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25Page 22, line 20, at end insert "( ) Section (Repeal of duty to prepare recycling plans in England and Wales)(a) comes into force
(a) in relation to England, on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint;
(b) in relation to Wales, on such day as the National Assembly for Wales may by order appoint."
26Clause 37, page 22, line 35, after "31" insert "and (Joint municipal waste management strategies: England)(1) to (11)"
27Page 22, line 35, after "31" insert "and (Power to disapply duties under section (Joint municipal waste management strategies: England))"
28Page 22, line 35, after "31" insert "and (Interpretation of Chapter 3)"
29Page 22, line 35, after "31" insert "and (Repeal of duty to prepare recycling plans in England and Wales)(a) and (c)"
30Page 22, line 38, leave out "Section" and insert "Sections (Joint municipal waste management strategies: England)(12),"
31Page 22, line 38, leave out "34 extends" and insert "(Repeal of duty to prepare recycling plans in England and Wales)(b) and 34 extend"
The arguments I put forward to the House last week on the penalties associated with the offences in Part 1 of the Bill apply to this group of amendments. I shall not weary the House with those arguments in detail, but instead I shall cut to the heart of the matter.
The offences we are considering are very minor ones. Indeed, many of us think that they should not be offences. They do not involve violence, theft or sexual violation. They simply involve refusing to move away from a place or returning to a place within 24 hours. The so-called offender may have had nothing to do with the behaviour that caused the place to be designated as one where a police officer could move people on. The person may be there for perfectly innocent and lawful purposes. Yet the Government plan to give the courts the right to incarcerate such a person for up to three months.
The Minister reassured us in Committee that three months is a maximum sentence, and we all understand that. However, I do not believe that a custodial sentence is appropriate for such a minor misdemeanour in any circumstances, and particularly not for a young person under the age of 18. Therefore, I tabled this group of amendments to make a community sentence the only sentence for those aged under 18 and for such a community sentence to be included in the list of penalties for adults for the sake of clarity.
We all understand that the sentences listed in the Bill are maximum ones, but it sends out a message to sentencers when community sentences are not even mentioned. We all know that sensible and rigorous community sentences can be a great deal more effective in preventing re-offending than a custodial sentence, particularly one as short as three months, in which the hard-pressed Prison Service has no chance of doing anything meaningful with the inmate. The
We welcome the Government's focus in their Green Paper Every Child Matters on community sentences and restorative justice. In the light of that consultation paper, it seems inconsistent to persist in refusing to consider community sentences only for under 18s for such minor offences. I beg the Government, even at this late stage in the Bill, to think again about these measures, which have already generated such anger and despair among the young people in this country. I beg to move.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendments Nos. 61 and 63 are in this group of amendmentsslightly strangely, but I think there is a good diplomatic reason for it. I support the principle enunciated by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that a community sentence would be better for those under the age of 18 who have committed minor offences. However, the Minister has consistently put the argument that the Bill sets out maxima, and, as the noble Baroness, herself said, there is a question of psychology involved in this. Anyway, the principle she is enunciating is correct, but it is of course also possible under the Bill.
I tabled Amendments Nos. 61 and 63 because it is necessary to get county councils involved in the process of anti-social behaviour orders. That was not being done as the Bill originally stood. I tabled these amendments as I was not sure whether the Government intended to table Amendments Nos. 64 and 65. I thank the Minister for those amendments. They will spare me some trouble in a few moments. I am most grateful.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, perhaps I may add a word on my noble friend's amendments. I do not know whether the noble Baroness is aware, but on Friday the number of people held in custody in the prisons of England and Wales reached what I believe is the all-time record of 74,149 people. I suggest that Parliament should think very carefully about offences which lead to imprisonment, particularly, as my noble friend has said, short sentences for non-violent offences. I should like to remind the noble Baroness of the Statement which was issued last November jointly by the Home Secretary, the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General. It states:
I do not think that it is a satisfactory answer to say, "This is a maximum only", because if the courts are given a maximum, the inference is that one would like them to use it on some occasions, however rare.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I say immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that I endorse what my noble and learned friends said in relation to the generality of the comments to which he alluded. I do not seek to resile from any of those statements; nor, indeed, do the Government. That does not mean that in dealing with offences of this nature one should not set the outer parameter. I also hear what the noble Lord says on the fact that the courts may be tempted to use it. If your Lordships were to look at how sentencing has worked to date, it is very rare indeed for the maxima ever to be used.
On Amendments Nos. 57 to 60, I hope I can reassure noble Lords in relation to juveniles. I clarify that the penalties set out in Clause 31(2) operate slightly differently between juveniles and adults. We say that there is no need for the Bill to spell out all the sentencing options. The options available to a court are set out in the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, as amended. I have made this point on other occasions, certainly in relation to other Bills, but it may be worth reciting it for the purpose of this debate today.
The options range, in hierarchical order, from imprisonment, community service orders and fines through to conditional and absolute discharges. Legislation creating a new offence spells out the maximum period of imprisonment, as the noble Baroness and the noble Lord both acknowledged. So we are discussing the maximum period of imprisonment or maximum fine level that can be imposed; a sentencing court can always impose a lesser penalty.
I should like noble Lords to recognise that we are trying to set out a new approach: a new menu of opportunities for the courts of which they will be able to take advantage. That is reflected in the structure of the Bill. The court is under no obligation to hand out the maximum sentences and may choose any lesser sentence depending on the circumstances of the case, including the age of the defendant.
Detention and training orders, which are the juvenile equivalent of imprisonment, can be made for a minimum of four months. So there can be no training order for less than four months. That means that where the maximum penalty of imprisonment that can be imposed is less than four months, as in this case, a detention and training order cannot be made. The
Amendment No. 61, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, requires the police to consult both county and district councils before granting an authorisation. The Government recognise that county councils have an important role to play in tackling anti-social behaviourmany play an active role in local crime and disorder reduction partnerships.
We considered carefully the points made by the noble Lord in Committee. However, we thought that to add another step in the authorisation process would be overly bureaucratic. We have listened and we have reflected that listening in the amendments to which the noble Lord referredAmendments Nos. 62, 64 and 65. The noble Lord's amendment would enable local authorities to apply for anti-social behaviour orders. We have responded and think that we have achieved his aim.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her response and for the supportive remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and my noble friend Lord Avebury. I ask the Minister for clarification. Was she saying that because a detention and training order cannot be made for less than four months, a three-month custodial sentence could never be applied to an under-18?
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