HC Deb 09 June 1969 vol 784 cc1087-112
Mr. Carlisle

I beg to move, Amendment No. 26, in page 9, line 15, leave out 'seventeen' and insert 'twelve'.

This Amendment concerns the age at which people can be put on probation. The House will know that at present probation is a means—

It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Proceedings on the Children and Young Persons Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Mellish.]

Bill as amended (in Standing Committee), further considered.

Mr. Carlisle

I was saying that, at the moment, probation is a means of sentence available to the court for anyone of any age. Under the Bill, it is proposed that in future no court may put anyone on probation for any offence if he is under 17. The Amendment proposes that instead of 17 the lower age limit should be 12.

At the outset, I ought to make it clear that we are not talking about care proceedings, under Clause 1. We are now considering prosecutions for criminal offences under the new Clause 1 which was the old Clause 5. In other words, we are dealing with people under the age of 17 who are prosecuted and convicted in respect of criminal offences and deciding what should hapen to them. At the moment, the Bill says that they cannot be put on probation and that they can only be made subject to a supervision order. We believe that the power to impose probation orders on people of that age which has existed up till now should continue.

It may be asked why we say that the age should be 12 rather than 17. The age of 12 has been chosen deliberately because, although the Bill intends to provide care proceedings rather than criminal proceedings for young people under the age of 14, the Home Secretary has given an undertaking that at first it will be limited to those up to the age of 12 and that for those over 12 normal criminal proceedings will take place. Since it is with normal criminal proceedings that we are concerned, we think that the lower age limit for putting people on probation should be 12.

I find it difficult to understand the Government's reasoning in proposing that in future no young person of 14, 15 or 16 and no child of 12 or 13 should be put on probation. I cannot see the advantage that they see in saying that in future, rather than putting a child on probation, he must be put under supervision, which is likely to become the supervision of the local authority.

I believe that that has one very severe disadvantage. I fear that if this occurs, the knowledge acquired by the Probation Service in dealing with young delinquents will be lost. I know that we shall be told that, under the Bill it will be possible for the court to put young people over 14 years of age under the supervision of probation officers. The fact remains that the whole aim of this Measure is to bring children and young persons under the care of the local authority, and there is no doubt that in the case of young persons up to the age of 17 more and more supervision orders will be made putting them under the supervision of children's officers or care officers of the local authorities rather than that of probation officers. We are committing a grave error in removing the knowledge and the expertise gained by probation officers from this whole sphere.

I do not believe that the Home Office has adequately considered the contribution that the probation service has made and is able to make in the treatment and control of young offenders. I am not sure whether this has been fully recognised.

Is there any evidence to suggest that probation, as a means of sentence, has failed with young people any more than it has succeeded or failed with adults? I do not believe that there is any such evidence. I do not believe that there is any evidence to show that probation has been an unsuitable method of sentencing people of this age. The great advantage of using the probation service and, therefore, making probation orders is that it is recognised as an independent service which is responsible to the judiciary.

It is necessary to say something about the size of the problem with which we are concerned. In future, under the Bill, with the absence of the power to put people on probation, everyone who might otherwise be put on probation will have to go into the care or under the supervision of the local authority. The likely- hood is that, under the Bill, people previously suitable to be put on probation will come under the supervision of the local authority.

I hope that the Minister will be able to give to the House the numbers of young people under the age of 17 who are on probation. I have not got the figures, but I can tell the House that 12,000 young people under the age of 14 are on probation at this moment. Therefore, the figure for those under 17 is substantially increased. Yet in future all those young people on probation to probation officers will come under the supervision of child care officers.

We must surely accept that the child care officer will be wholly overworked by the Bill. I think that we have at the moment 3,038 fully trained child care officers. It is estimated by the Government that the Bill will require another 1,000 child care officers to work it, and I have heard estimates put as high as double the present number.

But are child care officers necessarily more suitable or, indeed, as suitable to deal with young people of 13, 14, 15 and 16 convicted of offences than are our present probation officers? My view is that they are not as suitable. I do not want to be accused of making attacks on child care officers. I do not say that there are not in the child care departments a great many dedicated people. I am sure that they all are. But the fact remains that, of necessity, it is a young service, it is comparatively inexperienced and it has a rapid turnover. There is a wastage rate of about 18 per cent. This is understandable, because they may be young people. A lot of them are females, and the marriage market and everything else comes into it.

One must ask: are they really, for that very reason, more capable of dealing with young people of the ages we are talking about than experienced probation officers? We must remember that up to the age of 14 a child will only be able to be put under the care of the child care officer. For that reason the Amendment is right.

