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I am afraid that the probation service has been subjected to pressures and has been propelled towards becoming a sort of alternative to a custodial sentence. The old probation service concentrated on rehabilitation; it was not solely about punishing people. The sentence is the punishment. The people concerned have been told that they are being punished by society and are reported as such in the press. The task the probation service used to take on was that of helping the people concerned to become positive, constructive citizens. However, the service is now so harassed and pressed that it is very difficult to see how that work can properly be done at all, or whether indeed there is cultural leadership on what the task really is-let us be frank about that.
I cannot think of a more practical, sensible arrangement than to ensure that magistrates are not only encouraged but propelled, as it were, into meeting probation service staff, having discussions with them, obtaining information and seeing for themselves the reality of what the probation service does as part of their preparation for the work they will be doing in magistrates' courts. Two things about magistrates are relevant in this context. I speak as someone whose mother was a magistrate and loved her work. One is that magistrates live in society-that is a strength-and are therefore bombarded by the popular press and everyone else with all kinds of prejudice and superficial judgments. To withstand that kind of psychological pressure, they need to have real exposure to and a real understanding of what is being done.
Another very important point about magistrates is that they are representative of society and can play a key role in educating society as regards social life and the realities of life. Most of us who are here at this hour of the debate are broadly of the same consensus: we would like to see more emphasis on rehabilitation and on enabling the offender to become a constructive citizen. We also know that that is not the prevailing culture outside. From this standpoint, the amendment is practical and helps to take the cause of enlightenment forward.
One thing that repeatedly irritates me in debates and deliberations of this kind is the assumption that what the noble Baroness proposes, and what comes up in similar kinds of amendments, not least this evening, is of a weak, liberal-I do not use that word in the party political sense-wishy-washy nature. It is not the real muscular stuff of facing up to the challenges before us, but the absolute reverse. It is easy to put someone into detention but God knows what the consequences are when you do that. We have talked about women and the young and in many cases it is a damaging and irresponsible thing to do. The tough thing is to ask: how do we work with this individual to help him to become a constructive, positive member of society? I am glad that this amendment is before us, and I hope that the Minister will look favourably upon it.
Lord Ramsbotham: I was very glad to put my name to this amendment. As always, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd. On this occasion, I do so because it provides an opportunity, which is not present in much of the rest of the Bill, to mention the problems faced by the probation service.
It was a great pity when the probation service was made subordinate to the Prison Service under the arrangements of the National Offender Management Service because for years they had worked closely together with the courts and the police in the local area. The amendment draws attention to that relationship. It also makes the point that magistrates must know what is capable of being done in prisons so that there is relevance between what is ordered to be done for the rehabilitation of someone and what is able to be delivered. That will be different all over the country, and rightly so because conditions will be different. Also, as I mentioned in Committee, if prisons and the probation service had to do the same thing everywhere, it would help sentencers enormously to know what was there and what was not there, and the Ministry of Justice would also know what there was and could make good any shortfalls.
The other day, I was very alarmed to hear that the governor of Lindholme, Moorland and Hatfield prisons in Yorkshire had ordered the probation service out of those prisons because the local probation service in that part of Yorkshire was having to work with G4S over the provision of probation services. Presumably, that must have been under the direction of the National Offender Management Service and under all the marketing strategies that it is following. I mention that because I am very disturbed about
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I do not know on what authority the governor ordered the probation service out, but it is alarming because, if he is able to do that, he is interrupting the whole rehabilitation process and drawing attention to the fragility of probation, which must work closely in the community, with police and probation being subordinate to prisons. Therefore, apart from supporting this amendment, which I think improves the Bill and draws attention to the rehabilitative element of all that is going on, I am also glad that it allows us to draw attention to the problems faced by the probation service without which we are not going to be able to reduce the vast numbers in prison who are choking that system.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater. I agree with everything she said. I remind the House that I currently serve on one of these committees in central London. It is not a statutory committee, but it is a very important committee from which I certainly benefit in my work as a magistrate, as I know all my colleagues do. Nevertheless, I want to make the point that there are other statutory committees. I am thinking of the bench training and development committees which are required to sit under statute. With the best will in the world, the officials administer those committees more thoroughly than they do the probation liaison committees, precisely because they are not statutory committees. For that reason alone, I recommend to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, that the statutory provision would add weight to what is, after all, one of the Government's primary objectives, which is to make sure that the magistracy has confidence in community sentences.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I support the amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, knows so much about the probation service and the magistracy. She draws attention to very little of which we should not take a great deal of notice. What my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham has just said about what is happening in the probation service is alarming. I hope that someone will be able to explain what has happened in a way that makes sense. I go back a long way within the areas of the magistracy and probation and the tremendous work that they do with offenders over very many years. I was a juvenile court chairman. I was horrified when I read the report by the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles. At that moment, I said to myself that if I were a probation officer, I would leave the service because I knew it had no future. It is, therefore, even more worrying to me that the whole of the very effective work that it still carries out is under this kind of threat. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us that this is not the way forward.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, as a signatory to the amendment, I am pleased to say that the Opposition is more than happy to support it and should the noble
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Baroness Northover: My Lords, this amendment returns to issues raised by my noble friend Lady Linklater in Committee. I very much welcome the contribution that she has made on this issue during the passage of the Bill. My noble friend has considerable experience, to which other noble Lords have referred, in bringing magistrates and probation together and building trust in alternatives to custodial sentences. She is very much to be applauded for that. Like her, I pay tribute to the work that magistrates and probation trusts do.
We agree with the noble Baroness that it is important that probation trusts provide information to sentencers about the services they provide in delivering community sentences. We encourage that sharing of information. We agree that such liaison is beneficial both to magistrates and probation. We also agree that it is important that magistrates see for themselves the work of probation trusts. We agree with the intention behind the amendment, but we would point out that the current provisions in legislation already allow for this kind of liaison between probation and magistrates to take place. The noble Baroness is seeking to get two sets of people to talk to each other and that can already happen. There is no statutory barrier to it, but I hear what she says about trying to ensure that this happens, and we are certainly in favour of promoting best practice. We will look to see if there is more that we can do to ensure that best practice is brought to the attention of probation trusts. We are also ready to work with the Magistrates' Association and others to ensure that we have practical arrangements in hand to encourage magistrates to take part in meetings so that information can be exchanged. We can, however, do this without changing primary legislation. I also note that the amendment does not ensure that magistrates attend these meetings-which would, of course, not be appropriate-it instead places the duty on probation trusts to provide information. As my noble friend Lord McNally said in Committee, we are not aware of a problem in the provision of information but would welcome further information on it if one exists.
I understand what the amendment is trying to achieve. It provides two illustrative examples of what regulations might cover. They include guidelines for liaison and a scheme for magistrates' expenses. I would like to point out to my noble friend that both of these are, in fact, already covered by existing arrangements. Guidelines for liaison meetings are set out in a protocol issued not by the Government, but by the senior presiding judge. We think it is right that the protocol should set out the process so that there is no suggestion that magistrates should be unduly influenced in sentencing by consideration of a local probation trust's priorities, rather than what they see as the appropriate sentence
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The second example which the noble Baroness gives relates to the payment of expenses. It is true that Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service does not routinely pay expenses for meetings between magistrates and probation. That does not, however, mean that magistrates can not claim expenses. They can, in fact, claim expenses from the probation trusts in attending these meetings. This is an area where the Government might assist by doing more to publicise the process if magistrates are unaware of it. We will certainly consider, as a practical approach, encouraging better liaison by publicising this.
The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, referred to a statutory committee. The amendment would not create a statutory committee; it would merely provide a regulation-making power to promote such arrangements if that was what was decided. On the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about ordering the probation service out, we are not aware of the detail of that situation. We would welcome further details, and I will then write to the noble Lord with our reaction to what sounds like a very concerning incident.
I hope that the noble Baroness is reassured that we are committed to best practice regarding liaison and that we will look at practical solutions. We welcome her input on guidance and expenses under the current legislation. I hope that, on that basis, she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I cannot thank everybody who has contributed to this debate warmly enough. It debate has raised many interesting, detailed elements; in particular, what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was saying about the serious knock-on effect for the old relationship that the probation service had with its community after it came under the umbrella of NOMS. The example of Lindholme indeed merits some careful examination.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for making reference to other statutory arrangements. As I understood it, my amendment was to recreate the very effective statutory liaison which existed previously. There was a reality to the liaison until 2000. This needs looking at again. I understand the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, about the worrying nature of the Carter report. I hope that it has, as it were, melted away. I must, as always, thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for his incredibly enthusiastic and good comments on this subject which are very heart-warming.
The Minister made some promises. I do not know to what extent they will make a difference, but just as I have encouraged her to have ears to hear, I had better have some ears to hear myself. I was minded to divide the House at this point but I do not think it would be proper until I have learnt a little bit more about what her promises mean. I will indeed return and look at this again, but for the time being I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
A court may not pass a sentence of immediate imprisonment for a term of less than six months unless it considers that no other method of dealing with the offender is appropriate, and must state the reasons for its opinion in open court in accordance with the provisions of section 174 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (duty to give reasons for, and explain effect of, sentence)."
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: I am sorry, my Lords-you must be getting very bored with the sound of my voice. I move on briefly to the second, connected clause, which is about the presumption against short sentences.
The presumption against short sentences carries with it the expectation that low-level offending will receive an effective community sentence which is designed to address the causes of offending behaviour and to emphasise that it is in this category that reoffending is the highest of all. This is the greatest area of sentencing failure in this country today, contrary to the central goal of government policy which is to reduce reoffending. There may, of course, be times when a short prison sentence has a place. An example might be when an offender is constantly breaching a non-custodial order and the magistrates feel that they are left with no option. Or it may give the victim of an offender a brief break from the hell of a violent partner and the chance to make changes to her life in the breathing space. These are legitimate but there should be a presumption against these short sentences which is not the case at the moment, as witnessed by the 38,000 sentences of three months or less in the year up to March 2011. That is an astonishing figure; these cases should be the exception and not the rule.
I suggest that we should follow the example of Scotland, where Section 17 in Part 1 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 is entitled, "Presumption against short periods of imprisonment". Subsection (3A) states that a court,
Many of these sentences are for women, as noble Lords mentioned in our debate on the previous amendment. They are just enough to do disproportionate damage to children, families, jobs and housing, and to the ability of chaotic, vulnerable people who commit minor offences to keep their lives together at all.
