§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th November be approved [5th Report from the Joint Committee].
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this order provides that Section 128A of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, which enables magistrates' courts to remand defendants in custody for a maximum period of up to 28 days, shall have effect in all petty sessions areas in England and Wales in relation to those under the age of 17, as well as those of 17 and over.
§ This order is a consequence of Section 52 of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996. As noble Lords may recall, Section 52 provides that Sections 128(1A) and (3A) and 128(A) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 shall apply to defendants under the age of 17.
§ The effect is that the maximum length of time for which courts may remand to custody a juvenile who is awaiting summary trial or committal to the Crown Court will be in line with that for adult defendants. This means that on second and subsequent appearances of a juvenile in court, the court may order a remand to custody of a juvenile for up to 28 days, rather than eight days as at present.
§ This order brings into effect the change to Section 128A provided by Section 52 by providing, as I have said, that Section 128A will have effect in all petty sessions areas in relation to those under the age of 17. Section 128A already has effect in these areas in relation to those aged 17 and over. We intend to bring the amendments to Section 128(1A) and (3A) into effect on 1st February by means of a separate appointed day order.
§ Frequent court appearances where no change in remand arrangements are sought can be disruptive for young people as well as being unproductive. The new arrangements will give courts greater flexibility in determining the appropriate remand period and reduce the number of adjournments. Courts will remain free to set shorter remand periods than the maximum if they consider it is desirable and defendants will be able to make bail applications before the end of a remand period if there is a change in circumstances.
§ We will be issuing guidance to the courts and to other criminal justice agencies to make sure that the effect of the new arrangements and the flexibility that they provide are fully understood. This will, in particular, make clear that the welfare of the child must be considered in determining the appropriate remand period.
§ The order will be subject to debate in another place. If it is approved by both Houses, the Home Secretary will then sign the order and it will come into operation on 1st February. I commend the order to your Lordships. I beg to move.791
§ Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th November be approved [5th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Blatch.)
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I understand that the matter has not yet been debated in another place, which is unusual. Normally we have the benefit of its opinion before orders come to us. None of us likes juveniles, people under 18, being remanded in custody. We do not like them being in prison. We certainly do not like them being in police cells; nor do we like them being in detention centres when it can possibly be avoided.
However, from what the Minister said, I am relieved to hear that in itself the order will not increase the amount of time that juveniles will spend in custody. It will simply reduce the number of occasions on which they are required to go before the courts and the courts have to grant an adjournment. On that basis and on the basis that the order implements legislation which has already been passed, we have no objection to it.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.