HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc887-9
Mr. Mayhew

I beg to move amendment No. 11, in page 11, line 3 after 'conditions', insert 'mentioned'.

This is a drafting amendment and its purpose is self-evident.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Stevens

I beg to move amendment No. 84, in page 11, line 10, leave out subsection (3).

The amendment relates to a young offender who has been "starred up" while in custody. The term "to star up" means that a young offender has been transferred from that status to adult status. That may occur either because he has reached the age of 21 or, under section 2(b), because he has been deemed disruptive.

No one objects to the starring-up procedure, but the crux of my case is that once the prisoner is deemed to be an adult he should be treated as an adult on release. Subsection (3) states that once the changed status prisoner has been released, he should revert to the status of young offender for the purpose of clause 14 of the Bill, and that he should be under supervision until the end of the supervision period.

My hon. and learned Friend will tell us that the purpose of the supervision order is to ensure the welfare of the young offender. From the point of view of the offender, he has been treated as an adult while in prison and has thereby forfeited a number of advantages, if not privileges, that he would have enjoyed as a young offender. On release, he suddenly finds that he has reverted to his original status, and must be under supervision for a period of under 12 months. He usually regards supervision as an extension of the punishment.

It follows that young prisoners on release in those circumstances have a renewed sense of injustice, which I share. They take up a great deal of the time of the probation service, but are in no mood to co-operate.

There may be young offenders who have been starred up and released from detention and who wish to have the benefit of the probation service for a period after release. That benefit should not be denied them. However, when a young offender who has been treated as an adult in prison, suddenly finds on release that he is treated again as a young offender, he feels that he is being punished again. Unless he seeks probation facilities, he should not be required to serve out a supervision order on release. For the young man about to be returned to the street, it is a case of once an adult always an adult.

We in this country believe in fairness—fairness in its common meaning, not the esoteric fairness of the legislature—and it does not seem fair that the young person should revert to this former status and suffer what he regards as a continued penalty.

I have spoken to my hon. and learned Friend about this matter privately, and I know that he is sympathetic to what I am saying. I therefore hope that he will meet me over the amendment.

Mr. Mayhew

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens) for the way he moved the amendment, and for the way he put the case when he came to see me recently about it. I understand the concern that underlies the amendment.

The purpose of clause 11 is to ensure that an offender can be held in circumstances appropriate to his age or his behaviour. An offender sentenced just before his twenty-first birthday might be a mature married man with a family. He might well be more at home with adult prisoners than with young offenders, and it would be more appropriate to treat him, under clause 11, as if he had be en sentenced to imprisonment. However, the same might not be true of an exact contemporary of his, who would be better off in a young offender establishment. It does not seem right that one should be liable to supervision on release, and that the other should not.

Supervision is an integral part of a young offender's sentence and it should not be dispensed with simply because the offender is, for what are essentially management reasons, treated under clause 11 as if he had been sentenced to imprisonment. I see the point that my hon. Friend makes about fairness and the way that is normally understood in that it tends to be equated with equality. The argument can be advanced just as well in support of the proposition I have attempted to put forward.

The same argument applies with perhaps even more force to a young offender whose sentence has to be treated as one of imprisonment because he is such a bad influence in a young offender establishment, or disrupts the regime there to the detriment of the other inmates. In such a case, it is the offender's own bullying or uncontrollable behaviour which leads to reclassification.

That brings me to another point that needs to be made. Young prisoners can now be reclassified as adults under an administrative scheme that operates on rather wider grounds than those set out in clause 11. This does not affect their liability to supervision. It is often the case that young offenders positively prefer to be treated as adult prisoners. They might therefore seek reclassification under clause 11 with, if this amendment succeeded, the added incentive that they would then be free of supervision on release.

Having spoken to my hon. Friend, I appreciate that many young offenders do not particularly like being supervised and that, if they are resentful of it, the supervising officer does not have an enviable task. All the same, young offenders are, on release from custody, vulnerable to bad influence. They need help with finding accommodation and employment and in managing their affairs. We continue to see the value of supervision for people of that age, however they may have been classified and for whatever reasons special classification may hive occurred.

While nobody could have put the case more fairly, comprehensively or persuasively than my hon. Friend, who takes a great interest in these matters, I am afraid we cannot agree that some young offenders should not be supervised simply because they were, while in custody, treated as if they were sentenced to imprisonment.

Accordingly I must ask the House not to accept the amendment.

Mr. Stevens

I greatly regret my hon. and learned Friend's response. The point he omitted was that the circumstances in which a person convicted as a young offender serves his sentence after reclassification, for whatever reason, are more onerous than the form of detention suffered as a young offender. It would not be practical for me to press the amendment. I hope to return to the fight at a later stage. Perhaps it may be taken up in another place.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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