Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill


[back to previous text]

New Clause 24

Provision of attendance centres
‘(1) Section 221 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44) (provision of attendance centres) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) after “provide attendance centres”, insert “for offenders aged 18 and under 21; and through the Youth Justice Board to provide funding for attendance centres for offenders aged 10 and under 18”.
(3) After subsection (1) insert—
“(1A) Youth offending teams may provide attendance centres for offenders aged 10 and under 18.”
(4) In subsection (2) for “25” substitute “21”.
(5) In subsection (3) after “centres”, insert “for offenders aged 18 and under 21”.
(6) After subsection (3) insert—
“(4) For the purpose of providing attendance centres, youth offending teams may make arrangements with any authority or organisation for the use of their premises.”’.—[Mr. Heath.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Heath: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The new clause extends to youth offending teams the capacity to provide attendance centres for offenders aged 10 and under 18 and to make arrangements with any authority organisation for the use of their premises or to provide attendance centres for offenders aged 18 and under 21.
Mr. Garnier: We probably do not need this new clause, but it provides me with an opportunity to mention a matter of pretty widespread concern, namely the way in which we deal with teenage offenders. I do not want to say too much about this because we have discussed it before. I do not know whether the Minister knows this, but I regret to say that this morning a 15-year-old boy hanged himself at Lancaster Farms young offenders institution. He was the 30th boy of that, or that sort of age, to have died in custody since 1990 or it may even be since 2000. In any event, it is an appalling tragedy, irrespective of what caused that youngster to be in custody in the first place. It gives us a good reason to think carefully about how we incarcerate youngsters, while at the same time bearing in mind the need to protect the public from criminal activity. I do not need to say any more. I am sure that the Minister will have plenty to say.
Ms Keeble: I also wanted to pick up on the same point either on this or a later new clause. It concerns the appropriate sentences and the provision of facilities for young offenders. The young person concerned had a sentence of only one month and 14 days and had been taken back to prison because of a breach of his licence. That such a short custodial sentence should result in the loss of life makes one wonder about sentencing policies, whether the alternatives to custody are sufficient and appropriate and exactly what we are doing with these young people. I was closely involved in an earlier case in which the death, sadly, was not suicide. If we are sending young people to custodial institutions that are unable to ensure their safety for quite short periods of time, there must be general questioning of the type of sentence and the type of security that we provide for them. The loss of this young boy—the 30th since 1990—is completely disproportionate.
Mr. Hanson: May I confirm to the Committee that Liam McManus was found dead in his cell at 7.45 this morning at Lancaster Farms. Liam, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North and the hon. and learned Member for Harborough have confirmed, entered the institution on 8 November and was sentenced to one month and 14 days following an earlier breach of his licence. He had not been identified as being at risk of self-harm and he was indeed in a single cell at the time of his death. Obviously, I regret Liam’s death and express my condolences to his family, who, I believe, are from the St. Helens area of the north-west of England. As is normal in these cases, the prison and probation ombudsman will be investigating and it would be inappropriate of me to prejudge that investigation still further, apart from giving the Committee the broad facts of Liam’s death this morning.
Obviously I remain concerned in general terms about the potential for self-harm, not just in young people’s institutions, secure training centres and elsewhere, but in the adult prison estate as well. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice deals very closely with a suicide prevention group and is doing considerable work in the Department with such groups to try to reduce self-harm.
The Committee will understand that it is in nobody’s interests not to take adequate steps to prevent such self-harm. If there are lessons to be learned from the incident this morning and from other incidents, we will obviously seek to learn from them. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North and the hon. and learned Member for Harborough will know that, in general terms, we have established a review of some aspects of the juvenile estate in terms of restraint at the moment. I am happy to receive representations from Members on any issues that they feel can be improved.