In Committee the Under-Secretary said that we were concerned only with words and that, whereas our case rested on the fact that there was a substantial difference, the reason the Government had moved from probation orders to supervision orders was that the difference between the two was minimal. This is true to a degree; the requirements under a supervision order may be the same as those under a probation order.

Where the difference is considerable is as to what happens if the person under supervision or on probation breaks the terms of the order or commit a further offence. If during the period of a probation order the probationer commits another offence, he can be and is brought back to the court and punished—sentenced, to use a neutral word—for the original offence. If that is done, the probation order is ended. Or he can be brought back to the court for being in breach of the conditions of the probation order for not reporting to the probation officer, for example. In that case a fine of up to £20 can be imposed, or he can be ordered to attend an attendance centre and the probation order continued. A probationer knows that, if during the period of the probation order he offends again, he can be brought back before the court and punished for the original offence. If he does not abide by the probation officer's instructions, he can be brought back before the court and have it made clear to him that the court has required him to obey the conditions.

In the case of a person under supervision, the only course is to bring him back to the court. The only power of the court is the highly elaborate one of placing him in the care of the local authority. If he commits another offence whilst he is under supervision, there is no means of sentencing him for the original offence. If he ignores the conditions of the supervision order, there is no means of having him dealt with for that in itself. The only power is to bring him back before the court and to ask that he be put into the care of the local authority. It is a power that, of necessity, supervising officers will not be keen to use. As a result, people put under supervision will be under nowhere near the same sense of discipline or requirement to behave as those put on probation.

We are concerned with a matter of major juvenile crime. No one wishes the courts to adopt any attitude other than that of doing what they believe to be in the best interests of the child. Probation has worked. Probation officers have a knowledge of young people. The added advantage of probation as against a supervision order system is that probation has a heightened discipline and is a heightened deterrent to the person against committing further crimes. I see no argument in favour of removing probation as a means of sentence for those under 17. I greatly hope that the House will agree that probation should be retained as a means of sentence for those over 12 who are convicted of offences.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Turton

I hope the Government will think again on this point. This Bill has many merits, one of which is to give greater flexibility of treatment. But here flexibility is denied.

The Under-Secretary challenged us to find a difference between a supervision order and a probation order. I do not want to repeat the argument used by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), but I would mention that I have a certain amount of experience in this matter. In my early days I was an assistant probation officer in the East End of London and since then I have sat on probation case committees and in the juvenile court for some years.

The mistake that is being made, quite apart from that which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn, concerns the attitude of the boy or girl to the probation officer under a probation order and his attitude under supervision order, whether it be a supervision order under a local authority or under a probation officer. The probation order is a personal challenge. It cannot be made unless the young person agrees to it. Once that challenge exists, the young person has got the probation officer—the father-figure, if you like—to help him to run straight. That is the value of a probation order. If we destroy that, we shall be destroying one of the greatest and most worthwhile weapons we have for dealing with juvenile delinquency, and I hope very much that the Government will think again on this point.

That point is not mine alone. The Central Council of Probation and After Care Committees has begged the Government to retain this option, as have many magistrates throughout the country. At this time, when the whole country is anxious about the spread of juvenile crime, especially among the age group covered by this Amendment, it would be wrong of the Government to take away this option from magistrates. I hope this Amendment will succeed.

Mr. Peter Mahon

I have found myself, out of loyalty, going through the Lobby voting consistently for the different facets of this Bill—

Mr. Callaghan

Out of conviction.

Mr. Mahon

Not only out of conviction but also out of loyalty. I hope that I shall be able to do that for the rest of the evening.

However, it is getting more difficult and I certainly have some misgivings about this facet of the Bill, particularly when one recognises that we are deciding in the not too distant future to let young people have the vote at 18, and now we are deciding that young people who are guilty of misdemeanours should not be subject to probation at the age of 17 and below.

This is extending generosity too far. This is a sort of concession that we could readily make in Utopian circumstances. Bearing in mind the amount of crime that is being committed in our country, we have by no means reached that stage yet. I feel that there is no justification at the moment to revert to kidglove methods. I am not a sadist. When one talks about corporal punishment these days, even in the mildest possible form, one is looked upon as being some sort of a sadist.

