HL Deb 02 November 1987 vol 489 cc864-75

10.—(1) Where—

  1. (a) before the date on which section 1A of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 comes into force an offender has been committed for sentence to the Crown Court under section 37 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980; but
  2. (b) the Crown Court has not dealt with him before that date, it shall have the same powers of sentencing as if he had been committed on or after that date.

(2) A court to which it falls to determine for the purposes of any enactment how a previous court could or might have dealt with an offender, shall if the offender is under 21 years of age make that determination as if Part I of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 had been in force as amended by this Act.

11. An offender who was sentenced to youth custody on a date before the commencement of section 1A of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 or who was ordered to be detained in a detention centre before that date shall, if the sentence or order has not expired at the commencement of that section, be treated for all purposes of detention, release and supervision as if he had been sentenced to detention for the like term in a young offender institution.

12. A custodial order—

  1. (a) under section 71AA of the Army Act 1955, section 71AA of the Air Force Act 1955 or section 43AA of the Naval Discipline Act 1957; or
  2. (b) under paragraph 10 of Schedule 5A to the Army Act 1955, Schedule 5A to the Air Force Act 1955 or Schedule 4A to the Naval Discipline Act 1957,
shall be treated for all purposes of detention, release and supervision of the offender as a sentence of detention in a young offender institution.

13. Rules under section 47 of the Prison Act 1952 may provide that any awards for an offence against discipline made before the commencement of section 1A of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 shall continue to have effect, subject to such modifications as the Secretary of State may consider appropriate in relation to any particular description of award.

14. Where on the commencement of section 1A of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 a person is subject—

  1. (a) to supervision by virtue of section 15 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982; or
  2. (b) to a licence under section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967,
he shall be treated thereafter as if the sentence or order by virtue of which he is so subject had been a sentence of detention in a young offender institution.

15. Nothing in this Act affects any right of appeal against a sentence of youth custody.")

The noble Earl said: I beg to move this amendment, which is to insert a new schedule.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Supervision]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 218A: Page 123, line 37, leave out from first ("a") to ("which") in line 38 and insert ("sentence of detention in a young offender institution").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move this amendment referring to page 123 of the Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 219 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 219A: Page 124, line 8, after ("sentence") insert ("other than a sentence of detention in a young offender institution").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment would delete the provision of the Bill enabling courts to send juvenile offenders into custody for breach of specified activities requirements in supervision orders. My noble friend the Minister has quoted the figures of the drop in the number of juvenile delinquents, and particularly those sent into custody, either into penal institutions or into care. I think this has been largely due to the development which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will know all about; that is, intermediate treatment.

The specified activities requirements in supervision orders are very often carried out in intermediate treatment centres. If a child infringes the specified activities requirement in a supervision order and is brought back to court and then a custody order is made, that child is being sent into custody simply for infringing a specified activities requirement and not because he has committed a criminal offence.

Those of us who have worked in intermediate treatment centres know that among the children we are dealing with, with specified activities requirements some of them drive one almost round the bend. And I regret to have to say that very often one thinks that if one took those children to court and got a custodial sentence they would be out of the way.

One has to go on working and working with children over and over again. It is no good opting out. It seems to me that to take a child back to court because there is a breach of the specified activities requirement in a supervision order is a measure of the failure of those of us who run the intermediate treatment centres. I hope very much that this will be given a second thought.

The magistrates are put into a very awkward position. If those responsible for running the intermediate treatment centres, for administering the specified activities requirement in supervision orders, go to the magistrates, the magistrates will almost inevitably make a custodial order. This is the one thing that we must fight against—namely, taking children into custody when it is not really necessary.

I should like to make a second point and it is that personalities come into this. Some children react against one person and some children take to another person. If a child reacts against somebody that he or she is having to work with then thought has to be given about moving that child or perhaps changing the specified activities requirements. I do not believe it is right that children should be placed in custody because they have breached the specified activities requirements in a supervision order. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Hunt

I am very happy to be a supporter of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. I can do very little other than to echo the words she said. We must be careful about anything we do in this Bill and that the wording of the Bill does not increase the likelihood of sending more young people into custody. My reading of Schedule 7, Part III, subsection (4A), without the addition of the words which the noble Baroness would insert, leads me to believe that it does increase that possibility.

