§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I am told that I can delight your Lordships further by now repeating a Statement made in the other place. The Statement is as follows:Mr Speaker, with permission, I wish to make a Statement on the next phase of our strategy to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, and in particular correctional services.Our objective has to be to reduce crime by radically transforming the performance of the prison and probation services and those services working in partnership with them.Since 1997, we have undertaken a unique programme of reform and investment in both services. We have provided 14,700 more prison places, including seven new prisons, and we are providing £900 million more this year in real terms. There has been a 50 per cent increase in probation funding and a 30 per cent increase in front-line staff. Since 1996–97, there has been an increase of 4,300 additional staff in the Probation Service alone.We do not accept the counsel of despair that suggests offenders cannot be turned away from crime. The whole objective of correctional services must be to prevent re-offending, as well as providing punishment and protection.Today we are publishing our report, Reducing Crime, Changing Lives, which sets out a progressive agenda for the future and outlines the next steps to modernise and reform correctional services. I have placed a copy of this report in the Vote Office, together with the report from Patrick Carter. We are grateful to him and his colleagues for the work they have done, which we have drawn on extensively in the proposals before us today.Prison and rehabilitation after custody can be made to work only if those subject to punishment are forced to address their behaviour. Sending more people to prison but seeing more return only to reoffend again is unacceptable. Addressing the causes is therefore essential for success.Together with the Department of Health, we have now adopted a radical new policy for health investment to tackle a range of problems from mental health to drug misuse. This year, over 50,000 prisoners have received clinical detoxification, 5,000 undertaking drug rehabilitation programmes and 40 per cent of all prisoners signing voluntary drug compacts.Equally, through education, training and work programmes, we have dramatically changed the opportunity to redeem the behaviour and attitude of those in prison. In 1997, figures were not collected on educational achievement. This year, almost 50,000 prisoners will gain basic skills qualifications, and we have put in place, with the Department for Work and Pensions, the custody-to-work programme which is already showing signs of substantial success.87Last year, 30 per cent of prisoners entered work or training, a transformation from the past, and 25 per cent of prisoners had a job on release, compared with 10 per cent 10 years ago. The creation of the Youth Justice Board five years ago and the new National Probation Service in 2001 have made a substantial difference.The YJB has been responsible for developing the intensive supervision and surveillance programme as an alternative to secure accommodation. We are now looking to even more imaginative ways of using a combination of satellite tracking with peer mentoring to work with offenders in the community.The probation service has developed drug testing and treatment orders, which are the first effective community sentence for drug abusers and are now being supported by the Criminal Justice Intervention Programme. The probation service is developing the Intensive Change and Control Programme, which is a community-based sentence for adult offenders.There is also now real momentum behind restorative justice to encourage responsibility, to address offending behaviour and to make amends to the victim where appropriate.This month, we are piloting a radical new approach to custodial sentencing. Kirkham for men and Morton Hall for women will be the first establishments to experiment with periods of intermittent custody, such as prison at weekends.The new sentencing framework introduced in the Criminal Justice Act is central to reducing crime and therefore reoffending. We have introduced new mandatory life sentences for the most heinous crimes, custody minus and custody plus, covering a range of crimes, and much tougher punishment and enforcement for breaches. I want to see robust, intensive community programmes replace ineffective, short custodial sentences in a way which allows us to take decisive action where breaches occur.These reforms will help to deliver considerable improvement in performance of the correctional services by ensuring both joined-up policy and joined-up delivery. But we believe we must take further steps for improvement and more radical progress. Together with the Department for Constitutional Affairs, we will look to link the enforcement of fines and fixed penalty notices as a first deterrent prior to the need for community or custodial sentencing. We will be examining the potential for linking fines with the ability to pay as an alternative to custody.In building on existing reforms, our strategy will place renewed focus on the appropriate intervention for the specific crime. But if we are to deliver further transformation, we need significant organisational change. This, of course, includes the management of the services themselves, including the rooting out of unacceptable practices, such as racism and bullying. 