What is necessary if corporal punishment is not necessary? I know that it is among our fondest hopes that in the not too distant future, by various methods which we are anxious to try, we shall be able to get into the hearts of people and convince them that this is a good world, that there is no reason for people to resort to dishonesty or violence, and no reason for people not to love and respect their fellow men, but that they should live decently in this splendid country of ours. There should be deterrents of a kind. We are going too far in our desire to say to people, "Whatever misdemeanour you are capable of and what- ever wrong you do against the social order to the detriment of your fellowmen, the least possible punishment will be administered", rather than the punishment that the crime deserves. The people of this country have always rightly, fervently and faithfully believed that the punishment meted out to any miscreant should be equal to the crime.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have hesitated to interrupt the hon. Member, but we are discussing in this Amendment whether we should change the age from 17 to 12 for those who come under probation officers.

Mr. Mahon

I agree, Mr. Speaker. The position was outlined by the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) very well and explicitly. I followed his argument carefully and found that it had great merit. Local authorities have as much responsibility as they can contain at the moment. I say that with a great deal of authority and knowledge for this is my 36th year in local government. That service will probably come to an end, because of political misfortunes, next year. Some hon. Members may think that that is deservedly so, but no one can take from me the knowledge of local government which I am proud to possess.

Children officers have enough on their plates. The other evening in my constituency I went to the 80th anniversary celebrations of the N.S.P.C.C. Cruelties inflicted on young children are still diabolical in the extreme. We need all the children officers we have in local government today to do the type of work they are at present doing. They should continue that work and there should be more officers to do it. To take them from their sphere and project them into a sphere in which they have little or no experience of dealing with reprehensible people would be wrong. Of necessity children's officers are very nice people. They are not cut out for this work. I agree profoundly with the hon. Member for Runcorn, who was right on all counts. The Under-Secretary has batted on a very sticky wicket and has rebutted some redoubtable arguments, but I shall need much convincing about this proposal.

Mr. Callaghan

We had a long discussion on this matter in Committee. I hope that the House will allow me now to intervene to put the case shortly.

Mr. Grieve

There is no case.

Mr. Callaghan

If the hon. and learned Member says that there is no case, it means that he is not prepared to listen to me.

Mr. Grieve

Nor if the Home Secretary will allow me to say so—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have two hon. Members standing at the same time.

Mr. Callaghan

I think that most hon. Members will agree that a case should be made on this, and I would like to put it.

We have a number of Amendments still to deal with tonight, and therefore I shall put the argument shortly. I think that I can convince my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon). Although magistrates and those concerned with them have a deep affection and regard for their own system, which I share, because it has stood the country in good stead, I am sure that they recognise that things change. It was a fascinating sidelight on the history of the Father of the House to know that he was once a probation officer in the East End. I did not know this, but I can well imagine it, knowing his humanity. But I would like to say to him that perhaps since those days the situation has changed a little too.

Basically the case—and I think that this is admitted, certainly by the National Association of Probation Officers—is that it is not very sensible to have two almost identical systems running side by side, and the probation system and the supervision system are almost identical. I claim for the supervision system that it is more flexible and more all-embracing than the system of probation, and will be of more value to the children concerned than even the system of probation has been in recent years.

One has only to look at the conditions set out in Clause 12, under which supervision orders are made, to see the wide range of treatments that a child may be asked to undergo. It is far wider than a probation order provides now. Clause 12(2) is the answer to my hon. Friend. This is no weakening of the provisions. Sometimes probation can be very valuable, but at other times it is not so valuable. With his experience my hon. Friend will know that I am right. There are many cases—certainly I know some—where probation does nothing to restore a child to the full sense of community we want to see. In Clause 12(2) my hon. Friend will see something that has been accepted and welcomed by both sides of the House. Here is a wide range of so-called intermediate treatment which is tough. Do not let him be swept away on a misplaced sea of sentiment; there is no sentiment about the Bill. What it tries to do is to substitute not a weaker or more namby-pamby system but a more effective system for that which has existed so far. I do not think that even the most fervent defenders of the probation system would claim that it is Perfection and could never be improved in any way.

The system of supervision orders which replaces the probation system largely overlaps it and provides for a more comprehensive range of treatment. It will therefore be superior to the existing system in trying to provide a service to the child to promote his integration within the community. That is why I think that it is generally agreed that it would be unnecessary to have two systems running side by side. The Opposition certainly do not want to get rid of the supervision orders. They supported them fully on Second Reading and in Committee.

