Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Sir Roger Gale  , Mr David Crausby 

Bray, Angie (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con) 

Buckland, Mr Robert (South Swindon) (Con) 

Champion, Sarah (Rotherham) (Lab) 

Evennett, Mr David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)  

Hilling, Julie (Bolton West) (Lab) 

Huppert, Dr Julian (Cambridge) (LD) 

Jarvis, Dan (Barnsley Central) (Lab) 

Kane, Mike (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) 

Metcalfe, Stephen (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con) 

Neill, Robert (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) 

Opperman, Guy (Hexham) (Con) 

Paisley, Ian (North Antrim) (DUP) 

Qureshi, Yasmin (Bolton South East) (Lab) 

Scott, Mr Lee (Ilford North) (Con) 

Slaughter, Mr Andy (Hammersmith) (Lab) 

Smith, Sir Robert (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD) 

Vara, Mr Shailesh (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)  

Vaz, Valerie (Walsall South) (Lab) 

Wright, Jeremy (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)  

Georgina Holmes-Skelton, Matthew Hamlyn, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Column number: 207 

Public Bill Committee 

Tuesday 18 March 2014  


[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair] 

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

2 pm 

The Chair:  Before we start, I must inform the Committee that because of a printing error some amendments tabled yesterday have been omitted from today’s amendment paper. The ones affected are a Back-Bench amendment to schedule 4, and Government amendments to clauses 24 and 26. A revised amendment paper will be made available on the internet as soon as possible, and the amendments will be considered for selection on Thursday as usual. I can only apologise. 

Clause 14 

Restrictions on use of cautions 

Question (this day) again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab):  I shall try not to repeat what I was saying before lunch. I was making a point about whether there should be a blanket rule. Just because on the face of it an offence is deemed to be serious, the possibility of a caution should not be ruled out, because there could be circumstances where it would be appropriate, and a better way to deal with the mischief. 

It has been suggested that cautions have sometimes been given erroneously or inappropriately, and that they have not been used uniformly or consistently throughout the country. I am sure that Crown Prosecution Service or police guidelines can determine the types of case where it would be right to consider a caution. There are ways to deal with those issues and restrict the use of cautions so that they are only used when appropriate. That could happen without ruling out in statute their use for all serious offences. 

That leads me to the next question on which I hope the Minister can give us information. What is meant by very serious offences—indictable offences, or perhaps either-way offences? 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Jeremy Wright):  It may help if I answer that question immediately. The hon. Lady will see from clause 14 that subsection (2) is about indictable-only offences, and subsections (3) and (4) are about either-way offences. Both are covered, but by different subsections. 

Yasmin Qureshi:  Either-way offences can be tried in the Crown court or the magistrates court. To take theft as an example, it is an either-way offence and could be categorised as very serious; but then a theft such as shoplifting could not be cautioned. That is why I want clarity about very serious offences. 

Column number: 208 

Either-way offences could be caught, but some either-way offences are minor. When mode of trial is determined in court, it can be decided that an offence such as theft, or even assault occasioning actual bodily harm, should be dealt with in the magistrates or the Crown court. 

Is it intended that either-way offences that are sent to the Crown court should be deemed serious? That could not be known before the mode of trial process in the magistrates court had determined which court would deal with the matter; hence my question about how seriousness is defined. 

As hon. Members know, sentences can vary from a few months to five years for some either-way offences. I wonder whether, unwittingly, the provisions will catch many either-way offences at the lower end of the scale. Even with indictable offences, the term of imprisonment may actually be quite low. 

Would the cautions regime apply only to adult defendants, or would the seriousness criterion apply to the cautioning of young offenders as well? Obviously, different sets of circumstances apply to youth offenders and adult offenders, but cautioning, referrals and other methods are also used on youth offenders. I wonder whether, in an attempt to solve a problem and by putting a blanket over everyone, we could actually stigmatise people with a conviction when a caution may be more proper. 

The Crown Prosecution Service has a manual that describes the policy aspect of each type of offence. For any particular category of offence, it will recommend looking at the nature, content, relationship and who the victims and witnesses are, and, as a result, the public interest criteria may mean that a case is not proceeded with. I wonder whether cautioning—if the idea is to tighten the definition or to reduce its scope—could be dealt with through an amendment of the manual or of internal police circulars. It might be a lengthier process, but it might leave the option of caution being used for either-way offences that are deemed to be serious, but are at the lower end of the scale and would be heard in a magistrates court. Those are just a few things to think about. 

Jeremy Wright:  It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Roger. 

I start by welcoming the comments of the hon. Member for Barnsley Central about clause 14. I agree with him entirely that there is substantial public concern about cautioning. We are in agreement that it is right for us to change the rules, so that offences that are serious enough to be indictable should not be cautioned, save for in exceptional circumstances; that serious either-way offences should not be cautioned, apart from in exceptional circumstances; and that if someone is consistently repeating the same type of offence, they should not be repeatedly cautioned for it. Those are the things clause 14 seeks to address. 

The hon. Gentleman raises several specific issues, including the rank of police officer required to reach a judgment on exceptional circumstances for indictable or either-way offences, or on whether a subsequent offence was similar enough to qualify as one that should not be cautioned. The guidance that we will publish if the clause is passed will become statutory. Non-statutory guidance already exists, so although we have not reached the point at which statutory guidance is drawn up, I can

Column number: 209 
tell the hon. Gentleman that the rank of officer required to determine whether an indictable offence is exceptional enough that cautioning would be appropriate would be a superintendent. For either-way offences or repeated similar offences, an inspector or above is required to make that judgment. I hope that that is helpful. 

For all such decisions, we want to ensure that sufficient flexibility exists for those ranks to be changed in specific local circumstances, such as if there was no superintendent. That is why we deem it inappropriate to include such a provision in the Bill, but the hon. Gentleman can rest assured that similar considerations will be applied to the statutory guidance as have been applied to the existing non-statutory guidance. 

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab):  The clause is wholly sensible—I will let that compliment sink in for a moment—as is the flexibility mentioned by the Minister. As for the reasons given for a caution, their details and the way of recording them, I think of the lengthy example that was given just before our short adjournment, whereby, in explaining why there might be exceptional circumstances, one has to go into some detail. How does the Minister see that happening and how does he see it being varied over time if it proves to be insufficient? 

Jeremy Wright:  I am very grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s endorsement, although frankly, having heard him I am wondering whether a redraft of the clause will be necessary. I take his point and I think it is important that we ensure that the recording of exceptional circumstances is clear. It is also important that we give the clear message that there must indeed be exceptional circumstances. I was going to go on to say that it will not simply be sufficient for a senior officer to have decided that a caution is appropriate for an indictable offence; the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions will also be required. 

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central asked how that process will work. Of course, the Attorney-General superintends the Crown Prosecution Service, so it will be for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General to issue appropriate guidance, but we would expect it to be made clear to prosecutors as well as senior police officers that these cautions would only be appropriate in the most exceptional cases. 

The hon. Gentleman’s third question concerned why two years is the appropriate time period for repeat offences. I accept that it will be a question of judgment and that different views will apply as to what the appropriate length of time is. I mentioned that there is already non-statutory guidance that includes the two-year figure, so we are taking it from that, but he rightly observed that there is provision within the clause for the time period to be changed if we conclude that it is inappropriate. That change would have to be made through the affirmative resolution procedure, so Parliament would have an opportunity to give its view. 

The first question from the hon. Member for Bolton South East concerned whether the new provisions will apply to those under the age of 18. They will not. Subsection (1) says: 

“This section applies where, in England and Wales, a person aged 18 or over admits that he or she has committed an offence”. 

Secondly, she was of course right to say that some either-way offences can be more serious than others, and we have made it clear in the clause that the new

Column number: 210 
provisions will not apply to every either-way offence. Serious either-way offences will be set out by order and the new provisions will apply to those, but not to all either-way offences. She might expect that shoplifting, for example, would not be among those likely to be on such an order. 

The hon. Lady’s third point is entirely right: even in situations where, as a general rule, it would be wholly inappropriate for cautions to be applied, there will inevitably be exceptional cases where it would be appropriate. Nothing in clause 14 excludes the possibility of those exceptional cases. Indeed, we have set out precisely in relation to each of the three sets of circumstances we have been discussing that the exclusion is in the absence of exceptional circumstances. I hope the hon. Lady is reassured by that and that she and her hon. Friends will be able to support the clause. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 14 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 15 

Orders under section 14 

Jeremy Wright:  I beg to move amendment 4, in clause 15, page 16, line 16, at end insert— 

‘( ) In section 37B of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions), in subsection (7), after “such a caution” insert “(whether because of section 14 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2014 or for any other reason)”.’.

This amendment clarifies that the restriction on giving cautions in Clause 14 is one of the reasons why it may not be possible to give a caution following a decision to do so by the Director of Public Prosecutions under section 37B of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Amendment 4 is a minor and technical amendment to section 37B of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which provides that where the Director of Public Prosecutions decides that a person should be given a caution in respect of an offence—we have just been discussing that procedure—but it proves not possible to do so, the person shall instead be charged with the offence. The amendment clarifies that one of the reasons why it may not be possible to give a caution, following a decision to do so by the DPP, is the restrictions on giving a caution in clause 14. 

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab):  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank the Minister for explaining to the Committee the amendment, which is technical and clearly necessary. I take the opportunity to remind him of the example I gave earlier of the freedom of information request sent to police forces by the shadow Attorney-General, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry). It showed that, although provisions are in place regarding consulting the Director of Public Prosecutions, they are not always followed in practice. I listened carefully to his response, but will he take the opportunity now to add anything further on the steps the Government will take to ensure that the Bill will be followed on the ground? 

Jeremy Wright:  The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is difficult for me to say definitively that all guidance will be followed in every case. Clearly, we would wish it to be so. We will certainly look at ways we

Column number: 211 
can strengthen the wording of the guidance to make it clearer, if what ought to happen is not clear. But guidance is there for a reason: to give an indication of what we believe should happen and the way it should happen. 

Amendment 4 agreed to.  

Clause 15, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 16 

Possession of pornographic images of rape and assault by penetration 

2.15 pm 

Dan Jarvis:  I beg to move amendment 14, in clause 16, page 16, line 30, leave out from ‘explicit’ to end of line 31 and insert 

‘way, real or simulated depictions of either—’.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: 

Amendment 29, in clause 16, page 16, line 31, leave out from ‘of’ to end of line 37 and insert 

‘the portrayal of sexual activity which involves real or apparent lack of consent,’.

Amendment 28, in clause 16, page 16, line 37, at end insert— 

‘(c) sexual activity where one of the participants is portrayed in such a way as to make them appear under 18;

(d) a person participating in a sexual activity with someone who is depicted as a member of their immediate family; and

(e) sexual activity incorporating sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which do not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game.’.

