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The Minister countered by saying that each child was given a needs assessment, but we know from experience elsewhere that it is all very well sometimes to provide an assessment of needs but it is the services that follow and the resources that are provided that matter. Of particular concern is that significant numbers of the children are under the age of 15 and they can be as young as 10. It was quite clear from the response given by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, that very often the names and photographs of children as young as 12 would be publicised in the local community, sometimes in a leaflet and sometimes in the local media. Tabloids have picked up the photographs of children as young as 12 and publicised them in their coverage.

It is most encouraging to hear the Government’s progress with the “respect” action plan to counter anti-social behaviour. For instance, the Prime Minister said this summer:

He went on to say that there is a requirement for earlier intervention with some of these families, who are often socially excluded and socially dysfunctional. It was encouraging to hear the statement by the Minister for Children, Beverley Hughes, about the pilot schemes she has launched in 20 local authorities, targeting parents of eight to 13 year-olds with the most disruptive behaviour. Brighton and Hove’s local authority features in that.

The general sense is that the Government’s policy in this area is moving in a positive direction, but I regret that, over the eight years that these orders have been in place, no attempt has been made, as far as I

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can see, to determine what the impact has been on these children and their siblings of having their identities publicised in the local areas. That causes us great concern, particularly, as we heard in Committee, when some of these children have disabilities, learning difficulties, Asperger’s syndrome and so on. Two-thirds of these children have their cases heard in adult courts. It was only in February this year that guidance was sent out that magistrates in such courts should have training in youth justice matters to assess those sensitive cases. I would be grateful to hear from the Minister, either later or in writing, what monitoring has been taking place of how effectively that guidance is being implemented. These children’s cases are reviewed after one year. That has recently been introduced, and is very welcome. Again, I would appreciate how that is being monitored.

These are complex matters. It is extremely difficult to draw the balance between the welfare and the rights of these children and the terrible impact their behaviours can have on their communities. I look to the Minister to provide more assurance on how the Government are supporting these children and families. I beg to move.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I rise to support this amendment regarding reporting restrictions on children with ASBOs. We tabled this amendment in Committee, and we shall of course support it again. When I spoke to it then, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, started his reply by saying he had heard me make this sort of speech before—in other words: I would say this, wouldn’t I? Well, I have not changed my view, and I fear the Government will not have changed theirs either.

I persist in believing that children who breach an ASBO should not be named and shamed in the press. Mine is not a lone voice. The very distinguished chairman of the Youth Justice Board, Professor Rod Morgan, has spoken out eloquently against the practice, as have the CEO of Barnardo’s, who is an ex-director of the Prison Service; Napo, which has compiled a dossier on some of the damaging outcomes for children with neurological disorders such as Asperger’s, ADD or Tourette’s; and the Council of Human Rights commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles, to name but a few. The arguments have not materially changed.

We know that the Government themselves, in a response to a Question in the other place, have admitted that they know little of the characteristics or circumstances of children issued with ASBOs. Perhaps they do not care all that much, as they have no way of knowing who it is affecting or how. We also know, however, that all childcare professionals are aware that there is overwhelming evidence that labelling children is damaging and counterproductive. It does not stop bad behaviour, since demonising children tends to reinforce the behaviour and will give a few some status with their peers, and we know that negative publicity tends to increase anxiety in the public at large, rather than promoting the understanding and good will that are so desperately needed by all concerned.

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I declare an interest as chair of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. We have found that it is when local communities engage with the young people who are running into trouble and play a part in the decision-making for such children, or when they are involved in such initiatives as local crime and disorder strategies—a requirement for local involvement—both attitudes and behaviour change. First-hand knowledge of people and their circumstances has made a great deal of difference for both young and old. Nothing is achieved by promoting fear and loathing.

All that is proposed here is that the presumption of reporting restrictions is reinstated, which still leaves the court the option of publicising cases where it sees it to be useful or beneficial. It is a small but vital matter of judgment and emphasis, and one that can make an enormous difference to the lives of the people involved. I hope the Government might be prepared to consider their position this time.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I fear we could be treading the same ground as we have trodden before. No matter; I shall press on. I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, on their contributions. They contribute to an important debate about the impact of anti-social behaviour orders, and they quite properly ask questions about impact and effectiveness. It is an important part of the debate that we consider those issues.

That said, I come back to the point I have made before on several occasions, that I think our approach is ultimately the best one. It is for the court to determine, and to give reasons why it thinks it right, that publicity is given in some cases, in the circumstances we envisage. I do not agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, has to say, although I am interested. I would be very interested to read some of the cases to which she has referred, because they are important. I know from personal experience that when I talk to local residents in my own community, they think we have got the balance about right.

I was interested in the noble Baroness’s description of some of those difficult cases where people have Asperger’s or an attention deficit syndrome problem—ADD and so on—and I recognise the importance of giving careful consideration to whether publicity should be given in those cases. Earlier in the year I saw a local case reported where the juvenile concerned was suffering from a syndrome. Interestingly, the publicity had had a beneficial effect, because it made local residents rather more aware of that syndrome as an issue, and I think it led to a situation where the court carefully considered exactly what should go on from a finding in the court, and what sort of treatment should be in place to support that young person in the community.

