HC Deb 15 April 1948 vol 449 cc1244-7

Amendment made: In page 18, line 42, leave out appearing to the court to be," and insert "who is."—[Mr. Younger.]

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 19, line 2, at the end, to insert: and that he may thereafter be required to be under the supervision of a probation officer for a period equal to the period for which he is ordered to be detained. This raises a question which was discussed on the Committee stage, in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman finally said he would give consideration before the Report stage. He undertook to consider whether the words he proposed including in the Fifth Schedule were sufficient to meet the point. Under Clause 17, there is power to send a person under 21 and not less than 14 to a detention centre for a period from three to six months. My Amendment proposes to deal with what should happen to that person when he comes out of the detention centre, where, as the right hon. Gentleman said, he will learn a short, sharp lesson.

It would be an improvement to this Bill, as well as an advantage, if the court, sentencing a young man to a detention centre, has power to say that he will go to a detention centre for one month and will thereafter be under the probation officer for a period of three or four months. It is very important that the young man should be placed under the probation officer. He should feel that he has an obligation to the court to comply with the requirements of the probation officer after he has served his period in a detention centre. I think that we may get better co-operation in that way, rather than by relying solely on the voluntary efforts of the probation officer.

The right hon. Gentleman, in meeting this point, pointed out that he would make provision for probation officers and after-care committees to look after the person who has been in a detention centre. I am sure that the House will welcome any steps taken to that end. It is quite a different thing to arrange with a body of the highest repute to take on that duty, than to arrange that the individual concerned shall be ordered by a court to be upon probation after service of his period of detention. I hope that I have made the point clear to the right hon. Gentleman. I am not quite sure that I succeeded in doing so on the Committee stage, having regard to his answer.

I feel that one does not want a young man to be in a detention centre a moment longer than is necessary, but it may facilitate a court which has a difficult task in deciding what is the right thing to do, and it may enable the court to pass a shorter period of detention, if they had an opportunity, which they have not under this Bill as it now stands, of saying that there shall be detention for one month or six weeks, and, thereafter, the young person will be placed on probation. They cannot do that now. All they can say now is that the young person shall go to a detention centre for three to six months, and, thereafter, it will be left to the excellent voluntary work of the after-care committees and probation officers, but with this important element lacking—that the young gentleman will not be under the obligation to comply with the requirements of the probation order.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

I beg to second the Amendment.

One aspect which has not been touched upon concerns the probation officer. If the young offender goes wrong later, he will come into the hands of the probation officer in some form or other, and I think that it is important that the probation officer should be able to have custody of him as soon as he has finished his period of detention.

Mr. Ede

There is not much, I think, between the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) and myself on this point. I should like to assure him that I understood his argument previously, although I may not have expressed myself in reply to it in the best way. The fault was mine, and not his, in not making the point clear. Probation for people over 14 is an arrangement that is entered into with the consent of the probationer. We might be faced with the situation that it was thought right to send a young person to a detention centre. When he heard that, he might be unwilling to consent to be placed on probation after that period. I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman means that, in this particular case, his consent should not be sought, and that he should be sentenced to probation or not. That would entirely alter the relationship of the probationer to the probation service.

That is the difficulty with which I am confronted. It may be that a person perfectly suitable for a detention centre would in fact not be sent there because he declined to accept the probation period, if it were left voluntary. If it were made compulsory, then his cooperation with the probation officer might not be as effective as we would desire it to be. The success of probation depends upon some appreciable measure of co-operation on the part of the probation officer. If he regards it as merely an association that has been forced on to him, I do not think that the best effect will be obtained from it. That, as shortly and as clearly as I can put it, is my objection to the form of words which the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to insert into the Bill.

I have provided in the Fifth Schedule that it is part of the probation officer's duty to advise, assist and befriend in such cases and in such manner as may be prescribed, persons who have been released from custody, and this provision was inserted in the Bill with these particular young people most clearly in mind. I suggest that the efforts of the probation officer to establish contact with the young person will probably be more effective in this class of case if the association is a voluntary one, entered into with consent and not forced upon him by an order of the court. I am very grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for the interest which he has taken in this matter, and I think that we both have the same object in view. My own fear is that if we make a compulsory probation order, the probation officers do not start off with the kind of relationship which exists where the probationer has consented to the probation order.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

With the leave of the House, may I say that the right hon. Gentleman has obviously given great thought to this matter. I was not suggesting compulsory probation orders. I had in mind that the young offender might well agree to submit to the probation order at the time he is told that he has to go to a detention centre. In these cases, I should have thought that it would have been an advantage that the court should have power to make a probation order. I was not suggesting that it should be compulsory in the least degree. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to give this matter a little further thought. In view, however, of what he has said I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Younger

I beg to move in page 19, line 22, to leave out "appears to the court to be," and to insert "is."

This and the following five Amendments are all on the same drafting point, namely, the evidence required by a court of the age of persons coming before it.

Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendments made.