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9 Jan 2008 : Column 411

Amendment No. 201, page 142, leave out lines 9 to 19.

Amendment No. 116, page 143, line 18, schedule 2, leave out paragraphs 3 and 4.

Amendment No. 202, page 144, leave out lines 27 to 30 and insert ‘before the appropriate court.’.

Amendment No. 203, page 144, line 40, leave out from beginning to end of line 3 on page 145 and insert—

‘(4A) Where the offender does not appear in answer to a summons issued under this paragraph, the appropriate court may issue a warrant for his arrest.’.

Amendment No. 117, page 145, line 5, at end insert—

‘(za) a youth rehabilitation order is still in force, and’.

Amendment No. 118, page 145, line 12, leave out from ‘ways’ to end of line 13.

Amendment No. 204, page 145, leave out lines 23 to 26 and insert—

‘(ba) if the youth rehabilitation order was made by a magistrates’ court, by dealing with the offender, for the offence in respect of which the order was made, in any way in which the court could have dealt with the offender for that offence (had the offender been before the court to be dealt with for it); or

(bb) if the youth rehabilitation order was made in the Crown Court, by committing the young offender in custody or releasing him on bail until he can be brought before, or appear before, the Crown Court.’.

Amendment No. 115, page 145, line 26, at end insert—

‘(d) by placing the offender in custody for a period not exceeding 3 months.’.

Amendment No. 205, page 145, line 26, at end insert—

‘(2A) Where the court deals with the offender under the previous subparagraph, it must send to the Crown Court—

(a) a certificate signed by a justice of the peace certifying that the offender has failed to comply with the youth rehabilitation order in the respect certified, and such other particulars as may be desirable; and

(b) such a certificate purporting to be so signed is admissible as evidence of the failure before the Crown Court.’.

Amendment No. 206, page 146, line 21, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 147.

Amendment No. 207, page 147, line 4, leave out paragraph 7.

Amendment No. 119, page 147, line 23, at end insert—

‘(za) a youth rehabilitation order is still in force, and’.

Amendment No. 120, page 147, line 30, leave out from ‘ways’ to end of line 31.

Amendment No. 209, page 148, line 32, leave out from beginning to end of line 10 on page 149.

Amendment No. 210, page 213, line 19, schedule 16, leave out ‘offenders aged 16 or 17’ and insert

‘children or young persons aged under 18 years’.

Amendment No. 211, page 213, leave out line 33.

Amendment No. 212, page 214, line 22, leave out ‘16’ and insert ‘under 17’.

Amendment No. 213, page 218, line 10, leave out ‘16 or 17’ and insert ‘under 18 years’.

Government amendments Nos. 111 and 112.

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Mr. Hanson: As was pointed out earlier during debate on the programme motion, we spent considerable time on these matters in Committee. Our new clauses and amendments have been tabled to prove that that was not a complete waste of time for everyone, and to address issues raised by members of the official Opposition, and other Members, in Committee.

New clauses 4 and 5 deal with an issue raised by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes). New clause 4 empowers a court, on the recommendation of a youth offender panel, to revoke a referral order in the interests of justice. That will provide what I hope the hon. Gentleman was seeking—greater flexibility and discretion for the court—and in particular will allow an offender to be rewarded when all parties agree that in the light of the offender’s good compliance the order should not proceed to completion. New clause 5 empowers the court, again on the recommendation of a youth offender panel, to extend a referral order by up to three months. The extension is, however, subject to the overall maximum for a referral order of 12 months, as I believe that it would be unduly onerous to exceed that period. New clause 5 negates the need for the Opposition’s new clause 10, which sought to achieve much the same end. Amendments 111 and 112 are consequential on new clauses 4 and 5.

I hope that the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate will welcome those changes, which were made as a result of his contributions in Committee. I am sure that he will give his views shortly.

Amendments Nos. 82, 83, 104, 106 and 107 were tabled in response to debates on Second Reading and in Committee. They create a new “intoxicating substance treatment requirement” which can be attached to a youth rehabilitation order. The issue was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) on Second Reading, and in Committee by the hon. Members for Cambridge (David Howarth), for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), and for Enfield, Southgate.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for listening to the representations made by me and by others. Hopefully, along with education programmes, the amendments will go some way towards tackling the overindulgence in alcohol by young people that leads them on to crime and antisocial behaviour.

