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Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 67 and 68 relate to Clause 39 and the extension of fixed penalty notices. The purpose of Amendment No. 67 is to resist vigorously the further reduction of the age at which fixed penalty notices could be issued for disorderly behaviourthat is, from 16 years old to as young as 10 years oldby affirmative resolution. It also asserts that to use the powers of the Home
In Committee, we argued that a 10 year-old cannot give informed consent to the fixed penalty notice or have the capacity to understand the consequences of accepting one, as required by code C of PACE. It is an inappropriate sanction for children so young. Of itself, it could not promote positive social behaviour. It would fall on the family to pay. It therefore fails to meet the objective of a swift and direct response to disorderly behaviour on the part of such a young person. My principal point is that it should occur, if at all, only as a result of the most detailed consideration of what this means through full parliamentary process.
Clause 39 extends the fixed penalty notice schemeintroduced by the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001to 16 and 17 year-olds for disorderly behaviour. In Committee, there was discussion of the age reduction from over-18s to 16 and 17 year-olds, once the outcome of an evaluation of the scheme in four police areas had been completed. The evaluation was not available at the time, but the Minister reported that it had been completed, although not published, and that, from the point of view of the police, the outcome was favourable. As a speedy way of dealing with adult disorderly behaviour, that is encouraging. It has our full support.
Amendment No. 68 aims to ensure that the safeguards afforded by the PACE code of practice to young people under 16 years old also apply to 17 year-olds where fixed penalty notices are used. They should be activated at a police station in the presence of an appropriate adult. Code C requires that an appropriate adult be present before any interview, detention, bail or signing of a statement by an under 16 year-old. The adult must have an active role in advising the young person and ensure that the interview is conducted fairly and that the young person understands what is happening and why. It would be extremely difficult to be absolutely sure that a 16 or 17 year-old understands what is happening and why without the presence of that appropriate adult.
The amendment would ensure greater safeguards in the Bill for such young people, which are consistent with PACE. I understand that the intention is to pilot thisas with the over 18 year-oldswhich I welcome. However, I should like the Minister to assure us that the PACE safeguards will be incorporated in the pilots.
During the past few years, the Government have done a great deal of work through their reformed youth justice system, to which I pay tribute. There is a whole system of, for example, reprimands, final warnings and referral orders to youth offending panels, which are a perfect example of how to bring local communities into the process of dealing with troublesome young people. They have had remarkable
It is felt strongly by all the children's organisations that lowering the age at which fixed penalty notices may be issued is simply to apply adult sanctions to young peoplea theme to which I referred earlierand that it is inappropriate. Young people in this age group are already significantly discriminated against as regards entitlement to financial and other benefits, and are more likely to be both out of school and out of work. The Explanatory Notes make it clear that 16 to 17 year-olds will have the same level of financial penalty imposed as that for adults, which is either £40 or £80, depending on the offence. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that only 240,000 young people in this age group are in full-time employment, and they do not have the protection of the minimum wage. Young people rarely qualify for income support and, even in cases of severe hardship, will normally receive only £32.50 per week.
Even if the expectation is that parents will have to pay the fineand research shows that they are most likely to be unemployed, single parentsit is important to recognise the distinction between a child and an adult when applying a penalty. Therefore, I should like to ask the Minister for an assurance when she comes to reply: will the level of fines be set lower for people in this age group to take account of their age and economic position? I beg to move.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I understand the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, in relation to this matter. As I have said on previous occasions, we believe that penalty notices for disorder have an important role to play in tackling anti-social behaviour by juveniles. This is relatively low-level anti-social behaviour, but it does impact on the wider community and needs to be addressed. We have thought hard about this issue and have not changed our view about the need for such a sanction to be available to the police when dealing with juveniles. I know that the noble Baroness will agree with me when I say that we want to stop this kind of behaviour before it takes root. It is hoped, therefore, that we shall be able to address it more quickly and easily.
Extension of this scheme would give the police the power to tackle such behaviour. A notice will act as a deterrent, but it will not leave the young person with a criminal conviction, recognising this age group's youth and vulnerability, which is a point that I know noble Lords will share with me. Further, it will encourage the police to take action against anti-social behaviour in the street which is not being dealt with at present.
Noble Lords know that much work is being done with the Association of Chief Police Officers, which has urged the Government to extend the scheme to juveniles. As the noble Baroness mentioned, we intend to pilot the scheme first on 16 and 17 year-olds to see
The proposal also dovetails with what we are trying to do with local policing and initiatives: bringing in community service officers to work with police officers in a given area in order to make a difference. We believe also that it is right for parents to take responsibility for the behaviour of their children and that they should be expected to pay the penalty on their children's behalf. There is no difference, essentially, between that and the current position whereby a court may fine a child under the age of 16.
Clause 39(4) allows the Secretary of State to set the penalties at different levels for different ages, so allowing a lower amount to be set for those in the younger age groups. We shall certainly consider this aspect, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, when we look at the pilot studies and fashion them to make them work better.
Amendment No. 68 would mean that fixed penalty notices for juveniles aged under 18 could be issued only in a police station. We believe that that would reduce the effectiveness of the scheme by restricting the discretion of police officers. There will be times, in particular as regards 16 and 17 year-olds, when it will be perfectly proper to issue a notice elsewhere, so long as those young people fully understand the process. It may also be suitable for under-16 year-olds if either the parent or carer is present. We want to allow police officers to exercise their judgment.
I understand what has been said by the noble Baroness about how the scheme would operate. I hope that I have been able to reassure her that we shall look at this whole area carefully. It may be a little of a "suck it and see" exercise because we want to get it right. We have experience of using pilots in this way under other circumstances and we have found them very useful. They help to clarify what works. We want to pursue only that which works effectively, and we think that this is a good way forward. I hope that the noble Baroness will be a little comforted by what I have said.
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