It is true that the child care officers form a young service, but it is not as young as all that. They have been going for over 20 years, and have wide experience. They are no more capable, but no less capable than probation officers in dealing with these situations. Throughout the Bill I have tried to avoid setting up the probation officer against the child care officer. There is, quite rightly, a certain amount of peddling of individual interests. That is what the House is here for—to put forward the interests of this group or that. I am not attacking anybody for doing it, but we must consider whether we are looking at the interests of particular groups or the best way to deal with the children. The approach of the Bill on both sides of the House has been to see what is in the best interests of the children, and that is what I take my stand on here, not on the best interests of the child care officers, whether or not theirs is a young service, or the best interests of the probation officers, whether or not they have a great deal of experience. What is in the best interests of the children? That is the question the House must answer.

In my view, the system of supervision orders, widely extended as it is, by Clauses 12 and 19, matches the need in a much more comprehensive way than does the probation system, with all the virtues that it has had. I have made clear in Committee, as has my hon. Friend, that probation officers can and will no doubt he used by the courts and in other ways to the fullest extent of their knowledge and capacity.

10.30 p.m.

I want to see—and here I venture on an obiter dictum—these services working much more closely together than at present, not just in probation work but in other work in connection with offences and offenders, in which too many organisations and individual groups are trying to handle one aspect. This is not the time to develop the theme, but there are other fields in which we should bring much more closely together than we have done up to now these groups of people, all of whom have the same basic objectives.

The point put by the hon. Member for Runcorn is that if a child commits a further offence he can be brought back in respect of the original one. If a supervised person commits a further offence he can be dealt with for that. He can be brought back to court, which may make a different order and is entitled to do so if it thinks it right. There is nothing in this provision which weakens the system which exists. Indeed, my view is that it is more wide and more flexible and meets the situation much more fully.

I hope I have convinced hon. Members and that the House will see that there is a formidable and substantial case here and also that, if there is a difference of view, it is not because the Government are being obtuse, for I have given enough examples of my willingness to meet hon. Members and have moved a number of Amendments today to meet views expressed in Committee. But otherwise we would be seeking to preserve a dual system which will be unnecessary once we have adopted the principle of supervision orders. Therefore, I hope my hon. Friend and others will be able to go into the Lobby with clean hands and pure hearts.

Mr. Grieve

If the Home Secretary had day-to-day experience of the administration of the criminal law and of the service which the probation service gives in that administration and in assistance to the offender he could not have made that speech. He said that he had made a case for the substitution of this new system of assistance by child care officers for those under 17. I listened to see what arguments he had in support of his case but I heard nothing but a series of statements and no arguments which could carry weight with any deliberative assembly.

Over a long period, the probation service has given inestimable service both to the courts and to delinquents in assisting them to rehabilitate themselves and to lead honest lives. The reason probation officers have been able to do this is not only because they are a group of utterly dedicated men and women following a vocation for the sake, very largely, of the good they can do, but because they have unrivalled experience not only of the young delinquents but of all delinquents, and we should be blinding our eyes to the reality of the situation if we did not recognise that a very large number of young delinquents come from delinquent families. The great strength of the probation service and the value of the advice which it gives to the courts and to those it is called upon to look after and assist lies in the fact that it knows the family backgrounds usually from A to Z.

When the probation officer comes before the court, and I have seen the service develop over a number of years since before the war, the court knows that it can place every reliance on the fact that the probation officer is dedicated to assist the wrong-doer if he can and will give cogent, clear and valuable assistance to the court in determining what is the right sentence to pass in any case.

What will happen as a result of the Bill? The under-17s are to be taken out of the responsibility of the probation officer. He will no longer be the person called upon to assist the court about them. The result will be that responsibility for families will be divided. The probation officer will deal, as he has always dealt, with the over-17s, giving a hand when Johnny and Tommy and Jane and the rest of them in the family have reached that age, able to assist by describing the family background and explaining the difficulties of the mother and father and one must not forget in this context that the probation service has a duty in the civil courts as well as in the criminal courts.

The probation officer will look after the elder brothers and sisters and sometimes the parents, while the child care officer will look after the youngsters when they first offend. This will be bad for the accused, bad for the delinquent young and bad for the administration of the criminal law. That is a view which I have heard expressed by numerous probation officers whose opinions in this matter I respect and value and whom I believe, having carefully considered the matter, to be right.

The Home Secretary said that there was a case for doing this, but he did not explain in detail why. I believe that he and the Home Office have persuaded themselves, for what reasons I know not, that this is a good thing to do, but they have certainly not explained their reasons to the House. As the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) said, child care officers already have considerable scope in which they render important social and public service and there is room for the activities of both services in connection with the young. But the probation service should be given the opportunity to continue the great service in connection with the young delinquent which it has given to the community for many years.

