198. The Crime and Disorder Bill, which is currently
progressing through Parliament, contains a large number of measures
which are aimed to tackle the problem of youth crime. The most
important of these are:
Reparation order -
the courts will be able to require young offenders to make reparation
to their victims or to the community at large.
Parenting order - parents
will be helped to control the criminal behaviour of their child.
For those who wilfully neglect their parental responsibilities,
the courts will be able to require them, for example, to ensure
that their child is home by a certain time at night, or is escorted
to and from school by an adult.
Action Plan order - combining
reparation, punishment and rehabilitation to help prevent re-offending;
will involve parents.
Child safety order - courts
will be able to protect children under 10 at risk of becoming,
or already involved in, crime by imposing an order which will,
for example, require a child to avoid certain areas or be home
by a certain time.
Local child curfew - following
local consultation a local authority will be able to impose a
temporary curfew on children under 10 to help prevent criminal
and anti-social behaviour.
199. The Bill also introduces Youth Offending Teams,
the purpose of which is to pull together the various agencieslocal
authorities (social services, education and youth service), the
probation service, the police and health authoritieswhich
work with young offenders, or young people at risk of offending,
to provide co-ordinated, multi-agency work. These teams will assess
young people who offend and devise intervention programmes where
this is thought necessary. Such intervention might include: counselling,
group work, reparation action with victims, help with the young
person's education/career prospects, and supervised leisure activities.
They will also be responsible for the supervision of community
sentences made by the courts, including the new orders listed
above. The Government also intends that the setting up of the
Youth Justice Board for England and Wales will provide a clearer
national framework for action to be taken to tackle youth crime.
The Board will monitor the operation of the youth justice system,
advise ministers on changes needed and draw up standards for the
work of the Youth Offending Teams.
200. There has been widespread support for the Government's
Bill and this was shared by our witnesses. Lord Bingham said he
was supportive of the proposals in the Bill to do with young people
"because they are trying to achieve what I have just been
advocating, namely catching people young before they are embarked
on a committed cycle of offending and they are directed towards
rehabilitating rather than punishing and those both seem to me
to be good". However, he did point out that "there is
going to be a good deal of trial and error I suspect; nobody quite
knows how these orders will work out".
Mrs Fuller, for the Magistrates' Association told us that the
new orders "filled some of the worst gaps"
in the sentencing options for young offenders.
201. Professor Andrew Rutherford, Chairman of the
Howard League for Penal Reform, supported the proposals for reparation
orders and parenting orders, but was critical of the overall package
of changes in the Bill. He argued that "when one looks at
the Crime and Disorder Bill one is struck by the proliferation
of new orders that [the] Bill contains, of a whole variety of
sorts, both civil and criminal, which is going to greatly confuse
and complicate the penal scenery I think. We have some very good
things already in place which are much envied by other countries,
such as the community service order, such as the attendance centre....
Certainly the Howard League would urge the Committee to build
upon what we have got and try to think of ways of making those
penalties work more effectively rather than going down this route
of simply adding to the proliferation, which is one of the features
of the Bill that is now before Parliament".
202. Another concern was raised by NAPO: "The
Crime and Disorder Bill will give a number of new duties and responsibilities
to the probation service and we welcome the opportunity to expand
and get involved in new work, but fear that if those cuts are
not redressed, re-analysed, we will not be able to fulfil our
duties in this key priority".
Mr Graham Smith, the Chief Inspector of Probation, agreed that
the Bill would create extra expenditure for the probation service
and was not confident that new resources would be allocated to
it to meet these new demands.
The Prisons and Probation Minister told us that: "the Government
has said that the measures in the Crime and Disorder Bill need
to be resourced, but a lot of resources I think are already in
the budgets of these various organisations together".
203. As already noted, a disproportionately large
share of all crime is committed by young people under the age
of 21, creating high costs for the criminal justice system in
addition to the enormous effectmaterial and otherwiseof
those crimes on the victims. The Home Office itself has described
the juvenile custodial system as "chaotic and dysfunctional".
We agree with the emphasis the Government has placed on this area
of the system and we support the way in which the proposals
in the Crime and Disorder Bill seek to address the problems by
enhancing the range of non-custodial options open to the courts.
We welcome the initiative to bring the various agencies involved
together as Youth Offending Teams. We hope that such Teams will
provide the infrastructure and the impetus to create more effective
inter-agency work, allowing effective programmes to be identified
204. We are concerned that adequate resources
be available for any extra burdens imposed by the new orders.
We have already noted in this Report that extra funding will be
available for probation services in the years to come, following
the Comprehensive Spending Review, together with the doubts expressed
by ACOP and NAPO as to whether this funding will be sufficient
to fund fully the measures under the Crime and Disorder Bill.
The Government has made fighting youth crime a priority and
we applaud it for doing so. It would be unfortunate if the agencies
charged with this fightamongst which the probation service
is in the vanguardwere unable to do so because of insufficient
resources. We do not yet know whether this will be the case, but
we will be expecting Ministers to monitor the situation closely.