Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 41, line 27, leave out ("court has power (under that Schedule) to review the order") and insert ("order may be reviewed (under that Schedule)").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 114, 205 and 206. Amendments Nos. 113 and 114 provide that a drug treatment and testing order made on appeal by the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords should be treated as though it had been made by the Crown Court. They are made in order to clarify the requirements in Clause 51 of this Bill that reviews are heard and associated reports received by the court which made the order.

We should not want that requirement to mean that an order might have to be reviewed by the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords. That would mean imposing potentially costly travel expenses on the offender and would detract from the intention that the court should form part of a local triumvirate--the probation officer and the treatment provider comprising the other parts--with oversight of the order.

Amendments Nos. 205 and 206 will alter Schedule 2 to the Criminal Justice Act 1991 to reflect the changes to Clause 51 made by Amendments Nos. 113 and 114. I beg to move.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I hate to be a bore and I intervene only to ask a question for clarification. The noble and learned Lord said that he was addressing Amendments Nos. 113 and 114, 205 and 206. I appreciate that the groupings are merely informal and are not binding but the groupings list refers to Amendments Nos. 113, 114, 197 and 206. For the sake

19 Mar 1998 : Column 906

of clarity, I should like the noble and learned Lord to confirm that the groupings are wrong and he is right, which I am sure must be the case.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am right and the groupings are wrong.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 41, line 40, at end insert--
("( ) Where a drug treatment and testing order has been made on an appeal brought from the Crown Court, or from the criminal division of the Court of Appeal, for the purposes of sections 50 and 51 above it shall be deemed to have been made by the Crown Court.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Masham of Ilton moved Amendment No. 114A:

After Clause 52, insert the following new clause--

("Young offenders: detention
Detention of girls under 18

. An offender who is convicted of any offence punishable with detention and who is a girl under the age of 18 shall be kept separate from adults and shall be detained in a separate institution such as local authority secure accommodation, or in a separate part of an institution also holding adults, unless, after assessment and in exceptional circumstances, it is held to be in the best interests of the offender to be held with adults for a temporary period.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, who have attached their names to Amendment No. 125. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Tenby who wanted to put his name to this amendment. Indeed, I am grateful to all noble Lords who supported this amendment in Committee, and, as I said, I am especially grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, who I see is still present in the Chamber. At the same time, I should express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for his invitation to meet him at the Home Office yesterday. We had an interesting discussion with officials present.

Your Lordships will notice that I have tabled two new clauses, the first contained in Amendment No. 114A and designed to clarify the aim of my original amendment, Amendment No. 125, to separate juveniles from adults as soon as possible and not wait for the introduction of the detention and training order. The second proposed new clause, contained in Amendment No. 128A, simply seeks to include Scotland.

The amendments would make it unlawful for girls aged under 18 to be held with adults in prison unless in exceptional circumstances. That would bring the UK into line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 37(c)), to which the Government entered a reservation. It requires that juveniles and adults be held separately--that is, without the reservation.

The main point of the amendments is that girls aged 15, 16 and 17 who are still children under the Children Act should be held not in prisons but in local authority

19 Mar 1998 : Column 907

secure accommodation units, unless exceptional circumstances apply. These units are designed for dealing with this complex age group and are staffed by people with particular commitment to, and considerable experience of, dealing with adolescents in trouble. This group seems to be getting more difficult and aggressive; research is needed on how to prevent this particular problem escalating. As the inquiry that I chaired for the Howard League found, these young girls could become "lost" inside the prisons. I have yet to meet a prison governor or a prison chaplain who wants this young age group in his establishment.

Many of these girls have dropped out from education. If they are to see a future and hold down good jobs they need education and not be locked up in a cell at 5 p.m. which often happens in prison. Secure units provide the national curriculum and the children in their care can take GCSEs, and even A-levels, if they are willing and able to do so. They also provide expert teaching for those with special needs, such as those who have difficulty with reading and writing. None of the prisons that we visited was able to provide the national curriculum.

