Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Mr. Clarke: I apologise to the Committee for not making myself clear when I introduced the new clause. The registered person occupies a crucial position in the new arrangements. The CRB will need to rely heavily on registered persons to assess applications correctly and to safeguard the information that is supplied to them. When preparing for the introduction of the CRB, we became conscious of the risk that criminal and other unscrupulous elements may seek to register with the CRB to take advantage of such a position of trust and become front organisations for paedophile activity.

Registration would provide a respectable front and give access to sensitive police information. A dedicated paedophile ring would obviously derive enormous advantage from information that the police were following the activity of one of its associates. Less obviously, it would also draw comfort from the absence of such information, which would suggest that the police were not aware of its activities. Clearly, the CRB needs to know about those seeking registration, so that it can be sure that they can be relied on. Similarly, the police need to be sure about the people to whom they are supplying information. All of that would enable employers and voluntary organisations using the CRB's services to have greater confidence in the integrity of the arrangements. It has become apparent that part V, as originally drafted and passed by the House when the CRB was set up, does not provide in full what is required to ensure that that will be the case.

The new provisions are designed to ensure that applicants for registration are checked to the same level as those applications for certificates that they will endorse, including the right to refuse and so on. The need for such a policy became clear only when we worked through the precise methodology of the CRB, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is going through such a process at present. The alternative to that law being passed would leave a serious danger that we would not investigate people that needed to be investigated and there might be a channel through which seriously dangerous elements could get inside what is designed to be a watertight system.

Mr. Heald: The Minister has given a satisfactory explanation of the new clause. It seems a sensible measure and we shall support it.

Mr. Simon Hughes: I should like to make a practical point first, after which I have two questions for the Minister. When the Government introduce new clauses in Committee, they are not covered in the original notes on clauses. Will the Minister be kind enough to ensure that a summary of their import is available to us on Report when other new clauses are introduced, especially given that some of them are not as clear as they might be? In general, new clauses are fairly transparent, but the new clause under discussion took me and my colleagues some time to work through. Without wishing to do him a disservice, our senior researcher did not understand immediately every line of it.

If a charity, which might be an employer, applies to be registered, would that itself be a guarantee of registration? Will a previous acceptance of status entitle an employer to be included automatically on the register? Some widespread concern has been expressed about charities that are not charities or organisations that are not what they pretend to be. I assume that the same will apply to registered companies, but will a separate exercise be carried out in that respect, so that there is some assurance that information will not be transferred to what are clearly front organisations or evilly motivated companies or individuals? If the Minister can give me assurances about the charitable sector and the corporate sector, it would be helpful.

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman has made a good point and I accept his rebuke that it would be a good idea when the Government table new clauses to set out information about them equivalent to that which is set out in the notes on clauses. I will do what I can to ensure that we operate such a system in future.

As for the hon. Gentleman's questions about charities or limited companies, there are no guarantees. No one is entitled because of the status of the organisation to assume that he would automatically receive such a status. We hope and believe that many of the major charities and organisations would pass all the tests, but it is precisely to establish clarity that we want to give the CRB the powers that are explicit in the Bill. With that, I hope that the Committee is in agreement.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New clause 9

Remands and committals to secure accommodation etc

    `.—(1) Section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 (remands and committals to local authority accommodation) shall be amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (4) below.

    (2) In subsection (5) (conditions for the imposition of a security requirement), for paragraph (b) and the words after it there shall be substituted—

    ``(b) he is charged with or has been convicted of one or more imprisonable offences which, together with any other imprisonable offences of which he has been convicted in any proceedings—

    (i) amount, or

    (ii) would, if he were convicted of the offences with which he is charged, amount,

    to a recent history of repeatedly committing imprisonable offences while remanded on bail or to local authority accommodation,

    and (in either case) the condition set out in subsection (5AA) below is satisfied.''

    (3) After that subsection there shall be inserted—

    ``(5AA) The condition mentioned in subsection (5) above is that the court is of the opinion, after considering all the options for the remand of the person, that only remanding him to local authority accommodation with a security requirement would be adequate—

    (a) to protect the public from serious harm from him; or

    (b) to prevent the commission by him of imprisonable offences.''

    (4) In subsection (6)(a) (statement in open court that the court is of the opinion mentioned in subsection (5)), for ``(5)'' there shall be substituted ``(5AA)''.

