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The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo): My Lords, before calling Amendment No. 5, I should inform your Lordships that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 6.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 4, line 45, leave out from beginning to ("to") in line 2 on page 5 and insert ("may make an order requiring--
(a) the appropriate person, or
(b) in a case where there are two or more appropriate persons, any one or more of them,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in this substantial group of amendments are Amendments Nos. 5 to 16. Some of the amendments are in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and some in my name.

Perhaps I may summarise the purpose of the government amendments. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, raised the interesting question of whether or not--I think I summarise fairly--the attendance of both parents should be seriously considered where appropriate. I undertook to consider the matter and that is the genesis of the amendments to which I am speaking now.

I had some reservations, which your Lordships may remember, about the practical difficulties of insisting in

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every case that both parents or guardians should be present. It was helpful that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, raised the question. I agreed that we should be encouraging parents to be involved wherever possible and that it would be helpful for the courts to have discretion to order the attendance of both parents where it seemed reasonable and practical to do so. Therefore, the amendments to Clause 5 introduce that discretion.

It will not always be practical for both parents to attend. There may be other family or employment commitments. There will be some cases where it will be feasible, desirable and practical for both parents to attend to support their child through the youth offender panel experience. I repeat my gratitude to the noble Lord for raising the issue. We have reached the conclusion that it is helpful, if the court sees the presence of both parents as positive and constructive, that the court should have the power to order their attendance. That is the purpose of the amendments in my name. That is in relation to those offenders who are under 16, where parental attendance is always required, and for 17 year-olds where parental attendance is considered appropriate.

Clause 5 also addresses the position of those young offenders for whom parental responsibility is with the local authority. In those cases, plainly, the local authority representative should be the key individual required to attend meetings. But in those cases where responsibility has been vested in the local authority but the young person is still living at home with the parent or guardian, the court may well decide that the presence of the parent or guardian would also be of value. Therefore, the effect of the amendments is to include discretion for the courts to order the presence of the parent or guardian in addition to the local authority representative.

I believe that the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, are set to achieve the same ends. I do not consider that there is a difference between us. We sought to reflect the spirit of our previous discussion in Committee in what we believe to be properly drafted form.

There is still a concern in my mind about the definition of an offender for whom the local authority may have parental responsibility. We are looking at that as a matter of urgency. I merely indicate that a small amendment may be required with which I shall deal on Third Reading, if that is agreeable to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister for bringing forward these amendments. It was an issue which I, rather than my noble friend, raised in Committee, although the amendments were in the names of both of us. I am extremely grateful to the Minister for taking on board our concerns. It is important that if both parents are able to attend, they should be encouraged to do so. The government amendments put forward today allow that to happen. However, they allow rather than encourage it to happen. It may be that after Royal Assent

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the Home Office will issue guidance to the courts in relation to the legislation. If that is so, perhaps it will be possible to include in that guidance encouragement to the courts to have both parents present. The amendment allows it rather than encourages it. Perhaps the Minister will consider that point.

The Minister has accepted the matters which we raised. I should be grateful if he will respond to my point about the guidance. However, we shall certainly accept the government amendments and I shall not move Amendments Nos. 6, 10, 11 and 13.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, at the risk of returning to the debate about when is a sentence not a sentence, in criminal justice social work practice it was routine to explain to offenders who had been placed on orders such as probation and community service orders that they had not been convicted. It was explained that they had not been convicted because they could be resentenced in the event of a breach of the order.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, there is a small point which is worrying me. Does "parent" include step-parent? Sometimes, in some families, the step-parent has greater responsibility for, and influence over, a child than a divorced parent. There may need to be a slight adjustment to the Bill at the next stage. It is important that the person who is acting as the parent, who may not legally be the guardian, is the person responsible because sometimes he may have the greatest influence over the child.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I always shudder when small points are raised because they are always the ones for which one has no briefing. My immediate reaction--which I am sure is wrong--is that it probably does include that. However, perhaps I may research that and write to the noble Lord. As always, I shall put a copy in the Library.

I was right, and it is not even my birthday. It is included.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps he will answer my question about the guidance which his department may issue.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I shall certainly give consideration to including in guidance the points raised by the noble Viscount. We are at a very early stage because the Bill was introduced in this House. However, there is no doubt at all that guidance of one sort or another will be useful and I shall certainly bear in mind what the noble Viscount said.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his reply.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I commend the government amendments to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 7 to 9:

Page 5, line 3, at end insert--
("(1A) Where an offender is under the age of 16 years when a court makes a referral order in his case--
(a) the court shall exercise its power under subsection (1) so as to require at least one appropriate person to attend meetings of the youth offender panel; and
(b) if the offender falls within subsection (5), the person or persons so required to attend those meetings shall be or include a representative of the local authority mentioned in that subsection.").
Page 5, line 4, leave out ("Subsection (1) does") and insert ("Subsections (1) and (1A) do").
Page 5, line 7, leave out from ("(5)") to end of line 9 and insert (", each person who is a parent or guardian of the offender is an "appropriate person" for the purposes of this section.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 5, line 10, leave out (""the appropriate person" for the purposes of subsection (1) is") and insert (", each of the following is an "appropriate person" for the purposes of this section").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 14 to 16:

Page 5, line 13, leave out ("or") and insert ("and").
Page 5, line 14, leave out first ("a") and insert ("each").
Page 5, line 14, leave out ("and with whom he") and insert ("with whom the offender").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

5.30 p.m.

Clause 6 [Establishment of panels]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 5, line 40, after ("held") insert ("within 10 days of the making of the order or orders").

The noble Lord said: We now move on to the position where the offender has been sentenced or ordered to be referred to the panel, and the panel is about to start its work. The question the amendment addresses is one which we also discussed in Committee; that is, how soon that work should begin. I suggested then that it should be within 14 days of the sentence being passed. When I say "begin" I mean the time when the panel should have its first meeting and commence its work.

The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, suggested that that should be within three days. There seemed to be some agreement among Members of the Committee that three days was too short a period and 14 days too long. In the amendment I have therefore suggested 10 days.

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I believe it was the Minister who said that three days was too short and 14 days too long. However, there was some agreement for that proposition.

Of course, the first meeting should be as soon as conveniently possible, both for the panel and others concerned. That is why I believe that a time limit would be a good idea. It will take time to set up membership of a panel and fix a time for meetings. Members are likely to be busy people with other things to do than just sit about waiting to be called upon to serve on the panel.

In particular, victims will often need a little time. They do not just have to turn up, but have to consider--sometimes very carefully--whether to confront an offender in such circumstances. They will need time to make the necessary arrangements to attend such meetings. They may also need to take advice and be encouraged to attend. They may be reluctant, immediately after a court case, to confront an offender.

Therefore, it seems to me that a reasonable time limit should be set. As I have said, having been told that 14 days was too long, I propose 10 days. I beg to move.

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