Imprisonment results in even greater chaos to the community, which then has to manage that chaos and to deal with the inevitable reoffending, whereas preventive, effective work through community disposals is far more likely to effect change and make people face up to the causes and effects on others of their law-breaking behaviour. Short prison sentences do absolutely nothing to address offending behaviour. No provision exists
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It is also worth re-emphasising that where communities want and need to demonstrate toughness in punishment, community sentences are the tough option-and are seen as such by offenders. It is much tougher to be made to face up to what you have done, and why, than to sleep away your sentence in a prison cell; and to learn about the consequences of your behaviour and be made to put something back into the community, for example by doing unpaid work.
An inquiry chaired by Peter Oborne and commissioned by an organisation called Make Justice Work, which is doing a lot of effective work in this field, highlighted how effective community sentences were seen to be by offenders, as well as how much more successful they were at tackling reoffending. This ties in with my earlier remarks about magistrates knowing what community sentences are like. If properly informed, they will be at the front line of awareness of the quality of the programmes, and of what works and is being well done, which will ensure that standards are high. I greatly welcome the Government's plans to start a consultation on the effectiveness of community sentences, and I look for reassurance from the Minister that a presumption against short sentences will form part of the framework of their thinking.
The second reason that I return to this subject is the need for sentences to come with an explanation in court of the exact reasons for a disposal-and in particular, where the threshold for custody comes in a case, and precisely why and how the threshold has been passed so that a community penalty has become inappropriate. Perhaps the Minister will confirm, following a letter of 15 March from the noble Lord, Lord McNally, whether under new Section 174, to be imported under Clause 61 of the Bill, the sentencing judge or magistrate must explain to a person sentenced to less than six months in prison that,
I am quoting from the letter. If this is the case, that amendment will be welcome, since previous legislation did not require the degree of clarity and explanation that I sought. I look forward to the Minister's reply and beg to move.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, Amendment 151B, moved by my noble friend Lady Linklater, relates to the imposition of short custodial sentences. It would place a duty on a court to consider all alternatives before imposing a short custodial term. The amendment would also require the court, when imposing a short custodial sentence, to explain why alternative sentences were not considered appropriate.
As my noble friend Lord McNally said when the amendment was debated in Committee, we completely understand the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater. We agree that short custodial sentences can be less effective than community sentences in tackling reoffending. The Government looked closely at community sentences and intend to consult very soon
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As the Minister also said, a duty already exists in current law. I urge my noble friend to look at Section 152 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which was passed by the previous Government and places restrictions on courts imposing discretionary custodial sentences. It states:
"The court must not pass a custodial sentence unless it is of the opinion that the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, was so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence".
That provision applies to all courts that are considering a custodial sentence of any length-not just a sentence of less than six months, to which the amendment is limited. The issue of short custodial sentences has been discussed in Scotland. My noble friend made reference to Scottish legislation. The new Scottish provisions are less onerous on judges than the existing law in England and Wales that I have just explained.
The current requirement on courts considering a custodial sentence is more wide-ranging and onerous than that contained in the amendment. I understand the intention behind it, but I hope that I can reassure my noble friend on this point. I hope that she will feed into the consultation on how to make sure that what is already in law is used as widely as possible. The law is as she wishes it; we need to ensure that it is fully understood and delivered. On this basis, I hope that she will withdraw her amendment.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, what alternatives to imprisonment are being considered to punish the persistent non-payment of fines, which is a very common reason why people are sent to prison for short periods? Is there no other way of recovering the amount of the fine that could be considered by the courts, and is the matter being looked at by the Government?
(a) prescribe cases in which either duty does not apply, and
(b) make provision about how an explanation under subsection (3) is to be given."
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I turn to a group of government amendments that concern three areas. I will deal first with the substantive amendments. The first concerns the duties on courts to explain a sentence. The second deals with powers to withdraw distress warrants. I will then deal with the grouped technical amendments that relate to the powers of magistrates to impose fines.
First, government amendment 152ZA relates to the revised provisions in Clause 61, which deal with the duties on courts to give reasons for, and explain the effect of, a sentence. These duties already exist under Section 174 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 but Clause 61 provides for a revised and simplified version of the requirements.
We had an excellent debate on this in Committee. My noble friend Lord McNally was very grateful for the opportunity to discuss the concerns that several Peers had in relation to this duty and the needs of offenders who have learning difficulties or other problems understanding the sentence imposed on them. I pay particular tribute to the noble Lords, Lord Rix, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Wigley, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Quin and Lady Gould, who have provided enormous insight into the problems that these offenders may face.
As my noble friend said in Committee, the Government were concerned to ensure that we got the balance right between removing unduly prescriptive provisions on sentencers while retaining the important duties to explain a sentence in court. The Government also wanted to ensure that the law remained practical, taking account of the million-plus sentencing decisions made by the courts each year.
The Government have looked again at these provisions, in light of the helpful discussions that we had in Committee. We believe that the basic statutory duties to give reasons for a sentence and explain the effect of a sentence, in open court and in ordinary language, remain appropriate for the vast majority of cases, but we also accept the point made by noble Lords that further guidance on this may be required.
With that in mind, we have looked at subsection (4) of the revised Section 174, which gives a power to the Lord Chancellor to prescribe cases where the duty to explain can be less onerous or not required at all. This power has existed since the 2003 Act came into force but has never been exercised by the Lord Chancellor. On reflection, we think that such a power would be better exercised by the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee, an independent body that provides rules that govern the way the criminal courts operate. The Criminal Procedure Rules already touch on the sentencing process so it seems more appropriate that the committee should have a specific power in this regard.
The first part of this amendment transfers the Lord Chancellor's order-making power to a rules-making power for the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee. Secondly, the amendment clarifies the scope of the power in relation to the duties on sentencers. The amendment
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I draw particular attention to the fact that the amendment also allows the rules to make provision about how an explanation of the effect of a sentence is to be given to the offender. This allows the rules to cover, if required, any particular circumstances the courts should consider when meeting the statutory duty to explain the effect of a sentence to an offender.
I have no doubt that the committee, in considering this new power, will take account of the debate that your Lordships had in Committee and the helpful representations that have been made from organisations such as Mencap and the Prison Reform Trust. I will ensure that these are flagged to the committee. We believe that the consideration of the detail of requirements is better dealt with via rules than primary legislation. One of the Criminal Procedure Rules already requires the court to,
I thank noble Lords for sharing the benefit of their wisdom and hope that this amendment achieves our goal of allowing for practical measures to be taken to ensure that the duties to explain a sentence are met in every case.
Government Amendment 152BYH relates to a very specific area of the law that deals with distress warrants. Distress warrants are issued following the non-payment of a fine, to recover the value of the fine imposed by the courts. They can be issued by a court or by a fines officer. In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, tabled an amendment that sought, among other things, to clarify the law on distress warrants, and in particular whether it was possible to withdraw a distress warrant once it had been issued. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford also highlighted the problem of the inability to withdraw distress warrants.
I indicated in response to noble Lords that the Government were willing to look at the issue and, if a change in the law was necessary, to return to it on Report. That is what we have done. I very much welcomed the opportunity we had to discuss this issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, as well as drawing on the expertise of the Z2K Trust and the CAB.
We accept that the current law is flawed. This amendment makes a number of changes, mainly to Schedule 5 to the Courts Act 2003. The new clause introduced by the amendment does four things. First, it provides magistrates' court fines officers with the power to withdraw distress warrants they have issued, in the circumstances specified in new paragraph (40A), which is introduced by subsection (8) of the new clause. This means that a fines officer can withdraw the warrant if there is any part of the sum left to pay and if the fines officer is satisfied that the warrant was issued by mistake. This can include a mistake made as a result of non-disclosure or a misrepresentation of a material fact in the case.
Secondly, the amendment makes it clear in new paragraph (40B) that a magistrates' court has a similar power to discharge a distress warrant issued by a fines officer as it does to discharge such a warrant issued by the court itself. Thirdly, the amendment enables fines officers to take further steps to enforce a penalty where a distress warrant has been withdrawn, but this time taking into account information that was not available when the distress warrant was issued; this includes the power to issue a further distress warrant. Finally, the amendment enables magistrates' courts to exercise any of their powers in respect of a fines defaulter where a distress warrant has been withdrawn, including issuing a further distress warrant.
Noble Lords will have noticed that while I have explained the amendment in terms of "distress warrants", the amendment itself refers to "warrants of control". That reflects the new terminology that will apply when the relevant provisions of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, which are presently the subject of consultation, are commenced. However, transitional provision will be made under the powers in Part 4 of this Bill to the effect that, until those 2007 Act provisions come into force, these provisions are to have effect as if the references to warrants of control were to warrants of distress.
These changes put the question of whether a distress warrant can be withdrawn beyond doubt and provide clear but practical powers for the courts and fines officers to deal with mistakes in the issuing of warrants. I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, and to the tireless work of Reverend Paul Nicolson of the Z2K Trust, for identifying these problems and encouraging us to address them.
Finally, government Amendments 152BA to 152BYG deal with the changes to magistrates' fines powers in Clauses 80 to 82. These amendments are largely technical and ensure that Clauses 80 to 82 operate as intended. The policy intention here is unchanged: the clauses remove the upper limit on the level of fines available in the magistrates' courts on summary conviction. They also allow for the uprating of other fines, in particular by providing a power to increase the maximum fine amounts for levels 1 to 4 on the standard scale of fines for summary offences.
I draw your Lordships' attention to the set of amendments that applies the provisions to fines imposed for common law offences which can be dealt with by magistrates. These offences-"causing a public nuisance" and "outraging public decency"-were not caught by the previous version of the clauses. It is important that magistrates should have the freedom to impose larger fines for these offences in the same way as they will be able to do when sentencing offenders committing statutory offences.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, as the Minister has explained, Amendment 152BYH is in response to an amendment I tabled in Committee with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of
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I am grateful to the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for meeting me and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, as well as representatives of Zacchaeus 2000 and Citizens Advice to discuss this and related matters. I am even more grateful that the Government agree that the current law is flawed and that this Bill provides the ideal vehicle for removing the confusion. I assume therefore that they do not expect that there will be a further suitable Bill coming along in the foreseeable future and thus they brought forward their own amendment.