Dan Jarvis:  First and foremost, may I wholeheartedly welcome the inclusion of clause 16 in the Bill? I thank the Government for introducing this important measure. 

Clause 16 will extend the definition of an extreme image in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to ban the possession of extreme pornographic images that depict rape and other explicit, non-consensual sexual acts. Its inclusion in the Bill is a real victory for groups like Rape Crisis South London and the End Violence Against Women coalition that have long campaigned against rape pornography. Their open letter to the Prime Minister last summer was signed by more then 100 women’s groups, academics and campaigners and has been instrumental in bringing us to this place. The Opposition know that the Prime Minister is personally committed to this proposal and wants to make it work. We are eager to work with the Government to help to ensure that we get this right and to stamp out such abhorrent images. It is in that spirit that we tabled these amendments to explore how the Bill might be improved. 

The Committee will remember the evidence that we heard last week from the British Board of Film Classification, which has a key role in deciding what should be classified as sexually violent and abusive pornography. The verdict that we heard from its assistant

Column number: 212 
director, David Austin, was clear. He confirmed that some examples of sexually violent material, including violent and abusive pornography, would not be caught by the Bill. With that in mind, we feel that three issues need clarification, the first of which relates to amendment 14. 

Subsection (2)(c) clearly states that an image will come within the scope of the offence if it portrays something in an “explicit and realistic way”. As Mr Austin explained, that could allow material that is badly acted, such as clearly fictional depictions of rape with actors acting a script, escaping the scope of this legislation. That could be the case even if the works include scenes of relentless, aggressive abuse, threats of physical violence with weapons and forced acts of sex. I understand that the Government plan to issue revised explanatory notes to the Bill to clarify the issue, but with those not yet published, I would very much appreciate any detail the Minister can offer on how that will be done. 

The second issue is captured by amendment 28. Again, it is a drafting issue with the current wording making it clear that material would only be legal if it showed explicit content. Therefore, for example, an extreme video showing a woman being aggressively raped at gunpoint could escape sanction if it did not show any penetration. That sort of material is viewed by the BBFC as harmful and not allowed. It is unclear whether clause 16 would have the same impact. 

The third issue is reflected in amendment 29. Ultimately, one of the biggest challenges in this debate is that material that is strictly prohibited offline can be available online at the click of a mouse. The Prime Minister has a clear aspiration to resolve this. Last year, he said: 

“Pornographic videos streamed online in the UK should be subject to the same rules as those sold in shops.” 

There is some ambiguity, however, on whether clause 16 will achieve this. Concerns have been raised, for example, about videos portraying under-age sex, many of which feature women who are over the age of 18 but look far younger and are purposely depicted as pre-pubescent. That is exacerbated by pairing them with much older actors, resulting in material that has been described as looking just like child abuse. 

The Prime Minister sought to clarify whether this is an issue in his letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). In the letter, which members of the Committee may have seen in the Library, the Prime Minister said that it would be possible to ban this material through powers in the Criminal Justice Act 2009. However, guidelines provided by the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service related that legislation more to drawings and photographs than to video content. 

As well as the under-age issue, there are similar concerns about material portraying incest or scenes of humiliation and abuse that go far beyond the boundaries of consent. Amendment 29 would insert three terms from the BBFC’s guidelines into the Bill. Material that fitted within those definitions would not be classed as R18 and would not be not acceptable, even in licensed sex shops. Will the Minister assure us how that legislation will be amended to close those apparent loopholes? 

We appreciate that the amendments raise complex issues. For that reason, we will not press them if the Minister can provide an undertaking that the Government

Column number: 213 
will look carefully at these issues. I am sure that there is full agreement across the Committee that such images are unacceptable. Just as the last Labour Government acted to ban pornography depicting harmful and life-threatening acts, we are ready to work with this Government to send a clear message that extreme material that glorifies sexual violence is not acceptable. 

Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab):  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I will start by reading some of the witness evidence from David Austin: 

“Yes, there are examples of sexually violent material that are not caught by the Bill. There are a number of areas of violent and abusive pornography that are not caught. It might help if I list one or two of those areas. 

Clause 16 clearly talks in terms of realistic and explicit depiction of rape in pornography. We deal with quite a large number of pornographic works every year and have done for many years. Some of these feature clearly fictional depictions of rape and other sexual violence in which participants are clearly actors, acting to a script. These works may include scenes of relentless aggressive abuse, threats of physical violence with weapons and forced acts of sex. Depending on how realism is interpreted in future—certainly it has been interpreted very narrowly in the past, but I understand that the Government will amend some of the explanatory notes to the Bill on realism—that may change. 

Another area where we cut porn on harm grounds under the Video Recordings Act relates to abduction scenarios where individuals are shown bound, kidnapped, struggling with bonds, and whimpering—shown as victims restrained against their will with no other context. We also cut grooming scenarios which feature the grooming of individuals portrayed as youthful, sometimes youthful and vulnerable—sometimes they may have the appearance of children, although they are not children but adults—by characters in dominant roles. Animation is another area which we cut. There is a Japanese genre called hentai which is a pornographic genre which features things like incest, underage sex and forced sex. They may be realistically animated but you could argue that they are not realistic in the terms of the Bill. The fact that animated images can be harmful is already accepted by Parliament in the Coroners and Justice Act where pseudo images of children in sexual abuse situations are illegal. 

The final area relates to explicit rather than realistic. We remove from pornographic works sexually violent content that in our view is harmful, where, for example, you cannot see the explicit act of penetration but the viewer is led to believe that this is a rape scenario, albeit acted. We remove that content.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 13 March 2014; c. 114, Q251.] 

Can the Minister reassure us about animation? I did not realise that there was such a genre, and I am not convinced that the Bill will capture it. Is there a way that we can incorporate it? 

There is growing evidence of the impact of this sort of product, particularly on young people. I have heard from young girls who see such hard-core pornographic material and are genuinely fearful of their first sexual encounter, because they think that that is what sex is about and that they ought to endure this sort of abusive experience. I have also heard from young boys who, as young boys do, when they are searching around to try to figure about a bit more about sex, stumble across this material and therefore think that this is the way they should act towards a woman. How would those young people be captured by the Bill? Would a young teenage boy who came across this material be caught by the offence? Are there ways that we can protect them here? 

Column number: 214 

More broadly, I welcome the clause because it sends out a strong message that this is completely unacceptable. A number of women’s charities and child protection charities are pleased that the clause has been included, and I second that. When I asked the witnesses whether they felt that the law protected against child abuse images, they said that it did, so I am comforted by that. 

Are there ways to strengthen the message that the Government are sending out that this is wholly unacceptable and to ensure that the producers are shamed, caught and convicted, so that they are unable to continue to create this—I do not know what to call it—material? At the moment, the clause seems much more focused on the person who is in possession rather than the people who create the material. I have not tabled an amendment, so I assume it is too late to weave that into the fabric of the Bill, but it would be great if at a later date the Minister could consider that. I would like the people who are creating such material to be captured by the Bill, too. 

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con):  It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rotherham, who rightly outlines the reasoning behind the introduction of this very necessary measure. It is about the detrimental effects that extreme, violent pornography has on society as a whole. It is about trying to counter a climate where this sort of behaviour is condoned and seen as somehow normal. As she rightly said, exposure to this type of violent material leads young people to believe that that is the way to behave. There is quite clearly a societal imperative for us to take action on such material. 

I am interested in the Opposition amendments, particularly amendment 14, which relates to how the definition of what is realistic could be clarified. I welcome indications that the explanatory notes will be further clarified to encompass all the simulated activity that we would want to be included within the definition in the Bill. I am grateful for the evidence that we received from Professors McGlynn and Rackley at Durham law school. 

I have to declare an interest: I graduated in law from Durham university, but my extra-curricular activities tended to predominate somewhat, so I cannot aspire to the distinction to which the two learned professors rose. But I am grateful to them for outlining their approach to the Bill. They quite rightly say that the use of the term “realistic” mirrors international provisions on pornography that are designed to cover both real and simulated images. They argue in support of an amendment to suggest that some clarification of what “realistic” means would be helpful. I am fairly open-minded about how we do that. It could be done in the Bill, but if my hon. Friend the Minister can assure me that there are better ways to achieve such clarity, I will be content to listen to his argument. 

Clearly, this is an opportunity to fill a gap that some of us would say has existed for too long. I think that we all share the difficult aspiration for criminal law not to have to play catch-up constantly with the more alarming developments with which the otherwise welcome innovation of the internet presents us from time to time. 

I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to answer some of the points raised, particularly my point about the definition of “realistic”, so that we can ensure that the measure is as comprehensive as possible and will

Column number: 215 
protect those in society who are not only vulnerable but liable or exposed to undue influence if such material is seen as normal or part of normal life. 

2.30 pm 

Jeremy Wright:  I think that we are all conscious of the fact that in discussing the clause and the amendments, we must strike a delicate balance as legislators. We are talking about the most extreme and disturbing images, but also those that, although distasteful to most, might not warrant the intervention of the criminal law. We must therefore be careful to balance our distaste, and in some cases disgust, against the personal sexual freedoms of consenting adults to behave as they wish without undue state interference. We must also bear in mind the existing criminal law in related areas. 

Mr Slaughter:  It is helpful that the Minister has started his speech by emphasising that the subject is complicated as well as difficult and often distasteful, and regard must be had to freedom of speech, even in this. He is right about that, and he is therefore balancing that against ensuring that there is a societal imperative, as the hon. Member for South Swindon said, that will criminalise types of behaviour that it is reasonable to criminalise. I have an open question for the Minister: does he think that he has got the balance right in the light of the amendments? There is only the single new offence in the Bill. I will not say that it has been done in haste, but it has clearly been done to address a specific problem. Does he think that during the course of the Bill’s passage he should think about it a bit more and perhaps make some refinements? 

Jeremy Wright:  I think that Ministers and everyone else should be humble enough to accept that we may not have got everything right, but inevitably, wherever we decide to draw the line, there will be disagreement about whether we have drawn it in the right place. There will be those who say—they have already said it during the course of this Committee’s deliberations—that we have not gone far enough on the offence; others will say that we have gone too far. I do not think that there is a good argument that we have gone too far; we will certainly always consider whether there is further action that we can take. 

In relation to the amendments, it may be helpful for me to explain why I do not support the particular direction that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central has taken, but do not for a moment dispute that his intention is to ensure that we have the right balance, exactly as the hon. Member for Hammersmith set out. I think that I indicated that amendment 14 is unnecessary, given that the clause already covers the depiction of real or simulated non-consensual penetration where that is pornographic and obscene. To come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon about what is realistic and what is not, and to deal with what the hon. Member for Barnsley Central said, we intend to reconsider the explanatory notes to see whether we can bring greater clarity, particularly on the point that the offence we have in mind would cover both staged and real depictions of rape or other penetration. However, I do not believe that the wording in amendment 14 is the right way to bring that additional clarity. 

