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Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 120:

Page 10, line 7, leave out from beginning to ("and").

The noble Lord said: In Amendment No. 120, we return to subsection (3)(c). The purpose of the amendment is to omit, as one of the conditions for the making of a child safety order, the following condition:

We shall no doubt have an interesting and acerbic debate on the curfew order in due course. Even assuming that a curfew order were to be made, the mere contravention of the ban--namely, that the child was out after nine o'clock in the evening--surely cannot be sufficient for the making of a child safety order. That is rounding up children, putting them away, and punishing them if they do not go indoors. That is far too severe a penalty for the contravention of such a ban.

I speak also to Amendment No. 12l. That imports into Clause 11(3)(d):

    "that the child has acted in a manner that caused or was likely to cause serious harassment".

Amendment No. 122 imports:

    "or reasonable and serious alarm or distress to two or more persons not of the same household as himself".

That appears to be the under-10 version of the antisocial behaviour order. To categorise the conduct of an under-10 child:

    "harassment, alarm or distress to two or more persons",

as being a sufficient ground for imposing a child safety order, with all the surrounding machinery that is involved, again, is going far too far. We suggest that the harassment, alarm or distress should be serious and not merely as is stated in the Bill.

Amendment No. 123 is designed to exclude from subsection (4) the words from "three months" to "exceptional", so that the subsection would read:

    "The maximum period permitted for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) above is 12 months".

That is merely a practical matter. If one goes to all the trouble to make such an order, and to bring in responsible officers to oversee the way in which the child is behaving, and to ensure that the requirements of the order are being fulfilled for a period of three months is an excessive waste of resources. The maximum period should be extended from three months to 12 months accordingly. I beg to move.

Lord Monson: I added my name to one of the amendments. They cover the same ground as similar

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amendments to Clause 1. The same arguments apply, but for the reasons advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, with even greater force. I hope that the Government will look upon them favourably.

Lord Hylton: I supported the insertion of "serious" when we earlier discussed antisocial behaviour and I support Amendment No. 121.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I speak to Amendments Nos. 120 to 123. We know from research that the quality of relationships within families and the degree of parental supervision is crucial in predicting which children are likely to get into trouble and, generally, at what age. The first amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, seeks to remove the condition that the order can be applied following the breach of a curfew notice. It is a discretionary power; the Bill providing that the court "may" impose the order.

If there is a breach of a local child curfew notice it will be the responsibility of the police, possibly--maybe probably--in conjunction with the local authority social services, to take the child back home. Under Clause 15(4), social services will have a duty to visit the family in order to inquire into the circumstances of why the child was in breach of a curfew notice.

One must bear in mind that for a breach to occur a child under the age of 10 will have been found in a public place, unsupervised, after nine o'clock at night. There may be a good reason for that and the follow-up visit by the social services under Clause 15(4) can establish that. However, there may well be other reasons which are not good; for instance, lack of control or possibly a child suffering neglect. That is often the case when small children under 10 are wandering the streets at night. The child may be in need of care or protection, or have slipped through the net and never come to the attention of the welfare services.

It is for such situations that social services need to have available a number of options. It is most important to bear in mind the contents of the child safety order. It emphasises that a child at a very young, tender age under 10 receives appropriate care, appropriate protection, appropriate support and appropriate proper control. We believe that that is a real benefit to a child who may be on the downward spiral. These are discretionary remedies. As was rightly observed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, we had a similar discussion on Amendments Nos. 121 and 122 when we discussed Clause 1 on antisocial behaviour orders. We remain adamant in our view.

The triggering of a child safety order simply brings about intervention to assist the child. It is designed specifically to address problems as early as practicable. We know from all the criminal statistics--it is dismal, almost Orwellian--that one can look at the predictors and know which child will be in what kind of trouble. The predictors are not infallible, but they point strongly to what will happen. At the moment, we do not

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intervene sufficiently. This provision is not intended to be harsh or a criminal sanction. It is intended to ensure that a child--in many ways, hardly more than a baby in terms of his needs--receives care, protection, support and decent control.

The order is designed to help a child at an age when he needs it. It is designed to sustain the child and give him a decent opportunity of having a fruitful and happy life. It cannot be over stressed that we are looking to provide care, protection, support and help, which is why the hearings will take place in the family proceedings court, as the Solicitor-General indicated earlier.

We do not want that downward spiral. It is misery and heartache for the child. It is very often distressing for the community, because an enormous amount of crime is committed by quite young children. We believe that child safety orders are a key proposal in our approach to dealing with the problems of youth crime by early intervention and help.

This is an order aimed at children below the age of criminal responsibility. We believe that it gives us a unique opportunity to reconstruct a system which often is triggered too late, inappropriately and not constructively in the interests of the child. That is why we have spoken of the parameters, which I have mentioned often enough now. That is why it comes under family proceedings. That is why we have offered a short, intensive period of supervision.

The fourth amendment to which the noble Lord spoke refers to a maximum period of 12 months in all cases. We have turned our faces away from that. After all, we are talking about three months in the life of a nine year-old. That is very different from three months in the life of a fourteen or fifteen year-old. We want intensive care, support and assistance limited to three months in virtually all cases.

There may be some extraordinary cases where three months is insufficient. Therefore we have said to the courts that in exceptional cases--I underline those words--if three months is not sufficient, then an order of up to 12 months' duration may be made. We do not believe that that is necessary in many cases because we believe that a correctly-focused, short duration order will be most effective in the majority of cases.

Although I am grateful for the care with which these amendments have been moved, that is why we are not able to accept them. I repeat that these orders are aimed at helping children who, in all probability, if there is no intervention on a structured, focused, three-month basis to help them, care for them, assist them and support them, will be the criminals of the future and we shall have done nothing useful to prevent that.

Lord Northbourne: I rise briefly to support the noble Lord, Lord Williams. I believe that early intervention is right. Only time will tell whether this legislation gets it exactly right but it is a try and we should give it a go.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I heard what the noble Lord said and I do not propose to press the amendment at this stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendments Nos. 121 to 123 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 124:

Page 10, line 21, after ("Act") insert ("or section 65 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 ("the 1980 Act")").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 125 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 125A not moved.]

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12 [Child safety orders: supplemental]:

[Amendments Nos. 126 to 129 not moved.]

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 130:

Page 10, line 38, after ("fails") insert (", without reasonable excuse,").

The noble Lord said: Here again we are trying to introduce into the Bill the concept of "reasonable excuse". The amendment goes to Clause 12(2)(b), where the magistrates' court is to explain to the parent or guardian of the child in ordinary language,

    "the consequences which may follow ... if the child fails"--

and we seek to insert the words "without reasonable excuse"--

    "to comply with any of those requirements".

I beg to move.

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