§ [Nos. 142 to 143]
§ Insert the following new Clause—
§ Certificates of unruly character
§ (" . The court shall not certify under section 22(5) or section 23(2) or (3) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 (committals to remand centres or prison) that a child is of so unruly a character that he cannot safely be committed to the care of a local authority unless the conditions prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State are satisfied in relation to that child.
§ In this section, "court" includes a justice".)
§ Insert the following new Clause—
§ Children of unruly character in Scotland
(a) in sections 23(1)(b), 24(1), 297(1) and 329(1)(b) of the said Act of 1975 the following words are added at the end—
; but the court shall not so certify a child unless such conditions as the Secretary of State may by order made by Statutory Instrument prescribe are satisfied in relation to the child.";
(b) in sections 23(3) and 329(3) of the said Act of 1975 the following words are added at the end—
;but a commitment shall not be so revoked unless such conditions as the Secretary of State may by order made by Statutory Instrument prescribe are satisfied in relation to the said person.";
(c)in sections 24(2) and 297(2) of the said Act of 1975 the following words are added at the end—
;but a commitment shall not be so revoked unless such conditions as the Secretary of State may by order made by Statutory Instrument prescribe are satisfied in relation to the child.".")
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 142 and 143. I am looking forward to dealing with this point because, as I said at an earlier stage in the consideration of this Bill, the world seems to be peopled by villainous parents and angelic children, but those of us who have brought up families know that this is not always the case. This group relates to unruly certificates. Amendment No. 142 gives the Secretary of State power to prescribe by Order the conditions which must be satisfied before courts issue unruly certificates authorising the commitment of 1289 juveniles who are remanded to Prison Department establishments. The Amendment reflects the widespread and growing concern in Parliament and outside at the number of juveniles now being held in prisons and remand centres in pursuance of more than 3,000 unruly certificates now being issued annually. Amendment No. 143 provides corresponding powers in Scotland.
The number of remands to Prison Department establishments of juveniles charged with a criminal offence, and certified to be of so unruly a character that they cannot safely be committed to the care of the local authority, has risen steeply in recent years. The number of receptions to prison of boys aged 14 to 16 rose from under 2,000 in 1971 to more than 3,500 in 1974. The number of certificates issued in respect of girls rose from under 100 in 1971 to nearly 250 in 1974—and I should like to remind noble Baronesses that comparisons are odious. The sending of these young people to Prison Department establishments and in particular in the case of girls and some boys to establishments in which adult prisoners arc held—and I know that this is a matter of concern to the noble Baroness. Lady Masham—has attracted growing and widespread criticism. In evidence to the Social Services and Employment Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee, the Home Office witnesses explained that it was the Government's wish to end such remands as soon as satisfactory alternative provision could be made, and Ministers have announced that they are examining urgently the possibility of making a start by ending the remand of 14-year-old girls to Prison Department establishments.
However, I regret that the continuance of such remands, in particular for the older and more difficult junveniles, will clearly need to continue for some little time at least. The Ministers have therefore decided that some degree of consistency and uniformity in the criteria on which such certificates are issued should be prescribed by regulations. The purpose of the new clauses is to empower the Secretary of State to prescribe by order the conditions which must be satisfied before courts issue unruly certificates authorising the commitment of juveniles who are remanded to Prison Department establishments. I think your Lordships 1290 will agree that it was right to take advantage of the legislative opportunity provided by the Bill, even at this late stage of its passage, to take this regulating power. The Government would, of course, have liked to consult the various interests concerned, including the courts and the social services, before deciding on these clauses, but time has not permitted more than some interim informal consultations. However, I should like to repeat the categoric assurance given by my honourable friend the Minister of State in another place, that the Government will consult these bodies fully on the form, content and timing of the bringing into operation of the regulations. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendments.—(Lord Winterbottom.)
§ Baroness MASHAM of ILTON
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for explaining that so clearly, but also to ask him whether, in building more establishments for children who cannot be held in community homes, the Government are intending to build more secure places, because this is where the problem lies. There just are not the community homes which can hold them. Therefore, girls are going to Holloway Prison and boys are going to, for instance, the borstal where I work. Just lately I have had several boys who, having been with us in borstal and having gone back to school, actually prefer borstal. Their biggest problem with school is truancy. I had one boy who had been to school three times, I think, in one term. This is the great problem. There has been a lot in the Press lately about the need for more establishments where children can continue their education but from which they will not be able to abscond all the time, and where they will be treated by people who understand them. The schools just cannot cope.
Baroness WARD of NORTH TYNESIDE
My Lords, may I add one word to this debate? I think the general effect of the Amendments is extremely good. but I wonder whether the Department responsible has really examined the position in each individual area. Some areas ale very much better provided for than are others, and it rather worries me that, 1291 taking a general view of the effect of these Amendments, it would not necessarily fit into the particular area concerned. I remember that quite a long time ago, when I was in another place, we had a very difficult situation in Durham. There, a boy who could not be sent to an institution where he would be looked after was, at the request of his parents, sent to Durham gaol. The result was that the boy, who was of course a very difficult and unruly boy, in the end hanged himself there. The magistrates who had sent the boy to Durham gaol came in for a great deal of criticism, which was really quite unfair because the parents had demanded that the boy be sent somewhere where he could be looked after, and there was nowhere else to send him. The parents, therefore, had agreed to him being sent there. But it really was very disturbing that a boy was sent to Durham gaol and, therefore, hanged himself.