Column number: 216 

Amendment 28 would extend the parameters of the existing offence. It would widen the scope of the existing extreme pornography possession offence to cover depictions that appear to portray incest, under-age sexual activity and scenes involving sexual threats, humiliation or abuse. Now is probably the best time for me to provide some background on the law as it stands. 

It is an offence under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to possess an extreme pornographic image. Depending on the content of the image, the offence is subject to a maximum sentence of either two or three years’ imprisonment. The offence is narrowly targeted, for good reason. Hon. Members will recall that the original offence was created by the then Government following a full public consultation, and it is deliberately targeted at the extreme end of the scale. Material prohibited includes pornographic images—images that can reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal—which are grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise obscene and which explicitly and realistically depict necrophilia, bestiality or violence that is life threatening or likely to result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals. 

Sarah Champion:  I am delighted to say that I did not know very much about rape pornography before serving on the Committee. I speak specifically as a woman. Research conducted by Rape Crisis in south London in 2011 looked at the top 50 rape porn websites: 78% advertised rape content involving under-18s, or schoolgirl rape; 44% advertised rape content which involved incest; 44% advertised rape content where the woman is unconscious, semi-conscious or drugged; 82% of perpetrators used restraint by force; 71% of women showed signs of visible distress; 65% of women expressed pain—but 100% of those being assaulted are women. 

Ten years ago, I would have said that I was a post-feminist. I thought we were on top of this. Now I speak as a feminist because rape porn and these abuses are happening specifically to women to degrade them. As the hon. Member for South Swindon said, the corrosive effect that it is having on young people is shocking. I worry as they grow older that this abuse of women will become the norm. In its briefing to the Committee, Durham university said: 

“While those who view extreme pornography will not necessarily go on to commit sexual offences, their use of such materials sustains a culture in which a ‘no’ to sexual activity is not taken seriously; in which equality and dignity are not protected”. 

I share the Minister’s concerns about this and am very pleased that this legislation is going forward. However, if there is a way in which the amendments can underline what is and what is not acceptable, instead of having these broad parameters, it would help people to understand what is and is not appropriate behaviour. Anything we can do to get more support for women at a time when support for them seems to be being trampled over will be most appreciated. 

Jeremy Wright:  I do not for a moment dispute what the hon. Lady says. I think she is right that few of us knew anything about this subject before arriving at this Committee’s deliberations and probably were better off for it. There is no doubt that the preponderance of the material about which we are concerned affects women.

Column number: 217 
I simply observe that clause 16 is not gender specific: it would permit us to outlaw that kind of material relating to men as well. I will come to her point about children later. 

To conclude my remarks on the development of section 63 of the Criminal Justice Act 2008, during the public consultation, there was considerable concern among respondents and in Parliament that the offence could have a serious impact on people’s private sexual behaviour and personal freedoms. The offence was carefully and deliberately constructed with these concerns in mind. The offence focuses on the high end of the scale—for example, possession of images depicting extreme sexual violence and serious physical harm. It was never the intention that the offence should be used to censor depictions of all activities that may appear distasteful or that would not, for example, appear in a film classified by the British Board of Film Classification. 

As the Committee will be aware, following a recent campaign led by women’s groups the Government have decided to extend the parameters of the offence to capture extreme pornographic images depicting rape and other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity. This is a relatively modest but important extension to the offence. It brings the offence more in line with that applicable in Scotland, but remains focused on the original intent. It is clear from what members of the Committee have said that there is concern to ensure that children are protected from sexual abuse and exploitation depicted in these images. I understand and share that concern. 

I must make it clear that the Government consider the protection of the country’s children from sexual abuse a top priority, and we are always open to and appreciative of suggestions to strengthen the law where necessary. However, to extend the offence to cover depictions of apparent under-age sexual activity is unnecessary. Although images of children are not specifically excluded from the parameters of the Government’s extended extreme pornography offence, we already have a range of offences to cover the possession of indecent images of children, with suitably robust sentencing levels and much lower thresholds for the content of the images themselves. It is, for example, already an offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 to take, make or permit to be taken, distribute, or distribute with a view to possession, any indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph— an image which appears to be a photograph—of a child under the age of 18. These offences carry a 10-year maximum prison sentence. 

Sarah Champion:  Would that cover animation? I do not really know anything about animation, but does the Minister think that animated images of a child would be covered? 

Jeremy Wright:  I will answer that in a moment, I promise. 

It is also an offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to possess an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child under the age of 18. That offence carries a five-year maximum prison sentence. In these cases it is a matter for the jury to decide on the age of the victim appearing in the images. 

Column number: 218 

Section 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 created a new offence to criminalise possession of a prohibited image of a child. That offence attracts a maximum three-year prison sentence. This comes to the hon. Lady’s concern. A “prohibited image” excludes an indecent photograph or indecent pseudo-photograph of a child, which is covered elsewhere, as I have outlined. In effect, that offence targets non-photographic pornographic images—in other words computer generated images, drawings and so on—that depict the graphic sexual abuse of children. It follows therefore that images of incest involving children would fall foul of the existing law. So I can assure the Committee that our laws are now fully equipped to deal with images of the sexual abuse of children. 

In addition, although I find the depictions of sexual threats or humiliation and simulated acts of adult incest deeply distasteful, as I am sure does everyone else, there are others—competent adults—who do not share our views. In a liberal democracy, the law intervenes only when necessary. It would be stretching the definition of “necessary” to include these extensions. I do not feel that it is appropriate to broaden the terms of the existing offence any wider than the Government propose. 

It is important to state that the extreme pornography offence is one of simple possession, not of publication, dissemination or broadcast. The publication of obscene material is covered by other legislation, including the Obscene Publications Act 1959, but the law should be slow to intervene in simple possession and should do so only where there is a real need. I believe that depictions of rape constitute such a need but that a wider case for prohibition is not made out. I am grateful for the support shown for our proposal across the Committee, but for the reasons explained I am convinced that it is both unnecessary and inappropriate to extend this offence to cover the images that this amendment would capture. I cannot therefore support it. 

Amendment 29 would broaden the scope of the extreme pornography offence to cover the portrayal of sexual activity with real or apparent lack of consent. Again, I am afraid I think the amendment is too broad. I understand the intent, but the effect would not be as the hon. Member for Barnsley Central wishes. The amendment would have the effect of bringing within the parameters of this tightly drawn offence the possession of extreme images that depict any non-consensual sexual activity. That would arguably capture relatively low-level sexual contact such as kissing and touching. Of course, we are not here to defend non-consensual sexual activity in any form, but I do not think it is appropriate to target the depiction of the broader spectrum of such activity in this offence. 

2.45 pm 

Mr Slaughter:  I follow what the Minister is saying in relation to subject of image. Is he sure, given the variety of means of communication that there are now—he said himself that computer-generated images are different and that animation is different—that the technical side of it is adequately but not excessively covered? 

Jeremy Wright:  Yes, I am as sure as I can be. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that technology moves on and we attempt to keep pace, but of course the images

Column number: 219 
that we are talking about here are images in any form that are found in the possession of the individual. Work is ongoing with my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to look at some of the issues that the BBFC witnesses put before us last week, particularly around video on demand. There are points of discussion there that do not, I think, properly fall within the parameters of the Bill, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they are being worked on. 

Finally, as I have stressed, the Government’s proposal continues, in the manner of the original offence, to target the most extreme images and those that cause the most concern. It is not the intention to capture images that could depict relatively low-level acts. I hope, in view of what I have said, that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central will feel able to withdraw his amendment. 

Dan Jarvis:  As I said, the amendments were tabled in good faith, to make possible the useful and constructive debate that we have just had. I am grateful for hon. Members’ contributions and for the Minister’s assurances. He is absolutely right: there is a difficult balance to be struck, and the matter is one on which opinions will differ, but I think there is widespread agreement in the Committee and across the House that action is needed, and I am pleased that the Minister has confirmed that the Government will be looking at the explanatory notes. 

We look forward to working with the Government to ensure that the clause is as effective as possible, but given the assurances received, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 17 

Secure colleges and other places for detention of young offenders etc 

Jeremy Wright:  I beg to move amendment 16, in clause 17, page 18, line 18, leave out ‘in England,’. 

This amendment removes the territorial restriction in the new version of section 43 of the Prison Act 1952, inserted by clause 17, to enable the Secretary of State to provide secure colleges in Wales as well as England.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 19 to 21 and 23 to 27. 

Jeremy Wright:  We move now to part 2 of the Bill, which covers secure colleges. This group of amendments relate to the Secretary of State’s power to provide secure colleges under new section 43 of the Prison Act 1952, inserted by clause 17. As it is drafted, the Secretary of State has the power to provide a secure college in England only; amendment 16 will remove the territorial restriction and enable the Secretary of State to provide secure colleges in Wales as well as England. 

Secure colleges will place education and training for young people at the heart of their regime, while taking a fully integrated, holistic approach to tackling offending

Column number: 220 
behaviour. Subject to the success of the pathfinder secure college in the east midlands, our long-term vision is for a network of secure colleges across both England and Wales. In that way, we will extend the benefits of the new generation of secure educational establishments to all young people in custody. 

We have been liaising closely with the Welsh Government about our plans for transforming custody. We recognise that young people from Wales can have distinct cultural and language needs, which must be met while they are in custody. There is also a need to ensure that services in the community that are devolved, such as education, health, social services and housing, can be integrated effectively with provision in secure colleges, so that young people receive the support they need on release. This has necessitated discussion with the Welsh Government on the development of secure colleges in the context of devolved services, and it is for that reason that we have waited until now before applying the secure college provisions in the Bill to Wales. 

As the Committee will be aware, youth justice is not a subject that has been transferred to the Assembly. The Silk commission recently made recommendations, which we are considering, about the devolution of administrative responsibility for the treatment and rehabilitation of young offenders, but I am pleased to say the Welsh Government recently confirmed to us their support for the amendment of the Bill to provide for the creation of secure colleges in Wales. They have agreed that no consent motion is required for the amendments. We will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government on the implementation of our plans for secure colleges and transforming youth custody in Wales. 

We have also tabled a number of technical and consequential amendments to schedules 3 and 4. I hope that the Committee will support the amendments. 

Dan Jarvis:  I have just a couple of questions, as the group of amendments is largely technical. Most of the amendments, as the Minister said, are focused on extending the provision of secure colleges to Wales as well as England. The Bill did not originally include such provision, and I accept the Minister’s reasoning. 

Has the Department any current plans for establishing secure colleges in Wales? Also, amendment 23, about local safeguarding children boards, appears to make a distinction between services that are directly managed and those that are contracted out. What is the rationale for that? I should be grateful if the Minister would deal with those points. 

