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The Earl of Listowel: I should like to speak to Amendment No. 47, which expresses concern about the maximum age at which children can have an appropriate adult with them when they are tested. There is a general feeling that children are becoming adults earlier than in the past, which may be part of the rationale for this amendment. Quite often, sadly, children in care get involved with the criminal justice system. The most recent statistics show that 10 per cent of children in care had a caution per annum and were three times as likely to be cautioned as other children.

The Government recognise that many of the children who will be caught by this provision are vulnerable. In the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, the Government recognised that these children have often had very difficult beginnings; their development can often be delayed, which is why that legislation extended the level of care to them until the age of 21. Indeed, the Government extended further provision to children in education after the age of 21 up to the age of 25. So it does not seem to follow reason for this clause to treat children as if they become adults at the age of 17. I suggest that these are quite under-developed young people, not as mature as other children their age. So I do not quite understand the reasoning behind this. I would appreciate some explanation from the Minister.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank all those who have contributed to this debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, who moved the amendment. I recognise the experience and sensitivity which he

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brings to these issues. I hope, since the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots, indicated that some of these are probing amendments, that I shall be able to explain to the Committee how I see some of the issues fitting together.

Before I go into the detail, it is important first to underline what a number of noble Lords have said, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley; that children have different needs from adults, and they will not generally have developed a substance misuse problem or entrenched patterns of behaviour. We should bear that important point in mind when considering the amendments.

Amendment No. 43 seeks to introduce an additional safeguard to ensure that a custody officer shall not detain someone for the purposes of taking a drugs test unless he has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has a propensity to misuse drugs and that the misuse caused or contributed to an offence. We propose that the amendment be resisted because such a safeguard is already in place under the existing provisions for drug testing at Section 63B of PACE, whereby a sample may be taken only if the offence for which the person is charged is a "trigger offence"—offences where research has shown the clearest link between the offence and drug use—or if a police officer of at least inspector rank has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the misuse by that person of a specified class A drug caused or contributed to the offence for which they have been charged.

Amendment No. 45, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, seeks—as the noble Baroness explained—to raise the minimum age for drug testing under Clause 12 from 14 to 17. As has been touched on, there is strong evidence to suggest an association between the frequent misuse of substances and offending and other anti-social behaviour among young people. It is important to identify drug-misusing offenders at an early stage and to take every opportunity to encourage them to access treatment and/or other programmes of help. If a person under the age of 18 is charged with a trigger offence, it is important to identify where possible whether his or her offending is linked to the use of illegal drugs, particularly the drugs that cause the most harm, such as heroin and crack cocaine. We therefore propose that Amendment No. 45 and consequential Amendment No. 46 are resisted.

By contrast, Amendment No. 44 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, seeks to lower the minimum age for drug testing from 14 to 12, so the two amendments go in opposite directions. As I previously said, research indicates that drug abuse among children in particular often relates to class B drugs. The provisions of the clause provide only for testing for specified class A drugs. That would suggest that testing those aged under 14 for specified class A drugs would not currently be an effective use of resources. As the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson,

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highlighted, that was the response made in the other place. We therefore propose that Amendment No. 44 be resisted.

Of course I hear what the noble Lord said about the nature of the research, which was directed in part to schoolchildren. But the body of research on which we have relied supports the contention that we have outlined here and is reflected in what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. We have to take a medium course in relation to what may prove most effective. We think that this is about right.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I referred to an article in yesterday's Observer. I have no way of knowing the seriousness of the research carried out by the University of Glasgow. Will the Minister undertake that her officials will see whether there is anything in that assertion and in such research? This is an important point where the child's welfare is central. If they are discovering a new trend, it would be helpful if the Home Office could find out why and how and whether the research is well based.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I would certainly be happy to look at that matter. A great deal of research has been undertaken by the Home Office. Home Office research study 192 and research study 261—Substance use by young offenders: the impact of normalisation of drugs use in the early years of the 21st century—work carried out by Richard Hammersley, Louise Marsland and Marie Reid—examined the prevalence of substance use and offending among a sample of 293 young people who were clients of the 11 youth offending teams in England and Wales. I think the noble Lord will accept that if they are already clients, they may be an indicative group on which we could rely.