ASBOs are community orders, and I think it right that the needs of the local community should be equally balanced against those of the young person. Although, as I have made plain, the welfare of the young person should be fully and properly

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considered, it is, of course, not ultimately the principal purpose of the order, which is to bring relief to the local community. That must be properly considered. Publicity of proceedings is often an integral part of the local agencies’ efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour, although it is important that we do not name and shame for the sake of it.

ASBOs are made in open court, and, unless the court imposes restrictions, the media are fully entitled to report them, even if they involve young people. It is for the court to decide whether or not to impose reporting restrictions, but the court also recognises that these cases sometimes—perhaps often—need to be reported, for two reasons: first, to help the local community and the victims of anti-social behaviour, who know that something positive has been done to stop the abuse and that someone has responded to a problem that members of the local community have experienced; and secondly, to publicise fully the prohibitions so that the community can help to enforce the order.

Publicity is not to punish or shame the individual. We need to remember that the anti-social behaviour of juveniles—and indeed of adults—made subject to an ASBO will have a serious and lasting effect on people’s lives. The needs of such individuals must be balanced with those of the community who have a right to be protected.

The courts can still impose reporting restrictions if they believe that the situation warrants it because there is a requirement on them to have regard to the welfare of the child or young person. We believe that the existing legal framework is working well in practice.

We are, of course, aware of the Youth Justice Board’s research into ASBOs and children. I cannot provide more information to your Lordships’ House today on the fruits of that research but, as I have said, I shall reflect further on the concerns that the noble Baroness and the noble Earl have raised. I shall write to both of them and share that correspondence with others who have taken part in the debates. It is right that we examine criticisms carefully and balance those against the needs of local communities and have regard to the research that has been conducted on ASBOs. We want to make sure that they are effective. I do not think that it is in anyone’s interest not to do that. As the debate has moved on and people have recognised the importance of ASBOs, it is important that we understand their effect and impact. We need to reflect on the impact on the individuals involved.

I hope that your Lordships will not be seduced into accepting the amendment, which is attractive from the perspective of the noble Baroness and the noble Earl. I encourage the noble Earl to withdraw it.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his customary careful and balanced response. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater of Butterstone, for highlighting the concerns about some of these children. The majority of them are seen in the adult courts and there has been much concern that those courts have not been equipped to deal sensitively with them. There have

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been important improvements recently. We need to ensure that those improvements and guidance are monitored and that they are properly implemented. I hope that in the correspondence that the Minister has kindly offered to send us we shall hear more about that. The publication of the Youth Justice Board’s report at the end of the month will be extremely welcome and will inform useful further debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 [Parenting contracts: local authorities and registered social landlords]:

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Parenting orders: local authorities and registered social landlords]:

[Amendments Nos. 77 to 83 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Contracting out of local authority functions with regard to parenting contracts and parenting orders]:

[Amendments Nos. 84 to 86 not moved.]

Clause 27 [Appointment of Chief Inspector]:

6.15 pm

Lord Ramsbotham moved Amendment No. 87:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee I agreed to withdraw the amendment, encouraged by the Minister who said that during the summer the Government would look in more detail at the proposals of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and that she hoped and expected to table government amendments on Report to address the concerns that had been raised. She also said that, like the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the new chief inspector, not Ministers, would continue to be able to set the criteria for inspections and gave assurance that prison inspection would be based on domestic and human rights standards rather than on service standards or government targets.

I was disappointed, first, that the Minister could not meet me during the Recess to discuss the amendments and, secondly, that the government amendments have not satisfied either the proposals of the Joint Committee or the concerns that were expressed or spelt out, and in particular that the Minister’s undertakings are not included in them. Only two of the six guarantees of the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, required by the Joint Committee have been satisfied. Government Amendment No. 93 covers the fact that inspections must be based on visits and government Amendment No. 97 covers unannounced inspections, but none of the characteristics of independent inspection of prisons of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, has been satisfied; in other words, what I always regarded as the particular strengths of the position of the independent Chief Inspector of Prisons—namely, that you had the right to go anywhere unannounced and the right to set your own criteria, that there would be no reduction in a programme of regular inspections and that you reported directly to the Home Secretary and the public—are to be diminished.

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I have explained before to this House that the inspection of the treatment of and conditions for prisoners is not about value for money. By the same token the inspection of prisons is not the same as the inspection of the management of individual offenders. It is the inspection of a community that is a prison and whether the various parts of it are fit for purpose. The prison and probation inspectorates are currently looking at how this might be done in the same spirit in which the inspectorates have worked together since 1996 on subjects that involve more than two of them. In the case of prisons, this includes health, education, drugs treatment and many other subjects not covered by any of the inspectorates that are subject to this proposal.