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) said about the value of the probation order. It carries sanctions with it, for it provides that if a person on probation does not comply with its terms, does not report regularly to the probation officer, does not go to see him when he is asked to go, does not work if there is work available, or commits another offence, he may be brought before the court. At a time when delinquency is on the increase, this is a valuable sanction which it would be unwise for society to jettison in respect of the under-17s.

For those reasons, I support the Amendments and I hope that the House will divide and carry them.

Mr. Goodhart

There is one aspect of this argument that the Home Secretary did not touch on in his speech and which was not touched upon in Committee. About one-third of the present probation service work is done with young people under the age of 17—in some areas it is higher. Many people join the probation service because they like working with young people and because they feel that they have a special talent for dealing with them. If the Government continue to resist this Amendment these people will be faced with a situation in which they either have to leave the profession which they have made their life, or they will have to give up a valuable area in which they have shown that they have great talent. The Home Secretary said that he hoped that in years to come the supervisory services would come together. I hope that before this debate is ended the Government will realise that by resisting this Amendment, far from bringing the services together, they are driving them apart.

Mr. Miscampbell

We face, by general consent, a worsening situation, with the figures of offences by children with whom we are dealing in this debate rising. I find it surprising that the Government are prepared to give up one of the most valuable services which is available in combating that crime and protecting and guiding those who fall into criminal ways between the ages of 12 and 17. They can only have done so for good reasons, because they are well aware, I know from the Memorandum that they have had, of the great concern in the probation service, which has been spoken of by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart).

The service feels rightly that it wilt be out off from a very special area of endeavour if it does not start its casework until it meets its cases at the age of 17. We have heard some of the reasons why the Government have come to this conclusion. I acknowledge that this is a matter on which there can be two views. I have come down firmly on one side, and the Home Secretary and his advisers have come down on the other.

The Home Secretary has given us some of his reasons for wanting to get rid of the probation service up to the age of 17. They include the following. First we are told that there should not be two systems. Why on earth not? It would be extraordinary in our society if we went in for logical organisation in every area of social endeavour. We are practically running two systems at the moment, and I cannot believe that administrative tidiness is worth the loss which there will inevitably be if we lose the probation service for those under 17.

It is said that the probation service cannot provide the new systems provided in Clause 12. Why on earth not? No doubt we can make them available to the service. There is nothing exclusive about them. The service should be able to make use of all the provisions in the Bill and it should continue to serve the courts in the way it has done. In the difficult cases it will be able to bring a wealth of experience to the courts which may not be available to the local authority.

It is not for those reasons that I want to urge the House that a different decision should be taken. I concentrate on one out of the many points that could be raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) mentioned the question of the independence of the probation service in its relationship with the courts and with the offender. It is that independence I want to emphasise. It is first noticeable before trial, before any process of law takes place, when a probation officer goes to the offender's home and can have a free discussion with him about his home background, why he did it and what he did. The probation officer can ask the boy what he will plead and what he will say. The boy or girl may well tell him facts which he does not want disclosed to the court. He may be completely open and honest with the probation officer. He can do that because the probation officer is in no way involved in the prosecution.

10.45 p.m.

That is not the case where supervision is conducted by the local authority. The local authority services will, in part, decide whether there should be proceedings for care because there is an unsatisfactory home background. The local authority is thus itself involved in decision-making as to whether there should be proceedings. It is equally involved in all the inquiries which have to be made if there are proceedings because the child is in need of care and supervision.

Over and above that, there are the other relationships which exist between a problem family and the local authority. The family may well be in a council house. It may be in arrear with rent. It may view those who come from the local authority as not helping, but hindering. There might be a demand for payment of arrears of rent. Although they may not be connected with the local authority, the gas and electricity board men may be regarded by the family as being associated with the local authority and as making life difficult for them. These are the very families who, as it were, produce the clients for the local authority for supervision orders.

For that reason alone, because there cannot be the same trust in total independence, it is useful to keep the probation service available for children and young persons of all ages from 12 upwards. Of course, we would not use them in every case, but there would be many cases in which it would be immensely useful to have their services available. I cannot think that we have heard any reasons urged upon us, either in Committee or tonight, which should make us give up one of the universally-respected British institutions which has been followed throughout the world and which has proved so successful for us in the courts over the years.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I support the Amendment. I hope that the Home Secretary will realise that I waited until I had heard what he had to say before I sought an opportunity to speak. I listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman.

The Home Secretary put his case with great charm and deliberation, but his experience, at least in recent years, has been at the top and not in local administration. I noticed with some surprise that he never really mentioned the view of the courts as to which was the best system and whether the Amendment would be likely to be more acceptable to the courts than the explanation which he has put forward.

