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Lord Hylton: I do not intend to press the amendment at this hour. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but with the right to return to it possibly at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 181 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 182:


Page 23, line 34, leave out ("represented by the persons mentioned in subsection (4)") and insert ("mentioned in subsection (3)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [The Youth Justice Board]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 182A:


Page 24, line 22, at end insert ("not less than four of whom shall be representatives of local authorities or police authorities").

The noble Baroness said: In Clause 32 we come to the setting up of the youth justice board which will monitor the operations of the youth justice system. Amendments Nos. 182A to 184 make various suggestions as to the membership of the board which can be as many as 12. Amendment No. 182A proposes that four of those members should be representatives of local authorities or police authorities. Both will have a large part to play in the working of this Bill when it becomes an Act. It seems to me that it is only right that they should be well represented on the board. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: If it is convenient to the Committee, I intend to speak to Amendments Nos. 182A to 184. I hope that no noble Lord will feel aggrieved if I deal with those amendments en bloc.

Lord Windlesham: I intended to comment on Amendment No. 183. I do not know whether it is the intention of the noble Baroness to move that amendment to enable some discussion to take place. If not and the Minister prefers to have contributions now on the whole group, perhaps it is convenient for me to speak to it now.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am sure that that is better.

Lord Windlesham: If Amendment No. 183 is not to be moved I should like to spend a few minutes even at this late hour considering the question of whether or not victims should be formally represented. That is not the subject of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady David, but it is the subject of Amendment No. 183, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St. Johns. The amendment reads:


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In the debates on this Bill both in Committee and on Second Reading very little has been said about victims. However, their interests should be in the mind of everyone who is concerned with any aspect of the justice system. I have spent a good number of years working with Victim Support (the National Association of Victim Support Schemes). For that reason I should like to spend a few minutes this evening drawing attention to the interests of victims and how they should be represented. For several years I have had the honour and privilege of serving as president of that organisation. I declare that interest.

Victim Support has no formal policy on this issue and it eschews adopting political positions, so far as possible, on those matters which are not within its purview. It is entirely desirable that there should be an awareness of the victim's perspective, and that that should play a part in the deliberations of the new national board--an extremely important body.

In the White Paper, the Home Office indicated the representation that there might be on that body--largely the statutory services. I have no quarrel with that; but I say to the Committee, and anyone whose mind is undecided on the issue, that there is a risk of institutionalising victims' interests. One must be conscious of that for the reason that I gave at the beginning: it is not a separate compartment; it is the responsibility of everyone within the system of justice to be aware of the interests of victims of crime and to keep those interests at the front of their minds.

Victim Support workers have clear tasks, recognised by the statutory services, especially the police with whom we work closely. They are available to give their support, practically and emotionally, in the immediate aftermath of a wide range of crimes. Victim Support does not claim to speak on behalf of all victims. It would be a mistake to assume that it should do so. If the Home Secretary should choose to select someone to serve on that board who had a background of working with victims, I would welcome that, but I do not believe that it should be a statutory obligation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I shall deal, as I said, with the four amendments. I shall start with Amendments Nos. 183, 184 and 183A. They deal with the membership of the board. I do not argue with the thinking behind the amendments, because we agree that the youth justice board should take account of the position and welfare of the victims of crime, and of the perspective of sentencers, but we do not see those as being appropriate on the face of the Bill.

We want--I echo what the noble Lord said--the membership of the board to reflect a broad range of skills and experience relevant to its functions as set out in Clause 32(5); that is, to monitor the operation of the youth justice system as a whole, and to provide advice on that to the Secretary of State.

How the youth justice system deals with the victims of crime, and whether it safeguards their interests, will be an important part of the board's monitoring and advisory role. It is important that the board is able to draw on the views of those working within the youth justice system as to how the system operates.

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Clause 32(4) already requires that the membership of the board should include persons with recent extensive experience of the youth justice system. I can assure the Committee that the Government intend that experience of how that system deals with the victims of crime, and of the perspective of sentencers, should form part of the range of experience and expertise which they would wish to see reflected in the membership of the board. We do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate that any particular area of experience or expertise should be highlighted on the face of the Bill.

My noble friend Lady David moved Amendment No. 182A, which also concerns the membership of the youth justice board. It would oblige the board to include at least four representatives of local authorities or police authorities. Again, I understand, I hope, the thinking behind the amendment. Local authorities and police authorities, as well as probation committees and health authorities, will have an important role in delivering the new local structure. They are placed under specific duties in Clauses 29, 30 and 31 concerning the provision of youth justice services, the establishment of youth offending teams, and the drawing up of a youth justice plan.

We recognise that the deliberations of the board should take account of the perspective of these local agencies on the operation of the youth justice system. We want the membership of the board to reflect the range of agencies and organisations involved in youth justice work and the delivery of youth justice services. We are looking for a membership which reflects a broad mix of relevant skills and experience, including people with extensive recent experience of the system.

I revert specifically to the noble Lord's point. We do not intend that the youth justice board should be a directly representative body. Members will have experience and expertise, but they will not be representatives. They will serve in a personal capacity, discharging the functions set out in Clause 32(5) and accountable to the Secretary of State. They will not be representatives of particular bodies or agencies. Although we understand the thinking behind the amendments, we do not believe that they are appropriate on the face of the Bill.

I hope that that commends itself as a satisfactory explanation. We do not want representatives; we want people with relevant experience and expertise. Their particular point of origin may be less important than what they can offer to the board.

Baroness David: I cannot say that I am entirely satisfied with the response. However, I understand the point that the Government do not want to have representatives of certain kinds of authorities or people. I still hope that someone with experience of local authorities and police authorities will be on the board because that is extremely important. Having heard the Minister's response, I shall for the time being withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12 Feb 1998 : Column 1368

[Amendments Nos. 183 to 184 not moved.]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 184A:


Page 24, line 33, after ("pursued;") insert--
("( ) how the welfare of children who are either at risk of offending or who have offended might most effectively be promoted;").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment aims to clarify the advice which will be given to the board. It emphasises how the welfare of children who are at risk of offending or have offended might most effectively be promoted. We have always said that the welfare of the child should be paramount and I hope that these words can be added to clarify the aims and functions of the board. I beg to move.


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