If a young person fails to comply with a supervised activities order imposed by a magistrates' court, then it is really incumbent upon the court to choose one of the other alternative non-custodial penalties available to it. The noble Baroness has mentioned intermediate treatment. There is of course a community service order, a care order, a probation order and so on. It seems to me that without the words in the amendment the forecast made by the noble Baroness will almost certainly come true. Some courts, at any rate, will resort to custody.

Custody has to be a last step. It is the whole burden of the noble Earl's amendment to Clause 111. This part of the Bill would make it a first step. In fact it contradicts the amendment by the noble Earl which we have just welcomed with open arms. When he comes to reply, I shall be very grateful if he will comment on my belief that the provision does by inference contradict what he has just given us.

Lord Renton

I see the merits of this amendment but I am a little afraid that it would have a restrictive effect. It would limit the opportunities which would otherwise be available to those responsible for deciding how young people should be kept in custody. I think that to have the possibilities kept as large as possible and as flexible as possible might be a good thing.

The Earl of Caithness

I understand and accept the concern which lies behind my noble friend's amendment. It is that the use of custody for young offenders should be very much a last resort. There is nothing between us on that, as will, I hope, be clear from what I said in our earlier debate about a unified custodial sentence. The question is whether the proposal in Schedule 7 helps or hinders that concern. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that it hindered. I beg to differ with him and I believe it in fact helps.

My noble friend's argument was, in essence, that providing custodial sanctions for breach of supervision orders where these orders are themselves imposed as a direct alternative to custody will lead in the end to more custody in cases where it is not justified. I summarise, of course, but I hope my noble friend will accept it as a fair summary.

But, if one looks more closely at what we are proposing, it should he apparent that it is quite consistent with the philosophy that custody should be used sparingly and that non-custodial alternatives should be used whenever possible. A central plank of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 was the creation of a new, strengthened supervision order, in which the courts can have confidence as a real and demanding alternative to custody. The relevant provisions are re-enacted in Schedule 7 and will now be Section 12A(3) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. Their essential feature is that the court has power to include specific requirements in supervision orders, notably a requirement to participate in an intensive intermediate treatment scheme of the kind which many local authority social services departments and voluntary bodies have been developing in recent years, with the Government's support.

I believe that these provisions of the 1982 Act have been welcomed by the courts. They provide the statutory umbrella under which a wide variety of local schemes have developed. But the Magistrates' Association has put it to us that they are less well used than they might be, at least in some parts of the country, because the court is so limited in the sanctions it can apply when the young person fails to observe the conditions of the order. At the moment the sanctions are limited to a fine or an attendance centre order. That may be perfectly adequate for the general run of supervision orders. But when the magistrates have before them a young person who has committed a serious crime and would be contemplating a custodial sentence were it not for the availability of the tough non-custodial options, it is perhaps not surprising that they should want to be able to respond severely should he subsequently simply fail to co-operate.

That is why we are proposing that a wider range of sanctions, including custody, should be available in these cases. The effect, we hope, will be that the courts feel more willing to use intensive supervision as an alternative to custody. I feel supported in that by my noble friend Lord Renton saying that it will give greater flexibility. The amendment would defeat that purpose by removing the possibility of custody for serious breach of the requirements of supervision. I stress the word "possibility" because the custodial sanction is one to which the courts would want to have resort only for the most serious breaches, where all else had failed.

I should emphasise that we are not proposing that the wider range of sanctions should be available for the ordinary run of supervision orders. The provision is very tightly confined to the special strengthened orders with specific requirements, where the court has explicitly certified that it is using supervision as an alternative to custody. I suspect that my noble friend and I are not going to find a meeting of minds on this. I hope, however, that she will accept that we are moved by a desire to achieve the more confident use by the courts of the most demanding alternatives to custody in the more serious cases.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

Before the noble Earl sits down may I point out that we are spending a great deal of time on what, in my youth, were considered to be young children. Does not the noble Earl agree that the latest statistics show that it is a predominance of boys of 15 years of age who are committing most crimes in this country?

The Earl of Caithness

My noble friend is absolutely right. The peak age of offending for boys is 15 and for girls it is 14. Therefore, we talking of a serious situation and, with this amendment, about specific requirements which, if broken, should be strengthened by the use that the courts may make of a custodial sentence giving them greater confidence in using an alternative to custody in the first place.