Key findings from that research were that 40 per cent or more of the cohort felt that there was some relationship between their substance use and their offending; and substance use was very high. Eighty-six per cent had used cannabis; 91 per cent had used alcohol; and 85 per cent tobacco. A quarter had taken both cocaine and LSD. The use of the hardest drugs was lower; 18 per cent had taken crack cocaine and 11 per cent heroin. We have sought to craft the path we are taking on significant research, but I will look at any information about the new research to see whether it is outwith the trends that we have identified.

The clause as drafted provides for the presence, from the point at which an individual is requested to undergo a drug test, and for the test itself, of an appropriate adult for those who have not attained the age of 17. Amendments Nos. 47 and 50 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, seek to raise the age at which a person must not be tested for specified class A drugs except in the presence of an appropriate adult from those under the age of 17 to those under the age of 18. However, that would not be

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consistent with current provisions in code C of PACE: the code of practice for the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers.

The provisions applicable under the PACE Code of Practice C require any person who appears to be under the age of 17 to be treated as a juvenile and consequently provide that an appropriate adult is required to be contacted and asked to attend the police station to see the detained juvenile and that thereafter the appropriate adult's involvement in the process should continue. The attendance of an appropriate adult at police stations should be consistent with that of the current requirements placed on the police. The effect of increasing the age to include those under the age of 18 may lead to confusion. It would also necessitate the presence of an appropriate adult for those aged between 17 and 18 solely for purposes relating to the testing process. That may put undue pressures on family relationships, or have a disproportionate effect on resources. We therefore propose that Amendments Nos. 47 and 50 also be resisted.

Amendments Nos. 51 and 52, which were tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, would amend the definition of "appropriate adult" as the noble Lord has set out to include any close relation aged 21 or over, and to remove,

    "any responsible person aged 18 or over who is not a police officer or a person employed by the police".

The clause as drafted is compatible with Code C of PACE. We see no reason to include that extra category of persons. In practice, in many cases, the police would in any case choose a close adult relation to act as an appropriate adult in the absence of a parent or guardian. However, unfortunately, there can be no guarantee that a close relation, of whatever age, would be suitable to act as an appropriate adult. We therefore propose that the amendments be resisted on that ground.

Amendment No. 49 would ensure that the provisions will not come into force in a given area unless appropriate treatment for young people is available there. The noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, very graphically made that point. I understand that the amendment arises from a concern that young people may be diverted into adult services where specific services for young people are not available.

The intention of the testing and drug rehabilitation requirements in the Criminal Justice Bill is to strengthen and increase the provision available to young offenders. We do not propose to push young people into adult-based services. Much work has already been done to expand the treatment facilities available for young people. All drug action teams (DATs) have completed an assessment of young people's needs in relation to substance misuse service provision. Each DAT provides an annual young people's substance misuse plan, which outlines holistic service provision for young people that is separate from adult services, and treatment services specifically designed to meet the differing needs of young people. The DATs also provide an annual return on progress,

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so we have a check. The Youth Justice Board is working to expand services further. It is providing funding for all 155 youth offending teams (YOTs) across England and Wales to have access to an allocated named drugs worker.

All DATs working with youth offending teams have undertaken assessments of local need and developed young people's substance misuse plans. The plans outline how services will be expanded so that, by April 2004, all young people who need treatment, including young offenders, will have access to it. We therefore propose that the amendment is not necessary. We resist the amendment but invite Members of the Committee to consider withdrawing it having heard what we have been able to say.

I shall now seek to answer some of the specific questions on matters other than those that I have just outlined, in the hope that we can further reassure Members of the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, asked about the status of the sample and the introduction of proceedings—to some extent, what the test results will be used for. The test results will be used to assist the court in making bail and sentencing decisions and to ensure that appropriate advice and treatment is made available to the detainee.

