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Lord Renton: The noble Lord has given an extremely interesting answer but I do not believe that it is adequate. He refers to pilot schemes; for example, pilot schemes for bail. They would not do much harm. But have there been pilot schemes in relation to sentencing or the non-availability of a sentence? That is the point. Certainly in my time, when I did a good deal of judicial work at the lower level as a recorder and relief judge, the courts had the same powers everywhere. A fairly experimental departure from that is now envisaged. But has any pilot scheme gone beyond provisions relating to bail and, fundamentally, to the courts' powers and obligations to sentence?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Pilots relating to bail deal with the liberty of the individual. Pilots are now becoming increasingly commonplace. They are allowed for in the Crime and Disorder Act and in this Bill because, in the nature of things, one cannot always have a nationwide network of availability when one is introducing completely new concepts.

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After all, there is nothing different in principle here. Quite often there may not be available the desired appropriate disposition because places are simply not available. When the noble Lord, Lord Renton, was sentencing, he would not have been able to sentence, in some categories of cases, as he wished because the available places were not available; for example, in a secure mental hospital. I merely give an example with which he will be well familiar. So there has never been total uniform availability.

We are saying to the court, "You cannot, in your area, sentence using this particular disposition unless, within your area, the resource is available for you to do it." I do not regard that as illegitimate or revolutionary. It is merely a different gloss on the noble Lord's experience, and, indeed, my experience when we were sentencing.

4 p.m.

Viscount Colville of Culross: It is not true that there have not been pilots in sentencing. Electronic tagging was mentioned earlier and that, as a disposal, has been working on a pilot basis. In that regard a probation order is supported by electronic tagging. It had to be done in that way because not everywhere was equipped with the staff, supervision and facilities to undertake the scheme.

The system was tried out in certain areas and has recently been extended to Middlesex among other places. A demonstration was given of not only how it works, but also the sorts of cases where it was found to be effective elsewhere. Therefore, even in sentencing, there are precedents--and not only under the Crime and Disorder Act.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, therefore, should allow some encouragement for this sort of activity. It happened also with video recordings of children; that scheme began on a pilot basis. One sees how it works, if it does; if it does not, the pilot is not extended and one may have to think again about the legislation.

Lord Renton: I am grateful to the noble Viscount. We are being invited to allow an experiment to take place which will not be universal; it will be partial. That is what it comes to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My noble friend Lord Renton is exactly right in his description.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Is not the noble Viscount right also in his description of the history so far?

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Indeed, the noble Viscount is absolutely correct in his description. In fact, it does not seem to me necessarily wrong for there to be pilots in the case of electronic tagging or, for that matter, in this case. On the contrary, in practical terms it is essential that such schemes are introduced gradually. It would probably be impossible to introduce this new form of disposal satisfactorily everywhere from a specific day one. The same applies to electronic tagging.

It is right also, however, to take a slightly cautious attitude to the implementation; to make sure that one has the details right in these cases before extending the

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scheme. I believe I am right in thinking that that was the case in relation to electronic tagging and it seems to be the case in this regard. But this cautious pilot approach sits rather badly with the compulsion we were discussing a few moments ago. However, I will not go back over that argument.

The argument on the principles behind the cautious introduction of the scheme arose from my drawing attention in the amendment to a much smaller aspect of this matter; that is, what happens if a young person moves in the middle of the scheme. At a quick glance, the Minister has been able to reassure me on that matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 2, line 10, at end insert--
("(6) This Part shall cease to have effect two years after it comes into force unless an order to continue it in effect, made by the Secretary of State, has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment brings us back to the hesitant approach about which I was speaking a moment ago. The amendment proposes that the whole system should be reviewed.

The Minister told us that the Government intend to keep the scheme under review; that officials will consider the matter to see how it is working as time goes on. At the moment only Parliament is not due to consider the matter. My amendment suggests therefore that, after the scheme has been running for two years, an affirmative order should be required in each House of Parliament in order to extend it. If all is going well and there are no major snags, there will be no difficulty in carrying an affirmative order. However, if difficulties have arisen, it is right that the matter should be considered at that time.

We have not been told what the criteria will be in the monitoring of the scheme. Presumably the rate of reoffending will be the highest item in the list, and that should be so. But I suspect that, if something like this amendment is not incorporated in the Bill, Parliament will hear little more about the scheme; it will simply trundle on unless it is involved in a scandal or something of that sort. Then one day a piece of paper will be given to a busy Minister saying, "By the way, do you remember the Bill that your colleagues passed a few years ago? It is all going smoothly; we are just banging on with it." Any Minister who is then asked the question will be able to say that it has been reviewed and agreed.

On the other hand, if this provision were inserted in the Bill, at least a Minister would have to pay attention to it and bring it before Parliament. We should then be able to have a proper review of the situation. All that the Minister was saying in relation to the introduction of pilots and trying out schemes in practice would be monitored by Parliament. The amendment therefore strengthens the hand of the Minister as well as the hand of Parliament because of the way in which it would work.

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It is desirable that novel and new devices should be kept under consideration. I do not believe that there is any disagreement between myself and the Minister in that regard. The only question is how it should be done. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: It became clear, in the course of the discussion on Amendment No. 5, that the scheme to refer young offenders to youth offender panels which is to be implemented area by area is experimental. Amendment No. 8 is therefore important because it means that if we are to conduct an experiment, it should not go on indefinitely. A time limit should be placed upon it. My noble friend's suggestion that the time limit should be two years seems to me practicable and sensible in the interests of justice.

In the course of the previous discussion I asked the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to say what the area would be, as referred to on page 2, line 2. He did not say, but it is relevant to Amendment No. 8. If, for example, the areas are going to be large and after two years every area of the country but one has conducted a scheme, that means that the experiment succeeded. On the other hand, if half a dozen areas are still without a scheme, it has not been successful and should be brought to an end in the two years proposed by my noble friend.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: It is essential that there should be some provision for Parliament to look at how the scheme progresses. I have not had the opportunity of discussing with my noble friend Lord Cope his reason for proposing two years. I wonder whether that is long enough. As he says, the rate of reoffending will be a major consideration in deciding whether or not the experiment should turn into a permanent feature and it takes time to discover how reoffending will be affected by such a measure. I am not sure whether a period of two years is right. However, I believe that we need such a provision. The Minister must remember that a number of people will spend a good deal of time as members of panels and, before committing themselves to such a scheme, they will want to be assured that it will be a success. The scheme should not be undertaken lightheartedly. If it is not succeeding, it should be stopped. My hope is that it will succeed. It is an extremely good idea and an extremely good experiment on which I am very keen.

This is an important point. The Secretary of State should have to bring the provisions to Parliament for consideration after two years or a little longer.

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