Baroness Faithfull

I thank the Minister for his reply. I have every sympathy with magistrates, who feel that they do not have alternatives when a case is brought back to court. However, it seems to me that where local authorities have set up good intermediate treatment centres or where, if that has not been possible, they have applied to the big children's societies such as Barnardo's, the Church of England Children's Society and the National Children's Homes, it has been possible to provide magistrates with alternatives.

Rather than continuing endlessly with custody I believe that there should be a great push with the local authorities to provide magistrates with alternatives. I speak with feeling, having been a member of Barnardo's. We set up an enormous number of intermediate treatment centres where local authorities could not afford them. I hope that my noble friend will press local authorities to provide magistrates with sanctions that are alternatives to custodial orders. I shall read carefully what my noble friend has said, and reconsider the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 220 not moved.]

Clause 114 [Detention in Detention Centre instead of Youth Custody Centre]:

On Question, Whether Clause 114 shall stand part of the Bill?

The Earl of Caithness

I beg to move that Clause 114 shall not stand part of the Bill.

Clause 114 negatived.

[Amendment No. 221 not moved.]

Clause 115 agreed to.

Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 222: After Clause 115, insert the following new clause:

("Conviction on Indictment.

The following subsections shall be substituted for sections 53(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933(2) Where a young person is convicted on indictment of any offence which is punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment for fourteen years or more, not being an offence the sentence of which is fixed by law, and the court is of opinion that none of the other methods in which the case may legally be dealt with is suitable, the court may sentence the offender to be detained for such period not exceeding the maximum term of imprisonment with which the offence is punishable in the case of an adult as may be specified in the sentence; and where such a sentence has been passed the young person shall, during that period, notwithstandng anything in the other provisions of this Act be liable to be detained in such place and on such conditions as the Secretary of State may direct."")

The noble Baroness said: This new clause would remove offenders under 14 from the ambit of Section 53(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Section 53(1) provides that a juvenile convicted of murder shall be sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure. That provision would be unaffected by the new clause.

Section 53(2) provides that, if a juvenile is found guilty on indictment of an offence for which an adult could receive 14 years' imprisonment, the court may sentence the offender to be detained for a period not exceeding the maximum term of imprisonment for the offence in such place and under such conditions as the Secretary of State may direct.

At present there is an odd inconsistency in the application of Section 53(2) to children aged 10 to 13 inclusive, because the section can be used only by the Crown Court. That means in practice that children of that age can only be sentenced under this section if they are jointly charged with an adult. It is irrational and anomalous that a juvenile who is led on by an adult should be open to sentencing under Section 53 whereas one who is responsible for his or her offence cannot be sentenced under that section. Moreover, for serious offenders of this age, a care order, which is indeterminate and under which juveniles can be placed in a variety of settings including secure accommodation, is the most appropriate option.

In a discussion on Section 53 in Committee in another place on 12th March, Mr. David Mellor, the then Minister of State at the Home Office, said that he was prepared to undertake to reconsider the age ranges that were covered. The new clause enables the Government to he asked the result of the consideration of that point. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness

Will my noble friend confirm that we are dealing solely with Amendment No. 222 and not with Amendments Nos. 223 and 224 at the same time?

Baroness Faithfull

I am sorry. I should have said that I was speaking to Amendments Nos. 223 and 224 as well.

9.30 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful to my noble friend for clarifying that point. These three new clauses raise a number of points about Section 53(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act, under which juveniles convicted at the Crown Court of the most serious offences may be sentenced to long periods of detention. Were it not for Section 53(2), the maximum custodial sentence available to the courts when dealing with juveniles convicted of even the most serious offences—except murder, to which Section 53(2) does not apply—would be 12 months' youth custody. In future that will of course be 12 months' detention in a young offender institution, but the principle will be the same.

Juveniles are capable of committing very serious offences indeed and it is clear that for some of them 12 months' custody is wholly inadequate. Section 53(2) rightly allows the courts to impose longer periods of custody for these most serious offences. The Government are in no doubt at all that Section 53(2) is a very necessary provision. I am sure that the Committee will share that view. The question that these three new clauses pose is whether the present arrangements are right in their detail.