The whole purpose of drug testing after charge is as a screening tool. It does not of itself tell us about the extent of a person's drug use or linked criminality. Drug testing is used to identify those who misuse specified class A drugs—heroin and crack cocaine—who may need treatment and to encourage them to address their drug misuse and to access appropriate treatment. Test results may not be used as additional evidence in support of any offences of which the detainee has been charged, for other investigative purposes or as an aggravating factor when sentencing. The reason that it is such a powerful tool, as the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, said, is that we want to deal with the issues holistically. If we are to address offending and to change behaviour, we need to know the nature of the difficulty with which we seek to deal.

The noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, also asked how the provisions would be introduced. They are to be piloted, on a limited basis at first, to enable evaluation of the effectiveness of the provisions to be undertaken and to inform possible further extension of the provisions. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will have the option of bringing the drug testing provisions of the clause into effect by reference to specific police stations and specific police areas. That will facilitate the piloting of the provisions at a few selected sites alongside the continuing drug testing of those aged 18 and over. It will provide for effective targeting of the provisions with a view to future extension in police areas. It would be appropriate for the provisions to be piloted in areas where the pilot for arrest referral for the under 18s is to take place and where there is an existing adult testing on charge.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked about empirical data and the action plan orders, the estimated number of young people to be involved and

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the resources put aside. The noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, also raised that issue. I hope that I have been able to reassure him.

Members of the Committee have asked how we engage young people at the point of arrest to address their needs. It is intended that, by around March 2004, there will have been established in the drug testing pilot areas a model of working that assures that appropriate arrest referral services have been designed specifically to address the needs of young people. The model will be supported by local protocols between youth offender teams, the police, local drug action teams and crime reduction partnerships. That will ensure that an appropriate range of services will be available, with minimum delay, to support work undertaken with the young person in custody.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, asked about drug testing for adults and how it is being rolled out across the country. It is proposed that, first, drug testing for adults should be rolled out in the 30 police basic command units with the highest levels of acquisitive crime. Testing for young people will be piloted, but in a limited number of BCUs, and will be fully evaluated. Disputed tests are sent to the Forensic Science Service for validation, which is carried out within 72 hours. The 30 police basic command units are provided with testing machines that use saliva. They shall continue to be used and provided in the roll-out.

I was also asked about the age for appropriate adults. As I think I already said, it is compatible with Code C of PACE as detailed. The noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, asked about the action plans. The action plan order will be dealt with at Clause 264. If Members of the Committee think it convenient, the Green Paper for young people could be discussed at that stage of the Bill.

I hope that I have dealt with each of the main issues raised. If I have neglected to answer specific points, I shall write to Members of the Committee. Having explained how we see the provisions fitting together, and taking into account the disparity of view evidenced in the nature of the amendment, I hope that I have been able to reassure Members of the Committee that the Government take the issues very seriously. We have based the suggestions on the empirical data that we have before us and we will integrate services to try to ensure that we respond appropriately to the needs of young people. We will enhance our opportunities to intervene in a productive and rehabilitative way to reduce the level of recidivism and, one hopes, reduce the distress caused not only to the victims of crimes perpetrated by young people under the influence of drugs but also the suffering of the drug offenders themselves.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: Before the Minister sits down and the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, replies, I had not planned to speak, but having heard about the holistic approach to this problem I find myself in disbelief at part of the response. I say that respectfully, knowing the Minister's concern for young people.

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For many years, organisations, especially social services departments, have worked with the families of drug users experiencing considerable difficulties. Such organisations have a great deal of experience, as do Turning Point and the other voluntary organisations, in the field of the complex programmes needed to help these families. We know that problems are not only to do with drug taking. In many families, although not all, drug taking is to do with the problems that the family is experiencing as a whole. The parents' difficulty in dealing with their own children is among those problems.

During the 15 years I was in Childline, I talked to literally hundreds of children who described extraordinarily complex family dynamics that resulted in their taking drugs as a way out. How will social services and the voluntary organisations be supported while we try to develop innovative programmes when we know what will work in many places? We simply do not have enough people, expertise and resources on the ground to put the programmes into place. I apologise for intervening.

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