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The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has the support of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, and my noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine. We spoke at some length to this matter yesterday but the Minister did not address two issues in reply. I therefore wish to raise them again.
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The issue relates essentially to the proposal in Clause 138 to reverse the presumption on withholding from the public the identity of a child accused of breaching an ASBO. The current legislative presumption that a child subject to criminal proceedings should not be identified enshrines the principle of Article 40 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It states:
"State parties recognise the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognised as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child's respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child's age and the desirability of the child's reintegration and the child's assuming a constructive role in society".
The convention goes on to state that the states parties shall ensure that children alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law shall have the guarantee that their privacy will be fully respected at all stages of the proceedings. We ask whether naming and shaming individuals is compatible with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I beg to move.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, my name is also attached to the amendment and I strongly support the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, relating to the convention. Last night I mentioned the issue of scrutiny. While much of the Bill was scrutinised in the other place, this aspect of it received no consideration there. We had an occasion to discuss it late last night but, given that those on the front line are so concerned about the Government's current agenda of improving services for children and giving more thought to the needs of those who work directly with children, we should give the matter careful consideration and listen to those concerns.
Last night I raised the issue of research into the impact of publishing the names of these childrena practice that has been going on for several years. When the Anti-social Behaviour Bill passed through this House, I urged the Minister to produce research into the consequences of that activity. At the time, I believe that the Minister replied that it would be too difficult to carry out such research, and she repeated that in her response last night.
I reflect on my experience of being responsible for the type of children covered by this clause. I remember 20 years ago working in an intermediate treatment centre with a 10 year-old traveller boy. He would hit all the workers and, to ingratiate himself, would tell obscene jokes about his mother to the older boyshe was by far the youngest in the centre. He was a deeply troubling and deeply troubled young man.
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I think of a boy with whom I worked last yeara 10 year-old, who got into fights with other children. One lunchtime, we came across him lolling in a tyre-shaped inflatable, rocking himself backwards and forwards like an infant. It was only towards the end of our time working with him that we learned that he had just come out of care and had been newly adopted.
I think of a young man with whom I worked recently who had just come out of his minority. He demanded attention from all the staff and young people in the hostel and made himself deeply unpopular. He was eventually excluded from the hostel but fortunately he has found another place.
Those are the kinds of young people whom we are discussing now. As the noble Baroness herself made clear in a conversation that we had on this subject, she recognises that many of the young people whom we are discussing and who will be caught by this clause are the kind of young people to whom I have referred. In its evidence to the Select Committee on Education and Skills in the other place, the Association of Chief Police Officers said that it was important to recognise,
"that children who commit offences, without excusing them or trying to defend them, are exactly the same constituency as children who get excluded from school, children who become in need of protection or have CAMS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] needs".
Last night, the noble Baroness spoke of the difficulties of research in this area. I recognise that it can be difficult to conduct such research where there are a number of interventions with these children and their families and where there are parenting orders and so on. Nevertheless, if we are to encourage the local media to publicise the identities and photographs of these childrenwe have been doing so for several years nowit is incumbent on us, if we really believe that every child matters, to conduct as rigorous research as we can to find out what happens as a result.
I was pleased to be put in touch by the Minister with one of her civil servants to ask about research. He told me that the Youth Justice Board will shortly undertake some research in this area. So I urge the Minister to wait until we know better what the impact of the very controversial publication of these children's names would be before proceeding on this matter. I share the concerns of those outside that, if these children and their families are identified, they may become the targets of people in the local area. I am concerned that labelling them in this way may reinforce some of the bad behaviours that we are seeing and that it may impact on the children's rehabilitation.
We need research, but that has not been forthcoming. There is a possibility of it taking place in the futurefairly soon, I hope. So let us wait until the outcome of that research is available to us and to the courts which have to make decisions in this area. I look forward to the Minister's response.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, I do not want to repeat what was said last night; I just want to make one point. Since the mid-19th century, people concerned with the welfare of children have been working towards
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enshrining in law measures for their protection. One aim of the campaigners has been that the identity of children in court, children in trouble and children from problem families should not come into the public domain. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said last night, protecting the privacy of children has always been a basic principle of the youth court and, before that, the juvenile court. We frequently hear in the media about, for example, a 16 year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, and we accept that that is how the law works.
That principle has become fundamental when dealing with youths in trouble, and there are reasons for that. One is that they may be exposed to danger by hounding, vilification or violence, and another reason is that they should enter adulthood without carrying with them a bad reputation which they gained before they were of an age to be deemed fully responsible.
Those principles are enshrined in United Nations treaties, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, reminded us, and accepted throughout the world. Yet, here we are discussing a Serious Organised Crime and Police Billnot policy about children, youth crime, youth courts, neighbourhoods or any relevant topicand, without proper discussion and without any substantial analysis, we propose to throw in the rubbish bin the received wisdom of all those who care for the rights of children and who fought for them for nearly two centuries. In my view, we should not be doing that; we should certainly not be doing it without giving it a great deal more thought than we are in relation to this Bill. I support the amendment.
Lord Chan: My Lords, I rise briefly to add my support for the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and also to add one extra point in support of my noble friend Lady Stern and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.
At present, in areas such as parts of Merseyside and the Wirral, there are populations of children who will fit into the description of children who, if this law comes into being, will be named and shamed. At the moment, a great deal of effort is put into various agencies working together to try to prevent that. I fear that, if this legislation goes through, the various agencies will have less patience in relation to such children and there will be a tendency to say, "All right, we have given them sufficient time so let's put the law into effect by exposing them". I think that that would be a very dangerous practice.
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