HC Deb 21 October 1999 vol 336 cc569-70
29. Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes)

What impact the Government's policy on the speedy processing of persistent young offenders will have on the ability of the police to offer alternatives to prosecution. [93417]

The Solicitor-General

The principal aim of the youth justice system, enshrined in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, is to prevent offending by children and young people. The speed with which young offenders are dealt with is an important factor, but the Government also recognise that, for some offenders, diversion from the criminal justice system is an effective means of tackling youth crime.

Shona McIsaac

What is the CPS doing in Humberside to work with other agencies in my area to reduce unacceptable delays in the youth justice system?

The Solicitor-General

As with all parts of the CPS, there is now joined-up government. The CPS works with the courts and police. I understand that, in Humberside recently, a conference was specifically devoted to bringing the different agencies together to deal with problems such as youth justice. In the next couple of months, I will visit my hon. Friend's area. I invite her to come with me to raise any concern that she has on the issue.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

The Solicitor-General talks about speeding up youth justice and the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) talks about unacceptable delays in youth justice, but I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that he fought the last election on an early election pledge:—fast track punishment for persistent young offenders by halving the time from arrest to sentencing". He may conveniently have forgotten that, now that he is a Minister. Perhaps he could tell us when that will happen; it has not happened early. Labour has now been in government for 18 months. [Interruption.]

The Solicitor-General

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is able to calculate delays in youth justice better than he is able to count months. Nevertheless, the Government are reducing the time required by the youth justice system. When we were elected, it took more than four and a half months to bring a persistent youth offender before the courts. That time has been reduced substantially—in some areas, it is already below the 71 days that we pledged. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are doing everything necessary to fulfil that pledge, and we shall do so.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. We now return to Agriculture questions.