HC Deb 01 February 1973 vol 849 cc1593-5
9. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase the number of places available in remand homes, detention centres and residential schools for juvenile offenders in South London.

Mr. Carlisle

My right hon. Friend has recently made available to courts in England and Wales an additional 108 places in junior detention centres. The provision by local authorities of accommodation for offenders committed to their care is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Goodhart

Will my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that there is a particular shortage of secure accommodation for disturbed adolescents in the South London area? Will he bear in mind that magistrates at juvenile courts are too often faced with the stark alternative of sending unruly boys to the Ashford Remand Centre and unruly girls to Holloway, or letting them run wild?

Mr. Carlisle

I am aware that there is a shortage of secure accommodation for those to whom my hon. Friend has referred. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services dealt with this matter at a recent meeting with the Magistrates Association on the Children and Young Persons Act. I think that all I can do is to refer my hon. Friend to what was said on that occasion.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is concern not only in South London but in the country generally? Can he give an undertaking to the House that never again will a juvenile be sent to Holloway Prison or a men's prison'? It is that matter which is so disturbing.

Mr. Carlisle

Of course, I cannot give that undertaking.

Mrs. Short

Why not?

Mr. Carlisle

Perhaps the hon. Lady will allow me to explain. The law provides that over the age of 14 a person can, if the magistrates certify, be sent on remand to a prison. That provision still applies. It is bound to continue to apply until we have adequate alternative and secure accommodation. We want to provide—and at the moment it does not adequately exist—alternative and secure accommodation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is attempting to achieve that.

Mr. John Fraser

As the reconviction rate following attendance at junior detention centres is now almost 85 per cent., making them universities of crime with a very high pass rate, will the hon. and learned Gentleman ensure that resources are diverted to more successful forms of treatment? In particular, will he ensure that the Area Planning Committee for London, which is supposed to report on schemes for the treatment of young offenders by the end of 1972, will report fairly rapidly?

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman's final question is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, to whom reports are sent.

I was not aware that the Inner London report had not been presented. It is within my knowledge that my right hon. Friend has received reports from most of the areas.

I am quite satisfied that the power to send a person to a junior detention centre by the courts should be retained until we are absolutely satisfied that there are adequate alternatives, and at this moment there is none.

Mr. Hiley

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the courts are deprived of a useful form of punishment today, compared with some years ago, when a little corporal punishment would have solved the problem and would have avoided people having to go into institutions?

Mr. Carlisle

I think that my hon. Friend will agree that that is a wholly different matter, upon which the views of the Government are known.