I am as certain as it is possible to be in a difficult world that the courts would much prefer to maintain the probation service with its present powers. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not deal a little more with the attitude of the courts in the administration of justice. The courts rely, and have learnt to rely over many years, on the probation service. I sit as a magistrate, although with my membership of the House of Commons I am not now able to attend the courts very often. However, I know that the probation service has grown up within the courts and that we rely on the probation service; we know that the probation officers know exactly how the magistrates' minds work on these matters; and it is very important, in assessing a problem of this kind, that all angles should be taken into consideration, and not just the rather emotional desire—as I often rather suspect it is—of the Home Office, with the difficulties which the Home Office faces to try something different. I do not believe that to make alterations is always for the good of society.

The general public make a very great distinction between the probation service and the child care and other local authority services, about which many families can get very confused. If we have two distinct services, the probation service with its traditional work and with all the work which it has been able to render—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Lady, but she must relate her remarks more to the Amendment. We are not discussing the child care service and local authority services but an Amendment to delete the age of 17 and to substitute the age of 12.

Dame Irene Ward

I hate to make any comments on that observation, but I really do not think that the Home Secretary talked very much about that. I did not notice that he referred to that subject at all. He spent all his time talking about the child care service and its advantage compared with the probation service, and why this new restriction should be imposed on the probation service. I find it really a little hard if a Minister can sail away with all sorts of ideas, and then, when back benchers try to answer what the Minister has said, we are told we have to stick to the Amendment. I really do not think that is quite fair—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady must not challenge the Ruling of the Chair. The Minister, in my view, was completely in order.

Dame Irene Ward

I am not challenging you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am challenging the Home Secretary. If I have to get off my subject I will have much bigger and harder blows at the Home Secretary, and presumably, if he is going to make a speech, I am entitled to say what I think about him, and what I think about the Home Office administration, which I sometimes think is quite stupid, and, at the top, does not always know what it is talking about. I am sorry to have to say that, but I am jolly well going to say it, if I am not allowed, even as a magistrate, to talk about making this proposed restriction. If I am permitted to say it in a sentence, I will say in a sentence that I am sorry we have to reduce the probation service to the courts by altering the age to 17. I am sorry we have to do that, and I think it is wrong we should have to do it. I will repeat again, I think it is wrong we should have to do it, and I will say it again: I think it is wrong we should have to do it.

The Home Secretary talked a lot about families, so I may be allowed to talk about families. The probation service is allowed, in its operation for the courts, to deal with boys and girls under 17—perhaps that will put me in order. Families are much more likely to be confused and to take not such a serious view of their young people's misdeeds if the young people have to be absorbed into the child care service and the local authority services, as distinct from the probation service. As a magistrate, I would regret this very much indeed. I listened carefully to the speech of the Home Secretary in which he did not mention age. He was searching for a change in function for this service. He did not put up a case but merely said that he thought it would be a good idea. We all have lots of good ideas which may not always be practical, and he gave no practical reasons why this Amendment dealing with age should not be accepted.

I would like to see a great deal more, which has nothing to do with the probation service, done by the child care service, and it would be a great pity for the child care service, which is so necessary in human relations, to spend time in interfering with the great work which is done by the probation service.

I repeat that I regret that the Home Secretary did not give a little more advice on how the courts would regard his new proposals as against the Amendment. I am not a statistician, and I probably would not be in order if I were to talk about statistics, but the question of the age is not a statistical matter, and I am sorry that the Home Secretary did not say more about how the courts would react to his proposal.

I hope the Amendment will be pressed to a Division and that, for once, the Home Office will pay a little more attention to the feelings of responsible people who have served for so many years in all sorts of capacities. Although the Home Secretary made his speech with great charm, there was nothing in it. It is possible to be extremely charming without ever doing or saying anything, and I hope we shall wholeheartedly defeat him in the Division.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

Were it not for what the Home Secretary said, I would not have risen. We are all, as he said, trying to look after the interests of children rather than the interests of probation officers or child care officers, and it is right that we should do so.

The Home Secretary has it the wrong way round. When thinking of the children, particularly the younger element rather than the 17-year olds, in making up one's mind where the balance lies, there is an enormous amount in what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) said about the probation officer having a long history behind him. However successful the new law may be, many of those between the ages of 12 and 17 who reach the courts will come back to the courts again; this is the way in which human nature works; and therefore the probation officer, with his much longer family background, is far better able to deal with these problems over a long period than any child care officer in any local authority.

