Lords amendment: No. 82, to insert the following new clause—Custodial sentences under 1933 Act—
(". Section 53(2) of the 1933 Act (punishment of certain grave crimes) shall have effect, in relation to a person who has attained the age of 16, as if the reference to any offence punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment for 14 years or more, not being an offence the sentence for which is fixed by law, included a reference to an offence under section 14 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (indecent assault on a woman).")
The provisions of the Bill bring 17-year-olds within the youth court system for sentencing purposes and treat 16 and 17-year-olds as a distinct group within that system. The amendments make further useful minor provisions in regard to the sentencing of 16 and 17-year-old offenders, and I know that they will be widely welcomed.
§ Mr. Randall
As we see it, amendment No. 82 empowers the court to pass custodial sentences longer than the normal 12-month maximum on juveniles convicted of indecent assault. At present, section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, under which longer sentences can be passed, is restricted to offences which carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment or more in the case of an adult. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment, so it currently falls outside the scope of section 53. As some of the most extreme indecent assaults can be as bad as rape, it is difficult to quarrel with the amendment, and the Opposition are pleased to support it.
I greatly welcome the support that the hon. Gentleman has given. I am grateful to the official Opposition.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Lords amendment No. 83 agreed to.
§ Lords amendment: No. 84, after clause 58 insert the following new clause—Default power where probation committee fails to discharge statutory duty—
- ".—(1) The Secretary of State may make an order under this section if he is of the opinion that, without reasonable excuse, a probation committee—
- (a) is failing properly to discharge any duty imposed on it by or under any enactment; or
- (b) has so failed and is likely to do so again.
- (2) An order under this section shall—
- (a) state that the Secretary of State is of the said opinion; and
- (b) make such provision as he considers requisite for the purpose of securing that the duty is properly discharged by the committee.
- (3) Where an order is made under this section, it shall be the duty of the committee to comply with the provision made by the order."
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendments Nos. 85, 86, 98 and 99.
§ Mr. Patten
It is widely recognised that the provisions in the Bill to deal with more offenders in the community make it more important than ever to have a probation service that is efficient, effective and accountable to the Secretary of State. Lords amendment No. 84 and the associated amendments ensure that the line of accountability is clear to my right hon. Friend who is, in the end, responsible for the public expenditure involved. The related amendments also tidy up some areas of concern about the relationship between the probation committees and local authorities on payment and manpower.
§ Mr. Randall
I want to speak to Lords amendment No. 98 and the way in which we arrive at the manning figures for the probation service. We believe that the wording of the amendment is important. We have already expressed deep concern that the probation committees should be free 947 to decide how many probation officers an area needs. If local authorities were involved in the decision that could cause unworkable tension between the parties.
Lords amendment No. 98 makes it clear that it is not necessary for the probation committee and the local authority to reach agreement on the number of probation officers as a matter of routine. Although that does not meet all our concerns we believe that that amendment is a step in the right direction and we therefore support it.
§ Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)
I should just like to say how much I support the amendment. My right hon. Friend will be aware that a constituent of mine, Mr. George Arkless, has had considerable difficulty with the north-east London probation service. It seemed to me that there were difficulties in the channel of communication between the probation service and the Home Office. Anything that strengthens those channels of comrnunication must be welcomed.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.