Mr. Hanson: If the mutual appreciation society can continue, let me say that I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue on Second Reading. I am also genuinely grateful to the official Opposition and to Liberal Democrat Front Benchers for supporting the discussion in Committee. This shows that the Committee stage was helpful in teasing out issues that needed to be dealt with on the Floor of the House. I am pleased that we have been able to agree on amendments that, I trust, deal with the points that were made in Committee.

I have also tabled an amendment to the drug treatment requirement—amendment No. 105—which will allow a person with the necessary experience, as well as one with the necessary qualifications, to direct drug treatment under that requirement. That is consistent with the drug rehabilitation requirement for adults in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

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Amendment No. 86 removes young offenders from the ambit of clause 12,which confers greater discretion on the judiciary’s setting of a tariff when they are imposing an indeterminate sentence in exceptionally serious cases. Again, that point was raised by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome in Committee. I am happy to accommodate his suggestion.

Four sets of amendments respond to the concerns of the Opposition and my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North. I commend those amendments to the House. There are other amendments in the group that Members may speak to. If required, I will respond to them in due course.

5.45 pm

Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): I am extremely grateful that we do not have an amendment removing secure training centres from the remit of the commissioner. I am also glad to hear that the use of two restraint holds—the double basket hold and nose distraction hold—has been suspended. That is a real improvement in the management of young offenders.

Mr. Hanson: Again I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the way in which she has approached that issue. She will know that her suggestions are being seriously considered and taken on board.

With that, I hope, consensual approach—the first of the day—I commend the Government new clauses, and I will respond on other amendments and new clauses in the group if required.

Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I am pleased to be able to welcome to a certain extent the progress that we have made. It is good to know that 47 hours or so in Committee have not been wholly in vain. I will be able to go to my local courts, where I practise as a solicitor, and hold my head high to some extent when the people there try to battle with yet another piece of criminal justice legislation and ask me, “Why has there not been proper scrutiny and why did you not come to us to ask for advice?”

There has been some progress. It is welcome that we have an opportunity, albeit limited by the constraints of time, to consider what is in many ways the essence of the Bill: the part 1 youth rehabilitation orders. Now we have a maelstrom of other new clauses and amendments, but at least we have an opportunity to consider on Report what is a significant part of the youth justice system.

The essence of the concern, which is reflected in the progress made by the Government in response to amendments, was that there needs to be proper discretion for magistrates, judges and indeed practitioners dealing with youth rehabilitation orders and that we should not over-legislate. The concern was that there needs to be proper evidence when putting more legislation in the way of the courts.

On the issue of discretion, it is welcome that the Government, through new clauses 4 and 5, have recognised the arguments advanced in Committee. New clause 10 is in many ways replicated by new clauses 4 and 5. In the context of other orders before youth courts, referral orders have been relatively successful with regard to reconviction rates, which are
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generally woeful in respect of young offenders. Forty-four per cent. of those subject to referral orders are reconvicted, whereas the figure is 70 or 80 per cent. for those in detention.

There is a need to deal properly and flexibly, and with discretion, with young offenders when imposing referral orders. New clauses 4 and 5, by way of revocation and extension, provide that element of discretion which we sought in Committee. There are certainly cases where the offender comes back before the court having passed the time of the referral order and the referral order has not had an opportunity properly to commence. That can often be through no fault of the offender: the youth offending team may have had problems trying to gain the agreement of other agencies to commence the order. It is therefore welcome that there is that extension within new clauses 4 and 5 to allow time for the order to put the wishes of the court in place.

There is a need, in welcoming the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the referral orders, to question whether there should not be further discretion. New paragraph 9ZD(2), which is introduced by new clause 5, places some restrictions on the order in that the order must not so extend a period

I ask the Minister to explain why there is that limitation on the court’s discretion, when it might be in the interests of justice to extend a referral order further. In such exceptional circumstances, why should magistrates be prevented from exceeding the 12-month contract period?

There is a need for further discretion, and amendment No. 129 seeks to provide that in circumstances in which a referral order needs to be replicated. In 2004, the Government announced proposals for extending referral orders in a limited way and they gave the example that where the young person received a referral order at least two years before, there would be a case for limited extensions to referral orders. Now, however, in yet another criminal justice Bill, the Government have not remained true to those early intentions to provide the flexibility and discretion that they promised back in 2004. There may be cases where a young offender has complied with an earlier referral order, but the youth offending team, local probation team or social workers—as referred to in our amendment No. 129—recommends a further referral order because that is in the interests of the young offender concerned as it would prevent them from reoffending. Under the current provisions, there is not the capacity for such discretion or flexibility, which the youth offending team in particular would want to be put in place. If there is time, I would like the Minister to outline why the promise of 2004 has not been made good.