Ms Keeble: Can my right hon. Friend say something about the assessment of whether somebody is considered a suicide risk? I have written to him about the case of another of my constituents, a young man whose mother fears for his mental health, even though the institution where he is being held says that he is doing fine. I am concerned about such discrepancies and about the robustness of the assessments that are undertaken. I have written to my right hon. Friend about this case. Could he just double-check who conducted the assessment and ensure that it is accurate?
Mr. Hanson: I will certainly look at the case that my hon. Friend has referred to me. There is a professional judgment to be made about the potential for self-harm of any individual who enters the prison system, young offenders institutions or secure training centres.
Mr. Garnier: May I make one request in relation to this tragic case? The coroner’s inquest into the suicide in 2005 of Gareth Price at the same young offenders institution, which I visited in October this year, only began earlier this month. Therefore, nearly two years have elapsed between the death and the beginning of the coroner’s hearing. There may be all sorts of good reasons for that delay in coroner’s proceedings, but it is one of the things that families of the deceased worry most about. If there is anything that the Minister or his officials can do to ensure that the necessary inquest that will follow today’s sad news can be expedited, I am sure that the young man’s family will be greatly assisted.
5.45 pm
Mr. Hanson: Again, it is in everybody’s interests that such inquests take place as quickly as possible. The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that the inquest into Gareth Price, who was aged 16 and found dead in similar circumstances in Lancaster Farms young offenders institution in January 2005, opened on 5 November 2007 at Lancaster shire hall. Sadly, his was not the last such death; the last death on the under-18 estate was that of Sam Elphick, who died at Hindley Green young offenders institution near Wigan on 15 September 2005. Every such death is a tragedy and obviously we wish to see that the lessons are learned from them. I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman and my hon. Friend that we will consider the prison and probation service ombudsman’s report into that case and learn whatever lessons we can to prevent such incidents in the future.
I am not able to accept the new clause that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome so ably introduced. It would have a direct impact on the ability of the courts to use attendance centres as a requirement under the adult community order and as an option for dealing with adult violent offenders. It might lead to greater use of custody, it would damage the viability of attendance centres, and its approach to the Secretary of State and the Youth Justice Board would not be helpful. Having said all that, I should like to tell the hon. Gentleman that a review is ongoing into the use of attendance centres, and we are examining where they should sit within the youth justice system, with regard to youth offending services and adult offender management. I hope that he will allow me to receive the review and make recommendations in due course to the House.
Mr. Heath: My brevity in introducing the new clause was because I felt that we had dealt with many of its issues during the early aspects of the Bill. The response that the Minister has just given, however, suggests that, although the new clause would be a terribly bad idea and a disaster for the entire system, the ongoing review may actually recommend it as the right way forward, in which case his view will reverse. So be it. It was worth putting the new clause before the Committee.
I cannot but refer to the point that the hon. and learned Member for Harborough made, and which I intended to make under new clause 57, standing in my name, which deals with the custody of young offenders rather than with the provision of attendance centres. The situation under discussion is tragic. We had for the most part yesterday on the Floor of the House a good and reasoned debate about the prisons estate, the way in which we deal with young offenders and the fact that far too many young people serve custodial sentences. It is extraordinary that this country feels the need to imprison so many more young people than any comparable country—comparable, because there are other countries that imprison more. It is sad, too. It suggests a societal breakdown that we ought to regret deeply.
It is even more regrettable when a young person is put into a prison environment and they take their own life. It happens far too often, and every incident should be a scar on our collective conscience. We will deal with those issues later, when I shall have more to say about the later new clauses. At this point, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 25

