability of the court in ensuring that a parent or guardian attends proceedings involving their child in relation to a child safety order application. Amendment No. 119 gives the court the power to compel the attendance of a parent or guardian at court. Amendment No. 127A provides that, in the absence of a parent or guardian, the court shall satisfy itself that all reasonable efforts have been made to secure his or her attendance. I agree entirely, as would everybody, I am sure, that it should be right for parents to attend court proceedings involving their children, but I believe the amendments to be unnecessary because there are already adequate powers in the law to achieve that end.
Section 34A of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 provides that where a child or young person is charged with an offence or is for any other reason brought before a court, the court may in any case, and shall in the case of a child or young person who is under the age of 16, require a person who is a parent or guardian to attend at the court during all stages of the proceedings, unless the court is satisfied that it would be unreasonable to do so.
We are of the view that Section 34A of the 1933 Act applies equally to magistrates' courts dealing with civil and family proceedings as it does to magistrates' courts dealing with criminal proceedings. Because the provision relates not only to offences but to cases where the child is for any other reason brought before the court, we believe that Section 34A would apply in the case of proceedings in relation to the child safety order. I believe that this is what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, seeks to achieve by his first amendment. His second
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said that under Clause 11(8) the responsible officer in relation to a child safety order can be either a local authority social worker or a member of a youth offending team. I believe that the noble Baroness wants to ensure that the responsible officer should be only a social worker because we are dealing with the under-10s and it would be inappropriate for somebody from a youth offending team to be involved. I believe that under normal circumstances it would be a social worker.
The requirements in each individual case will be different and will be tailored to the individual child. The aim will always be to secure that the child receives appropriate care, protection and support and is subject to proper control. To achieve that purpose, the role performed by the supervising or responsible officer will be crucial. The officer's main responsibility will clearly be to the child and paramount to that will be the need to supervise him or her to ensure full compliance with the terms or requirements of the order. However, the officer will have an important role to play in relation to the child's family circumstances.
In deciding who should perform that important role, the court will be guided by a number of circumstances. There will be various factors to consider, not least the child's age, and previous involvement with the child and his or her family. In the majority of cases, were a child safety order to be made, the most appropriate responsible officer is likely to be a member of the social services department, but there may be occasions where the youth offending team would have a role. I hope that, having indicated that it would normally be a person from the social services department but that there may be cases where it would be appropriate to have someone else, the noble Baroness will reconsider her amendment. I hope that my remarks have persuaded her that it is not necessary to press her amendment.
I think that I have covered all the points made on this group and, with the exceptions of the government amendments which seek to add in the reference to the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, that all noble Lords will feel--
Viscount Tenby: I apologise to the Committee for intervening. I do not want to be more owlish or obtuse than is the norm. Can the noble and learned Lord reinforce the important point about attendance at court by the parent or guardian? The noble and learned Lord said that one should not worry about it because the law had taken care of it. Without asking the Solicitor-General to go into great detail, can the noble and learned Lord give reasons for his confident answer?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am sorry that I have not made the position sufficiently clear. Section 34A of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 provides that where a child or young person is charged with an offence or is for any other reason brought before the court, which includes a child safety order, the court has
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I should like to return to one point made by the noble and learned Lord. Am I correct in my impression that the noble and learned Lord in speaking to my noble friend's amendment implied that a different set of magistrates would deal with an individual child each time he or she appeared in court? If it is right that there is an inconsistent or casual approach to who is on the Bench, I suggest that the children's panel system in Scotland requires the same members for each regrettable appearance of the child.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I reject the suggestion that it is casual. The reason why there is power in the Bill for a different panel of magistrates to hear an allegation, for example that the child safety order has been broken, is simply a matter of practicality. Given that these orders can last for a considerable period--in some cases 12 months--it would not be possible or practical to gather together precisely the same people who made the original order. Far from that assisting the child, it would be a great hindrance because inevitably it would lead to delay. Where the breach very quickly followed the making of the order and to get the same panel together would cause no inconvenience, it might be sensible to do that. It is a matter for individual magistrates' courts to sort out among themselves. I believe it is imperative that the courts have the flexibility to have different panels dealing with the same child, if it proves to be necessary.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: As a Scot, I agree that we should all aspire to be as Scottish as possible. I do not know how many magistrates' courts there are in Britain but it must be a very substantial number. I believe that it would be impractical and very damaging to require the same three individuals to hear every single application in respect of a child. It would lead to delay and confusion which would not be in the interests of the child.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: I have listened to what my noble and learned friend has said in reply. I remind those who are involved in the drafting of the Bill that there is a cultural difference in the method of operation between the criminal courts, even when they wear a civil hat, and family courts. It is for that reason that these concerns have been raised. These matters should be supervised by social workers rather than members of the youth offending team because of the cultural differences. That is the matter on which we seek to place emphasis in the debate. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.