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Viscount Tenby: I am grateful to the Minister for his helpful reply and to other Members of the Committee who have taken part in this brief but helpful discussion. I do not propose to rehearse the grounds involved. In the absence of my noble friend and in view of the extremely helpful remarks made by the Minister, I shall look forward with anticipation to future developments in this

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particular area. At the same time, because it is not my amendment, I suppose that I should reserve the right to return to the matter at a later stage. However, I hope that that will not be necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.00 p.m.

Clause 80 [Remands and committals of children and young persons]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 259:

Page 67, line 35, leave out subsection (1) and insert--
("(1) The Secretary of State may, by order made by statutory instrument, amend subsection (5) of section 23 of the 1969 Act (remands and committals to local authority accommodation) so that, for the words "a young person who has attained the age of fifteen" there is substituted any one of the following--
(a) the words "a young person aged fifteen";
(b) the words "a young person who has attained the age of fourteen";
(c) the words "a child or young person who has attained the age of thirteen"; or
(d) the words "a child or young person who has attained the age of twelve".
(1A) Any order made under subsection (1) shall revoke any previous such order, shall be laid in draft before Parliament, and shall be subject to annulment by resolution of either House.").

The noble Baroness said: The intention and the effect of the amendment would be to require the Government to use local authority secure places and to remove remanded 15 and 16 year-olds from Prison Service custody before introducing secure remand for 12 and 14 year-olds.

Clause 80 amends the law to enable courts to remand juveniles aged 12 and over direct to local authority accommodation. Clause 81 provides for 15 and 16 year-old girls and "vulnerable" 15 and 16 year-old boys to be remanded to local authority secure accommodation if a place is available; and for other 15 and 16 year-old boys to be remanded to Prison Service custody.

Organisations working with young offenders have expressed concern about Clause 80 in particular because they consider that the Government should not use local authority places to lock up more 12 and 14 year-olds before removing all 15 and 16 year-olds from the prison system to secure accommodation. Sending juvenile defendants to penal establishments has long been regarded as a recipe for criminal contamination, intimidation, and, all too often, self-harm and suicide attempts. Since the mid-1970s there has been bi-partisan agreement that remanding this age group to Prison Service custody is undesirable and that, when remanded juveniles need secure conditions, they should be held in local authority secure units staffed by residential childcare workers.

I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, mentioned earlier the research document of the Howard League which showed how harmful prison was to 15 year-old girls. It is terribly important; indeed, we should not start locking up even younger people or putting them in secure accommodation when those

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places could be used for 15 and 16 year-olds. This time, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept that we have a point. I beg to move.

Viscount Colville of Culross: My amendment has been grouped with Amendment No. 259. With the leave of the Committee, I hope that I can ungroup it because it deals with a totally different subject and I was busy when the groupings were announced. I trust, therefore, that I can move it separately in a moment. I should be most grateful.

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: I feel that I must rise to my feet again to support the noble Baroness because of my very grave concern that Clause 80, as she pointed out, will make it possible for children as young as 12 to be remanded to a young offender institution or prison rather than to local authority secure accommodation. While I am aware that the provision refers to serious crimes, we are still talking about children and young people who have either not yet been convicted or, if they have been, are still awaiting sentence.

Members of the Committee may or may not be aware that the Children's Society--one of the other organisations to which the noble Baroness referred--is a voluntary society of the Church of England and the Church in Wales, which has long been concerned about the current state of the law under which 15 year-olds can be, and are, remanded to prison.

In November last year, the Children's Society launched its Remand Rescue Initiative, a national campaign to end remand to prison for young people and to help those already imprisoned on remand. This campaign is not just one of persuasion: it is based on the society's work in Feltham Young Offender Institution and in Doncaster Prison, which it plans to extend to other prisons.

In the first six months of work at Feltham, the Remand Rescue Initiative worked with 176 15 and 16 year-olds. It was found that half of them had previously suffered sexual or physical abuse or bullying, or had engaged in self-mutilation of one sort or another. While something under a quarter had actually been in local authority care, 86 per cent. were known to social services, and 62 per cent. had not been attending school, either because they had been excluded or because they had got into the way of truanting. All these young people had either been charged with serious offences or were awaiting sentence following conviction. Some of those charged would, presumably, be acquitted. It is important to bear in mind that, according to a study by the Association of Chief Officers of Probation, only 12 per cent. of young people remanded into custody had committed violent offences. Yet here they all are, in prison, despite the fact that we have abundant evidence to show that it does them harm, and equally abundant evidence which shows that the constructive alternatives to prison remand have a positive effect.

The inclusion in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 of provision increasing the likelihood that such young people would be remanded to secure local authority accommodation rather than prison came at a time, which Members of the Committee may remember, of high

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concern over the suicide of the 15 year-old Phillip Knight, who was on remand in custody. His death is to our shame; and it is deeply to be regretted that he was not the last young person in prison to put an end to his life.