All I am saying is that we are putting on the Statute Book excellent provisions, providing all the necessary arrangements exist in the areas. I understood that the noble Lord was to consult with various local authorities and so on. This, I am sure, is excellent; but the point is that if we now put this on the Statute Book and find when the consultations have taken place that in some areas there is very much more provision for the unruly than in others, how are we going to get a proper balance? I am really disturbed about the fact that very good legislation dealing with the matter overall may be produced; yet when the investigations take place one finds tremendous differences in one area compared with another. How will it be possible to balance all the areas so that they all should have the advantages of the general provisions on the Statute Book? I wonder whether the noble Lord could give me some information on this matter.
I should not like to think of people having to face the situation that we faced in my part of the country years ago when this boy hanged himself and the magistrates got the blame. I know that in my part of the country we have not got as full arrangements as have other parts of the country for dealing with these matters. If there is any money to be spent, I should 1292 like to know that our part of the country is properly looked after. The South is better off than we are in this regard and, while I certainly support the idea in every way, I do not want to find the North in a more difficult position than any other part of the country. Can the noble Lord give me some information on that?
§ Baroness MACLEOD of BORVE
My Lords, I am very worried about this clause, about the Secretary of State prescribing conditions as a result of which the courts can give an unruly certificate. I wonder whether the noble Lord knows now the regulations that the Secretary of State will apply to the Benches.
The noble Lord was absolutely right, in that I suppose in every case in which I asked the parent what the boy was like at home, I was told, "He is always good at home". But, unfortunately, they are not good when they leave their homes. In my court we sometimes—not often: but the figures have escalated—have to make out certificates for unruly children who will never stay in one place. They will go out burgling every night. We try to keep them in a place of safety, of which there are so few; but they run away from places of safety and go round burgling again. As well as safeguarding the welfare of children and bringing them to order as much as one can under the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act, it is also the duty of the court to prevent this kind of thing happening as often as it does.
In this connection, one of the things we do is to grant an unruly certificate for that time. We then receive adequate Ashford Custodial Remand Home for three weeks. We then receive adequate reports from very experienced people and, as a result of the reports that are made under this clause of the unruly certificates, we are then enabled to make our judgment on the child. The child has to be kept somewhere where he cannot flagrantly go against the law the whole time. As the noble Baroness. Lady Masham of Ilton, said, it is of vital importance that the child is taught at some time in his life that he cannot continue breaking the law. I should like to know what conditions the Secretary of State is going to lay down by way of regulations to the magistrates for giving unruly certificates. They will be very important.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I think my remarks will be helpful to the noble Lord, and may bear out what my noble friend Lady Ward said. There is a Committee about to report to the Home Secretary—the Pack Committee—regarding unruly and uncontrollable children. This Report may deal with and may cover a number of anxieties expressed by my noble friend Lady Ward; hence it may enlarge on the important factors stressed by my noble friend Lady Macleod. I hope the noble Lord may be able to indicate in his reply when we may expect the Pack Report to be received.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I cannot give a date, but I will write to the noble Lord about that. May I try to reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside. She knows as well as I do that we live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and—thank goodness!—the various regions of this country are as different as chalk and cheese. It does not mean to say that because one region is rich it is virtuous, and because another is poor it is not virtuous. Conditions are often exactly the opposite. I agree in many ways that there is a regional element regarding the problem. The requirements of regions differ. Regional planning committees were established in 1969, and one of their early concerns was the need for a substantial increase in secure provision both for assessment purposes—that is, the purposes served by the former remand homes—and for relatively long term treatment in community homes with education on the premises which relate to the former approved schools. Here I may give a small pointer to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton. The regional plans currently include proposals for the provision of 480 additional secure places, 203 in observation and assessment centres and 277 in community homes with education and assessment centres and 277 in community homes with education on the premises. The achievement of this will depend upon the way we resolve our economic problems. That is the intention of the regional planning committees. I am reasonably certain that the regional planning committees will tailor their needs to their specific regional requirements.
1294 Regarding the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, I said earlier we are grabbing at a chance in this Bill to give the Secretary of State power to give general guidance on this difficult problem area. We should, in advance of legislation, have liked to consult the various interests concerned, including the courts and social services. I want to repeat the categoric assurance which was given by my honourable friend the Minister of State in another place that the Government will consult those bodies fully in the form, content and timing of the bringing into operation of the regulations. This assurance applies particularly to the Magistrates' Association which will be consulted about the contents of the regulations. I should like to give the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside, advance warning, so that she can feed into her machine any information which she wants to go to the Secretary of State. May I retract an earlier remark—a very happy state of affairs! The "pigeon post" informs me that the Pack Committee is expected to report towards the end of 1976.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, before the noble Lord casts aside his notes, could he confirm that the regional committees are planning for 480 secure places? Am I right on the figure and are those places for 480 people, or is it places which contain more than one person?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I imagine that 480 additional secure places means 480 beds, in which 480 people can sleep—not 480 buildings.