HC Deb 28 April 1966 vol 727 cc935-6
26. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent it is Government policy that such cases as the Miles school cutlery case will in future be heard before family councils instead of before juvenile courts; and whether the Press are to be excluded and no reports upon such cases made public.

Miss Bacon

The proposals relating to family councils in the White Paper "The Child, the Family and the Young Offender" were published for the purposes of discussion and we are at present considering the many valuable comments received since the White Paper was published.

Under the White Paper proposals a child could not be committed to the care of a local authority without the parents' agreement, except by a family court composed of magistrates from which the Press would not be excluded.

Mr. Fisher

Would the hon. Lady agree that, but for the Press reports, probably neither she nor the Home Secretary—nor, for that matter, anyone else—would have been aware of the Miles case and the child would, therefore, have remained for much longer in the children's home? As Press reports are in many cases the only safeguard in matters of this kind, would she give a categoric undertaking that the Press will be allowed to attend these family councils just as they are able to attend children's courts?

Miss Bacon

I am aware of the interest which the hon. Gentleman took in this case and the work he did. As I understand it, in this case the matter got into the Press not through the Press being in the court but because the mother went to the Press and made a statement. Be that as it may, there is another point about this case. It is that if under the White Paper as it now stands such a case occurred, I would hope that it would be satisfactorily dealt with by the social workers and in an informal way, without the necessity of taking the child to court.