HL Deb 06 December 1962 vol 245 cc321-3

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps have been taken to implement the recommendation in paragraph 305 of the Streatfeild Report on the Business of the Criminal Courts that judges and magistrates should be able to obtain from a central authority information as to the subsequent progress of those upon whom they have passed sentence.]


My Lords, it is hoped to notify the courts, the police and the probation service in January of all the arrangements to give effect to Part B of the Streatfeild Report, which deals with supplying courts with the information necessary to enable them to select the most appropriate treatment for offenders. The arrangements generally will come into effect after an interval of about three months. This interval need not, however, apply to the supply of follow-up information about the progress of persons who have been sentenced. The arrangements for this will be made by the Home Office and, in the first instance, will necessarily be limited to sentences passed at assizes and quarter sessions.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for his Answer, and I should like to ask him two supplementary questions. The first is: what steps are going to be taken to notify the courts that these facilities for follow-up information are available? The second question is: when will these facilities be extended also to the magistrates' courts?


My Lords, the answer to the noble Lady's first supplementary is that it is proposed to notify the Judges, recorders, chairmen of quarter sessions, clerks of assize and clerks of peace by a memorandum. The Answer to the second question I do not know. It is, in the first instance, proposed to confine this procedure to the superior courts, bearing in mind that the lower courts cover a smaller range of sentences and that the sentences there are, on the whole, of shorter duration. But we will, of course, bear in mind the requirements of the lower courts.


My Lords, the noble Earl is very well aware that, although in the lower courts the range of sentences is shorter, the number of offenders who are dealt with there is enormously larger. I hope we may take it that his answer does not mean that the Government are proposing to slide out of extending these facilities to the magistrates' courts.


My Lords, is this not a good chance for the Government, in effect, to show that they are taking Streatfeild seriously? I hope the noble Earl will feel that he can do a little better.


My Lords, I wonder Whether I may take the two questions put to me seriatim. I think I can assure the noble Lady that my answer was not intended to close the door to extending this procedure to the lower courts. I think that in answer to the noble Lord's question I would merely point out that, when this step has been taken, virtually all the recommendations of this major and important Report will have been dealt with within two years.


My Lords, in view of the fact that the magistrates as a whole will be very much interested in this development, although in the first instance it does not affect them individually, would it not be possible for the Government to circularise the various petty sessional courts, and the clerks to the various petty sessional courts, with a review of this particular scheme?


My Lords, I shall certainly be glad to have that suggestion considered.


My Lords, when the noble Earl says that it is not proposed to close the door, does that mean that he does propose to walk through it?

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