|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
This is not about alarm clocks failing to be set at the right time for an early appointment; this is not about a young person missing an appointment because he or she is in hospital; this is not about punishing young people because their parent or guardian could not or would not drive them to an appointment. This is about those occasions where a young person refuses to engage with the terms of their order. That is why local discretion is built into the procedure. Local youth offending team workers will remain responsible for the orders. It is they who know how best to manage compliance based on a number of factors which need to be taken into account, and they will have the knowledge of the young person for whom they are responsible.
Our case is that we must ensure that there is a common procedure which is clear and transparent to all. We are satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards to avoid young offenders being returned to court for minor infringements, and we believe it right and appropriate that a clear standard be set out in the Bill on when breach action must be taken.
The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, said that he believed that that would inevitably result in more court appearances and more young people remanded in custody. All that the breach arrangements do is codify existing national standards. We do not expect there to be any change to existing practice. As I have repeated several times, the arrangements allow for reasonable excuse, which can be taken into account. Therefore, we do not expect the result of including
5 Feb 2008 : Column 1044
As we understand it, the Bill would prescribe the circumstances under which the responsible officer must issue warnings and initiate breach proceedings. Breach would therefore become a statutory duty with no scope for practitioner or manager discretion. I hear the Minister saying that there will be discretion, but can I point out the slight contradiction in the position that we have heard today?
The first thing we had when we started was the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, on the principles of the criminal justice system. We were told eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that we could not put that in the Bill because it would circumscribe possible action and limit the flexibility inherent in the system. We now hear that the Government want to limit that flexibility. It seems to me that we are coming with different voices to very similar arguments. I will not go on about that because the hour is late, but I expect we will return to that somewhat later.
Lord Kingsland: I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. The Minister said that the new provision reflected national standards, but I thought that the current situation was a reflection of national standards.
I am very much in debt to the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, for two reasons. First, she felicitously explained that the community order system does not work at present for reasons that have nothing whatever to do with the flexibility of the way these breaches are approached. I cannot for the life of me see how the change that the Government are proposing in that context can change that underlying and melancholy fact.
I am also in her debt for bringing out a point that was made earlier during our debate on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, to which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, rightly reflected, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, had assentedthat the Government are committed to using custody as a last resort. In that debate, I remember saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, that her amendment has to have bite; otherwise she will find that, however one can talk generally about the desirability of minimising custody, if one looks at the detail one will see that that principle is undermined at every turn. Here is a very good example of that principle being undermined, and the Government, despite their general concurrence with what the noble Baroness said, are the guilty party.
I also disagree with the Ministers interpretation of the schedule provision on page 168. I found his argument uncharacteristically unconvincing. He is removing an existing discretion that has been responsibly applied and extremely valuable to the way in which these
5 Feb 2008 : Column 1045
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|