Offence of pretending to be a legal executive
‘(1) It is an offence for a person who is not a legal executive—
(a) wilfully to pretend to be a legal executive, or
(b) with the intention of implying falsely that that person is a legal executive, to take or use any name, title or description.
(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or both), and
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine (or both).
(3) In relation to an offence under subsection (1) committed before the commencement of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44), the reference in subsection (2)(a) to 12 months is to be read as a reference to six months.
(4) In this section “legal executive” means a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives.’.—[Mr. Burrowes.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Burrowes: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The new clause replicates a similar clause that was introduced during the passage of the Legal Services Act 2007, for which I was a Committee member. It was buried deep within the recesses of that legislation, and it did not receive the light that it deserved in order to allow proper consideration of whether legal executives should be protected by way of their title. The point of this new clause is that all users of legal services should be clear that anyone who claims to be a legal executive is in fact professionally qualified, able to exercise such rights as are granted to fellows, and subject to regulation. The reason for including the definition that
“‘legal executive’ means a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives”
is that the Institute of Legal Executives’ membership restricts the use of the term “legal executive” to fellows of ILEX. All members of ILEX—there are 23,000—recognise that the 7,000 who are fellows are properly entitled to call themselves legal executives but others are not. That is a condition of membership.
ILEX members’ concern is that non-members, who are not constrained by ILEX regulation, should not hold themselves out as legal executives. There are examples of that happening in a wide variety of legal areas in which legal executives involve themselves. Proper regulation and protection of the title of legal executive under statute is in the public interest, given that legal executives involve themselves in immigration advice, claims management services and many other areas, such as unopposed applications in county court proceedings. They also act as commissioners for oaths.
I do not wish to go through the debates on the Legal Services Bill, which took up a good deal of time, but it is important, particularly given the extension of services and the opportunity to manage and partner in the matter of legal services, that the term “legal executive” should be clarified. It is in consumers’ interests to be properly assured that those providing legal services are competent and regulated. The new clause would provide such protection, which currently covers other persons who provide legal services but not legal executives.
It is also important to focus the term on fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives. In discussions of the Legal Services Bill, concern was expressed that protecting the title of legal executive could cause other grades of ILEX member to become liable to prosecution. However, given that ILEX membership restricts the use of the title to fellows, the new clause would provide a focused way to deal with a problem that could arise increasingly as legal services are extended to many areas. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to deal with the matter through regulatory provisions in the Legal Services Bill, but this is an opportunity that ILEX, perhaps not surprisingly, says is not to be missed.
Mr. Heath: I concur.
Maria Eagle: An admirable speech from the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome.
Mr. Heath: No notes.
Maria Eagle: Remarkable.
The Government take consumer protection seriously, as the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate will be aware, having sat through proceedings on the Legal Services Bill, now an Act—it is a key principle of that legislation. I recognise fully the advantages of ensuring that consumers are clear who can use the title of legal executive. Making it an offence to pretend to be a legal executive is one way to achieve that.
The Legal Services Act 2007 already takes steps to protect consumers by ensuring that only qualified individuals who comply with an appropriate regulatory regime can provide legal services. It is therefore an offence for unqualified persons to carry on reserved legal activities or pretend to be entitled to do so. In addition, the titles of solicitor and barrister are specifically protected.
Following debate on the Legal Services Bill in the other place, the Government were persuaded of the need for an offence of pretending to be a barrister and introduced an amendment to that effect. The argument for protecting a professional title and creating a new offence must be considered case by case, as not all professional titles are protected in statute. It is sensible to consider in each case whether such protection is needed.
The Institute of Legal Executives has approached the Department to discuss the issue. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice), has written to the noble Lord Hunt of Wirral stating her views. Although the Government accept the rationale behind the new clause, we have yet to be persuaded that the title of legal executive should be protected or that the new clause is as technically perfect as it needs to be, although that is a minor point. I am perfectly happy to discuss their concerns further with the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate and the Institute for Legal Executives. We do not know whether the institute has yet consulted with its members or with consumers, and would be interested to hear what they have to say before considering fully whether such a measure is the right way forward. However, the Government are happy to continue those discussions with ILEX and with other relevant stakeholders and interested parties, and examine whether further protection is required. At this stage, however, we are not ready to concur, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not seek to press his new clause.
Mr. Burrowes: I am grateful for the hope that that offers to ILEX and to others. Reference was made to the Legal Services Act. The point that parties such as ILEX wish to make, which is a good one, is that, of the various types of legal practitioner referred to in the Act, legal executives constitute the only established professional group that does not have statutory protection. They believe that it should be clear that their powers are exercised in accordance with the wishes of Parliament and that individuals who rightly claim to be legal executives should be given appropriate protection. However, I welcome the indication that there will be further discussion and consideration, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
 
Previous Contents Continue
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 30 November 2007