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Baroness Stern: I support Amendment No. 160BCC, which relates to children under 18, and stress the importance of making it clear as often as possible in legislation that the sentencing of childrenthose under 18is a very different matter from the sentencing of adults. The United Kingdom is a signatory to international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which should require us to use custody absolutely as a last resort, for the shortest possible time. The primary consideration in sentencing children should be the welfare of the child. Therefore, it seems to me appropriate that it should be clear that children are removed from the provisions.
I thank the Minister for being so helpful in answer to my question about the Government's objectives with the measures. From her answer, it was clear that the Government have no view about the desirable or appropriate size of the criminal justice system nor, therefore, about the cost of criminal justice interventions, and that that is not an issue that affects these measures. Since in the real world money is limited and is unlikely to be available easily for the vast range of interventions that have been proposed, using prison as a last resort, and having that in legislation, seems a sensible policy. It is one for which any government would be grateful, as it at least suggests that they might have the money to fund whatever they feel is the most desirable course of action.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I shall respond first to the point just raised by the noble Baroness. Of course, the Government do have a view in relation to the utility of interrupting offending behaviour. The combination of the sentencing measures that we are bringing to bear should have the effect of reducing offending behaviour, thereby relieving the public of the abuse to which they are put by that offence. One hopes that it will also reduce the numbers of people whom we find we are obliged to imprison because of their activities.
We are clear that the sentencing framework should do more to support the purposes of crime reduction and reparation, which goes slightly wider than the definition of "compensation" that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, wanted. One can make reparation in a
We also believe that we should continue to meet the needs of punishment. The clause aims to do that by setting out what we consider to be the purposesthough not the only onesof sentencing. I refer to punishment, crime reduction, reparation and the reform and rehabilitation of offenders. During Committee stage in another place, we recognised in response to an amendment that reform and rehabilitation of offenders should form a purpose in their own right and made the appropriate changes. We are, however, not quite convinced by the additional proposals made in today's amendments.
I want to say a word to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carlisle, about the apparent conflict to which he alluded in the clause. I believe that he said that the reform and rehabilitation of offenders might be in conflict with each other.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Not necessarily. If an offender reforms and rehabilitates, that should have the impact of reducing crime, because it should reduce the source and nature of their offending behaviour, which gives rise to more crime. The two do not necessarily act in conflict with each other.
It is right that, when a sentencer comes to consider the sentence, all those factors are borne in mind, so that the sentence overall not only gives voice to what will be consistent with punishing the offender but better protects the public as well. I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Chan said, in support of the clarity and the need to have those factors in the Bill, so that everyone knows what we are talking about.
I appreciate that Amendment No. 160BCA is a probing amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, will not be at all surprised that we do not believe that the amendment, which would replace the drafting of the clause with a new version that adds to the purposes outlined, is helpful. I say clearly that we think it is already implicit in the drafting of Clause 135(1)(e) that reparation can be directed towards a victim, a group of victims or a community through the reference to "persons affected by offences". We agree that reparation to communities is equally as important as reparation to a particular victim but the clause already achieves this. Similarly, we do not think that a purpose which requires the court to have regard to the offender's awareness of the effects of crime on its victims and the public adds anything over and above what is already achieved through the reparative purpose. One of the tragedies of these cases is that often the offender blocks his or her mind entirely to the consequences of the offence on others, whether it concerns drink, drugs or other offences.
We do not consider that Amendment No. 160BH adds anything useful. Sentencers will, of course, refer to any relevant guidelines when sentencing offenders to particular offencesthe purposes in Clause 135 simply set out the framework for this consideration. However, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that when the council drafts the guidelines with the purposes of sentences in mind there will be nothing to prevent it from issuing guidance on the interaction of the purposes if it deems that appropriate or necessary, or if experience indicates that might be helpful. Clause 165 already requires the court to have regard to any guidelines issued by the council. We seek to try to create consistent application of purpose and principle. As I say, in some cases the prevalence of local offending may mean that a particular offence attracts a different sentence in one part of the country than it does in another. However, that should not skewer the way in which the measure is put on the face of the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 160BCC and 160BJA seek both to restrict the existing purposes to over-18s, which they already are by virtue of Clause 135(2)(a), and to introduce a new principle for juveniles. I know that that is a matter which the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, are concerned about. However, this clause applies only to adults and although the welfare of juvenile offenders is indeed an important consideration in sentencing, courts are already required to have regard to it under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. We have recently published our proposals on youth justice in a consultation document called Youth JusticeThe
Amendments Nos. 160BJB to 160BJD all add to the clause in order to prescribe the way the court can use the purposes set out there. We do not consider them to be effective provisions as they over-complicate the drafting, are not directly relevant, or duplicate provisions elsewhere in the Bill. Amendment No. 160BJB requires the court to impose custody as a last resort, but there is already a clauseClause 144which deals with custodial thresholds and stipulates that custody should be imposed only when the offence is "so serious" that a community sentence or fine cannot be justified. We believe that that is a very clear provision.
Amendment No. 160BJC would require the court to state the purpose of each sentence passed and how it expects outcomes to be achieved. We do not think that this is helpful, particularly as there is a later clauseClause 167which requires the court to give reasons for a sentence passed and to explain its effect. Amendment No. 160BJD says that any sentence of the court should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, but this is a duplication of the principle stated in the next clause, Clause 136(1).
Finally, we do not consider Amendment No. 160BCB, which is a drafting amendment, to be an improvement on our formulation. However, it provided an important opportunity for clarification. I understand why the noble Baroness and the noble Lord tabled the amendments. It is right to probe the Government's thinking on the matter but I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will be satisfied with the explanations that I have given.
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