The new criminal justice inspectorate in Northern Ireland already provides a precedent for what I am saying, leaving prisons out of that merger and contracting the inspection of the prisons in Northern Ireland to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector—the acknowledged expert. The purpose of my amendment is to save the Government from repeating a failure of six years ago. They have tried to go down this merger route before. This is not a Home Office proposal resulting from a detailed study related to this Bill, but the Home Office putting flesh on the bones of wider direction—merging 11 public sector inspectorates into four—contained in the Chancellor’s 2005 Budget speech.

In May 2000 the Home Office tried to merge the prisons and probation inspectorates and dropped the proposal six months later because it realised that it made no sense at all to merge them until the prison and probation services had been merged. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will no doubt remember having to admit to this House that no one was in favour of that proposal. Now it proposes to merge five inspectorates and five different functions working to three separate Secretaries of State. In Committee the Minister talked about the justice inspectorate, but there is not a single justice system working to a single justice Minister, although I am one of those who think that there should be. Unless and until there is, it seems to me to make no more sense to merge these five different inspectorates than it was to merge the two which at least had to work together on some of their responsibilities.

There is also a worrying lack of clarity about when this is to take place. In Committee the Minister told us that the Government would stage the transition of the new inspectorate and not abolish the Chief Inspector of Prisons until they were satisfied that the new chief inspector was ready effectively to carry out the prisons inspection duty. But a week before that the Home Secretary said that the post of Chief Inspector of Prisons would be abolished in March 2008 at the end of Miss Owers’s contract. There is a conflict here and I should like to know which is right.

Two weeks ago I was interviewed by head-hunters who are looking for what the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, described in a previous debate as a superhuman being—the new chief inspector. The head-hunters are looking for someone who can speak with first-hand experience of inspecting 140 prisons,

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can advise 50 chief constables on personnel as well as operational matters, knows the intricacies of the Crown Prosecution, courts and probation services, is able to deal with three Secretaries of State and 10 other Ministers, can balance limited budget resources between five separate operations each of which has a full programme, has time to read and edit more than 300 reports each year and can carry out the media, official and representational tasks currently undertaken by five people in three ministries. The net effect will be that because no one person could possibly do this the chief inspector will either have to delegate tasks to the deputy currently doing them or take him or her with him to provide first as opposed to second-hand evidence. But this, of course, is the very duplication that the Government say they are trying to avoid.

I wish to make two points on the subject of duplication. First, there is no duplication at present between any of the five inspectorates. Any duplication in this area is between the plethora of regulators and auditors, many of them introduced by this Government. Secondly, where is the single immigration regulator, announced in July in the Home Office paper Fair, Effective, Transparent and Trusted, to sit? Is this to be a fifth inspectorate? Is it to be included in the proposed merger that we are discussing? Is it to take over the responsibilities of the inspectorate of prisons listed in the Bill? Is it to be the independent monitor required under the optional protocol and not included in the government amendments? If so, will that independence satisfy the joint committee of the United Nations?

The disastrous introduction of the National Offender Management Service should have provided a salutary lesson on the dangers of introducing theories before they have been properly thought through and evaluated. The Minister has talked about a joined-up offender management demanding a new type of inspection. However, less than half of the 80,000 in prison are serving sentences that include probation supervision, and less than half of the over 250,000 offenders in the hands of the probation service have come from prison. Therefore, only a minority of offenders are subject to the main direction of NOMS. By the same token, only 20 per cent of police time is connected with the criminal justice system, with the remaining 80 per cent being devoted to the prevention of crime; and yet there is no definition in the Bill of what community safety means.

In July, the National Audit Office published a paper called Wider Lessons for Public Sector Mergers of Regulatory Agencies. There are 15 recommendations, one of which does not apply to this merger because it is about retirement pay. As far as I can see, however, all the other 14 recommendations have been ignored. I will quote just two:


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In the case of the inspection of prisons, the stakeholders include the public. It is no good assuming that what is proposed is do-able because some of what is being done should not be done. In the case of the prisons inspectorate, I ask what should not be done. I have to admit that I always overspent my budget every year, because I could not do what was required of me with what I had been given. Now there is to be less with which to do more, so the business is to be disrupted. I explain that by the fact that there are to be transitional costs of some £2.2 million, which are to be taken out of the existing inspectorates’ budgets, and that means that what they will be able to do will be reduced. In addition, the prisons inspectorate is now to be required to inspect prison cells, court cells and transport. If it has to do that it needs extra resources, but if it is not given the resources it will have to cut down the existing programme, which is not something that the public would welcome.

The prison system is, as we all know, in crisis. In Committee, the Minister described it as being “of superb construction”. Well, that construction has proved unequal to the task, and in addition the director-general has admitted in public that several thousand prison officers are corrupt. Throughout my time as chief inspector, my chief concern was that there was a difference between the facts that I was disclosing in my inspections and the data given to Ministers by officials and official sources. Both I and my successor have commented on this many times, largely on the grounds that you cannot make sound decisions based on fudged and inaccurate data.

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