I had hoped that I would be able to sit down at this point and that all would be sweetness and light, but as the noble Baroness knows I am worried that the amendment refers simply to the power to withdraw the warrant where there has been a mistake, albeit one made in consequence of the non-disclosure or misrepresentation of a material fact. Rectifying mistakes will not prevent all of the kinds of problems that Zacchaeus 2000 and Citizens Advice have identified. I am particularly concerned about cases where there has been a change of circumstances since the fine was set. For instance, if the debtor's or defaulter's material circumstances have changed because of illness, unemployment or relationship breakdown, that could have just the same effect on the ability to pay the fine as if there had been a mistake at the time of the original determination.
I have been in touch by e-mail with the Ministry of Justice about this. Its response was that while the amendment does not cover a simple change of circumstances, it is clear that a debtor can argue that the change of circumstances, if it had been known to the court, would have affected the decision to issue the warrant, so the decision was based on a mistake as to the debtor's circumstances and that, in other words, the provision in the amendment goes further than the simple slip rule would do.
Will the Minister clarify this statement for your Lordships' House? I do not really understand what it means. Does it mean that if a debtor's circumstances change for the worse after the fine has been set and the bailiff is made aware of it, the bailiff can withdraw the warrant and return the fine to the magistrates' courts on the grounds that the fine would not have been set on that basis had those circumstances pertained when it was set? If it means that, I urge the Minister to withdraw the amendment and make that clear at Third Reading. Otherwise I fear that we face a new source of legal confusion. If it does not mean that, I fear that the amendment will not go nearly far enough to resolve the kind of problems that Z2K and Citizens Advice have brought to our attention. Will the Minister withdraw the amendment and think again before Third Reading? Can the Minister confirm that a mistake will cover cases where the defaulter was not in court when the fine was imposed so that the mistake was made because the full circumstances were not known?
In Committee, the Minister prayed in aid the revision of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents, and in particular the standards they set for dealing with vulnerable and socially excluded people. The revised standards for such situations, now published on the MoJ website, are virtually identical to those previously in operation. It is clear from the experience of Z2K and Citizens Advice that they have not provided an adequate safeguard. That is why we had hoped that the amendment would ensure that bailiffs have discretion within the application of the Wednesbury principles-in other words, a test of reasonableness-to return a fine to the magistrates' court when they discover that the debtor is in a vulnerable situation as set out in the National Standards for Enforcement Agents.
I am disappointed but realise that the Minister signalled this in Committee. Can I ask that the MoJ monitors this? If it is clear that the National Standards for Enforcement Agents are not on their own providing an adequate safeguard, will the Government consider returning to this issue at the next legislative opportunity?
In conclusion, I thank the Government for having moved on this issue. However, I am seeking assurances about the situation with regard to a change of circumstances, to be made clear in an amendment at Third Reading, if necessary, and about monitoring the effectiveness of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents, which state that,
Lord Thomas of Gresford: Having read the amendment as drafted, I was confused as to whether the mistake was a technical mistake, a mistake of law or a mistake of fact of the basis upon which the order was made. It is not clear from the wording here that the latter is the proper meaning. I am heartened to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, that she has received a communication from the Ministry of Justice saying that mistake does not mean the slip rule, which is a very familiar concept to lawyers. It may not be familiar to the bailiff who is knocking on the door. It is important that my noble friend should make it quite clear that a mistake of fact is needed; in other words, that if the magistrates' court had been aware of the particular circumstances of the individual at the time that the warrant was to be enforced, it would not have made that order. If that is what it means and the Minister says so from the Dispatch Box, I would be satisfied with that. If that is not what it means, we need to discuss the issue further.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I speak in support of government Amendment 152ZA and also speak on behalf of my noble friend Lord Rix who unfortunately is unable to be present because of his wife's ill health. I thank the Minister for the extremely productive meeting that we had, which has been mentioned. The points that my noble friend has asked me to raise arise out of the amendment which came after that discussion in support of what was said.
The context of this is the duty of the court to explain sentences in ordinary language, which we raised in Committee. The Minister admitted that the phrase would ensure only that most people could understand an explanation. While we welcome the amendment and believe that it has the ability to extend comprehension of the effect of a sentence on all parties concerned, which is an important development, we are still not certain that it covers the point about ordinary language. On that, we would like some clarification. We believe that the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee could offer a similar safeguard, but we are not sure about where that safeguard extends and how wide it is. Will the Minister clarify how confident she is that the committee will make rules regarding the need to go beyond ordinary language in certain circumstances? Will it actually make these rules? To what extent are the rules made by that committee binding on the court? The concern is that if the rules are merely guidance, they might not be put into practice, despite the best intentions of the Government and the committee.
Will the Minister tell us about the time scales? When will the committee be empowered to make such rules and when might they be enforced? Are we looking at something imminent? Will it depend on when the Bill is passed? Finally, what opportunities will there be for Members of both Houses to scrutinise the implementation of these measures in the future? If they are rules of the committee rather than something in the Bill, it is more difficult for us to monitor them. They have an enormous effect on the people whom we mentioned in Committee and their ability to understand the process of law.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, this has been another useful debate. I welcome the support of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for the Government's changes to the duty to explain. I encourage him to feed in his concerns to the committee. I have no doubt whatever that noble Lords will scrutinise how the duty is being implemented. The fact that this may not be part of legislation will not stop people reporting, debating and asking whether this is working as it should. The Government clearly cannot dictate to the committee what it should make its rules on and what it should say, but I have no doubt that when and if noble Lords find that this is not being implemented as they feel it should be, that will have its effect.
On distress warrants, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for her guarded welcome of the Government's amendment. She questioned whether the amendment goes far enough and was kind enough to send an e-mail with a number of questions. She has referred to our response, which gives me an opportunity to expand on or clarify a number of those points. She was concerned, among other things, about whether it allowed for the withdrawal of a distress warrant where there had been a change in the offender's circumstances or where the offender was deemed to be vulnerable. I will do my best to reassure her on a few points.
It is clear that the government amendment allows for the withdrawal of a warrant where there is a mistake in the decision to issue the warrant in the first place. The amendment covers the case where an offender is not in court when the warrant is issued, which
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The noble Baroness also raised the question of bailiffs dealing with debtors who find themselves in hardship or appear to be vulnerable. It is important that we strike the right balance between protecting the vulnerable-she is right about that-and ensuring that fines, where appropriate, are paid. Noble Lords will have seen recent criticisms of fine payment rates. The fine is by far the most used sentence of the criminal courts.
In practice, however, when bailiffs come across hardship as defined in the guidance they should not execute the warrant and return it to the court. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I must say that we would welcome any further information on this matter and on the effectiveness, which she has queried, of the guidance. It is very important that that is monitored. The Government do not think that it would be appropriate for a bailiff simply to withdraw a warrant in regard to a fine issued by a court. This could undermine the decision made by the court, which is why such a power is not included in the amendment, although I realise that that will disappoint the noble Baroness. If, however, the fine was imposed because the full facts were not made clear to the court, or they had changed, the provision in the Bill could apply.
In the case of changed circumstances since the fine was imposed, the debtor can contact the court at any time to speak to a fines officer to have the matter reviewed. The Government would encourage any debtor to contact the fines officer or court about a change of circumstance, which is clearly a better approach than waiting until a bailiff seeks to execute a warrant, but it is important that we separate the two parts in that respect.
As I said in Committee, the Government think it is important that bailiffs are dealt with via effective guidance, national standards and contractual obligations. As the noble Baroness knows, the Government are consulting on the operation of bailiffs, and we will carefully consider responses to that consultation. I hope that the noble Baroness and the organisations with which she is associated will feed into that consultation.
I hope that the noble Baroness can be reassured that the government amendment addresses the key legal issue with distress warrants and places the decision on them properly with the courts. How bailiffs operate is a matter for consultation in order to make sure that they operate properly and as we would wish. I hope therefore that the noble Baroness is reassured and content with what the Government have brought forward.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I got the impression that the Minister was saying that outside organisations should do the monitoring. I would argue that the Government have a responsibility to monitor this. I realise that some of this will be covered by the current consultation, but if there is to be a reliance on
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Baroness Northover: I understand the noble Baroness's point. I was trying to indicate that a number of organisations are closely involved in such cases. Their information is extremely useful to the Government because they are often closer. However, the Government have picked up on the concerns, which has led them to decide that they need a consultation on the operation of the bailiffs system. I hope that she will be reassured by that government involvement in trying to take that matter forward.
Lord McNally: My Lords, this group of government amendments contains a number of minor and technical amendments to suspended sentence orders, detention and training orders, youth remand, and the release and recall provision. This group also contains a few substantive amendments to youth remand. Last week, I wrote to all Peers about these amendments, and a copy of the letter has been placed in the House Library. The youth remand-related substantive amendments in this group mean that any imprisonable offences committed while a young person was remanded in prison will be taken into account in order to determine whether a young person has a history of relevant offending.
Amendments 152ZB and 152BZA remove two provisions that are no longer necessary. Clause 75(10) and paragraph 20 of Schedule 9 contain amendments to the Armed Forces Act 2011. The effect is to modify amendments that Schedule 3 to that Act makes to the Armed Forces Act 2006. This was to ensure that those amendments would work if this Bill came into force before the 2011 Act. In fact, the amendments in the 2011 Act will come into force on 2 April 2012, which makes Clause 75(10) and paragraph 20 of Schedule 9 redundant.
Amendments 152YH to 152YQ are technical amendments that will ensure that Armed Forces legislation properly reflects the changes that the Bill makes to the release provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The Bill makes changes to Section 240 of the 2003 Act on how relevant periods of remand time are credited towards a prisoner's sentence, and in Schedule 15 makes certain transitional arrangements. These amendments ensure that these changes are also reflected in the equivalent Armed Forces legislation.