11.0 p.m.

I thought that the Home Secretary got it the wrong way round. He said that he thought that there were far too many divisions in this Clause, but he is only making another, in that probation will now start at 17 years of age, and anyone below 17 will be the responsibility of the child care officer of the local authority.

I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to make any off-the-cuff decision, but I would like to put this point to him. He proposes that child care officers should deal with anyone under 17. It must not be forgotten, however, that child care officers deal with quite a lot of cases which have nothing to do with crime. Cases are referred to them by such bodies as the R.S.P.C.C. Children are put into their care because of their family environments, but those children have committed no crime.

Amongst the general public, a person on probation is looked upon as someone who has committed a misdemeanour. It is now proposed that a young person under 17 who has committed a misdemeanour shall be put under the care of the same person who cares for those who have committed no misdemeanour but whose parents have. That will result in perfectly innocent boys and girls feeling that in some way they are linked with the criminal element.

If the Government's proposal is accepted, we shall find the more solid type of young criminal between the ages of 12 and 17 being looked after by the child care officer—

Mr. Callaghan

Child care officers already look after children up to the age of 17 who may have committed a misdemeanour.

Sir D. Glover

But that would be a minor misdemeanour, otherwise those children would certainly be on probation. That is where the Home Secretary has it wrong.

All the speeches that I have heard convince me that the House would be wise to accept the Amendment, because the weight of the argument is on our side. If the matter is pressed to a Division, I shall be only too happy to vote for the Amendment.

Mr. Wersley

It has been common ground in the debate that the services of the probation officers command the highest respect. The House feels that the probation service has been and should continue to be a very important element in our system.

The difference comes in our attitude to the Home Secretary's words to the effect that the probation service would be used to the fullest extent in the new system. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that he has not convinced my hon. Friends of this.

He must appreciate, to begin with, that as a result of the Bill it will not be possible to use probation officers initially for children under 12 and eventually for children under 14 unless there is already a member of the family under a probation officer. So far from using them to the fullest extent, instantly they are taken out of an important section of their present work.

I cannot escape the feeling that the long term intention at least is that they should do less and less for the next section; namely, young people between the ages of 14 and 17. Therefore, we feel—and I think that the Home Secretary has only himself to blame if he has given this impression wrongly—that there is an intention gradually to squeeze the probation service out of the supervision of young people and to hand it over entirely to the children's service.

We regard this as a great error. We believe that there is a wealth of practical experience among probation officers that should be used not only for adults, but also for young people.

For these reasons, if the Home Secretary cannot meet us on this point, we will go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 117, Noes 160.

Division No. 236.] AYES [11.6 p.m.
Astor, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Percival, Ian
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Hastings, Stephen Pink, R. Benner
Balniel, Lord Hiley, Joseph Pounder, Rafton
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Hill, J. E. B. Prior, J. M. L.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Holland, Philip Pym, Francis
Biffen, John Hordorn, Peter Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Biggs-Davison, John Hornby, Richard Rees-Davies, W. R.
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Howell, David (Guildford) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Black, Sir Cyril Hunt, John Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Iremonger, T. L. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Russell, Sir Ronald
Brinton, Sir Tatton Jopling, Michael Scott, Nicholas
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Sharples, Richard
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Kitson, Timothy Silvester, Frederick
Burden, F. A. Knight, Mrs. Jill Sinclair, Sir George
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Lane, David Speed, Keith
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stainton, Keith
Carlisle, Mark Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Clark, Henry Longden, Gilbert Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Clegg, Walter McAdden, Sir Stephen Temple, John M.
Costain, A. P. MacArthur, Ian Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Cunningham, Sir Knox Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Dance James McNair-Wilson, Michael Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Waddington, David
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Marten, Neil Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Maude, Angus Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Errington, Sir Eric Mawby, Ray Walters, Dennis
Fortescue, Tim Miscampbell, Norman Ward, Dame Irene
Glover, Sir Douglas Monro, Hector Weatherill, Bernard
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Montgomery, Fergus Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Gower, Raymond More, Jasper Wiggin, A. W.
Grant-Ferris, R. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Grieve, Percy Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Woodnutt, Mark
Hall, John (Wycombe) Murton, Oscar Worsley, Marcus
Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Onslow, Cranley Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Page, Graham (Crosby) Mr. Anthony Grant.
Abse, Leo Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newens, Stan
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Ogden, Eric
Alldritt, Walter Hamling, William Oram, Albert E.
Archer, Peter Harper, Joseph Orbach, Maurice
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orme, Stanley
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Haseldine, Norman Oswald, Thomas
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Hazell, Bert Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Palmer, Arthur
Barnett, Joel Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parker, John (Dagenham)
Bidwell, Sydney Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Binns, John Howie, W. Pavitt, Laurence
Blackburn, F. Hoy, James Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Booth, Albert Huckfield, Leslie Pentland, Norman
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Brooks, Edwin Hynd, John Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Price, William (Rugby)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Probert, Arthur
Buchan, Norman Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Rees, Merlyn
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Kenyon, Clifford Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Lawson, George Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Callaghan, Rt, Hn. James Leadbitter, Ted Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Carmichael, Neil Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Roebuck, Roy
Coe, Denis Lipton, Marcus Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Coleman, Donald Loughlin, Charles Rowlands, E.
Conlan, Bernard Luard, Evan Ryan, John
Crawshaw, Richard Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Dalyell, Tam Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Sheldon, Robert
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Shore, Rt. Hn, Peter (Stepney)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) McBride, Neil Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) McCann, John Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) MacDermot, Niall Silverman, Julius
Delargy, Hugh McGuire, Michael Slater, Joseph
Dell, Edmund Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Spriggs, Leslie
Dempsey, James Maclennan, Robert Taverne, Dick
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Dobson, Ray McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Dunnett, Jack McNamara, J. Kevin Tinn, James
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Tuck, Raphael
Eadie, A'ex Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Varley, Eric C.
Ellis, John Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
English, Michael Manuel, Archie Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ensor, David Marks, Kenneth Wallace, George
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Watkins, David (Consett)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mendelson, John Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Fernyhough, E. Millan, Bruce Wellbeloved, James
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Whitlock, William
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Fowler, Gerry Molloy, William Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Woof, Robert
Freeson, Reginald Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Gregory, Arnold Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Moyle, Roland Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Neal, Harold Mr. J. D. Concannon

