HC Deb 21 October 1982 vol 29 cc529-31


Lords amendment: No. 15, in page 10, line 8, leave out "the enactments mentioned in".

5.15 pm
Mr. Mayhew

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a purely drafting amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 16, in page 10, line 17, at end insert— (1A) Subject to subsection (9) below, an offender aged 16 years or less who is sentenced to youth custody, other than an offender who falls to be detained in a youth custody centre by virtue of subsection (1) above, is to be detained in a youth custody centre or in a remand centre as the Secretary of State may from time to time direct unless—

  1. (a) the term of his youth custody sentence is treated by virtue of section 67 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 as reduced to less than 21 days; or
  2. (b)he has been sentenced under section 15(6) below to youth custody for less than 21 days; or
  3. (c)the Secretary of State gives a direction for his detention in a prison under subsection (2) below."

Mr. Mayhew

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take Lords amendments Nos. 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Mr. Mayhew

The effect of the amendments is to restructure subsections (1) to (3) of the clause so as to restrict more narrowly the circumstances in which juveniles—that is, people under 17—who are subject to youth custody sentences may be held in prisons as distinct from youth custody centres or remand centres. Where a juvenile is not already subject to the main guarantee of placement in a youth custody center—as provided for in subsection (1) if he is serving between four and 18 months—he will, by virtue of these amendments, still have to be held in a youth custody centre or a remand centre. There are three limited exceptions to this: where the term of his sentence is reduced to less than 21 days by the counting of remand time in custody; where he has been sentenced for less than 21 days following a breach of supervision; or when he is held in a prison for a temporary purpose. Together, these amendments are designed to go as far as possible to meet the arguments put forward in this House—notably by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk)—to the effect that juveniles should not be held in prisons for the duration of their sentences.

The effect of the last amendment is to go one step further in respect of juveniles serving very short detention centre orders, by removing altogether the power to hold in prison for the duration of their sentences those who have sentences shorter than 21 days. Those serving 21 days or more will already be excluded from prisons.

The Government were able to accept this change, but not to go as far in respect of youth custody sentences, because detention centre trainees are committed direct from court without first going to allocation units in prisons.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

I welcome Lords amendments Nos.16, 18, 19 and 20, which, as the Minister said, are the result of assurances given to me. I know that they will also be welcomed by the Magistrates' Association which, when the Bill was first published, asked for an assurance that juveniles sentenced to youth custody would not be detained in adult prisons. The undesirability of detaining 15 and 16-year-olds in overcrowded, local adult prisons where, as everyone acknowledges, conditions are the worst in the penal system, is self-evident. In any event, neither the institutions nor the staff are properly geared for their training. Facilities are not available to them to deal with the needs of juvenile offenders. For those reasons alone, we welcome the amendments.

However, even with the amendments, it will still be possible for juveniles serving youth custody sentences to be detained in adult prisons on a temporary basis for certain purposes, including assessment and allocation. That is already the case under the present system for those sentenced to borstal training. They often have to await allocation to a borstal establishment in an inappropriate adult prison. I hope that we shall soon do away with that practice by at least reallocating allocation centres and young offender establishments rather than having young offenders in adult prisons. I welcome the amendments as a step in the right direction. They are a considerable improvement on the original form of the Bill.

I also welcome amendment No. 21, which was sponsored by members of the parliamentary all-party penal affairs group in another place. It provides that juvenile offenders who receive detention sentences of less than 21 days should not be placed in adult prisons to serve their sentences, as the original form of the Bill would have allowed. Again, to detain juvenile offenders with detention centre sentences in adult prisons would be unfair both to the young offenders and to the courts and magistrates who, in sentencing them—especially at such a young and vulnerable age—would not usually have intended that, as an administrative convenience by the prison department, they should be dumped into the penal dustbins of adult prisons.

The Government's original opposition to the amendment was regrettable. However, they deserve credit for having taken the time and trouble to reconsider their position and accept the amendment on Third Reading in another place.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments No. 17 to 21 agreed to.

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