Substantive Amendments 152H, 152K, 152P, 152T, 152U, 152W, 152X, 152YD and 152YF in combination provide that where a young person who is being dealt with under the remand provisions of the Bill has previously committed imprisonable offences while
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Currently, 17 year-olds are treated as adults for remand purposes and can be remanded only to prison. In addition, 15 and 16 year-old boys not deemed vulnerable and made subject to secure remand must also be remanded to prison. Offences committed in prison are not taken into account for the purpose of establishing a history under the equivalent tests in the current legislation, but the restructuring of the remand framework is based on the principle that all under-18s should be remanded according to the same test. Under the new remand framework, remands to prison for under-18s will cease.
These amendments are necessary to ensure that courts remanding offenders under the new framework will take into account any offences committed while an under-18 was previously remanded to prison under the old remand framework. They will ensure that all under-18s subject to the new remand framework or who may be considered for an electronic monitoring requirement on bail are treated equally.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, this is a very important social issue. I do not think that anyone in the House disputes the fact that alcohol-related crime is a scourge blighting too many of our city and town centres and one we must address. I pay tribute to many noble Lords, especially the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Jenkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for ensuring that we have reached this point. Through their amendments in Committee for an alcohol-monitoring requirement, this issue was flagged up in the way that it was last year in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.
In that regard, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, who brought her knowledge, experience and wisdom to this area, including when dealing with the previous incarnation of this issue during the debates on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, has given an insight into the terrible harm that alcohol-fuelled violence can cause to victims and their families. I applaud the work that she has undertaken to help the Government establish a more effective approach to building active
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As noble Lords have demonstrated through their persuasive and informed words, it is vital that we look at new innovative ways of tackling the causes of alcohol-fuelled crime. That is why the Government have committed, as I set out in Committee, to undertake pilots to trial sobriety requirements as part of conditional cautions and community orders. Since then, we have considered the noble Baroness's amendments. I was also fortunate to listen to the presentation from the United States based around experience in both South Dakota and Hawaii.
We have attempted to capture the essential elements of the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in order to provide a practical power for the court to impose sober behaviour on offenders who commit alcohol-related crime. Through these means we will send a clear message that if you abuse your right to drink and damage those around you, that right can be taken away from you. That is why the Government are bringing forward their own amendment which provides courts with a new power to impose an alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement as part of a community order or suspended sentence order on an offender who has committed an alcohol-related offence.
The amendment forms an important part of our wider response to these problems, introducing a new and innovative way of tackling the causes of alcohol-fuelled crime through enforced sobriety schemes. I pay tribute at this stage to the work of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, and the deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, and to their commitment in this area. Their work on the alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirements is a testament to their determination to make a stand against alcohol-fuelled crime in the capital and we will continue to work with them in the development of this initiative.
The requirement as part of community orders and suspended sentence orders will therefore focus on serious offences, in particular violent offences, where alcohol is often a contributing factor, such as common assault, actual bodily harm, affray and violent disorder. Under the Government's proposed alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirements, offenders will be required by the court to abstain from drinking for a period specified by the court up to 120 days. They will be required either to attend a police station or test centre to be monitored by breathalyser equipment or to wear an alcohol tag around their ankle. This innovative new electronic monitoring technology will test sobriety at half-hourly intervals during the day.
Before imposing a requirement, the court will have to establish a link between alcohol consumption and the offending behaviour. In a case where the offender does not comply with the conditions of the requirement, existing breach proceedings will ensue and the courts will have robust powers to penalise the non-compliance.
I wish to make clear that this requirement does not amount to treatment. That is not to say that supporting programmes such as alcohol awareness and education courses do not have a use here, alongside the abstinence
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These new provisions enable the Government to carry out initial trials which will test the processes and practicalities of enforced sobriety schemes and help build the confidence of the probation officials and sentencers who will operate them. We will make use of the lessons learnt to inform further work in this area. We are carrying out an additional pilot to test sobriety schemes as part of conditional cautions. The conditional caution is an out-of-court disposal which aims to tackle low-level crime. The pilot scheme will therefore be targeted at offences such as drunk and disorderly, criminal damage and public disorder, which account for a considerable volume of alcohol-related offences overall. The condition requires an offender to abstain from drinking on the days they are most likely to offend as a result of alcohol and to attend a police station to be tested, using a breathalyser, on those days-for example, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
We have already had interest from a number of police areas in piloting the conditional caution scheme, particularly from cities where alcohol-fuelled crime is a severe problem. We heard quite a lot about that in Committee. We will announce the pilot areas in the forthcoming government alcohol strategy. The first conditional cautions enforcing sobriety should be administered from April/May. We believe that this is a considered and effective amendment to test out the important concept of reducing alcohol-fuelled crime.
Amendments 152ZC and 152ZD seek to remove provisions under Section 223 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to amend the minimum period of time specified for a drug rehabilitation requirement or alcohol treatment requirement under Sections 209 and 212 of the same Act. The Government are taking forward provisions in the Bill to remove the statutory minimum period for drug rehabilitation requirements and alcohol treatment requirements in order to increase the use and effectiveness of these requirements, allowing for greater flexibility in tailoring and delivering treatment and recovery options to individual needs. Provisions under Section 223 for these requirements are therefore no longer necessary.
The alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement, introduced by our amendments, is to be available to the courts in England and Wales but not, of course, to the courts of Scotland or Northern Ireland. It is our intention that the requirement should not be capable of being imposed by a court in England and Wales on a person who is resident in Scotland or Northern Ireland. We undertake to bring forward and table amendments at Third Reading to make that clear. I beg to move.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I have some amendments in this group, but of course I am absolutely delighted that the Government have decided to bring
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The government amendments do not include the "offender pay" content set out in my amendments. I understand that this is a complex issue and, depending on the outcome of the pilots, could be revisited at a later stage, but it has wider implications. The advantage of now being able to proceed with breathalyser pilots as well as tags is that, for those who have to present daily or twice daily for breathalysing, they will encounter staff who will be able to see how they are coping and offer them support to cope with all the other aspects of their lives that they have not been managing well and that have been contributing to their alcohol abuse. There is that support element and I know from the United States that the failure rate with tags is about nine times that with breathalysers. That is partly because the offenders tend to think that the electronics will fail and do not believe in the efficacy of the tags. They sometimes try to tamper with them and so on. It will be very important to see how it works here and compare the different systems.
This week there was a motion to seek international endorsement for these types of programmes from the 180-signatory nations to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. These kinds of schemes are being debated there as well. I have had meetings with police officers from different parts of the UK and a consistent story that comes through is that after 10 pm at night alcohol-related problems are between 80 and 100 per cent of their workload, depending in part on the night of the week. Evidence of decreased reoffending has come from the USA and in the pilots we will be able to see whether that is replicated here. There, they are reporting a more than 50 per cent drop in reoffending at three years; a more than 50 per cent drop in drink-driving offences; and a more than 10 per cent drop in domestic violence. There has also been a fall in incarceration rates. Alcohol use appears to be interrupted before the person who has been abusing the alcohol can actually kill somebody, so they have decreased the very serious end of crime as well. We know that in London the Metropolitan Police recorded 18,500 offences flagged for alcohol. Offences involving violence against the person accounted for 64 per cent of those.
I want to turn briefly to the question of domestic violence because I fear there has been some misunderstanding over domestic violence and alcohol abstinence. The police already have evidence that on the nights of some football club victories domestic
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It is also important to stress that there has been consultation with domestic violence groups in the London area. The Domestic Violence Offenders Focus Group looked at the London Probation Service, Domestic Violence Lead, the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, Phoenix Features and Steps 2 Recovery. It also held a separate focus group in the London area with domestic violence victims and had representation there from the AVA project, the NIA project, Women's Aid, Imkaan and Victim Support. The consultation has been carefully conducted and heeded and in the initial pilots there is a thought that domestic violence may not be included right at the beginning. However, later on it may well be that the victim would welcome some alcohol-monitoring of the offender while all of the domestic problems they have been facing are tackled. These include aspects of anger management, behaviours that trigger a response in the abuser, and so on.
I go back to the fact that in the United States the experience has been that they can use this for domestic violence cases when they are properly screened out. In this country we know from a Home Office study in 2003 that 60 per cent of domestic violence offences were alcohol-related, that 73 per cent of offenders had used alcohol prior to the offence and that 48 per cent were alcohol-dependent. I would stress again that for that group they would be screened out.
I have also gone through the planned programme with London where it is made clear that dependent drinkers would not be appropriate for this scheme because they need treatment. It is the non-dependent drinkers who are suitable and they would need a pre-sentencing screening report to assess their suitability for the alcohol monitoring scheme and the terms defined.
In summary, I cannot express strongly enough my delight that the Government have taken this seriously and how important it will be that we have a tool that the courts can use to begin to try to tackle the problem of alcohol-fuelled crime. The excellent report by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, who I am glad to see is in her place, endorses the fact that we cannot ignore what is happening in our country. We cannot deal with alcohol-fuelled crime without addressing it head on. The beauty of these proposed schemes is that they will empower offenders to begin to take control of their own lives and in the process provide them with support. I am delighted to welcome the government amendments.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I, too, warmly welcome the alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement that the Government have introduced, and I thank my noble friend Lady Northover for the hard work that she has put into bringing together all the parties in order to get an agreement. That is why we have this measure before us tonight. Perhaps I may also say that my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and my noble friend Lady Jenkin have worked over the past few weeks not only to bring this to the attention of the Government but to find a solution that will enable us to see this provision on the statute book before, we hope, too long.
These will be trials, of course, and I hope that they prove a valuable tool in addressing the issue of binge drinkers. During the working week many of these people, of whom there are increasing numbers, hold down responsible jobs; but at the weekend they decide that they have not had a good night out unless they get paralytically drunk, to the point where not only do they have to be helped home but-as the noble Baroness knows, having taken me to visit St Mary's Hospital Paddington to see the work being done there-they take up huge National Health Service resources. I am sure that if we are going to tackle what in this Chamber we euphemistically refer to as binge drinking, these provisions will be valuable across a range of criminal activity and act as a deterrent for the particular group of binge drinkers who will find it difficult to comply with some of these measures during the working week. They may well start to take some responsibility for their behaviour.
The question of when alcohol dependency becomes a medical condition has already been mentioned. I would stress to my noble friend on the Front Bench that the Government should continue as they have started by ensuring that alcohol abuse does not remain the Cinderella of the drugs and alcohol scenario. It is important to ensure that people get appropriate treatment and that it is sustained so that they can recover. As we know, that takes a long time and it takes resources. It is not something that is easy to achieve, but it can be done. I hope that the Government will not take their foot off the pedal in terms of ensuring that proper treatment is available to those who become alcohol dependent.