Jeremy Wright:  I shall come back to the hon. Gentleman on amendment 23 if the answer I give is not an accurate one, but I think that what we are doing is changing a variety of statutes where reference should now be made to secure colleges. The change will be technical, in the sense that we want secure colleges to be mentioned in all the relevant contexts. However, if I find I can helpfully provide more detail, I shall come back to the hon. Gentleman. 

We do not have plans for a specific secure college in Wales. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we are at the point where we believe it is sensible to have a pathfinder secure college, and we have identified a site for that: it will be in Leicestershire on land that the

Column number: 221 
Ministry of Justice already has. That is as far as the specific planning for sites has gone, but we think it is important to make it possible in legislation to roll out secure colleges when it appears sensible to do so. 

Sarah Champion:  On a point of order, Sir Roger. I received a note from the Bill Clerk this morning. My amendment to schedule 4 is not on the order paper today. She thinks that it is a printing error and will investigate. She says that it will be selected for Thursday. If we reach schedule 4 today will it be possible for me to bring that back on Thursday, or should I busk it? 

The Chair:  I touched on this earlier; I think that the hon. Lady was otherwise engaged. If schedule 4 is reached then the amendment will not have seen out its notice, so it cannot be debated today. If schedule 4 is taken today, the amendment cannot be debated on Thursday, because schedule 4 will have been taken; so the hon. Lady will have to seek other ways to introduce it—perhaps on Report. 

Amendment 16 agreed to.  

Dan Jarvis:  I beg to move amendment 32, in clause 17, page 18, line 18, at end insert— 

‘(d) Secure Children’s Homes’.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 33, in clause 17, page 19, line 35, after ‘contempt’, insert— 

‘(14) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements to ensure that sufficient places are available in secure children’s homes to enable young persons for whom detention in a secure children’s home is deemed more appropriate by the relevant authority than detention in a secure college or young offender institution to be so detained.’.

Dan Jarvis:  These probing amendments, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and myself, are intended to clarify the Government’s approach to the future of secure children’s homes. They deal with two important questions. First, what role, if any, will remain for secure children’s homes in the youth custody landscape once secure colleges are introduced? Secondly, how will the extremely vulnerable children the homes cater for be accommodated in the future? We hope that the debate will provide the Government with an appropriate opportunity to answer both questions. 

I want to begin by discussing the role of the homes. Secure children’s homes are intensively staffed facilities, largely run by local authorities in partnership with other organisations. They are small by definition, typically with between eight and 40 beds. The adult-to-child ratio is very high, and their staff are highly qualified in specialist care and experienced at working with difficult children. They provide for 10 to 17-year-olds, including some of the youngest and most vulnerable in youth custody. They accommodate children looked after by local authorities, where courts have authorised that they may be detained for welfare reasons. 

Overall, secure children’s homes are widely recognised as an important component within the youth custody sector. They cater for many children who simply could not be accommodated within secure training centres or young offender institutions, owing to the intense nature

Column number: 222 
of their needs and difficulties. As things stand, however, secure children’s homes are not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. Amendment 32 would correct that by adding secure children’s homes to the list of institutions in clause 17 that the Secretary of State may provide for the detention of young persons. The absence of secure children’s homes in the Bill is reflective of the wider uncertainty about their future. 

Sarah Champion:  I would like to speak a little more on this later, Sir Roger. However, does my hon. Friend agree that every one of our witnesses said that secure children’s homes were the best way forward and that they should be protected and should be an absolutely central part of the Bill? 

Dan Jarvis:  My hon. Friend is right. The weight of the body of evidence brought to the evidence sessions strongly concurred with what she has just said. Again, we tabled these amendments in good faith, to provide us with the opportunity to have this constructive debate. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says about the point that my hon. Friend has made and about those that I will continue to make. 

The Minister will know that the Youth Justice Board recently confirmed that 28 secure children’s home beds are to be decommissioned. That might sound like a small number, but it is significant in the context of institutions that are, by definition, very small. From 1 April 2014—a fortnight away—the Youth Justice Board plans to reduce the 166 secure children’s home places currently contracted to 138 places. That equates to a 17% cut in places across nine homes. That brings me to the second question, about the future accommodation of children who will no longer be able to access those places. 

The Government’s support for maintaining secure children’s homes has been ambiguous at best. In the Government’s response to their own consultation, “Transforming Youth Custody”, paragraph 34 states: 

“We accept that there is always likely to be a small number of the very youngest, most vulnerable and most challenging young people who will be unsuited to the mainstream provision in a Secure College and will require specialist custodial services. To cater for this population we are continuing to provide sufficient places in SCHs, while seeking to secure improvements in service and reductions in cost”. 

That statement appears to give reassurance with one hand, but takes it away with the other. That is the reasoning behind amendment 33, which would require the Secretary of State to ensure that there are adequate places in secure children’s homes for the young people who need them. 

Ministers have already made it clear that secure colleges will accommodate some of the children currently detained in secure children’s homes. Paragraph 33 of the Government’s response to the “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation states: 

“It is our intention that all 12–17 year olds accommodated in STCs and some of those accommodated in SCHs will in future be accommodated in Secure Colleges”. 

That presents a real risk that some of the youngest and most vulnerable children will be inappropriately accommodated in over-large establishments unable to offer the same high standard of care as secure children’s homes. 

Column number: 223 

Concerns have been raised that large institutions are particularly damaging for the most vulnerable children. Some people have observed that both Jake Hardy and Ryan Clark—the two young boys who tragically took their own lives—were detained in the largest young offender institution in the country. We must take care in drawing lessons from cases that are still being looked at. The fact remains that, although 16 children have died in custody since 2000, not a single death has occurred in a secure children’s home. We might therefore be forced to speculate that the uncertainty about their future may have less to do with the results that they produce and more to do with how much it costs to produce them. It is no secret that secure children’s homes are more expensive than other forms of youth custody. That is to be expected for small units with their highly qualified specialists and a high staff-to-child ratio. The average cost per place in a secure children’s home works out at £212,000 per year, compared with £65,000 for a young offenders’ institution or £178,000 for a place at a secure training centre. 

3 pm 

I will return briefly to the Government’s consultation, which said: 

“We intend to withdraw from costly STC provision once replacement secure college capacity is available, but if an STC place over £30,000 cheaper is being described as costly, we can understand why secure children’s homes would appear to have few friends in Government at the moment.” 

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab):  Currently, 69% of young people reoffend, which is far too high. I agree with the Government on that, but is there any evidence that a secure college in Leicestershire will bring down that reoffending rate? Is there any evidence that the only needs of these children are educational and they do not have a range of complex social, emotional and welfare needs, often coming from traumatic abuse at home? Will a secure college help to deal with those issues and bring down reoffending rates? 

Dan Jarvis:  My hon. Friend is right to question the evidence base. The evidence did not appear to be forthcoming when the Committee held its evidence sessions a week ago. That is precisely the point of having this debate, so that we better understand the evidence base that underpins this decision. There is a general concern that, in the context of securing children within the custodial estate, big is not beautiful. It is right that we have this debate, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about these issues. 

Even the impact assessments produced for the Bill indicated that one of the rationales for introducing a secure college was to reduce the cost of youth custody. With that in mind, will the Minister clarify a number of issues for the Committee? Will he tell the Committee plain and simply the Government’s policy towards secure children’s homes? His Department has committed on record to providing sufficient places in secure children’s homes. What is the Government’s definition of “sufficient” in this context? 

Finally, the Government have said that the detention of some children from secure children’s homes in larger secure colleges will allow 

“a broader curriculum and range of services to be provided at a lower cost without any compromise in the safeguarding of young people.” 

Column number: 224 

Can the Minister tell us how that will be achieved? What sort of qualifications will staff in a secure college be required to hold and how will the child-to-adult ratio compare with children’s homes? We hoped that tabling these amendments would provide answers to those questions. I am sure that the Committee will appreciate any reassurance the Minister can offer. 

Sarah Champion:  I want to build on the points about size made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central. I bring the Committee’s attention back to the evidence given by Sue Berelowitz, who said: 

“The size of secure children’s homes means that there are high levels of watchfulness and vigilance, because staff are always around, so it is less likely that girls will come under the power of boys and all that goes with that. They are exceptionally vulnerable.” 

My hon. Friend went on to ask her what she thought was the ideal size for a secure college, and she replied: 

“If I can leave aside whatever something is called and just talk about a good size for a children’s prison, it needs to be small enough and with high enough staff-to-child ratios such that children do not feel lost and there is a degree of intimacy—if I can put it like that—so that it does not feel impersonal. These children have grown up in very difficult circumstances for the most part. I would not want to have 25 or 50. There is a secure children’s home that takes 25 children, which is almost bordering on what our secure training centres look like. The STCs are not an unreasonable size—the biggest takes around 90 children—which means that you can break the population down in smaller houses. The overall size feels manageable, and it is not daunting when you walk on to the site. Places like Hindley, for example, are also broken down into units, but when you walk into the Hindley site—it is the biggest children’s prison in Europe, but there are plans to re-role some of it—it is a very intimidating environment. The environment is equally as important as the size and staff-to-child ratios. There needs to be a degree of intimacy. Some children’s homes have as few as 10 or 12, and they tend to work well with troubled children, because of the amount of intense care that children can get.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 11 March 2014; c. 12, Q14-15.] 

Will the Minister give us an assurance that, if he goes ahead with the giant prison, it will be designed in such a way as to be broken down into small, more personal units, so that the secure feeling that there can be in children’s homes is replicated? 

I have been to a secure children’s home in Sheffield, where there were about 15 children. The ratio of staff to children was 2:1, and there was a broad range of skills on offer, including teaching, psychological and nursing skills. However, about 50% of the children I saw were there for welfare reasons. They had been through horrific childhoods and had been acting out, and so had been moved to the secure children’s home specifically for their own protection, as well as to enable them to flourish as individuals in their own right. If secure children’s homes are not mentioned specifically in the Bill, I am worried that such facilities might disappear. Will the Minister assure us that such welfare places in a home-like environment will be protected? They are essential for those children. 

Mr Slaughter:  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. In the first year I was doing this job, I was the shadow Minister with responsibility for the youth estate and had the opportunity to visit a number of different institutions, including young offenders institutions and secure training centres, as well as secure children’s homes. I was impressed by the regime in the

Column number: 225 
secure children’s homes that I visited. They often deal with extremely vulnerable young people. 

I support the amendments—they are in my name, and even I cannot find an objection in that case. 

The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury (Mr David Evennett):  We can’t believe it! 

Mr Slaughter:  If I keep going for long enough, I might find a flaw in my own argument. However, I want to press the Minister to look seriously at the amendments for the following reasons. First, the Bill is a bit of a leap in the dark in this area. At Justice questions today, we heard the word “pilot” several times—a word that I thought was now banned at the Ministry of Justice. Although we are talking about only one institution, it is a large one; we are talking about its taking a predominant part in not only the education but the incarceration of young people. 