The first of the new clauses deals with the question of the age group to which Section 53(2) applies. Its effect would be to confine the availability of the sentences to juveniles aged 14 or over. As my noble friend has pointed out, because of the operation of Section 53(2), together with Section 24 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, the only juveniles under 14 to whom Section 53(2) applies are those convicted at the Crown Court after being charged jointly with an adult or charged with manslaughter. I am quite sure in my own mind that the possibility of a Section 53(2) sentence must remain available for juveniles under 14 who have been convicted of manslaughter. Section 53(2) is the only custodial sentence available for juveniles under 14 and it would be quite wrong to remove altogether the possibility of a custodial penalty for this most grave offence. As for those under 14 charged jointly with an adult, this may be an anomaly, and I should be prepared to consider rectifying it. But 1 have to say that it is by no means clear that the change would have any real effect. Our records show no Section 53(2) cases involving juveniles under 14 since 1983, and then there was only one.

The second of the new clauses addresses the range of offences for which Section 53(2) sentences should be available. At present it may be used only for offences (other than murder) carrying a maximum penalty of at least 14 years' imprisonment. To this test the new clause would add the requirement that the offence must he mentioned in Schedule 1 to the Criminal Justice Act 1982. My noble friend has explained that the main purpose of this change would be to remove burglary from the scope of Section 53(2). In considering whether Section 53(2) should apply to burglary it is important to keep the figures in perspective. Although the numbers of Section 53(2) sentences given for burglary have been increasing, in 1985 Section 53(2) was used for only 31 out of a total of almost 15,000 juveniles convicted of burglary. Some of these 31 may indeed be cases of aggravated burglary, which would not be excluded by the new clause. Burglary can be a very serious offence and it is for that reason that it is, and I believe should remain, within the scope of Section 53(2).

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps 1 may ask the Minister a question on that. I apologise for not being able to give him notice of it. Is there no distinction in the statistics between burglary and aggravated burglary?

The Earl of Caithness

At the moment I do not have that breakdown. I shall look into the matter and inform the noble Lord.

Referring back to Section 53(2), in their context I would suggest that the figures do not give as strong grounds for concern as my noble friend has suggested.

The third new clause raises a rather different issue. It is concerned with the arrangements for the release of juveniles sentenced to Section 53(2) detention. At present, these arrangements are a matter for my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. There is no statutory provision for remission, with which the new clause is concerned. Nor is there a statutory entitlement to be considered for early release on licence after a third of the sentence. The advantage of the present arrangements is their flexibility, which means that the young people can be released whenever it is felt they are ready. This can mean that some are released earlier than they might have been if there were fixed arrangements. Nevertheless, I understand the concern that has prompted this new clause. As members of the Committee will know, the whole question of parole is the subject of a review being carried by Mr. Mark Carlisle. The question of the release of juveniles detained under Section 53(2) is within the scope of the review, and Mr. Carlisle is being provided with information about the present arrangements. In view of this the Committee will understand the Government's wish to await the outcome of the review before deciding upon any changes to the present arrangements for release of Section 53(2) detainees.

I have given a long answer but I believe it was right to put it fully on the record. In the light of what I have said, I hope that my noble friend will agree to withdraw the three new clauses.

Lord Hylton

I am advised by my noble friend Lord Henderson, whose name is also on the amendment, that sentences under this clause can go up to detention at the pleasure of the Secretary of State. I have to plead total ignorance as to the arrangements for that type of punishment in England, but I have had some experience of how they work in Northern Ireland, where there have been a number of juvenile terrorist-type offences and sentences. There, I am glad to say, we have reached a point where nobody has been detained for more than six years without having his sentence properly reviewed by, in that case, the Life Sentence Review Board. This is tremendously important, because we know that long indeterminate sentences generate a feeling of total hopelessness and despair in those suffering them. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether the review arrangements in England and Wales are at least comparable and possibly better than the arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

I should like first of all to apologise for not being in my place when the noble Baroness moved the amendment. Secondly, I am most grateful to learn from the noble Earl that the subject of these three amendments will be examined by Mr. Carlisle when his committee is set up. If that is so, I am extremely grateful, because all the amendments are concerned with points of importance. It is especially important that sooner or later, and the sooner the better, an injustice which is perceived by the young people themselves and by their custodians should be removed. Young people in both categories in the same establishment are receiving different sentences. That cannot be right. One could have two people, one over 17 and one under 17, receiving different sentences. These three amendments have raised matters of great importance. I thank the noble Earl for his lengthy and considered reply. I do not know whether the noble Baroness agrees, but I feel that we must await the deliberations of the Carlisle committee.