Finally, these are trials, and as is the case with all trials, it may well be that some defects are identified by the end of the trial period. Some things may not work properly and could be different. If that is the case, I urge the Government not to abandon the trials and say, "Oh well, they didn't work"-I am sure they will not do that-but to look for ways to modify the proposals, even if it means coming back to the House to make further changes to the legislation. I feel that this is one step on what will be a long journey to identify and address the systemic problems of alcohol abuse that we have in this country.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: I, too, welcome the Government's statement. I am one of those who have been on this journey since we commenced it in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, I want to
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The noble Baroness, Lady Browning, was also an important part of this process. I agree with what she has just said about how we should move forward with the Government. I also thank the Government for having shifted their position over the past few months. I believe that they have now presented to the House a workable set of propositions. They will be implemented on a trial basis, but they embark on an entirely new approach and are unlike anything we have tried before. It is probably the first time that the word "sobriety" has been used in legislation in this way. I may be wrong on that, but I certainly have not seen it while I have been here over the past decade. It gives us a platform on which we can try to build in the future.
I also congratulate the Government on bringing forward these proposals in advance of publishing their strategy on alcohol. How many times are we given papers and strategies, but not the teeth to accompany them? Yet in this instance the Government are taking action in advance of the words that no doubt will follow when the paper is produced. I think that people across the whole Chamber are very pleased indeed with the progress that has been made over the past months. We look forward to seeing how the trials pan out. They may need to be adjusted, but they will provide the Government and magistrates around the country with a new tool to help us tackle the pernicious problem of the abuse of alcohol.
Baroness Newlove: My Lords, I will not go on for too long because others have covered the issue. I welcome the Government's take on this, and obviously I want to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, on her hard work. Her foot has been flat down on the pedal. As someone who has suffered and who is passionate about making a change in our society, I am really grateful for these pilots. As we have just heard from the noble Baroness, after 10 o'clock at night 80 per cent of all crime is alcohol-related. My husband was attacked at 10 o'clock, so I reiterate that this is very important.
I welcome these pilots, but as we have just heard, they are only pilots. However, we have to think outside the box. They are risky, but risks can be turned around. It is important that we do not wait for more victims and families to lose loved ones. We must do what we say on the tin and make communities feel safe and be happier places to live in. I receive many letters from people who hide behind their doors because they are scared of what they are going to face outside. I live with that every day and I want to make sure that we tackle this problem. I am very interested in these pilots and I wait with bated breath to see what they do.
Even the magistrates welcome this development; I have spoken to magistrates in two areas. Also, offenders will be helped to turn their lives around. Even so, their
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Lord Avebury: My Lords, I also want to echo the warm congratulations which have been expressed to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, on achieving some nine-tenths of what she set out to do in her original amendment. She is quite right to suggest to your Lordships that we should accept the Government's solution, which omits the "offender pays" part of her original scheme. However, ultimately we will need to consider whether offenders should be made to pay some of the costs that they impose on the community-not specifically in the context of alcohol-related offences, but perhaps over a broader area. I see no reason why "offender pays" schemes should not be considered in a more general way, if not in the context of these particular amendments.
It is excellent news that London is to be one of the pilot areas, considering the huge burden that alcohol-related crime imposes on the capital's health and criminal justice systems. According to the London health improvement board, the capital suffers a higher rate of alcohol-related violence-particularly sexual violence-than the rest of England, and the total annual cost of the health and social impacts of alcohol misuse to the capital is a staggering £2.46 billion. The more robust the measures for tackling this appalling waste of financial and human resources, the better it will be.
Perhaps I may ask my noble friend about the other towns and cities where she told us the trials relating to conditional cautions are to be been conducted. If these are to be started in April or May, then surely some of these cities must have been identified already. It would be useful if she could give us further details on that matter before the end of this debate.
Perhaps I may also ask my noble friend why the Government do not provide money for additional major cities, apart from those which have already been chosen, where alcohol-related crime is a big problem, so that they can join in the pilots at their own discretion. That would be a really valuable example of localism that would almost certainly achieve a substantial net return on the investment. Strathclyde, in Scotland, has its own AMR pilot in the near future, depending on the availability of funding from the Scottish Government. I wonder whether the Welsh Assembly would have the power to pilot a similar scheme in Cardiff. In England, however, a city that had a mind to conduct a pilot would have to provide the upfront costs, while the downstream benefits would be largely, though not entirely, at the national level. I would grateful if, when my noble friend comes to wind up, she could say a word or two about how the funding would be organised if, as we believe, these pilots demonstrate a substantial return on the investment for the country as a whole.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I shall be exceptionally brief. Like my namesake, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, I congratulate everybody who has made possible what has happened in the course of the last three or four months. I was a roughrider in the column of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, when she originally raised the South Dakota project. I have no intention of repeating anything that I said on the police Bill, except that I am extremely grateful to her for letting me know, after I remarked in the police Bill proceedings that the South Dakota legislation had been transferred into California, that although the Californian legislation is permissive, the Sacramento experiment is going forward. I am wholly delighted by this turn of events. Having had a very minor part at an earlier stage, I find it very satisfying to see the momentum that has gathered.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I am not sure what the correct collective noun is for a group of persuasive Baronesses, but whatever it is, we-the House, and indeed society-are greatly indebted to this particular group of persuasive Baronesses, supported as they have been by the occasional male Member of this House.
I would like to join other noble Lords in congratulating the Government on responding so positively and readily to the proposals to carry forward the pilot scheme and to come forward with a legislative framework to adopt the proposals. These have been pushed very hard by the Mayor of London and, indeed, by London Councils as an organisation. There has been complete unanimity politically in London, and in this House too, about the merits of this scheme.
Coming as I do from a city where, unfortunately, alcohol consumption is particularly high-leading generally to low-level crime and a low level of violence which is nevertheless a disturbing social phenomenon-I am very glad that we are beginning to see an approach here that we hope will make a difference. As has been pointed out, however, an alcohol strategy is still awaited. This is perhaps only a first instalment in what may need to be a major review of how we deal with these problems.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay-who has been so much the moving spirit, if I can be forgiven the use of that term, in these matters-mentioned one particular matter: domestic violence. There has been consultation about this, as the noble Baroness rightly said. At a meeting held in May 2011, all the violence-against-women agencies present expressed,
That is not in any way to derogate from the proposals being made, but it does emphasise the need to look carefully, in the context of the pilot, at what will be run as part of the experiment, and to look very sensitively at the concerns of the organisations that work most closely with women as the principal victims of domestic violence, to see whether this is necessarily the most appropriate way of dealing with those problems.
I certainly have an open mind about that, and I assume that the Government would as well. I am therefore just uttering a word of caution. It should not necessarily be assumed that domestic violence is an appropriate topic for inclusion in a scheme of this kind. It is a matter that needs to be tested. The American experience might be helpful in that respect, of course, but the culture is not necessarily the same here as it is in South Dakota or other parts of the United States. I think that we have to be a little careful about jumping to conclusions.
With that single reservation-it is only a note of caution-I very much endorse the principle and the Government's amendments. I would also like to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said about costs. I assume that the Government would cover the cost of pilots as they take place in localities. In local government parlance, this would be a new burden, and the convention is that such new burdens are funded by government. As it is a pilot, it should not be too expensive to run-and ultimately, we hope, the public purse will benefit significantly from any savings that accrue, not least in the health service, where such savings would be extremely desirable. I mean savings not only in financial resources but in the time and skills of staff.
The Opposition strongly support this principle. With that note of caution, we congratulate the Government and look forward to taking matters further. Perhaps I may also ask whether the Minister or her colleagues would be prepared to meet before the pilots are instituted with representatives of the organisations concerned with violence against women to explore their concerns and to see whether, perhaps together, a joint approach might be worked out to test the scheme in practice or to see how it might be modified to reflect the real concerns they have expressed. We certainly support the Government and these amendments.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady Browning for their incredibly kind words to me. However, it is they who have been the doughty fighters who have brought us to this position. I should also like to thank my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Ken Clarke, for his help in taking forward this innovative idea.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, mentioned domestic violence, and as both noble Lords emphasised, these are complex issues which require multifaceted approaches. We will need to see how, in tackling the abuse of alcohol, there might be a beneficial effect in this area as well. The provision is not targeted at domestic violence, as noble
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We agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, that alcohol treatment is extremely important; as a spokesperson for health, I hope that I can reassure noble Lords that we fully recognise that. I want to reassure the noble Baroness that we believe that the pilots are there so that we can learn from them. We need to learn what works elsewhere and see how it might need to be adapted within our own legal, social and economic situation. However, we are optimistic that these are interesting proposals to take forward.
My noble friend Lord Avebury asked about the funding for the pilots and the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, also flagged that up. Existing resources will be drawn on for some of the work with breathalysers, but the Government are indeed providing funding for the pilots and this will be announced shortly. My noble friend Lord Avebury asked about the areas for conditional caution pilots. I hope he will be pleased to hear that this will be announced in the alcohol strategy next week.
Above all, I thank noble Lords for their support for the government amendments, and especially for the work of the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Browning, and others in bringing us to this point. I look forward to our learning from these pilots.
(a) that, subject to such exceptions (if any) as are specified-
(i) the offender must abstain from consuming alcohol throughout a specified period, or
(ii) the offender must not consume alcohol so that at any time during a specified period there is more than a specified level of alcohol in the offender's body, and
(b) that the offender must, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the offender is complying with provision under paragraph (a), submit during the specified period to monitoring in accordance with specified arrangements.
(4) The level of alcohol specified under subsection (1)(a)(ii) must be that prescribed by the Secretary of State by order for the purposes of that provision (and a requirement under that provision may not be imposed unless such an order is in force).
(a) by reference to the proportion of alcohol in any one or more of an offender's breath, blood, urine or sweat, or
(b) by some other means.
(6) The arrangements for monitoring specified under subsection (1)(b) must be consistent with those prescribed by the Secretary of State by order (and an alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement may not be imposed unless such an order is in force).
(a) arrangements for monitoring by electronic means;
(b) arrangements for monitoring by other means of testing.