I emphasise the point made by some of the briefings that the provision is untried. I also emphasise the point made by some of my colleagues that, although education is extremely important, it is part of a package for vulnerable young people that might not be achieved. All the briefings that I have read and most of the witnesses we heard from during the evidence sessions expressed, at the least, serious concerns about the path that the Government are going down or the speed at which they are going down it. Concern was expressed not just by organisations that professionally advocate for children within the secure estate, but by the Magistrates’ Association, which is concerned that leading the charge, as always, is lowering the unit cost. Sadly, the unit cost is high in all young persons’ institutions. Perhaps the Government are right to try to lower that cost in some cases, but if the leading objective, alongside prioritising education, is lowering costs and that is being achieved either by— 

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con):  I am listening to the hon. Gentleman’s argument. I shall ask just two brief questions. Does he accept that the proposal will fundamentally reduce the financial burden on the taxpayer? More importantly, does he agree that slightly larger units—not huge units—give greater opportunity for education, rehabilitation and training than is possible in smaller units? 

Mr Slaughter:  I agree with the hon. Gentleman, in so far as more can be done in relation to education. That is a feature of a number of different aspects that we could spend all afternoon debating, including the type of education provider that the Government currently favour and the facilities. Secure training centres were introduced, in part, to address that issue. The aim is laudable, but there are inevitably limitations, such as the fact that most young people, fortunately, spend not years but days and weeks inside. 

It is all very well saying glibly but with good intention, “Our priority must be education and our second, or equal, priority must be lowering the cost to the taxpayer.” I do not think that anybody would quarrel with that, but we are looking at what the ignored or unintended consequences of doing that might be. The amendments

Column number: 226 
are not about saying that there is no role for educational establishments, that one size fits all for the youth estate and that the measure is a bad idea per se. 

Guy Opperman:  I should like the hon. Gentleman to reply to my two questions. First, does he accept that this will be a cheaper outcome for the taxpayer, regardless of merit, putting merit to one side? Secondly, is it the Labour party’s position that this is not the right way to educate young people in such circumstances? Or is the alternative true: is this the right way, but the hon. Gentleman prefers a different way? 

Mr Slaughter:  On the hon. Gentleman’s first point, I accept that the Government’s aim is to do things more cheaply. However, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. At the moment, we do not know who will run the schemes or how much they will rip the MOJ off, do we? So we will wait and see what happens. The corollary is how and why the proposal will be cheaper. Will it simply be cheaper on the basis of economy of scale, lower staffing ratios and a regime that is less supportive of young people? That may be appropriate for some young people. 

On the hon. Gentleman’s second point, yes, we would all welcome the prioritising of education. The proposal may be the solution, but it is always better, or it is in most cases, to pilot such things. This is quite a big-bang approach; we are talking about an £85 million commitment. 

The amendments are not about saying, “Don’t do this.” They are about saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Don’t say that existing types of provision, particularly secure children’s homes, which tend to be smaller, more intimate and more highly staffed and have more supportive regimes, can play second fiddle to secure colleges in this way.” I know that the Minister appreciates this point; he has visited more institutions than I have. He will be aware that, yes, those places deal with dangerous young people, in some cases, and people who have committed horrific crimes and young people whom, if they are to be rehabilitated and kept secure—by which I mean safe, as well as inside—during their period of incarceration, often need levels of support that are unusual, even within the prison system. 

For those reasons, the Government should take a step back. They should not do what I am afraid the Secretary of State often does, which is to rush in blindly on such matters, thinking that he has come up with a solution that sounds good on paper and ticks some boxes, gets newspaper headlines and saves some money. I am simply asking for a slightly more responsible and reserved approach. 

3.15 pm 

Jeremy Wright:  I am afraid that I must resist the amendments. However, I welcome the opportunity to explain the Government’s position on the use of secure children’s homes for detained young people, because I think some misapprehension about it may have arisen. 

As the Committee knows, the Bill will introduce secure colleges. We have indicated our intention to open a pathfinder secure college in 2017. 

I am starting to suspect that the hon. Member for Hammersmith will never be satisfied by what this Government do. I may be being unduly cynical, but

Column number: 227 
somehow I do not think I am. He said, in relation to probation reforms, that we ought to try them out in one location first and see how they work. Here we are, proposing exactly that in relation to secure colleges, and he is still not happy. 

Mr Slaughter:  I think we are debating semantics here. When is a pilot not a pathfinder? When is a youth institution with capacity for 320 people—I think the Minister will admit that that is a large institution—a pilot, rather than a substantial part of the youth estate? He might as well say that his Titan prison is a pilot too, when we know in fact that it will be a dumping ground.  

Jeremy Wright:  The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to agree with that, and I do not. I will say something about the scale of the institution in a moment. 

The hon. Gentleman is right; we have made it clear, in our response to the “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation, that if the pathfinder proves successful, our vision is to roll out a network of secure colleges across England and Wales. We envisage that the vast majority of young people aged 12 to 17 in custody will in future be detained in secure colleges and benefit from the enhanced educational and rehabilitative services provided. I make no apology for saying, as I have on a number of occasions, that I think it is crucial that we do better than we have in the education of young people in custody. They are school-age children and we have an obligation to educate them. There are formidable challenges in doing so, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, but that does not mean that we should duck that responsibility. Secure colleges are a way for us to seek to address it. 

Sarah Champion:  The Minister mentioned 12 to 17-year-olds. Is there any wiggle room for him to consider age 15 and upwards? All the witnesses we heard said that they felt that 12 is too young. I understand that the Minister will try to segregate the ages as much as possible, but I still worry that, when it comes to canteens and playgrounds, there will still be a crossover. Putting a 12-year-old in the same environment as a 17-year-old could be extremely threatening and damaging. Will he consider raising the lower age threshold? 

Jeremy Wright:  We will come on to precisely that issue, if not in the next group of amendments, then possibly the one after that. I would hate to spoil the surprise as to my attitude to it. 

I accept that, whatever we do on the basis of a secure college model, it will be important to think carefully about how we accommodate and educate young people of different ages and with different needs. That will very much be part and parcel of the way in which we approach secure colleges. 

However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham was saying earlier, it is perfectly right for us to think about the best way to deliver the breadth of services—not just education—to young people with a range of needs. The best way to do that might not be in small units, because it would be difficult to bring about the economies of scale that we need and the breadth of different types of services that may be required. 

Column number: 228 

I agree entirely with the hon. Lady that design will be crucial. The way in which we design such institutions will be vital in giving the right impression to those who step across the threshold as to what type of activity goes on there. The Secretary of State’s view of the matter has always been that we should move from the point where we were essentially adding education to detention facilities, to a point where we enforce detention in an education facility. There is a real difference of approach, and we hope that the design of the buildings and the general environment will reflect that. I hope that, when she starts to see the way that secure colleges might look, she will see that too. 

Sarah Champion:  Will the Minister therefore please make a commitment to employing a proper RIBA architect, rather than simply going for a design at the cheapest cost? 

Jeremy Wright:  Fortunately, I do not get to select the architect, so I will not go into what qualifications they may or may not have, but the hon. Lady can rest assured that both the Secretary of State and I are keen to ensure that the design of the buildings is of the highest quality and that it gives the clear impression that this is a different kind of institution from those that we currently have. 

Guy Opperman:  May I attempt to allay the hon. Lady’s fears by pointing out to the Minister that we would not be the first people in the world to have come up with the idea for a secure college? There are other examples around the world that we could use as a model. They are set out in copious detail in the Centre for Social Justice report “Locked Up Potential” and other academic essays on this subject. Anything that can create an environment where education is paramount, given more than 50% illiteracy and more than 50% drug abuse, must surely be the way ahead. 

Jeremy Wright:  I agree with my hon. Friend. He is right, of course. There are very few genuinely new ideas. None the less, we will always look for examples around the world that we can draw inspiration from. 

Mr Slaughter:  Will the Minister give way? 

Jeremy Wright:  Speaking of drawing inspiration! 

Mr Slaughter:  It is right that there is nothing new, but that does not mean that the Government still cannot get it wrong, even if it has been tried many times before. We have had borstals and STCs. The Minister should not dismiss the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham. I will not name it, but I visited a secure training centre that was clearly designed and built for a different age group from that which it is now accommodating. One might say, “So what?” but the room and furniture sizes, which are part of the design and build specification, were wrong. Care taken with the infrastructure and the signals that that sends out, and what provision is on offer there, will be absolutely crucial. Simply calling something a secure college and saying that education is a priority will not sort out anything. 

Column number: 229 

The Chair:  Order. Interventions are getting rather long. Interventions are interventions and speeches are speeches. There is a fundamental difference between the two, and I should be grateful if all hon. Members would recognise that. 

Jeremy Wright:  Thank you, Sir Roger. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. I think it will be important to do all those things effectively, but what we are discussing in the Bill is giving the Government the opportunity to do all those things and to bring about legislative provision to enable secure colleges to happen. We think that that is the right thing for us to do. However, we also made it clear in the response to the consultation that we accept that it is likely that some detained young people—in addition to 10 and 11-year-olds, who we do not believe should be placed in secure colleges—will require separate specialist accommodation on the grounds of their acute needs or vulnerability. We are committed to continuing to provide separate specialist accommodation for that small group of young offenders. 

Secure children’s homes currently provide places for the youngest and most vulnerable children in custody, as others have said, and they will continue to do so. We have recently entered into new contracts with nine secure children’s homes to continue delivering that provision for those who require it. Although the Bill provides for secure colleges, it does not seek to make any changes to the existing legislative provision relating to secure children’s homes. 

Members have noticed that secure children’s homes are absent from the list of the types of youth detention accommodation that the Secretary of State may provide, as set out in the revised section 43 of the Prison Act 1952 that is included in clause 17. That is because local authorities have the power to provide secure children’s homes, and the Secretary of State does not and never has had such a power. Similarly, it is for local authorities to provide sufficient places as are required in secure children’s homes, and we think it is right that they retain responsibility for that. 

The Secretary of State has a broader duty to ensure that there are sufficient places in youth detention accommodation for young people remanded or sentenced to custody. In fulfilling that duty we continue to contract places in secure children’s homes for the young people who require them. 

Mr Slaughter:  I take that point, but does the Minister therefore anticipate any change in the use of secure children’s homes once secure colleges—either the pathfinder college or, if that meets approval, future ones—come into use? 

Jeremy Wright:  We certainly anticipate that if we are able to get right all the points that have been discussed in the course of this debate, as I hope we will, secure colleges will be able to accommodate some of those currently accommodated in secure children’s homes. It therefore follows that we may see fewer people accommodated in secure children’s homes in future. Of course, as I hope I have made very clear, we do not think that we will ever get to the point where every young person within the relevant age bracket can be accommodated appropriately in a secure college. There

Column number: 230 
will therefore continue to be a need for additional provision, and we will continue to contract with secure children’s homes to provide that. 