There have been calls for an end to remand into prison for young people from the following: the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham; from the General Secretary of the Prison Governors' Association, David Roddan; and from the Chairman of the Magistrates' Association's Youth Committee, Lynne Ravenscroft. They are not sentimental people, as bishops may be expected to be. They know what is required of a criminal justice system and they do not shy away from ensuring a necessary rigour of regime. If they believe that the current system is treating young people badly, how can we in this Bill continue along the same path?

Still more, how can the Government be contemplating catching even younger people in the net of remand into prison? Of course I am aware that the Government, all governments, are perpetually being asked to provide resources for a variety of needs. Previous governments have failed to do what it takes to ensure that local authorities can provide the required secure accommodation--I want to underline that--but some government, some day, must get this job done. In the meantime I am convinced that we should not be extending the scope of the problem to include 12, 13 and 14 year-olds.

The Government may say that the wording of the clause reflects their awareness of the vulnerability of children as young as 12, but I have to say that I would need to hear from the Minister a good case indeed for these changes before I could be persuaded of their rightness. I strongly support the amendment.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: The right reverend Prelate has made the case much more powerfully than I can. I entirely support what he said in particular about Feltham, which I have visited on a number of occasions. In addition to the bullying, self-harm and even suicides of young boys, the regime is wholly inappropriate for 15 and 16 year-olds who should be attending school, who have truanted for many reasons and who are often illiterate. If they are lucky, they receive one hour a week of education in reading and writing. That is totally inappropriate to provide them with skills to cope with life thereafter. Those who are not bullied or commit suicide or who do not subject themselves to self-harm, are probably those who adapt to living in this regime with older boys of 18, 19 and 20. In many ways they are being hardened, adapted and taught to lead the lives of criminals. In my view it is wholly inappropriate to remand 15 and 16 year-olds to establishments such as Feltham, although the staff there do the best they can with something like a thousand young boys and young men who are locked up there. I urge the Government to think again about the need to remand 15 and 16 year-olds to prison service custody.

Lord Addington: I had not planned to intervene in this debate but I visited Feltham when I was working

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for the Apex Trust a few years ago. The inmates were probably some of the most aggressive that I ever saw when considering penal reform. There were young, aggressive males who were keen on bullying and establishing their status. The environment in such an institution is probably tougher than in an adult prison. I strongly recommend that the Government consider these amendments as otherwise those who are most vulnerable will be accommodated with those who are most likely to oppress them.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Perhaps I can clear up one misunderstanding, if I have it correctly. Clause 80 will not allow 12 year-olds to be remanded to prison or to young offender institutions. They can be remanded only to local authority secure accommodation.

We recognise absolutely the need to deal with the remand to prison of 15 and 16 year-old boys. Our policy is quite unambiguous. We wish to move to a situation where the practice is no longer necessary. The 1991 Criminal Justice Act provided for the eventual replacement of courts' powers to remand 15 and 16 year-old boys to prison with a new power to remand 15 and 16 year-olds, boys or girls, to local authority secure accommodation. This power was widened by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to include 12 to 14 year-olds. As the present legislation stands, the power cannot be applied to this age group before it is applied to 15 and 16 year-olds.

The reason 15 and 16 year-olds are still being remanded in what the Government believe are inappropriate conditions is mainly the lack of suitable local authority secure accommodation. There has been a building programme which has added 170 places to the local authority secure estate but that has been outstripped by the numbers of 15 and 16 year-old boys on remand in prison which has stood recently between 220 and 270. What we therefore want to do is to start the process of implementing policy on court-ordered secure remands in stages. This means that the courts' power to remand in these circumstances will apply to all 12 to 14 year-olds, 15 and 16 year-old girls and 15 and 16 year-old boys who are adjudged by the courts to meet the vulnerability definition in Clause 81(3). For the moment we cannot extend powers to the remaining 15 and 16 year-old boys because at present there is no available local authority secure accommodation.

Quite reasonably the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baronesses stressed the urgency of the situation. On 15th October officials in the Home Office wrote to all directors of social services in England and Wales, representatives of the Local Government Association, the Welsh Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Social Services for England and their Welsh equivalents to inform them of the Government's view. There was a first meeting with the associations and officials on 18th November to discuss questions of finance and the review that the Government have initiated--I mentioned it to the Committee earlier this evening--of the juvenile secure estate. It was agreed that a joint approach was required. There was a

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second meeting on 13th January this year and now further work is being done under a technical group made up of representatives from central and local government.

The review of the juvenile secure estate is part of the Government's comprehensive spending review. We are reviewing the whole range of secure accommodation for young people, including local authority secure units. We want to make sure that all assets and resources are used to the best effect, in particular--I refer to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton--in meeting educational needs and tackling offending behaviour.

The outcome of the review, which is due shortly, will, of course, be considered as a matter of urgency by the Government. One of the points we shall have to decide is the nature of the further expansion of the secure estate. I have gone into a little detail on dates, which I know perhaps is not normal. I have done that to indicate that we recognise the concerns that have been expressed and to indicate the seriousness with which the Government are determined to do away with remanding 15 and 16 year-old boys to prison custody.

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