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

I beg to move Amendment No. 27, in page 9, line 30, leave out from beginning to end of line 31 and insert: detention for defaults) shall cease to apply to young persons". This is a technical Amendment. Clause 7(4) provides that Section 5 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, which provides for detention for defaults in the case of young persons, shall cease to have effect except as applied, in the case of persons over the age of 17, by Section 6.

As a result of amendments made in Committee to improve the drafting of the Bill, paragraph 37 of Schedule 4 now amends Section 5 so as to apply directly to the case of persons over the age of 17, and Schedule 5 instead of repealing Section 5 except as applied by the provisions of Section 6 to the over-17's, repeals those provisions of Section 6.

The present Amendment is consequential on these Committee amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

I beg to move Amendment No. 28, in page 10, line 15, leave out "young person guilty of any offence" and insert: person guilty of an offence and either he is a young person or was a young person when the proceedings in question were begun Clause 7(8) imposes a duty on an adult magistrates' court, where it finds a young person guilty of an offence, to exercise their power under Section 56 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, to remit the case to a juvenile court, unless it decides to make any of the orders mentioned in the subsection, for example a discharge or a fine.

Section 29(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963, provides that where care, protection or control proceedings in respect of a young person are begun before a juvenile court, and the young person attains the age of 17 before the conclusion of the proceedings, the court may continue to deal with the case and make any order which it could have made if he had not attained that age. In criminal proceedings the court has a similar power to continue to deal with the case under Section 48 of the 1933 Act, but in the case of Hamlyn v. Pearce—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps we could have a little silence. There are too many committee meetings taking place.

Mr. Morgan

In the case of Hamlyn v. Pearce in 1962 the Divisional Court held, with some reluctance, that there was no power to make an approved school order or a fit person order after the person had attained the age of 17. The court clearly regarded it as unfortunate that this should be the law.

The Amendment requires the adult court to remit the case to the juvenile court where the offender is a young person or was a young person before the proceedings began and attained the age of 17 at any time during the proceedings.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 29, in page 10, line 19, leave out 'the young person' and insert 'him'—[Mr. Elystan Morgan.]

Mr. Elystan Morgan

I beg to move Amendment No. 30, in page 10, line 20, leave out second 'or'.

The purpose of this Amendment and the next Amendment, No. 31, is to deal with a point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) in Committee.

Mr. Carlisle

I merely want to say thank you to the hon. Gentleman for bringing forward this Amendment. It seems to have made the Clause very much better than it was before.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 31, in page 10, line 23, at end insert: 'or an order under section 5 or 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1962 (which relate respectively to the disqualification of drivers and the endorsement of licences'.—[Mr. Elystan Morgan.]

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