    (5) That section as it has effect pursuant to section 98 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (alternative provision for 15 and 16 year old boys), shall so have effect with the further modifications set out in subsections (6) and (7).

    (6) For subsection (5AA) there shall be substituted—

    ``(5AA) The condition mentioned in subsection (5) above is that the court is of the opinion, after considering all the options for the remand of the person, that only remanding him to a remand centre or prison, or to local authority accommodation with a requirement that he be placed and kept in secure accommodation would be adequate—

    (a) to protect the public from serious harm from him; or

    (b) to prevent the commission by him of imprisonable offences.''

    (7) In subsection (6)(a) (statement in open court that the court is of the opinion mentioned in subsection (5)), for ``that subsection'' there shall be substituted ``subsection (5AA) above''.'.— [Mr. Charles Clarke.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Charles Clarke: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Chairman: With this we may discuss the following: Government new clause 10—Monitoring of compliance with bail conditions.

Government new clause 11—Monitoring of compliance with conditions of non-secure remand.

6.45 pm

Mr. Clarke: These new clauses will extend to the court a balanced package of options to deal with young people who defy the courts and commit repeated offences while on bail or in non-secure accommodation.

Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Hood. Is the Committee considering new clause 12, too?

The Chairman: It has been drawn to my attention that we should also be discussing new clause 12. You are right, Mr.Heald. The notes about what new clauses were to be discussed were on my left-hand side, not my right-hand side.

With this new clause, we will also be taking Government new clause 12—Arrangements for detention in secure training centres.

Mr. Clarke: If you always keep to your left, Mr. Hood, you will be well served—as long as there is no divergence to the right at any time.

Mr. Hawkins: It is to the right that we look, and it is no doubt where the nation looks.

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman will find that the nation looks through the eye of the Chair of the Committee, not through the eyes of members of the Committee. We are humble. The Chairman is the person who gives us our orientation in all important respects.

Mr. Heald: Hang on.

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire is jibbing at that rather general description.

As I said, the purpose of the new clauses is to extend to the court a balanced package of options to deal with young people who defy the courts and commit repeated offences while on bail or in non-secure accommodation, but who cannot currently be remanded into custody because their individual offences are not serious enough. The new provisions will enable courts to deal more effectively with medium level, persistent juvenile offenders. That is one reason why it fits in well with the general approach that is being taken under the Bill. It will help the members of the public who fall victim and help reinforce public confidence in the criminal justice system.

New clause 9 extends the criteria by which courts may remand a child or young person aged 12 to 16 years into secure detention. It will enable courts, in addition to their current powers and subject to appropriate tests, to place any such person on secure remand when they are of the view that the child or young person has a recent history of repeatedly committing imprisonable offences while on bail or in local authority accommodation. Such offences include theft, assault and criminal damage.

New clause 10 sets out a series of safeguards. We do not argue that any offending on bail would justify a remand into secure accommodation. The clause confines the new power to imprisonable offences, which catches the sort of offences about which we so often hear. The existing power requires the court to be satisfied in every case that only a secure remand will protect the public from serious harm from the child or young person. It adds an alternative condition that the court must be satisfied that only a secure remand would be adequate to prevent the commission of further imprisonable offences.

Most important, the clause will require courts to consider all the possible options before deciding whether to remand the child or young person into secure accommodation. There is a significant range of alternatives to custody that we have strengthened in order to ensure that community alternatives are used whenever possible. We would therefore expect the courts to use that power to put the youngsters into secure remand only as a last resort. The whole thrust of our youth justice proposals is to establish a range of different options that are available to the court to ensure that the young person can best deal with the situation.

New clauses 10 and 11 give the courts the option of using electronic monitoring of bail conditions and those in local authority non-secure accommodation as an alternative to secure detention. That also strengthens the range of options and we believe that that will ensure that the situation can be addressed more constructively.

New clause 12 allows local authorities to arrange for 12 to 16-year-olds who are remanded by the courts into local authority secure accommodation to be placed in a secure training centre if the local authority so wishes. However, the local authority must first seek the consent of the Secretary of State. The purpose of the clause is to give greater flexibility to the operation of the juvenile secure estate. That is consistent with the philosophy of local authority secure remands as an alternative to Prison Service custody for younger and more vulnerable juveniles. STCs operate under contract to the Youth Justice Board and the standards that they operate to and meet are fully consistent with those of the local authority secure units. I have tried to summarise relatively briefly the purpose of the new clauses, which I have pleasure in commending.

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