HC Deb 23 July 1963 vol 681 cc1365-6

9.0 p.m.

Lady Tweedsmuir

I beg to move, in page 4, line 20, at the end to insert: (3) Where it appears to the Secretary of State that a person detained in a detention centre is unfit for such detention by reason of his health, without prejudice to any other powers he may have in the matter, he may, after consultation where practicable with the judge by whom or the presiding chairman of the court by which the sentence was passed, release that person; and he shall then be required to be under supervision in accordance with section 11(1) of this Act. This is the first of a series of four Amendments, all with the same purpose. In Committee there was discussion of the detention centre training and of the admitted difficulties which result from having in the centre persons who were not subject to the full training of the centre, whether because of unfitness or because they were in the centre on recall from supervision for a breach of requirement.

We think that this difficulty cannot be entirely removed. In some cases there is no alternative to the detention of persons of this kind, but this series of Amendments is intended to reduce the difficulty to the minimum. The S.A.C.T.O. Report on the Treatment of Offenders recommended in paragraph 43 that the Secretary of State should have the power, for use in exceptional cases, to release from a detention centre a young person who was not mentally or physically suitable for continued detention.

The Royal prerogative of mercy is a power which enables Her Majesty to order such a release and the Bill as introduced made no statutory previsions on the lines of the S.A.C.T.O. recommendation. However, in Committee it was argued that the exercise of this power was important to minimise this difficulty to which I have referred. The Royal prerogative is of course an extraordinary instrument, and if it is the intention that the power of release should be used as an instrument of policy to minimise the difficulty, it is appropriate that statutory provision should be made for it. This is a fairly narrow point but on consideration the Government accept the case for having a stautory power and, as recommended by S.A.C.T.O., the Amendment provides that the power can be used only after consultation, where practicable, with the sentencing court.

Mr. Steele

We are now reaching a very interesting stage where the noble Lady is saying that some of the things which we said in Committee are after all desirable. On this occasion we ought to thank her for doing something at least along these lines.

Amendment agreed to.