(a) the consumption of alcohol by the offender is an element of the offence for which the order is to be imposed or an associated offence, or
(b) the court is satisfied that the consumption of alcohol by the offender was a factor that contributed to the commission of that offence or an associated offence.
(12) The fourth condition is that the court has been notified by the Secretary of State that arrangements for monitoring of the kind to be specified are available in the local justice area to be specified.
"(ja) an alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement (as defined by section 212A),".
(a) omit the "and" at the end of paragraph (f), and
(b) at the end of paragraph (g) insert ", and
"(h) section 212A(8) to (12) (alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement)."
"(ja) an alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement (as defined by section 212A),".
(a) omit the "and" at the end of paragraph (f), and
(b) at the end of paragraph (g) insert ", and
(h) section 212A(8) to (12) (alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement)."
"(5) An electronic monitoring requirement may not be included in a relevant order for the purposes of securing the electronic monitoring of the offender's compliance with an alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement.
(6) Subsection (5) does not prevent the inclusion of an electronic monitoring requirement in a relevant order which includes an alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement where this is for the purpose of securing the electronic monitoring of an offender's compliance with a requirement other than the alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement."
"(ba) section 212A(2) (alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement)".
(2) The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (1) with the effect that section (Alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement) is in force for the whole of England and Wales (a "general commencement order") without having previously made a piloting order.
(3) Subsection (2) does not prevent an order under subsection (1) from bringing section (Alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement) into force for the purpose only of making orders under section 212A or 223 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 or rules under section 222 of that Act (and such an order is not a general commencement order for the purposes of this section).
(a) in relation to the area or areas specified in the order, and
(b) for the period specified in the order,
but otherwise for all purposes, or for all purposes other than application by the Armed Forces Act 2006.
(a) amend section (Alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement) so as to enable the general commencement order to bring it into force with those amendments;
(b) amend or repeal any provision of this Act in consequence of provision made under paragraph (a).
(a) repeal section (Alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement);
(b) amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so as to reverse the effect of that section on that Act;
(c) make other consequential amendments or repeals.
(8) An order under this section may make transitional, transitory or saving provision (including, in the case of a piloting order, provision relating to section (Alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement) ceasing to be in force at the end of the period specified in the order).
(a) a general commencement order, or
(b) an order under subsection (5) or (7),
may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament."
In section 142(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (purposes of sentencing) after paragraph (c) insert-
"(ca) the achievement of restorative justice,"."
Lord Woolf: My Lords, Amendments 152BZZA, 152BZZB and 152BZZC all deal with restorative justice. Restorative justice is one of the areas of good news in the criminal justice system. I should have said-I do so with apologies now-that I have the considerable advantage that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, supports what I propose in these amendments. Indeed, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool would also have supported the amendment had he been able to be present today.
The fact is that the benefits of restorative justice are now widely accepted, but its role in the criminal justice system is sadly lacking in statutory recognition. It is essential that it now receives this recognition, and the Bill would be an appropriate vehicle for that recognition to be provided.
In Committee, an amendment before the House sought to give statutory recognition, but the statutory recognition then proposed is very different from what is now being sought. I have to concede that the amendment that was put before the House then was not, even with the skills of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, capable of being tweaked to achieve the purpose needed. Following in the footsteps of the Government in relation to the amendment that we just dealt with, for which the Government should be congratulated on taking such a positive role, the present amendments were drafted at a very late stage at the end of last week. Those amendments followed a similar pattern, although there is a significant difference between restorative justice and the alcohol and monitoring requirements.
The present amendments are to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which provides the framework for sentencing that is of great importance to courts up and down the land when they come to sentence. In relation to three separate aspects of the statutory provisions they ask no more than that one of the options-one of the menus-that those statutory provisions should include is restorative justice. That is needed, and it is surprisingly lacking.
The amendments would require the Government to take no action and would require them to spend no money, but they would take into account the fact that it has been established as a result of experience that restorative justice has an important part to play in the administration of justice, not only in ensuring that
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"In partnership with the Home Office we will develop a framework for restorative justice. This will provide guidance to local practitioners and help support them to develop and deliver effective, best practice restorative justice approaches suited to local need".
If the full impact of the amendments now proposed had been delivered in a rather more timely way, there could have been consultation between myself and Ministers so that it could have been explained from the point of view of those who have the task of sentencing in courts just why these amendments are needed and appropriate at this stage. Although the matter was only put down in its current form a late stage, for which I owe the House and the Government an apology, we now have a proposal that fits in with what the Bill is trying to do. I personally can claim very little of the credit for these amendments. They are the product of excellent work by the Prison Reform Trust, of which I declare my position as chairman, the Restorative Justice Council and many others-in particular, Paul Cavadino, whose knowledge in this area is quite outstanding. If the Government cannot accept these amendments today, I urge them to give me and those who support me an opportunity to explain in detail why these amendments are very constructive and have no conceivable downside as far as I can ascertain. I hope the Government will listen and respond to what I have just said.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, it is clear from our debates in Committee that there is agreement in all parts of the House on the merits of restorative justice and the case for ensuring that it is seen as a central and fundamental part of our criminal justice system. I will make five key points. First, it has a salutary impact on many offenders by bringing home to them the impact of their offence on victims. All too often offenders minimise or simply do not think about the effect of their actions on other people. In a restorative justice process the offender has no alternative but to face up to the impact of his or her offences on those at the receiving end. Secondly, restorative justice gives victims much more satisfaction than other ways of dealing with offenders. A lot of research has been carried out on this point. It is clear that victims who have been through restorative justice express satisfaction with that process. It enables victims to tell their story, express their hurt and receive recognition in a way that no other procedure does. It helps to give victims
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There were a number of speeches in Committee on this matter so I will not repeat all the arguments in favour but I want to put two or three suggestions to the Minister. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, has tabled these new clauses and I think they require some discussion, even between now and Third Reading. One way is to include restorative justice in the statutory purposes of sentencing. Another is to enable courts to include restorative justice requirements in community orders. Another option that is open is to spell out that courts can use activities to require offenders to take part in restorative justice processes. Any or all of these proposals and approaches would help to keep restorative justice in the minds of sentencers and to achieve the Government's aim of ensuring that it becomes a central part of the criminal justice system. This is not the time to look at a final outcome but I hope very much that this will open up a discussion with the Government with a view to seeing if they will move on any of these fronts. I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, in what he has said.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I rise briefly to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. There was an extremely useful conference last week by the Thames Valley Partnership which has been pioneering restorative justice for many years. It was interesting to hear exactly how far the National Offender Management Service has gone in preparing for restorative justice to be administered in every prison and every probation area around the country. Indeed, staff are being trained to do it. In addition, the police have trained the all-important committee supervisors and people who run the committees which make it work. Therefore, it would seem logical if this effort is to be overseen and able to come to fruition that it should be backed up by the statutory recognition in the Bill if at all possible.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I strongly support the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. We are entirely in agreement that restorative justice represents a significant way forward. It is calculated, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, to save public funds, reduce reoffending rates and prove acceptable to the wider community, which is not as hard-line in these matters of penal policy as sometimes people
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Baroness Northover: My Lords, these amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and my noble friend Lord Dholakia return to the question of restorative justice. The noble Lords have been outstanding exponents of the importance of restorative justice and we appreciate the contribution that they have made in the House, nationally and internationally in this matter. The Government support the principle of restorative justice as part of an effective response to crime. It offers a crucial opportunity, not only to assist in the rehabilitation of offenders by making them face the consequences of their actions and seek to make amends for the damaged inflicted on others, but to give victims a greater stake in the resolution of offences and in the criminal justice system as a whole. Indeed, victim satisfaction rates have been extremely positive. Additional work in this area will enable us to realise the benefits of restorative justice further. We already have encouraging evidence around its impact on reoffending rates and anecdotal evidence that it encourages offenders to seek further necessary interventions, such as drug and alcohol treatment.
As I mentioned in Committee, we are committed to delivering greater use of restorative practices across the criminal justice system and we are putting a great deal of time and effort into building up the capacity of youth offending teams, probation trusts and prisons to provide restorative justice services, investing over £1 million in order to do so. We just heard reference from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, to the Thames Valley restorative justice partnership. It is developing training materials and guidance for using restorative justice in the adult system as part of our response to more serious offences. Its experience is invaluable.
These amendments take a three-pronged approach to adding restorative justice to the current legislation. The first would make restorative justice a statutory purpose of sentencing alongside the existing purposes of punishment, reduction of crime, rehabilitation, protection of the public and making reparation to offenders, as set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The second would create a new restorative justice requirement for a community order or suspended sentence order, while the third would add the words "restorative justice" to the existing activity requirement.
We fully share with noble Lords the importance of embedding restorative justice in the system. However, we are not persuaded that these amendments are quite the right route towards this. Noble Lords will no doubt accept that the statutory purposes of sentencing are outcomes for judges and magistrates to have regard to when considering what sentence will be appropriate,
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The third amendment turns its attention to the activity requirement, which allows the court to consider the use of restorative justice when it has been advised that the victim and offender have agreed to take part and provision is in place to deliver such a requirement. We accept that the amendment simply adds a specific reference to restorative justice and mediation into the current section of the 2002 Act that sets out the details of the activity requirement. However, we do not feel that increasing the use of restorative justice is about imposing further legal duties at this stage. It is about supporting a culture change in the mind of practitioners to develop and deliver effective restorative justice practices and building capacity across the system, all of which must be rooted in local need and responsive to local crime and reoffending. We appreciate what noble Lords themselves have done to promote that culture change.
The Government have several areas of work in train to help to promote the same culture change and boost provision across the system. Within this, we are introducing neighbourhood justice panels to bring local victims, offenders and practitioners together. We are in the process of creating a clear national framework for the use of out-of-court disposals, which will include the use of restorative justice to improve its use and effectiveness. Through the National Offender Management Service, we are providing £1.13 million of training, guidance and support to staff and volunteers in probation trusts and in prisons to enable more post-sentence restorative justice processes. In the youth system, we are providing £630,000 to enhance the training of referral panel members and YOT workers so they can facilitate restorative justice conferences where suitable. We have recently published our victims' strategy, which contains proposals in this area, including giving victims, for the first time, the right to request restorative justice in the victims' code, which we hope will provide a much stronger emphasis on making restorative justice available to more victims of crime.