88 That is why I am announcing today the establishment of a single service to manage offenders.The new National Offender Management Service will have direct responsibility for the punishment and rehabilitation of adult offenders both in custody and in the community. I am pleased to announce that Martin Narey, former Director-General of the Prison Service, will be the new chief executive of the service.We are also announcing today the establishment of a National Offender Management Board, chaired by my honourable friend the Minister for correctional services. We will be making separate announcements in due course in relation to the inspection regime, which will remain independent.We intend to learn the lessons from the use of contestability within the Prison Service. Contestability will extend to not-for-profit and voluntary organisations which we invite to come forward to work in partnership with the service. We believe that the task of integrating the management of offenders is best achieved at regional and local level, where effective links can be forged and joined-up strategies developed. These will include working with complementary services, including health, education, housing and employment.We will create 10 regional offender managers, responsible for end-to-end management of offenders, covering the nine English regions and Wales. We will, as part of the overall review of the location of government posts, be looking to decentralise more of the service. The regional offender managers will be responsible for ensuring effective case management. They will contract for prison places, community placements, supervision and other critical interventions as part of the new partnership approach.But I believe that the judiciary can be much better informed about the effectiveness of different forms of sentencing and more aware of what is likely to be most effective for particular individuals. We introduced in the Criminal Justice Act the new Sentencing Guidelines Council to formulate a comprehensive set of guidelines. I have agreed with the Lord Chief Justice and the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs that it is important that greater knowledge of effective interventions, including the cost-effectiveness of different approaches, should inform the work of the Sentencing Guidelines Council. This will be crucial to the work of the judiciary and magistracy at regional and local level.In the first instance, we would seek their urgent intervention in eliminating the drift in sentence length and a reduction in unjustified variations in sentencing across the country. I expect these reforms to lead to a much more effective, consistent and transparent criminal justice system.But it is those working in the service who will bear the brunt both of the challenges and of the change in the future. I wish to pay tribute to the staff 89 in the prison and probation services, and in the YJB, whose expertise has contributed so much to the achievements that I have already highlighted in this Statement. These changes are an assertion of our confidence in those who work with offenders and of our belief that the new arrangements will help substantially to make their work in custody and the community significantly more effective.I repeat: reducing reoffending by better protecting our communities. by punishing offenders more transparently and by equipping them to avoid a return to criminality is our key objective. I know this goal will be shared by both the House and the country as a whole. I commend the Statement to the House".
§ My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Viscount Bridgeman
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating to your Lordships the Statement made by the Home Secretary in another place. As my right honourable friend Mr David Davis made clear, there are many aspects of the Statement with which we on this side of the House agree. In particular, we want to pay tribute to the staff of the Prison Service, the probation service and the Youth Justice Board, who carry out their duties conscientiously in what are often very difficult circumstances. On the latter, I pay particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, who, in his previous role, did so much for the Youth Justice Board. We also wish Mr Martin Narey well in his new role as chief executive of the co-ordinating body.
However, I have to say that this Government have been in power for six years and there has been much tough talk on sentencing. But there is an ever-increasing number of crimes and imprisonable offences, and the question of new prison building has been continually dodged. The inevitable result is the overflowing of prisons and prisoners in police cells with the attendant cost and so forth. Of course, we welcome the extra 14,700 prison places, largely possible thanks to investment and plans made by the previous government. However, that still leaves the situation where, by 2006, 8,000 more places than the Prison Service can manage will be needed. That is very much a bottom-line figure and I understand that some estimates put the figure as high as 22,000.
So the emphasis once again shifts back to the unsettling statistic that three-quarters of young offenders reoffend, setting them off on a lifetime of criminality. I hope that, as part of his review, the Home Secretary will commit himself to addressing, almost above all others, the question of a reduction in reoffending rates.
Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that we also welcome the use of the private and voluntary sectors in assisting the probation service. Like my right honourable friend, we welcome the Home Secretary's conversion to "contestability", which he correctly, I feel, interprets as new-Labour speak for "privatisation".
90 The 4,300 extra staff in the Prison Service are also to be welcomed. But I must repeat a remark made to my right honourable friend by a member of the probation service that,we are drowning in audits and inspections and regulations and have very little time left to deal with offendersThat is yet another example of, in many cases, needless red tape to which my right honourable friend Mr Michael Howard in his new year message to my party committed himself to addressing with vigour.