The Earl of Caithness

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, has just said, only the third of the new clauses, Amendment No. 244, will be the subject of the Carlisle review. That concerns a different point and it is Amendment No. 222 at which I shall be having another look.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, about the need to keep long, indeterminate sentences under review. We are discussing generally determinate sentences but the principle of regular review is absolutely right. The Carlisle committee will also be considering that.

Baroness Faithfull

My heart lifted when I heard that the Carlisle review will look at Section 53(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act, but as I understand it from my noble friend that will apply only to Amendment No. 224 and not to Amendments Nos. 222 and 223. On the other hand my noble friend has said that he will study what has been said in the Committee today. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 223 and 224 not moved.]

Lord Wigoder moved Amendment No. 225: After Clause 115, insert the following new clause:

("Legal aid.

. In the powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973, section 22(1), after "sentence of imprisonment" there shall be added the words "or order for youth custody", after "with imprisonment" there shall be added the words "or youth custody", and after "shall take effect" there shall be added the words "unless the offender had been subject to an order for youth custody and had since attained the age of 21 years. in which case the original order for youth custody shall have effect as if it had been a sentence of imprisonment".").

The noble Lord said: I rise, I believe, to wind up the evening and to put forward what is really not so much an amendment as a rather tentative suggestion. It is sidelined under the words "legal aid". That appears to be something of a printer's quirk and should be treated with total contempt.

In 1973 many of us sitting at that time judicially welcomed the power to suspend sentences of imprisonment. We welcomed it for three reasons: first, because it was an added weapon in the armoury of people who had to sentence; secondly, because it was an additional deterrent, a way in which people could have something hanging over them rather more formidable than a conditional discharge or a probation order; and thirdly, because if the sentence was properly used—and it was not always properly used—it resulted in rather fewer people being sent to prison than otherwise would have been sent there.

The reason for the last statement is simply that it was made perfectly clear that no suspended sentence of imprisonment should ever be passed unless the judge had made up his mind that a sentence of imprisonment was inevitable in the circumstances of the case. Having made up his mind to that effect, the judge could then go on to consider whether there were circumstances which might warrant the suspension of that sentence. That is why I say that, if anything, it must have had some effect in keeping people out of prison who otherwise would have been there.

I felt, as did many of my colleagues in the succeeding years, that a similar power in relation to young offenders might equally be useful. But that power has never been given to the courts. It would enable the courts in passing a sentence of youth custody—having decided that such a sentence was the only appropriate sentence in a particular case—to suspend it for a given period provided the young person was of good behaviour during that period. That is the thought behind this amendment.

The proposal is made a little clumsy, I recognise at once, by the complication in relation to a young person and a sentence of youth custody that a suspended sentence might be imposed, that during the period of the suspension the offender might cease to be eligible to serve by reason of age a sentence of youth custody and that he would instead have to serve a sentence of imprisonment if he committed an offence during that period. The somewhat awkward wording of this new clause is designed to deal with that by saying— and I recognise that there are problems here —that if a sentence of youth custody were suspended and the offender committed an offence after the age when he was liable to be sentenced to youth custody, then that sentence would be dealt with as though it had been in the first place a sentence of imprisonment.

I appreciate that this is a matter of some controversy. It is put forward in a genuine desire to help and in a genuine desire to try to keep some young offenders out of youth custody and at liberty. In that spirit, I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, for bringing this matter to the Committee's attention. I am aware of the considerable degree of judicial support which the idea of suspended youth custody sentences enjoys. In future, in the light of the government amendments which the Committee accepted earlier today, we shall have to speak of "detention in a young offender establishment", but that does not affect the substance of the argument. It was because we took very seriously the judges' feeling that the absence of a power to suspend youth custody sentences was a regrettable gap in the sentencing structure that we published a consultative document a little over a year ago inviting views on the various possibilities.

The great majority of those who responded to our invitation were against the introduction of suspended youth custody sentences. They included the Magistrates' Association, whose members would be most likely to use such a new power, and other bodies in the criminal justice system—the Law Society, the Association of Chief Probation Officers, NACRO—whose views we respect.