Another area of scrutiny in Committee was to do with the concern that we should not go where we do not need to go—that there does not need to be legislation where there is no evidence that it is required. There is a body of opinion that we should look to use properly the existing powers of the court and of practitioners, to ensure that we do what we all wish to do: stop the young offender who is before the court committing further offences.

Amendment No. 116 seeks to preserve what already exists. It seeks to allow decisions on breaches of youth
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rehabilitation orders to remain subject to national guidance and standards, and to allow the youth offending team to be able to treat issues of enforcement flexibly, rather than that being on a statutory footing. Questions were raised in Committee about the need to legislate in this area. Where is the evidence that the national standards are not working in relation to breaches and the requirement for cases to go before a court? Is there a need to put the enforcement of orders on a statutory footing? The consequences—perhaps unintended—of the provisions in the Bill could be that local discretion is removed. Young people, who do not often fit into bureaucratic boxes in relation to timeliness and understanding, could well be victims of such a statutory enforcement of the limits. There is a concern that a youth offending team dealing with enforcement would be obliged by statutory duty to return a matter to court rather than being able to deal with it flexibly and locally with full discretion. When the youth offending team wishes to issue warnings and initiate proceedings for breach, there would be a concern that a case would have to go to court, rather than the team being able to comply properly with national standards within proper limits.

Amendments Nos. 117 and 118 seek to deal flexibly and with discretion with other areas. They seek to maintain the existing powers of the court when dealing with breaches of community service. There might be cases where there has been a third unacceptable failure to attend appointments within 12 months, when court proceedings would inevitably be initiated; even if the offender has successfully attended, for example, 95 per cent. of appointments, the position is that it would go to court. Under the Bill’s provisions, the court would have to deal with the matter by way of an additional community penalty or other additional punishments.

Courts often deal with cases by acknowledging that technical breaches have taken place. If a young offender wanted to comply with an order, the courts would not be able to deal with the matter as they do at present—by warning that offender to comply with the order. They would be obliged to impose an additional punishment, thus ratcheting up the punishment, which may not be in the interests of the offender and the public at large. The Bill precludes discretion, and I again invite the Minister to justify that.

There is a third area on which I should comment: Government amendments Nos. 82, 83, 104, 106 and 107, which concern intoxicating substance treatment requirements. The Government have moved to plug the gap caused by the fact that there was no treatment requirement to deal with alcohol and other such issues, and I welcome that. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) for having raised concerns about volatile substance abuse. This issue should be properly dealt with by way of the new substance treatment requirement.

It was welcome to hear today, as was mentioned in Committee, that an issue of practice and deliverability must be addressed. We must consider how deliverable the youth rehabilitation orders are. There are grand aims to have activity requirements, supervision requirements, programme requirements, attendance centre requirements,
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prohibited activity requirements, curfew requirements, exclusion requirements, residence requirements, local authority residence requirements, mental health treatment requirements, drug treatment requirements, education requirements and now intoxicating substance treatment requirements, but is there the ability to deliver on them?

The concern that the courts have expressed, including in evidence to us, is whether the resources are in place to meet those requirements. Let us focus primarily on these new intoxicating substance treatment requirements. Are the resources available to deliver? Should we not heed the words of the chief inspector of probation? He says that

As there are a raft of new requirements, we must ask whether there are the resources to deliver. The Government have responded that £600,000 is available for training requirements, but no resources have been provided to deal properly with these requirements.

If one looks in detail at the treatment requirements, one finds that little resource is available to deal with adolescents who have alcohol problems. Country-wide, some 6 per cent. of the budget that is focused on drugs is apportioned to alcohol. Alcohol services are the Cinderella of treatment services. Tomorrow, we will find out the latest pooled treatment budget, which will be predominantly fixed around drugs services. Alcohol will be very much down the list, as will other intoxicating substances. Inevitably, we will be dependent on the voluntary sector, which helps to provide treatment for an estimated 17,000 adolescents. That treatment is often limited, and it certainly does not extend to what the Government set out in amendment No. 106. That provision proposes a new paragraph 23(A) to schedule 1. Sub-paragraph (3) is where one finds a reference to the treatment that would be required to give any reality to this order. It states:

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