The Government are also about to consult on the use of community sentences, which will include a specific reference to restorative justice, looking at how to develop restorative justice across the range of the criminal justice system. Of course, respondents to that consultation may recommend new provisions. I hope noble Lords will contribute their wisdom to that process.
I can go further, because my noble friend Lord McNally has authorised me to invite the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, to meet him and ministerial colleagues to see how his ideas on restorative justice fit in with what we are proposing. I hope that other noble Lords will play a part in this as well. I hope that the noble and learned Lord sees that as a useful way forward, so that restorative justice finds its proper
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Lord Woolf: I thank the noble Baroness for that response and express my gratitude to others who have expressed support for the amendments. I firmly believe that they are an indication of matters that should be undertaken to take restorative justice forward as the noble Baroness just described. After the generous offer that was made for meeting with my noble friend Lord McNally, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
(a) an offence is relevant if, immediately before the commencement day, it is a common law offence or it is contained in an Act or an instrument made under an Act (whether or not the offence is in force at that time), and
152BH: Clause 80, page 62, line 3, leave out from "and" to end of line 4 and insert "provision made in exercise of a relevant power in reliance on subsection (2) does not affect such fines or the operation of such restrictions"
(a) for an offence in relation to which subsection (1) is disapplied to be punishable on summary conviction by a fine or maximum fine of an amount specified or described in the regulations, and
(b) a relevant power which, immediately before the commencement day, can be exercised to create an offence punishable on summary conviction by such a fine or maximum fine."
(b) for the power to be exercisable to create an offence punishable on summary conviction by such a fine or maximum fine."
152BU: Clause 80, page 62, line 33, leave out from beginning to "amend" in line 34 and insert "Regulations under this section, and regulations under section 138 making provision in relation to this section, may"
(a) may be exercised from time to time, and
(b) are without prejudice to other powers to modify fines for relevant offences or fines that may be specified or described when exercising a relevant power."
"and references to an offence, power or provision contained in an Act or instrument include an offence, power or provision applied by, or extending to England and Wales by virtue of, an Act or instrument."
(a) may be exercised from time to time, and
(b) are without prejudice to other powers to modify fines for relevant offences or fines that may be specified or described when exercising a relevant power."
(a) the fines officer has delivered to P a notice ("the current notice") that is-
(i) a further steps notice that has not been replaced by a notice under this paragraph, or
(ii) a notice under this paragraph that has not been replaced by a further notice under this paragraph,
(b) P remains liable to pay any part of the sum due, and
(c) the fines officer wishes to be able to take one or more steps listed in paragraph 38 but not specified in the current notice.
(a) state that the fines officer intends to take one or more of the steps listed in paragraph 38,
(b) specify the steps that the fines officer wishes to be able to take, and
(c) be in writing and dated.
(a) after "37(6)(b)" insert ", 37A(3)(a)", and
(b) in paragraph (a) (steps include issuing warrants that authorise taking control, and sale, of goods) for "levying" substitute "recovering".
(a) in sub-paragraph (1)(c)-
(i) after "37(9)" insert "or 37A(4)", and
(ii) after "further steps notice" insert "or replacement notice", and
(b) in sub-paragraph (4) after "further steps notice" insert "or replacement notice".
(a) after "further steps notice", in both places, insert "or replacement notice", and
(b) after "may be taken" insert "and retaken".
40A (1) This paragraph applies if, in taking a step specified in a further steps notice or replacement notice, the fines officer has issued a warrant of control for the purpose of recovering the sum due.
(a) P remains liable to pay any part of the sum due, and
(b) the fines officer is satisfied that the warrant was issued by mistake, including in particular a mistake made in consequence of the non-disclosure or misrepresentation of a material fact.Discharge of warrant of control by magistrates' court
(a) in taking a step specified in a further steps notice or replacement notice, the fines officer has issued a warrant of control for the purpose of recovering the sum due, and
(b) the fines officer subsequently refers P's case to the magistrates' court under paragraph 42.
(a) P remains liable to pay any part of the sum due, and
(b) the power conferred by section 142(1) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (power of magistrates' court to re-open cases to rectify mistakes etc) would have been exercisable by the court if the court had issued the warrant.Duty of fines officer if warrant of control withdrawn or discharged
(a) in taking a step specified in a further steps notice or replacement notice, the fines officer has issued a warrant of control for the purpose of recovering the sum due,
(b) the fines officer has referred P's case to the magistrates' court under paragraph 42,
(c) the magistrates' court has discharged the warrant of control under paragraph 40B(2), and
(d) the magistrates' court has not discharged the collection order or exercised any of its powers under paragraph 42(2).
(a) take (or retake) one or more of the steps specified in the further steps notice or replacement notice that was the last notice to be delivered to P under paragraph 37 or 37A before the warrant of control was issued, or
(b) deliver to P a replacement notice and take one or more of the steps specified in that notice, or
(c) refer P's case to, or back to, the magistrates' court under paragraph 42.""
(a) publish a strategy designed to promote the just and appropriate treatment of young adult offenders in the criminal justice process, and
(b) appoint a person with responsibility for leading and co-ordinating the implementation of that strategy.
(2) Publication under subsection (1)(a) shall be effected in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the strategy to the attention of persons engaged in the administration of criminal justice and of the public.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, in an earlier debate today the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, said that the two most vulnerable groups in prison are children and women. There is another group that is in many ways the most neglected as well as the most vulnerable, and that is young adults, who are in the halfway house between being children and adults. There is nobody in charge of them-they are lost souls. In the prison system, those in young offender establishments, or the split sites, are poor relations. Most facilities are given to children aged between 15 and 18, under the requirements of the contract let by the Youth Justice Board, and young offenders get what is left, which is frequently not enough to occupy them entirely. Whereas we have a Youth Justice Board concentrating on the needs of children and have had many reports, including that of the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, which we discussed earlier, dealing with women, there is nothing dealing with this group other than the Criminal Justice Alliance and the Transition to Adulthood Alliance, which consists of 13 organisations from the criminal justice, health and youth organisations that have been calling for a long time for something to be done about this.
In Committee, my noble friend Lord Adebowale and I mentioned the problems of this group, but largely in connection with the community. I want to mention that community trials have been going on but also to focus on imprisonment, because in our prison system at the moment young men of this age group are disproportionately represented. At the end of September 2011, there were 8,317 18 to 20 year-olds in prison in England and Wales. The sentenced numbers in this
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There are very promising signs. In Committee, we mentioned the success of the intensive alternative to custody schemes, which are being piloted and pioneered by the Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire probation trusts. They were tailored to the specific needs of this age group. The probation officers commenting on the schemes said, interestingly, that this was the first time they could remember having any hope of achieving anything on reoffending with this age group because at last there were programmes that were tailored to their needs. That was in stark contrast to comments made by the Chief Inspector of Prisons on young adults in one prison; he said that the young men were "sleeping through their sentences". Commenting on young offenders in this group as a whole, he said that there was a lack of engagement in work, education and training opportunities across the whole YOI estate.
That cannot be sensible-certainly in terms of tomorrow-because if this group, who are so volatile in criminal activities, are being left to do nothing while they are in the hands of the criminal justice system, it must be a contributor to crime rather than a preventer of it. Commenting on the amendment that I put forward in Committee, the Minister warned that the Government did not have the resources to deliver intensive interventions with or supervision of this age group. I acknowledge that it is expensive. It is not a cheap option to do something with them, but on the other hand I put it to the Government that it is more expensive to do nothing and that we cannot afford that. What should we therefore best do?
Since Committee, I have had extremely productive meetings with the Minister, the Prisons Minister and Simon Boddis, who is the official in NOMS responsible for devising and introducing offender programmes-and who had the good fortune to be my principal psychologist when I was Chief Inspector of Prisons. I must admit that I have been encouraged by much of what I heard about what is going on, in areas such as the introduction of work and drug and alcohol treatment programmes. I have to admit, however, that I am concerned by the apparent overfocusing on payment by results, because I am uncertain whether payment by results really works when measuring reconviction. Who is responsible or not responsible for preventing reconviction? You really do not know which factor, which programme or which event it is, therefore how can you know exactly who qualifies for payment?
Yet in order even to have a payment-by-results regime, you have to have a structure in which it is conducted. What I do not see in the whole NOMS structure, as I have said on many other aspects of the system, is anyone in charge or being responsible for
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I know that some people have suggested that the age group should be 18 to 24, not 18 to 20. I disagree at the moment for practical reasons, because it would be possible to make a halfway step by inviting the chairman of the Youth Justice Board to take on responsibility for the 18 to 20s. That would put them under the same sort of focus as children have been under and leave the over-21s in the adult system. That is not to say that I do not recognise that there is considerable flexibility in this, because people mature at different ages and it may well be sensible to develop a system in future where we can take account of that. However, until and unless something is done this overrepresentation will contribute hugely to problems and expense in the future, and therefore it would seem sensible to put a structure in place now. While I admit that parts of this amendment are prescriptive, I believe what I have tabled to be the very minimum that it might be sensible to do to help resolve this very serious problem.
Lord Judd: My Lords, in supporting this amendment, briefly, I very much agree with what the noble Lord has just said: that it is a halfway step. Yet better a halfway step than no step at all. I shall make two observations. I had the privilege for nine years of being the president of YMCA in England. I was particularly impressed by the work that it was doing with young people in prisons and detention centres. During that period, I became very concerned about exactly what preoccupies the noble Lord. It is almost as though we were deliberately building the foundations for a wasted and inadequate life, with future social costs and disruption, reoffending and the rest.