Put simply, the main concern of those who opposed the idea was that if suspended sentences were available the use of custody for young offenders would be greater than otherwise. There is some support for that view from the figures and after the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 1982. Before the Act came into force suspended sentences of imprisonment could be imposed on young men aged between 17 and 20. Incidentally, it is worth noting that neither sentences of Borstal training nor detention centres orders could be suspended, and accordingly there were no suspended sentences for juveniles, so the 1982 Act was perhaps not as great a departure as some might think. As it stands, the noble Lord's amendment would of course apply to juveniles.

In 1982, the last full year before the Act came into force, 6,100 suspended sentences of imprisonment and 22,700 immediate custodial sentences (imprisonment, Borstal training or detention centre orders) were imposed on young men. In 1984, the first full year of operation of the new Act, 23,700 immediate custodial sentences (youth custody or detention centre) were imposed. So on the face of it all but a thousand of the 6,100 suspended sentences were replaced, not by immediate custody, but by noncustodial penalties.

I think this must put in doubt whether the reintroduction of suspended sentences would have any beneficial effect on the prison population. Indeed there are quite good grounds for thinking that it might actually increase the prison population. It should be remembered that for adults the rate of breach of fully suspended prison sentences is about 30 per cent.

A further consideration is that for young offenders there are the special restrictions on the use of custody in Section 1(4) of the 1982 Act which will be strengthened by this Bill. These say, in effect, that custody is not to be used for a young offender unless the court is satisfied that no other method of dealing with him is appropriate. A young offender will qualify for a custodial sentence only if he has a history of failure to respond to non-custodial penalties and is unable or unwilling to respond to them; or if only a custodial sentence would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm; or if his offence is so serious that a non-custodial sentence cannot be justified.

It might be possible to reconcile a suspended custodial sentence with the first of these criteria. But it would require considerable intellectual gymnastics on the part of the court to decide that a custodial sentence was necessary on either the second or the third and then to suspend it.

For these reasons the Government have not hitherto been attracted by the idea of suspended custodial sentences for young offenders. But our minds are not completely closed, and the change to a single sentence provides an opportunity to look at the matter again. If the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, will withdraw his amendment, I should be glad to look at this matter, entirely without commitment, and to return to it at a later stage.

Lord Wigoder

The last thing that I want to do is to be responsible in any way for any proposal that might increase the number of people serving any sort of custodial sentence. If that were to be the effect I should be deeply perturbed. I suspect it may be that the figures given by the Minister are an indication that the principle of suspended sentences is sometimes neither understood by those who are passing those sentences nor complied with. I am very happy to accept what the Minister has said about looking further at this matter, and I am grateful to him for his consideration of it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

I call Amendment No. 225A.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Before the noble Baroness moves this amendment, I should like to point out that we on these Benches were informed that the Committee would rise after consideration of Amendment No. 225. On the basis of that information, which we secured through the usual channels, two of my noble friends went home. I accept that it was done in good faith but I do not think that we should be given one account at one moment and a few moments later find that a totally different picture appears to emerge. I hope that this topic can be started tomorrow. We had a very clear indication from the Government that they intended to leave the debate after we had considered Amendment No. 225.

The Earl of Caithness

I am of course in the hands of the Committee, but I had hoped that it would be possible to take Amendment No. 225A. My noble friend Lady Faithfull is in the Chamber. It is her amendment and it is for her to move it. I realise that there has been some confusion about whether the final amendment this evening should be No. 225 or No. 225A. I thought the matter had been sorted out so that we could take Amendment No. 225A tonight. However, I am in the hands of my noble friend and the Committee on this matter.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

All I can say is that Amendment No. 225A breaks entirely new ground. as I understand it, in the sense that it proposes to apply to England the Scottish system for children's hearings. However, perhaps the noble Baroness whose amendment it is and who has a considerable interest in this matter has some thoughts to contribute.

Baroness Faithfull

I am in some difficulty because I think that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, must be aware of some Members who wish to speak on this amendment but are not present. I imagine that that is why he has spoken as he has. If that is the case, I wonder whether the Minister will agree to this amendment being discussed tomorrow.

The Earl of Caithness

I am very happy to oblige my noble friend.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

Thank you very much.

The Earl of Caithness

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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