It will of course be for the Youth Justice Board to decide on the appropriate accommodation in the case of each young person going into detention. That is as it should be. For those reasons, and with that reassurance about the Government’s intentions, I hope very much that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central will withdraw his amendment. 

Dan Jarvis:  I am grateful for the opportunity to put some of our concerns about secure colleges on the record. This debate will continue throughout the second part of the Bill. It is of course right to focus on education, and of course we need to look at the cost. However, as has been said, we also need to look carefully at any unintended consequences of secure colleges, given that there will still be children who require that specialist level of support. I am also grateful for the opportunity to discuss the future of secure children’s homes, and for the clarity provided by the Minister. However, I am also mindful of the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith just made about the future use of secure children’s homes. Having listened very carefully to what the Minister has said, we hope that the Government will reflect on the concerns that have been raised, both in the Committee’s evidence sessions and in today’s debate. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Dan Jarvis:  I beg to move amendment 30, in clause 17, page 18, line 20, at end insert— 

‘(2A) No person who is aged under 15 shall be detained in a secure college established under subsection (1)(c).’.

The amendment stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith. We tabled it to raise concerns regarding the age range that the Government have proposed for the young people who are to be accommodated in secure colleges. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham for her earlier trailing of this amendment. 

We are all aware that children aged between 12 and 14 are significantly in the minority of the population of under-18s in custody. The majority of that age group are currently accommodated in small, local, intensively staffed secure children’s homes, which we have just discussed. According to the latest figures available, there were 53 young people aged 14 or under in custody. Of those, 32 were placed in secure children’s homes and the rest in secure training centres. The Committee will also be aware that existing young offender institutions only hold boys who are 15 or over. The Government are clear that secure colleges will hold children as young as 12, including some of the children currently detained in secure children’s homes. Paragraph 33 of the Government’s response to the “Transforming Youth Custody” consultation states: 

“It is our intention that all 12–17 year olds accommodated in STCs and some of those accommodated in SCHs will in future be accommodated in Secure Colleges”. 

The Committee will appreciate that this young age brings with it specific vulnerabilities that must be considered. The Government’s own consultation acknowledges that

Column number: 231 
the very youngest, most vulnerable and most challenging young people will be unsuited to the mainstream provision in a secure college, and will require specialist custodial services. That raises a number of issues around the safeguarding of those young children. I am sure that the Committee will understand that there may be safeguarding issues if children as young as 12 are living side-by-side with much older children. 

Sarah Champion:  At the beginning of his speech my hon. Friend mentioned the few young children who are currently in custody. I am sure he knows that in 2012-13, 96% of children in custody were 15 to 17-year-olds, which means that the number of very young, very vulnerable children is tiny. My great concern is that they will get lost in the system because they know that they are in the smallest minority when they go into such environments. 

3.30 pm 

Dan Jarvis:  I am grateful for that intervention, which is useful in that it explains the motivation behind the amendment. We want to give the Minister the opportunity to reassure members of the Committee and those from whom we heard evidence about the youngest and most vulnerable children. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about that particular cohort. 

Safeguarding issues may exist if children as young as 12 are living side-by-side with much older children, especially when all such children, by their very presence in youth custody, may have significant issues and challenging behaviours. In our evidence sessions, Penelope Gibbs from the Standing Committee for Youth Justice raised serious concerns about the appropriateness of the risks associated with putting such a wide group of ages in the same institution: 

“If you read inspection reports about YOIs and some of the behaviour issues with the older boys, we do not feel that younger children, aged 12 or 13, should be in the same institution as children who, in maturity terms, are so very different. All young people are vulnerable, but in terms of welfare, health and other issues, all the evidence is that the youngest children in custody are much more vulnerable.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 11 March 2014; c. 34, Q69.] 

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab):  Did Ms Gibbs not also address the issue of young girls being in the same institution? 

Dan Jarvis:  I am grateful that my colleagues are helping to trail forthcoming amendments, but if my hon. Friend is patient, we will focus on that important point in the next group of amendments. 

Beyond the initial pathfinder institution in Leicestershire—I appreciate that the Minister referred to it earlier—we are yet to discover what secure colleges will be built and where. Depending on how many the Government have in mind for the longer term, there could be just a few institutions throughout the country. A move to a smaller number of large institutions will mean that some very young children may be kept in custody a long way from home, causing problems with resettlement and during their time in custodial care. As it stands, however, we have limited information from the

Column number: 232 
Government about how the scheme will be managed in future. The last thing that any of us would want would be for children of all ages to be inappropriately grouped together in the interest of driving down costs if no plan is in place for their provision. 

What will be the staff to student ratio? What qualifications and training will secure college staff have? Will education be delivered in settled classes or across different age groups? How will the accommodation be arranged? What sort of intensive and enhanced provision will be provided for those in the 12-to-14 age group? Have the Government considered the impact that secure colleges will have on that age group? Have they not done so, it has been suggested to me that that would fail to meet the requirements of the public sector equality duty, as set out in the Equality Act 2010. As I hope is clear from my remarks, I would appreciate any further information from the Minister on those important points. 

Jeremy Wright:  I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said. He is right to probe those points, which are clearly crucial to the way in which the secure college will operate. As I have made clear, the Government are committed to ensuring that all young people who are remanded or sentenced to custody have access to the education and training that will equip them with the skills, qualifications and self-discipline they need to build a life free from crime. We intend that secure colleges will accommodate individuals between the ages of 12 and 17, and we want under-15s to benefit from the new approach that I have described. 

I recognise that, as the hon. Gentleman says, it can be daunting for children as young as 12 to be in the same establishment as 17-year-olds. I also accept that 12 and 13-year-olds often have educational and welfare needs that are different from those of 16 and 17-year-olds. However, 12 and 13-year-olds are already successfully accommodated alongside older children in both secure training centres and secure children’s homes, which have been much talked about this afternoon. 

Sarah Champion:  I hear what the Minister says, but why do young offenders institutions only hold boys over the age of 15? 

Jeremy Wright:  I am sure the hon. Lady understands and accepts that we will have failed if we create a secure college that looks and feels exactly like a young offenders institution. The point is to develop a different type of environment in which it is feasible to accommodate a broader range of ages. That is the whole purpose of developing this new model, and it is why we think it is important to look carefully at all the things we have already discussed on design, accommodation and education and other needs. We do not think it is sensible simply to recreate a young offenders institution or to have the same age group restrictions. 

Mr Slaughter:  How many children are currently locked up? Of those, how many are 14 and under? 

Jeremy Wright:  I do not have the figure in front of me, but I will try to get it for the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible. It is, of course, a small minority. In fact, I think his colleague may have given some figures earlier, and I have no reason to disagree with them. 

Column number: 233 

Mr Slaughter:  The simplest questions are always the most difficult to answer. I was not trying to catch the Minister out. The last figure I saw, from last December, was just under 1,200 in total. His officials may have more up-to-date figures, but the relevance is that if the proportion is very small, and if the secure college has a capacity of 300 or 320, it gives us an idea of the size of the problem. 

Jeremy Wright:  As I said, it is clear that those below the age of 14 are a small minority. Equally, we are talking about extending the provision of better-quality education and better-quality support and rehabilitation across a range of different needs. It would not be right at this point for us to exclude the possibility that a younger age group could also benefit, notwithstanding the fact that there are huge challenges in managing such a wide age group in a single institution. The point I am simply making is that the challenge of dealing with such a range of ages is already addressed by both secure training centres and secure children’s homes. Those establishments have demonstrated that, with the right facilities, services and safeguards, different age groups can be safely and effectively managed alongside one another, with services appropriately tailored to each group. Secure colleges will build on that and ensure that all young people, of whatever age, are protected and kept safe at all times with their needs being met. 

Mike Kane:  I just do not see the Government’s thinking. The Government almost accepted Building Schools for the Future but they stopped that programme, and now they are building secure colleges for the future without any thought of the consequences for small secure homes. Juliet Lyon, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said that the best way forward for young offenders are: 

“Small, local, intensively staffed units with a focus on taking responsibility, making amends to victims, gaining skills for employment”. 

Frances Crook from the Howard League for Penal Reform said: 

“The millions of pounds spent on this new facility would be better invested in community support for children”. 

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central quoted the evidence of Penelope Gibbs, but she has said that simply focusing on education is “misguided” and will not address the mental health problems, drug and alcohol addictions and abuse that some young offenders have been through. We cannot just build a college to tackle those things when the professional evidence is that it is best when it is done locally, in small intensively staffed units. 

Jeremy Wright:  It was certainly the view of some of those who gave evidence that it would be better to accommodate everyone in secure children’s homes. I do not think that any responsible Government can ignore the fact that it costs more than £200,000 a place to accommodate young people in secure children’s homes, nor the fact that when one looks across the board at the 1,200 or so young people currently being accommodated in detention somewhere, it would not be appropriate for all those young people to be accommodated in a secure children’s home. 

In any event, as I hoped I made clear in the last discussion, we are not suggesting that there should be no place for secure children’s homes. There are some

Column number: 234 
young people who are not suitable to be accommodated in the secure college model, but we believe that with the right measures in place, it is possible to accommodate that range of ages. As I said, that is already being done by both secure training centres and secure children’s homes at the moment. 

Mr Slaughter:  In the context of the amendment, we are talking about under-15s, of whom I am sure we will find out shortly that there are a small number. Again, if we are talking about 12, 13 or 14-year-olds, who by definition will have committed unusual and serious offences for children of that age, they are likely to be vulnerable people. How will the Minister ensure their safety and security in those institutions? Presumably they will be educated separately. Will they also be housed separately? 

Jeremy Wright:  The answer to the last point is yes. It will obviously be necessary to think carefully about the accommodation arrangements. The hon. Gentleman is right that there will be vulnerable young people in that age group; there will also be vulnerable people who are in an older age group. As I said—and I am happy to repeat it—it will be for the Youth Justice Board to determine what the appropriate place should be for the accommodation of each of those young people. 

I return to the primary point. We do not accept that it is impossible to construct a facility to cover 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17-year-olds, appropriately separated for accommodation purposes and with the appropriate separations for some educational purposes too. The advantage of covering all those people in one institution, and indeed of having an institution of sufficient scale, is the opportunity to bring in some of the services that a smaller institution would struggle to maintain. We think that that advantage should not be easily dismissed. As the hon. Gentleman is still keen for facts, I can tell him that in 2012-13, an average of 67 under-15s were in custody at any point, 45 of them in secure children’s homes and 22 in secure training centres. 