We know that society is becoming increasingly competitive and that it has huge pressures for the young. I say not simply on moral grounds, which I feel strongly about, but on the economic grounds that make absolute sense for the future of the country's economy. To avoid the future expense of things going wrong repeatedly, and if we have any sense at all about rehabilitation and any commitment to it, these years are crucial. It is the very time that people are on the threshold of life, and they need to be equipped to face it. I make a personal plea to your Lordships: just think of our own families and of our own children and grandchildren in this age group. Think of the turmoil that they are faced with and the support that they need to sort out their lives for the future. Why are we ready to abandon these inadequate, neglected people to a system in which they are not getting any kind of
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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has outlined as a beginning is a very important thought for the Minister. I hope that he will be able to adopt it. We all know what goes on in prisons with young people. We all know, and now all pretty well agree, that, early intervention, even in a prison situation, but preferably even earlier so that that does not happen, will in the long run save money. The flexible way in which what is proposed has been outlined allows the Minister to organise it in such a way that it can take account of the actual age of the individual. That will be a very good step in the right direction, whether or not it can be written into law. We have plenty of things to try to add to the law in addition to the ones on the agenda. I hope that it will be taken very seriously and that practical steps will be taken.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I rise very briefly to endorse every word that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said. How much it resonated with me. The older end of YOIs are famously inadequate and have been so for some time, no doubt partly because they are also a famously difficult group. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, highlighted the fact that these are very often young people in transition. Transitions are difficult and absolutely awful to go through. I have always said that I am never off my knees in gratitude that I will never have to be a teenager again. There is merit in the idea that they could be, as it were, somehow incorporated-that, if the arms of the YJB became wide enough, they could encompass them in some way. I am not entirely sure how much the YJB is in favour of such a proposition, but maybe there are ways of choreographing that. However, I have simply risen to say that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has put his finger on a very real and challenging problem.
The other day, I was visiting Merseyside Probation Trust, which is doing an incredible range of first-class work. Its IACs-intensive alternatives to custody-are particularly impressive. I spent some time with one girl who had been through it. She had form like you had never seen and she came singing the praises of the person from the probation service who had been working with her through this process. It was truly worth while in that case. Maybe it is very expensive-it is certainly very time intensive-but it is something that I, along with what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, want to endorse.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, as I sit as a magistrate in both the youth and adult courts, I make one simple point. In the youth courts, we routinely say to youths, "You must behave. If you do not behave, you may come back to the adult court and of course that is a much more serious matter." What we do not tell them is that the reason that it is a much more serious matter is because there is much less support for them in the adult court system. Everything that the
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Lord Beecham: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has identified very clearly the nature of the problem and has come forward with proposals to help deal with it. He made a number of points that are very telling. Perhaps a couple of other matters could be added to the issues he referred to. The first is perhaps implicit in what he was saying: the very high reoffending rates among this particular group. The second, and slightly different, point is that there is a disproportionate number of young offenders from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, which is an aspect that we have not much discussed in the course of the Bill. It is not a function of any greater criminality among that group. All the evidences suggest that, for whatever reason, the likelihood of a custodial sentence-or, for that matter, a refusal of bail at an earlier stage-is much greater for people from that group, compared to offenders with comparable offences. There seems to be an in-built bias against BME offenders, which is a matter that needs to be addressed. The other issue is what happens after certain custodial sentences are completed because, after short sentences there is, effectively, no follow-up. That is a significant contributor to the high reoffending rates.
I hope that this proposal-that there should be a requirement to produce a strategy for offenders in this group-commends itself to the Minister. The phrasing of the amendment is perhaps a little difficult in terms of what might be appropriate for statute. However, the principles that the noble Lord has advanced are surely ones that would commend themselves to the Minister. Again, I hope that he can either indicate policy acceptance of the thrust of the amendment or agree that he will consult further with the noble Lord, maybe with a view to bringing back at Third Reading something to meet the common objectives of the Government and Members of your Lordships' House. Certainly, I would support the noble Lord's aspirations in this respect.
Lord McNally: My Lords, we keep coming round to these amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. As he said, we have had debates in this House and bilateral meetings about them. There is a certain disagreement. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, seems to think-and I am sure that this will provoke him to get to his feet to say that I have got it wrong-that we have to have a strategy and a command structure and, after that, all will be well. I am old fashioned enough to believe that the buck stops with the Minister. The constant desire to have strategies is not a real substitute for doing things.
Having said that, I said earlier today that you do not have to be in this job long before you realise that we have too many women in our prisons. Neither do you have to be in this job very long to see that the 18 to 24 year-old age group among males is a key area for criminal behaviour. Therefore, we have to think very hard about how we break this cycle of criminality. The
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Lord McNally: I said that if I knew then-let me get back to the speech. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham and the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, acknowledged that the group we are discussing is a difficult one but that many of the ideas for dealing with it are extremely expensive. We are trying to deal with it but the Government's view is that it is not appropriate to prescribe in detail from the centre processes which purport to improve outcomes. Such a way of working would lead to inflexibility and take up resources which are better deployed elsewhere. We are looking wherever possible to empower local decision-making and delivery by prison and probation trusts so that they use resources in a way that responds to local priorities. That also fits with our policy for the management of young adult offenders as individuals based on an assessment of risks and needs rather than their age.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is a bit premature in expressing doubts about payment by results. The Government believe that it is a key reform, and we expect it to deliver better outcomes for all offenders, including young adult offenders. Young adult offenders will be involved in the pilots at Peterborough and Doncaster prisons and-I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred to this-in the local justice reinvestment pilots in Greater Manchester and a number of London boroughs. The same point applies to designating a person to lead and implement a strategy for young adult offenders. In particular, we seek to devolve resources and decision-making so that priorities can be set locally and needs assessed on an individual basis. I assure noble Lords that we will continue to be responsive to the need to improve outcomes for young adult offenders within the resources that we have available. I believe that the House will be reassured to know that the YJB is working closely with the National Offender Management Service and other key stakeholders on the transition of 18 year-olds from the youth justice system to the adult justice system. I should point out that many 18 year-olds who are near the end of their custodial sentence are held in the youth secure estate and are not transferred to the adult estate when this is considered to be in their best interests. This enables them to continue with education or training undertaken in the youth estate and avoids an unnecessary disruption close to their release.
As I say, I do not underestimate the scale of the problem which the 18 to 20 or 18 to 24 year-old sector faces, particularly as regards young males. More work needs to be done and more thought needs to be given to how we break into this cycle of criminality. However,
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Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I expected that response. However, I remind the Minister that I have worked in Whitehall for many years. I do not disagree with him about Ministers being responsible; of course they are, but the question is how do they exercise that responsibility? They cannot do it on a 24 hour, seven days a week basis because they have many other things to do. Therefore, they need a structure to help them do it. The noble Lord referred to a command structure. You can call it what you like but it is a matter of people being responsible and accountable to a Minister for making certain that what the Minister wants to happen does happen. That happens everywhere-in schools, hospitals, businesses and the Armed Forces, but it does not seem to happen in the Prison Service.
I am very concerned about disseminating all responsibility down to the local level. I have said many times in this House that two things are involved in this. One is the question of what should be done, which is the central responsibility, but how it is done is the local responsibility. If you get that the wrong way round and nothing but "how?" comes out from the centre at the top and all the "what" is left down below in the local areas, you get confusion. People in the local areas need to know what they have to do. They should be allowed to disburse their resources locally as there will be different needs in different areas. That again seems to me common sense because unless you have a "what?" coming down, nobody knows where they are going. I have spoken to the chairman of the Youth Justice Board, and I understand that that body would be more than happy to tackle this measure. However, the chairman made the point that she did not want the youth offending teams involved in working with this age group. I accept that entirely. However, the success of the intensive schemes pioneered by the probation service shows that it is taking a keen interest in this group, and I see no reason to interrupt that. Therefore, it seems to me that the framework is there.
The Minister mentioned that a lot of things are going on but was not very specific. In the same spirit in which we have met to talk about many issues after Committee, can we meet to discuss this matter as it is far too important just to be left in the air at half past eight at night without, frankly, it being completely clear? I understand what he says about payment by results.
Lord McNally: I am very willing to meet. The noble Lord knows how much I value his experience, expertise and commitment in this area. I am happy to meet him to discuss this matter as often as he likes. However, later this week I will be sitting down with ministerial colleagues to discuss a detailed report on the various areas of MoJ business with the civil servants with direct line responsibility for them. We will have gone through policy areas and will be looking at various policy outcomes. The idea that somehow the National
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On the other side, as has been acknowledged, we are dealing with very difficult and straitened times. The resources available to target this area are extremely limited. We shall see whether we can involve payment by results as one way of getting good results and resources into this area. We do not doubt the problem. I am very willing to continue to have discussions with the noble Lord, but I do not want to give him any false hope that we can go down this way in this Bill.
Lord Ramsbotham: I thank the Minister for that reply. In no way am I seeking to interfere; I am merely seeking to ensure that our commitment to this very important problem is properly recognised because we wish to share everything that he has shared with us that has come up from below to ensure that due account is given when we get an opportunity to do so.
I am not going to talk about payment by results because, as the Minister says, this is early days and the Government have set their sights on it; they have pilot schemes in place and we shall know more. It is premature to take more than that, other than to reflect concerns that are being reflected to me by people who have to operate it on the ground, particularly the small voluntary organisations which operate in this area and which are finding it enormously difficult to survive. In view of the fact that there is so much to play for in this area, it would be sensible to continue the dialogue. Therefore, I wish to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, this group of amendments would remove the Government's proposed amendments to the Bail Act 1976. The Government's amendments remove certain exceptions to the presumption that bail should be granted to a defendant. Currently, bail can be withheld if judges or magistrates believe that the defendant will commit offences on bail, not turn up for subsequent court hearings, or interfere with witnesses. The Government seek to replace that with a no real prospect of custody test to make it far more likely that low-level offenders will get bail. Of course, currently the vast majority of low-level offenders already get bail.
The Government's proposed changes are poorly thought through and could, in some cases, have the reverse effect to the one they intend. I understand that they are motivated by looking at the statistics of those
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I have come up with three practical examples which I believe will undermine the object of the Government's proposed changes and the premise on which they are based. My first example is that of a sentencing bench. A sentencing bench sits and decides to give a community sentence where a defendant has previously been remanded in custody before trial. The sentencing court will know that, if it gives a prison sentence for a low-level but imprisonable offence, it is very likely that the defendant will walk free on the day of the trial or very shortly afterwards.
However, if the sentencing bench gives a community sentence, there is an opportunity for ongoing intervention by the probation service either through a tailored programme for drug rehabilitation, unpaid work or any of a number of courses that they can make. Of course, it is true that a court will be much better informed when it is giving a sentence than when it is making a decision about bail. I believe that it is misleading-and the Government are misleading themselves when they do so-to look at the bald figures of those who have been remanded in custody and those given community sentences.
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