HC Deb 23 July 1963 vol 681 cc1366-70
Mr. Ross

I beg to move, in page 7, line 8, after "State", to insert: shall review each case at the end of six months and". The Amendment refers to the supervision of persons released from detention centres. We now lay down that a person going to a detention centre shall go for the fixed period of three months but that part of the original sentence shall be supervision, after release from the three months, for one year. In Committee I thought that one year was far too long, I thought that it would be quite punitive and would lead to resistence on the part of the person concerned, bearing in mind the nature of the sentence and probably the nature of the offence and the implication that a short sharp sentence would bring the young person to his senses and that specialised treatment at a detention centre was designed to do that. I felt that to add to that supervision for 12 months thereafter was really punitive and might well not have the desired effect.

We on this side do not treat these as party matters. There is room for differences of opinion, and I think that differences of opinion were expressed on this subject in Standing Committee. Nevertheless, I still hold to my original view, although I do not urge it on this occasion. What I do suggest, however, is that there should be a formal review of each case at the end of six months to see whether or not one could dspense with the other six months or, indeed, with any further supervision. I regard this as reasonable.

No doubt, the noble Lady will say that the matter is constantly under review. I do not need to wait to hear her read her typescript message to know that that will be the reply. Nevertheless, I feel that there should be a formal. consideration of each case. We do something very similar after a certain period in mental health cases. It was another Undersecretary of State who dealt with that legislation so, perhaps, the noble Lady does not remember it. It is essential in these cases, too. We should give a person something to work towards so that he may feel that there is a chance of being freed from supervision as a result of his behaviour and response to treatment and supervision. This can, I am sure, be beneficial. In any event, it will relieve my mind of the feeling that the consequence of maintaining the inflexible period of 12 months will be the building up of resistance among persons being supervised so that there will not be that co-operation with the supervising officer which is essential for the success of supervision itself.

In Standing Committee, the noble Lady gave us some statistics. She was able to tell us that at present supervision is voluntary and that here had been voluntary co-operation in all the cases she could cite. I fear that what we now have under a voluntary system may be marred if we make it an obligation and that young people sentenced to detention will regard it as an unjustified punishment. Any such feeling will be mitigated if we make possible a formal break at six months.

Even so, I hope that if the Amendment is accepted it will not have the result that there will not be consideration in particular cases of the possibility of ending supervision at a stage even earlier than six months.

Mr. Steele

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said that there could be a difference of opinion. I take the view, as he did in the first instance, that six months might have been better. Indeed, this is what was recommended. Nevertheless, the fear I have is that if the Amendment is accepted six months might be regarded as the minimum period before a review can take place. I agree with my hon. Friend that six months' compulsory supervision might well be sufficient, but I feel that to stipulate in the Bill that a review should take place at the end of six months may mean that the first review does not take place until then.

I am convinced that it is much better, in all the circumstances, to keep open the possibility of a review at some earlier stage. An offender sentenced to three months in a detention centre serves two months, in fact, and, on his release, the person supervising him may find that even after only six weeks' or two months'supervision—this is probably the most difficult period—it would be an advantage to say that supervision was no longer necessary. This might be helpful in appropriate cases. I suggest, therefore, that it might be dangerous to put the period of six months in the Bill as the time for a review.

9.15 p.m.

Lady Tweedsmuir

The speeches of the hon. Members for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) show that in Committee upstairs we certainly expressed individual views. I am afraid that on this occasion I must take the view of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West and not accept the Amendment put forward with his usual eloquence by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock.

I appreciate and understand the reason behind the Amendment—that no offender released from a detention centre should be kept under supervision longer than is absolutely necessary. I think that in Committee upstairs we were all agreed on that. However, I do not accept that a review of each individual's case at a stated time will be any more effective than a frequent review of his case carried out as a matter of administrative practice. That point was put very well by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West. A review at a fixed period might tend to make reviews before or after that period not so frequent or so thorough.

As I explained on the previous Amendment, regular reports, probably monthly, as at present for borstal boys, will be made on released detention centre inmates and they will deal specifically with the point as to whether the person has progressed well enough to have his supervision lifted or the conditions of supervision modified.

A consideration highly relevant to this proposal is contained in the Report of the Committee on Children and Young Persons, the Ingleby Committee. The Committee found that the statutory six-monthly review of the cases of persons on probation required to reside in a hostel or institution for twelve months from the date of the order led the probationer to expect that he would be allowed home at the end of that time. The period after six months was regarded as a further sentence. Therefore, the Committee recommended against a statutory review at six months.

I should have thought that a detention centre inmate whose supervision was not cancelled after six months would feel just the same way, and therefore I suggest that the less formal but more continuous review is, perhaps, the best way to treat this problem.

Mr. Ross

On the, understanding that there will be this administrative review over the whole period, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lady Tweedsmuir

I beg to move, in page 7, line 12, at the beginning to insert: Subject to the provisions of the next following subsection. Perhaps we may take with this Amendment the following Amendment, in page 7, line 32.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker


Lady Tweedsmuir

These two Amendments are the last in a series of Amendments intended to reduce to a minimum the number of persons detained in a detention centre who are not undergoing the full detention centre training course. As the underlying reasons for these Amendments are very much the same as those for Amendments which have been already moved, I shall not trouble hon. Members with a long explanation.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 7, line 32, at end insert: (3) The power conferred upon the Secretary of Stale by the last foregoing subsection to recall an offender to a young offenders institution may be exercised in the case of a person who has not attained the age of seventeen years if the Secretary of State is satisfied, having regard to the character and development of the person, that it is appropriate that he should be detained in a young offenders institution.—[Lady Tweedsmuir.]