Sarah Champion:  I hear what the Minister is saying, and I completely believe his sincerity about getting this right. However, the models that he has given where young children from the age of 13 to 17 are together are in much, much smaller units, where it is a lot easier to create a sympathetic family-home environment. I was blessed to go to a state middle school where we were 11 to 13, and it was still daunting for me as a 13-year-old to go up to the big school, so I have serious concerns about the measures. If 4% of children will be under the age of 15, we are looking at about 13 children out of 320 in his secure college, which puts them in a minority. That means that their environment will not be a normal one in which they can flourish. 

Jeremy Wright:  I suspect that we will all be far too ambitious if we believe that we can create anything that constitutes a normal environment operating in the context of a detention facility, but I take the hon. Lady’s point. As I said, it is important to ensure that different age groups are separated in accommodation. We will have to work hard, not least on the designs that we have discussed, to ensure that the facility does not feel as intimidating as it otherwise might. 

Column number: 235 

Mr Slaughter:  I was struck by the evidence that we heard in relation to boys and girls sharing joint facilities; I promise that I am not getting to the next amendment. The same argument could apply to young and slightly older children. The evidence that even with minimal contact, and unintended contact, there could be a degree of abuse and intimidation going on, could equally well apply there. It reinforced the point, which I think the Minister has just alluded to, that the design and organisation of these institutions will be absolutely crucial. 

3.45 pm 

Jeremy Wright:  Yes, and on the last point I do not think there is any disagreement between us. I might have it wrong, but my recollection of the evidence that we were given was that the mixing of boys and girls takes place now in secure children’s homes, and secure training centres to a lesser extent. If it can be done now, one might argue that it can be done in a secure college too, but I think it is absolutely right that we should be cautious in relation to all these arrangements, and this will only work as an institution if we get the design features right. It is also correct that it will be for the provider of a secure college, as it is currently for the providers of young offender institutions, secure training centres and secure children’s homes, to fully assess the risks and put in place the safeguards and arrangements to ensure that all young people are properly protected. 

As I have said, it is for the Youth Justice Board, with proper consideration of the individual needs and characteristics of young people, and advice from youth offending teams, to decide the most appropriate establishment in which to place a young person remanded or sentenced into custody. The Bill provides for secure colleges to accommodate boys and girls aged 12 to 17, but we have committed to continue providing separate specialist accommodation for those who require it, and the YJB will be able to place younger offenders there when it feels that a secure college place would not be right. 

No final decisions have been taken on who will be accommodated in the pathfinder secure college. Those decisions will be taken closer to the opening of the pathfinder in 2017, and in the light of careful analysis of the needs of the youth custodial population and the equalities impacts on different groups. The same, of course, applies, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand, to some of the other more detailed questions that he asked. 

Mr Slaughter  rose—  

Jeremy Wright:  I give way for the last, last time. 

Mr Slaughter:  On the pathfinder aspect, 320 places is about 25% of the current youth custodial population. Both the present and previous Governments deserve credit for the very substantial decline in the number of young people who are locked up, but that does mean that this one institution is likely to be housing a quarter. Has the Minister thought that through in terms of the number of places and the investment he is putting in? 

Jeremy Wright:  The hon. Gentleman is, perfectly legitimately, returning to the argument as to whether it is necessary to have an institution of that scale in order to deliver the benefits that we foresee; on that point he

Column number: 236 
and I will no doubt continue to disagree. However, we say that in order to bring in the range of resources, the range of provision that we would like to see, the institution must be of a certain scale. 

The amendment would limit our choice as to who should be accommodated at a secure college before the decision is properly considered, and would have the effect of preventing 12 to 14-year-olds from benefiting from the enhanced education and rehabilitation services that we intend to be delivered in secure colleges. For that reason, I invite the hon. Member for Barnsley Central to withdraw the amendment. 

Dan Jarvis:  I am pleased that the Minister recognises that it can be daunting for 12 to 14-year-olds in the youth custodial estate. The amendment has proved useful in enabling us to debate these issues, about which there are genuine concerns. We heard them today and we heard them during the evidence sessions last week. In my opening remarks, I spoke of the need for an evidence base to demonstrate the reliability of the secure college model, and I fear that the case is not yet proven. We will continue to scrutinise closely the detail of the Bill as it relates to the age profile of children in the secure colleges. I serve notice that if we are not satisfied on Report, we will reserve our right to oppose this part of the Bill, but for now I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Dan Jarvis:  I beg to move amendment 31, in clause 17, page 18, line 20, at end insert— 

‘(2A) A young woman may not be placed in a secure college established under subsection (1)(c).’.

The amendment stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith. Much of our debate on the previous amendment is relevant to this one. Amendment 31 would prevent young women and girls from being placed in secure colleges. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham for her trailing the amendment earlier. 

Just as are very young children, girls are an extreme minority within the youth custody population. In 2012-13, 96% of under-18s in custody were male. The latest figures show that in December 2013 only 59 girls were held in youth custody. Obviously it is positive that the number of young girls being sentenced to custody is falling, but that decline raises legitimate concerns about the few girls left in a male-dominated environment. That has been acknowledged by the Youth Justice Board withdrawing fully from the remaining three girls’ units in young offenders institutions. 

The Committee will remember the evidence we heard from the deputy Children’s Commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, who last week told us that she does not believe young girls should be placed in secure colleges. She said: 

“I would like not to see them in secure colleges. My preference is for them to continue to be placed wherever they need to be placed based on their offences, which is in small units, such as the small, secure children’s homes that I visit or STCs.” 

She continued: 

“The size of secure children’s homes means that there are high levels of watchfulness and vigilance, because staff are always around, so it is less likely that girls will come under the power of

Column number: 237 
boys and all that goes with that. They are exceptionally vulnerable.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 11 March 2014; c. 12, Q14.] 

Those concerns are not hers alone. It is why the Youth Justice Board and the National Offender Management Service recognise that prison provision might not be the most appropriate form of custody for young girls with complex needs. However, the Government have not excluded the possibility of accommodating young girls in secure colleges. In a recent parliamentary question, I asked the Minister to clarify the Government’s position. He replied: 

“We have not ruled out having units for girls at the pathfinder Secure College that will open in 2017. As we develop our plans, we will carefully consider our approach to accommodating girls to ensure that the secure youth estate continues to meet their needs.”—[Official Report, 3 March 2014; Vol. 129, c. 642W.] 

I hope he will understand if I press him for further detail today. 

What work is being done to assess the needs of young girls in custody? What groups is the Minister consulting as part of that process? Does he have a view on what the gender balance between boys and girls accommodated in secure colleges should be? When does he expect a decision to be made on whether young women will be included in the secure colleges? As ever, I will be grateful for any answers the Minister can provide. They are important questions and deserve clarification. If we are to address the complex needs of very vulnerable young girls, the services that are provided must be specifically tailored. 

Sarah Champion:  I rise to present the same arguments as I presented on the issue of young children. I, too, want to return to what the deputy Children’s Commissioner said about girls in custody. She said: 

“They are among some of the most troubled youngsters I meet in prison. I do not ask…but they…tell me quite a lot and it is rare that I meet a girl who does not have an early history of really shocking violence and abuse, usually sexual abuse of one kind or another… I would be very concerned about girls being put in a large environment with a lot of boys because of issues of sexual violence, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and misogyny. You get hypermasculine environments in these places. A lot of the boys have come from a world in which you have to be hypermasculine to make it on the street. Whatever their internal vulnerabilities, they are hidden inside that outer shell. The power imbalance is huge. Even if they are in separate wings in STCs, which of course they would need to be—although they can be on mixed corridors in secure children’s homes”— 

as the Minister said— 

“they come together for education, for example. Again, I have been in places where you can hear boys making truly inappropriate comments either directly to the girls or in passing, which is absolutely not in anyone’s interests at all. It worries me that small numbers of girls could be included in this wider, hypermasculine environment. 

She continued: 

“I would like not to see them in secure colleges. My preference is for them to continue to be placed wherever they need to be placed based on their offences, which is in small units, such as the small, secure children’s homes that I visit or STCs. STCs need to be much more gender-aware than they are at the moment. The size of secure children’s homes means that there are high levels of watchfulness and vigilance, because staff are always around, so it is less likely that girls will come under the power of boys and all that goes with that. They are exceptionally vulnerable.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 11 March 2014; c. 11-12, Q13-14.] 

Column number: 238 

I know that the Minister is aware of this issue and that he will be sensitive to what we are saying. Even if the girls and boys are never in the same environment, those girls will know that there are boys there. It will be a hyper-male environment, and the girls will know that they are vulnerable. If it was me I would want to be able to lock my door every night; otherwise, I would feel exposed or on view. I cannot believe that the girls at the other side of the college will not get catcalls or abuse hurled at them on a daily basis. As the deputy Children’s Commissioner has said, these are already incredibly vulnerable and incredibly damaged young children and I am extremely concerned that if they go into this large-scale, hyper-male environment that damage will continue. 

Jeremy Wright:  I shall try not to repeat some of the points that I made in the last debate, even though they are, as hon. Members will understand, equally pertinent to this debate. 

Of course, I recognise the concerns that the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman have expressed about accommodating a large number of boys and only a small number of girls in the same institution, and the potential risk to those girls. I also recognise that girls in custody often have a complex range of needs, and it would be important that secure colleges meet those needs if girls were to be placed in them. 

As we discussed in relation to under-15s, girls are currently successfully accommodated in the same secure training centres and secure children’s homes as boys. They are routinely accommodated in separate units, but those establishments demonstrate that risks can be appropriately managed and that services can be tailored to meet the needs of both boys and girls in custody. Those same safeguards should be in place in secure colleges. 

Mr Slaughter:  Does the Minister or do his officials have to hand the breakdown of numbers? How many young women there are in the secure estate at the moment and, by extrapolation, how many would he expect there to be within the pathfinder college? 

Jeremy Wright:  I will have, in due course. What I think we will see from those figures is that we are dealing with a small number—off the top of my head, I think we are talking about 59 or 60 young girls in total in the secure estate; we are certainly dealing with a small group. Of course we are, to an extent, victims of our own success in this regard: it is good that it is a small group, as it is good that we have reduced the number of young people overall in the secure estate, and I accept entirely that that is to the credit of both Governments. 

Guy Opperman:  If it is to be the case that the Committee and then the House proceed with secure colleges, and if it is the case that the Committee and the House were to take a differing view—that women should not be placed in the same institution as men—surely we have to acknowledge that there is an alternative, which is to place women in a single institution on their own. Is there any evidence that the Minister can assail the

Column number: 239 
House with as to the impact of that arrangement, given that it would by necessity be a single institution—perhaps the only one in the country? 

Jeremy Wright:  My hon. Friend makes a good point on the dilemma that attaches to these considerations. If we do not separate girls into small numbers in order to make this arrangement viable as part of a larger institution, inevitably we will have to accommodate them, as he says, in something separate. It would be hard to justify more than one or two institutions, given the numbers that we are talking about, and therefore it would inevitably increase distance from home, which we all understand is undesirable but to some extent it would be unavoidable when we are dealing with a relatively small population of offenders. He is right to highlight the dilemma. 