In a secure unit, every child is assessed by a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist on admission. Individual and group therapy work is done with them and is directly related to each child's particular needs, whether it be counselling for sexual and physical abuse, which many of them have suffered; help in dealing with drug and alcohol misuse; or, work with their offending behaviour and anger management. The Prison Service is simply unable to provide anything comparable because it does not have the staff or the resources: indeed, prisons can be universities of crime and drug abuse for young people.

The Minister was concerned that units for girls would be small and that children with social problems would be mixing with children with criminal records. However, that is already done. Indeed, some of the children have worse records than those in prison, but the standard of supervision is high in the local authority secure units.

The Minister said that if we had a number of distinct local authority units we might well end up with a number of their secure accommodation units containing as few as five persons. In fact, it is growing practice now to divide local authority secure accommodation units into smaller units of around five or six people. The new secure unit in Wales operates this system and it is planned for Stamford House in London to do the same. Because there are small numbers, the individual needs for meaningful and constructive regimes for education, training and personal development can be achieved.

I heard yesterday that the Home Office is creating three or four juvenile units within existing prisons. I cannot accept that this is a suitable solution for the young girls. I hope that it will be helpful for the 18, 19 and 20 year-olds of whom there are considerable numbers. I hope your Lordships will agree with me for the following reasons. While such a measure would fulfil the strict obligation of Article 37 it would not meet the spirit of the convention as a whole. The culture and

19 Mar 1998 : Column 908

atmosphere of the units would inevitably take on the characteristics of an adult prison. There would be the same damaging psychological effect and stigma for the children and their families of having been in an adult gaol. Staff with a special affinity for, and who have received training in dealing with, what we agree is an exceedingly complex group will not be available. An extremely high ratio of staff to girls would be necessary if the high levels of bullying and drug taking found in prisons were not to be repeated in the units--a level of staffing the Prison Service is unlikely to be able to provide.

The youngsters would be competing for resources with the main adult population. It is important to note that with only three or four units the girls would be even further away from their homes and families--a factor which has been identified as being important as regards rates of reoffending. I have the highest regard for the Minister. I hope he agrees that this vulnerable and at risk group of 15 to 17 year-olds needs helping to see the point of a useful, crime-free life. I beg to move.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on having returned to the fray on this amendment this evening. Her commitment is legendary and greatly respected in all parts of the House. In view of the late hour I do not think it necessary to repeat all the detailed arguments which the noble Baroness put so clearly. I have a great sense of solidarity with the Minister and his colleagues in their immense responsibilities. However, I think there comes a time to call a spade a spade. I believe the Minister knows as well as the noble Baroness and the rest of us that the prison environment and neighbourhood is no place for these young girls. The challenge to government is to ensure that this is changed as rapidly as possible.

It is not a question of whether one builds a secure unit separated from the rest of the prison. The whole issue is related to the psychology and the ambience of the prison environment. What we are concerned about--I know the Minister is also concerned--is that these young prisoners should, above all, be rehabilitated. We touched on the point earlier. It is not just that we want to win a young person back to civilised behaviour in society, as I expressed it earlier. It is also a matter of simple economics. If we do not rehabilitate young prisoners, the future cost to society will be high indeed. As is so often the case with public expenditure, we look at the immediate costs in isolation from the long-term costs of not being prepared to afford what is necessary in the immediate setting.

Once again I congratulate the noble Baroness on staying with her cause. I hope that the Government will address her anxieties, if not tonight, then on some future occasion. I am certain that what is happening at the moment is not acceptable. Improvised solutions may have all kinds of administrative rationale behind them but they are not meeting the need for rehabilitation of the prisoner. That is the biggest challenge of all. I therefore wish strongly to associate myself with the case that has been put.

19 Mar 1998 : Column 909

10 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Hooson, who put his name to Amendment No. 125, I simply say that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has made an extremely powerful case for her amendment today, as she did at Committee stage. I would not wish to add anything to what has been said by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Judd. They have far more experience of these matters than I do. From these Benches, we support the amendment of the noble Baroness.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page