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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I take the doubts expressed by the noble Earl very much to heart. The Bill does not prevent a member of a panel acting as a supervisor, although it does not require it either. We think that it is better to leave the options open. In many cases it might be that the circumstance mentioned by the noble Earl would be inappropriate. In some cases it might well be that it would be a good outcome for the particular offender, bearing in mind any relationship he might have with the kind of person identified by the noble Earl.

I do not think that this would be a breach of natural justice. What we are trying to do is look for informality but also for successful outcomes. In some cases it may well be that the sort of relationship that is deprecated in principle by the noble Earl is the most productive and fruitful in practice. To echo the words of the noble Viscount, one ought to leave a certain amount of flexibility here. If there are practical problems--which I am not sure would arise--as we see how the pilots work, we ought to be able to detect them. I am not as gloomy as the noble Earl, although I recognise that in some cases the relationship he describes might well be thoroughly inappropriate. But one has the rest of the panel to look to in those circumstances to protect the interests of the young offender.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I waited to intervene until the Minister had replied. I was disappointed when he did so--I believe it was he who replied at the meeting that he and his officials held recently on this part of the Bill. It seems to me that account is not being taken here of experience in Scotland. The noble Earl knows precisely how matters work in Scotland; I do not. However, I am told that the separation of the two functions is critical. I hope the Minister will make a few inquiries about that point. There is a certain vagueness and woolliness in the point of view taken by the Minister. It has now been said to us twice--perhaps it was at Second Reading. I may be making a mistake; I seem to have heard the Minister make that reply previously. It is not very convincing. It would be a great pity if a mistake were made in setting up the scheme. Therefore I hope the Minister will think hard about this matter and perhaps refer to experience north of the Border on this single point.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I shall certainly do that. I think that at the briefing meeting it was not I who made any unsatisfactory answer, although I have probably given unsatisfactory answers on other occasions. I regard the noble Earl's point as legitimate. The only issue between us is whether one ought to be absolutely prescriptive or allow a certain amount of discretion. I do not think there is any other issue between us.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I am now happy that this might happen only occasionally, and for good

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reason. That is probably better than strangling myself with some complicated rule. I am generally happy with the answers given by the Minister. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 6, line 15, at end insert--
("( ) The Secretary of State shall by regulations make provision requiring that the ethnic composition of the local population shall be taken into account in the appointment of members of youth offender panels.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 66. I speak to both amendments. The amendment would require those appointing members of the youth offender panel to take into account the ethnic composition of the local population in making such appointments. This provision is designed to avoid the situation that has occurred all too often in the past where Asian and black defendants have been dealt with in courts where the setting has been predominantly white. When they have appeared, the situation has tended to be that those taking decisions on their behalf are predominantly from the indigenous community. That can damage the confidence in the fairness of the process of those appearing before courts and panels. That would tend to happen even if every single person in a court situation was scrupulously anti-racist in his approach.

Achieving a racial balance in the new panels is therefore important if we are to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done by young people and their families, thereby increasing the confidence of a whole section of the community in the new and imaginative process of youth referral panels established under the Bill. From time to time the justice system fails people from ethnic minority communities. This amendment is designed to build that confidence. I hope the Minister will see fit to accept it.

Amendment No. 66 would require the Secretary of State to make arrangements for the ethnic monitoring of young people referred to youth offender panels, and of decisions made by the panels and by the courts when the panels refer the young people back to them.

There is a disturbing body of evidence that decisions made at different stages of the criminal justice process often contain a discriminatory element--including decisions made by the police to stop and search young people on the street, decisions to prosecute or caution offenders, and the bail and sentencing decisions made by some courts.

Where a discriminatory element in such decisions exists, or where members of racial minority groups suspect it but there is no firm evidence based on monitoring to prove or disprove the matter conclusively, the result is often suspicion, hostility and the regrettable alienation of many black and Asian people from the process of law enforcement and criminal justice.

If the confidence of all sections of the community in the criminal justice process is to be sustained, there must be comprehensive racial monitoring of all aspects of

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decision-making. The results of that monitoring must be systematically referred back to the decision-makers so that any ideas of discrimination can be identified and action can be taken to put the matter right. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I have sympathy with both these amendments, although the first, regarding the ethnic composition of the panels, could be taken into account in the guidance and regulations referred to earlier. It might be better if it were included in the regulations with the other requirements as opposed to being separately stated on the face of the Bill. It is important that the matter is included in some form. Clearly, monitoring of the result in ethnic terms is also important.

Viscount Brentford: I raised the point referred to in the first amendment earlier. I certainly received the impression from the Minister that the matter would be included in regulations. Provided it is included in one or the other, I should be satisfied. It is probably an appropriate matter for the regulations.

The second provision suggested would be quite a complicated and expensive arrangement to work. There would certainly be value in it, and I have a lot of sympathy for the proposal. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This amendment goes in part to the question raised by Clause 6(4) already referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Under that provision, the Home Secretary has to set criteria. I assure the Committee that the Secretary of State will give careful consideration to matters relating to ensuring that panels fairly represent the communities they serve. That will cover ethnicity, but also important factors such as gender. I am happy to repeat that the qualification criteria will be laid down in regulations subject to the negative resolution procedure.

I entirely accept that it is essential that the operation of referral orders should be subject to ethnic monitoring. I believe that that can be dealt with under Section 96 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which obliges the Secretary of State to publish, such information as he considers expedient for the purpose of facilitating the performance of those persons engaged in the administration of criminal justice of their duty to avoid discriminating against any person on the ground of race.

The guidance that will go out in support of these proposals will underline the importance of complying with that requirement. When we pilot the new provisions, evaluators will be required to look specifically at the impact on ethnic minorities. I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that there is a significant appearance of injustice in the way that significant sections of our communities are dealt with in the court process. I hope that he will accept

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that we regard this matter with due importance. I believe that Section 96, the guidance and the criteria ought to deliver the outcome that both he and I wish for.

Lord Dholakia: I believe it is Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, not Section 96.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I thought it was Section 95, but I thought I had misremembered.

Lord Dholakia: I am grateful to the Minister. I know what he is saying with regard to Section 95. I look forward to the implementation of that Act in relation to these panels. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Attendance at panel meetings]:

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