I will make the same point as I did in relation to the younger age group: we have made no decisions yet on who should be accommodated in the pathfinder secure college, much less who should be accommodated in other secure colleges that may follow. I will certainly listen carefully to representations that are made to me through Parliament and from beyond before making any decision. 

Valerie Vaz:  This issue has been raised by other hon. Members, but perhaps it could be taken up in the design of the building. 

4 pm 

Jeremy Wright:  Yes, that is of course possible. Certainly, as we have discussed, it is necessary to think about the appropriate accommodation for different age groups, so that there is a separation, and the same would have to apply for girls in the institution if they were to be there. However, as the hon. Lady will appreciate, there are a number of much more detailed decisions that we would not anticipate taking at this stage of the development of the secure colleges, but I give her the assurance that we will consider the issue carefully when we go on to design specifics. 

Let me say again in relation to girls that it will be for the Youth Justice Board, with proper consideration of young people’s individual needs and characteristics and of advice from youth offending teams, to decide the most appropriate establishment in which to place a young person. The Bill will provide for secure colleges to accommodate boys and girls, but we have committed to continued separate specialist accommodation for those who require it. The YJB will be able to place girls where it feels that a secure college placement would not be right. 

Mr Slaughter:  In light of answers that the Minister has given, we appear to be looking at an institution of more than 300 people, which is likely to have attached to it wings or quasi-separate institutions that deal with girls and young people, because that produces economies of scale. It will accommodate about a quarter of the total number in custody, and therefore, the maximum number of these institutions in the country will be about four, allowing for travelling distance. Has that

Column number: 240 
logic been thought through in the Ministry of Justice? In other words, is that where we are headed? Is that what is countenanced? 

Jeremy Wright:  The hon. Gentleman’s logic is faultless, but he has to accept that a series of decisions has to be made. An agenda could be pursued—I accept entirely that some who gave evidence to us and perhaps members of the Committee would wish to pursue that agenda—where accommodation is solely in secure colleges. Again, I make it clear that I do not think that is feasible, either in terms of the nature of the individual young people we may be trying to accommodate in those environments in some cases, or, frankly, on the basis of what is viable financially. If Opposition Members wish to propose that we should spend £200,000 a place for all 1,200 of those currently accommodated in youth detention, they will no doubt wish to have a frank and open exchange of views with the shadow Chancellor. 

What we are seeking to do is create an institution that can accommodate a breadth of different young people, who, as I accept and have made clear, have different needs. A good deal of thought will need to be given to the way in which they are properly accommodated in terms of residential capacity and education. On education, for example, the concept of one institution accommodating the educational needs of 12 to 17-year-olds is not entirely unheard of in Britain—they are called secondary schools, so I think such decisions can be taken. 

Mr Slaughter:  We have done to death the idea that there are special requirements for sub-groups within that. My point is that I appreciate that we are going to have a pathfinder, but it is a substantial investment. If that is successful in the MOJ’s terms, is it countenanced that those will become the predominant form of institution—that YOIs are STCs will effectively be a thing of the past, and secure children’s homes will be reserved for a very small minority of very vulnerable children? Is that where we are going? 

Jeremy Wright:  Yes. 

Without the inspiration that the hon. Gentleman provides, I am not sure I have anything left to say. The argument here is similar to the argument that has been made before. I simply say to the Committee that such decisions have yet to be taken. I will take into account all the points that have been made, but it would be wrong to exclude, at this point in the development of the secure college idea, the potential to include girls and under-15s in the provision that we hope will be a much better way of delivering youth detention than YOIs and indeed STCs. 

Dan Jarvis:  We have been discussing some of the most vulnerable girls in our society. I am pleased that the Minister acknowledges that there are legitimate concerns, and the hon. Member for Hexham is entirely right to ask about alternative models. In part, that is why we moved the amendment, so that we could have this important debate. I accept that there is no simple solution, but given the vulnerability of the girls whom we are discussing, it is clearly important to get things right. As I said with the previous amendment, we will continue to scrutinise closely the detail of the Bill as it

Column number: 241 
relates to girls in the secure colleges. I again serve notice that, if we are not satisfied on Report, we reserve our right to oppose this part of the Bill. For now, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Jeremy Wright:  I beg to move amendment 17, in clause 17, page 18, leave out line 32. 

This amendment and amendment 18 provide that Schedule A1 to the Prison Act 1952 (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons), which is introduced by section 5A to that Act, applies to secure training centres and secure colleges and, as applied, may not be modified by rules made by the Secretary of State.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: 

Government amendment 18. 

Amendment 35 in schedule 3, page 69, line 30, after ‘colleges’, insert 

‘including, in the case of secure colleges, joint inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.’.

Jeremy Wright:  It is right to say that how secure colleges are inspected will be critical. As the Minister with responsibility for prisons, I appreciate the importance and value of the reports by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons into the effective running of custodial establishments. As well as HMIP’s role, I recognise the important role of Ofsted, which inspects the provision of support and education in the under-18s secure estate. I therefore confirm to the Committee that the Bill already places duties on HMIP and Ofsted to inspect secure colleges. 

First, in relation to HMIP, clause 17 inserts proposed new section 43 into the Prison Act 1952. Part of this provision is that section 5A, which imposes inspection duties on HMIP, applies to secure colleges, secure training colleges and young offenders institutions. Amendments 17 and 18 will give full effect to the Government’s intention. They relate to HMIP and correct a drafting error in the Bill. They provide that schedule A1 to the Prison Act 1952, which is introduced by section 5A of the Act, applies to secure training centres and to secure colleges and, as applied, may not be modified by rules made by the Secretary of State. 

Secondly, in relation to Ofsted, the Bill amends the Education and Inspections Act 2006 to require Ofsted to inspect secure colleges. Subsequent to the Bill’s introduction, my officials commenced discussion with Ofsted and HMIP, because I want the two organisations to assist in the detailed development of the framework for it to be ready in time for the opening of the pathfinder secure college in 2017. For such reasons, I hope that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central will accept that amendment 35 may not be needed. I commend amendments 17 and 18 to the Committee. 

Dan Jarvis:  I beg leave to move amendment 35, but give notice of my intention to withdraw it subsequently— 

The Chair:  Order. As a matter of formality, let me explain the process to the hon. Gentleman, as he may or may not be entirely familiar with it. He cannot move the amendment. It is grouped with two other amendments,

Column number: 242 
but only the lead amendment in any group is moved automatically. He does not need to move his amendment, but he is entitled to speak to it. 

Dan Jarvis:  Thank you, Sir Roger, for your clarification. I am grateful for your advice. In which case, I will respond to Government amendments 17 and 18. 

We welcome the clarification brought by the Government amendments. I thank the Minister for that, and for confirming what the inspection arrangements will be. Amendment 35 went a step further and would have required joint inspection by the prisons inspectorate and Ofsted, which mirrors the existing arrangements for the secure training centres. The arrangements were developed over the past year, following recommendations from Peter Smallridge and Andrew Williamson’s independent review of restraint in juvenile secure settings. Joint inspections would have provided a sensible model to build on and helped to ensure that secure colleges are subject to appropriate and independent scrutiny. 

We do not intend to oppose Government amendments 17 and 18, but I would like to take the opportunity to ask the Minister a couple of questions. What consideration have the Government given to a role for Ofsted in inspecting secure colleges? If the Minister will not consider some of our proposals at a later stage, will he comment on the proposal to involve Ofsted in the inspection process? 

The Government’s published vision of secure colleges places a clear emphasis on self-discipline and responding with safe methods to control behaviour where necessary. I am sure that we will touch on such issues later in Committee when we discuss restraint, but I would like to make the observation that such an emphasis will place high expectations on potential providers to deal proactively with difficult situations. The Committee will understand that clear challenges come with that. 

The chief inspector of prisons has described the population as “very unhappy young people”. Will the Minister provide further context on the criteria inspectors will use to assess the relevant scenarios and the conduct in secure colleges more generally? It helps for inspection arrangements to be specified and enshrined in legislation as much as possible, not only to provide the necessary legal protection, but to demonstrate the importance that the Government attach to ensuring the safe, secure and humane treatment of children held in custody. I would therefore be grateful for any further detail that the Minister an provide. 

Jeremy Wright:  First, I want to make it clear that I think Ofsted should have a role in the inspection of secure colleges. That is certainly what we intend, and I hope that that is now set out in the Bill. We think that a form of joint inspection would be sensible, and I am confident that, between them, HMIP and Ofsted can resolve a way of doing that. That is why it is important that we speak to them about the practicalities of the idea, as I indicated that we are doing. 

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we should have high expectations of providers of secure colleges, and it is important that they meet them. The role of the inspectorate will be crucial in ensuring that they continue to do so. It would not be right for me to go into too much detail about the way in which the independent

Column number: 243 
inspectorate would go about its job, but I am confident that both HMIP and Ofsted have the skills and experience in their work forces to be able to do the job very effectively. 

Amendment 17 agreed to.  

Amendment made: 18, in clause 17, page 19, line 12, at end insert ‘and Schedule A1’.—(Jeremy Wright.)  

The Chair:  I am satisfied that the matters contained in clause 17 have been adequately debated and therefore proposed to put the clause, as amended, to the vote forthwith. 

Clause 17, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Schedule 3 

Secure colleges etc: further amendments 

Amendments made: 19, in schedule 3, page 71, line 30, at end insert— 

16A In section 28(1) (arrangements to safeguard and promote welfare: Wales), after paragraph (h) insert—

Column number: 244 

“(ha) the principal of a secure college in Wales;”.

16B In section 31(3) (establishment of Local Safeguarding Children Boards in Wales), after paragraph (f) insert—

“(fa) the principal of a secure college in the area of the authority;”.

16C In section 33(3)(c) (funding of Local Safeguarding Children Boards in Wales), after “or prison” insert “or the principal of a secure college”.’.

Amendment 20, in schedule 3, page 73, line 2, after ‘England’ insert ‘or Wales’. 

Amendment 21, in schedule 3, page 73, line 4, after ‘England’ insert ‘or Wales’.—(Jeremy Wright.)  

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.  

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Mr Eve n nett.)  

4.13 pm 

Adjourned till Thursday 20 March at half-past Eleven o’clock.  

Column number: 245 
Written evidence reported to the House

CJC 17 Martin Westgate QC 

CJC 18 Criminal Justice Alliance 

CJC 19 Bail for Immigration Detainees 

Column number: 246 

CJC 20 Magistrates’ Association 

CJC 21 Public Law Project 

CJC 22 Liberty 

CJC 23 Liberty, further evidence 

Prepared 19th March 2014