It is our view that these proposals are flawed by excessive centralisation in the hands of the Home Secretary, which is blunting the effect of so many of these good initiatives. The Intensive Change and Control Programmes, which work in many cases so well in other countries, are not working here. The depressing statistic that 70 per cent of prisoners who have been on these courses reoffend after just nine months leads one to the conclusion that these may be regarded as an early way out of prison to relieve numbers, but sadly also an early way back.
The noble Baroness in her Statement made the point that 500,000 prisoners this year will receive basic skills training. Does she agree that the moving on of the prisoners all too often blunts the benefits of this to prisoners? We accept that in many cases this is necessary; for instance, moving them for compassionate reasons to be near their family. Can she assure the House that the question is being addressed of these moves being kept to an absolute minimum so that initiatives such as basic skills training are not impaired?
The Minister has reminded the House that 50,000 prisoners have received clinical de-codification but that only 5,000 have undertaken drug rehabilitation. This supports our frequently expressed calls for a tenfold increase in residential rehabilitation programmes. I urge the Minister to consider, in particular, the Minnesota rehabilitation programme in the United States, which has had such encouraging results.
The noble Baroness has spoken about linking fines with the ability to pay. That is fine so far as it goes. However, the Government must go further and address the fact that one fine in three is unpaid and that currently there are 276 million fines outstanding. Also, we need reassurance that fines and community penalties are not used simply to make places available in gaols.
There is much in the Statement that we can applaud. We are not happy with the Government's record on a number of points, which I have attempted to outline, but noble Lords from these Benches will continue to make what I hope are constructive criticisms. In particular, I shall read with interest the report that has been published today.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, like the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, we on these Benches welcome warmly much of the Statement and the context and tone in which it was delivered, both in this House and in another place. We all owe a great debt to Patrick Carter for the report.
91 Of course, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, put his finger on the issue: this is a Statement in the sixth year of a Labour Government. In many ways, although the report is progressive, its analysis is damning. I give two brief quotes:Sentences are poorly targeted and do not bear down sufficiently on serious, dangerous and highly persistent offenders. The increased use of prison and probation since 1997 has been concentrated on first time offenders, leading to poor use of additional investment".The truth is that the report offers the Government an opportunity for a watershed in our treatment of offenders. We have had a decade under three successive Home Secretaries—not least Michael Howard, outdone by Jack Straw, and subsequently outdone by David Blunkett—in which the Home Secretary of the day has chosen to play to the prejudices of the Daily Mail rather than to address some of the issues pinpointed in this report. NACRO's statement of welcome this afternoon made this very point. It stated:A reversal of the rising use of prison is unlikely to occur unless there is a change in political rhetoric about crime. Constant tough talk by politicians affects the climate in which courts operate and makes it more punitive".The truth is that the criticisms and statements of penal policy from these Benches and from noble Lords elsewhere with experience are not simply woolly liberalism. They are the observation from experiences around the world that there are better ways of treating offenders than building more and more prisons and cramming people into those prisons, which in fact simply become universities of crime for reoffending. So we certainly welcome the report and the tone of the Statement. But that comes on the back of a fairly bleak record of how successive Home Secretaries have chosen to position this problem and its solutions.
We certainly welcome the emphasis on community-based restorative justice and we urge improved visibility for community service uses. We welcome the new structure for the prison and probation service. However, my worry is twofold. There are considerable differences in culture between the probation service and the Prison Service. Their merger must be carefully managed to make sure that the best elements of both cultures survive into the new service. While the Government are creating a new correctional service, they have a marvellous opportunity to try to rehabilitate the probation service and its workers from the kind of image and pillorying they have received in our popular press, which has had a tremendous effect on morale within that service. We really need to put the resources and the political confidence into this new correctional service for it to work correctly.
Likewise, with the new role for the ombudsman. There is an extensive increase in responsibilities for the ombudsman. Again, it will make sense only if the resources are there for the ombudsman to take on that new role.
The report also identifies the worrying aspect of the increase of women suicides in prison, which needs a direct and immediate response from the Government. 92 Finally, there is the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, about the balance between banging prisoners up and playing to the gallery and creating a prison service that really tackles the problem. It is more than 20 years since, as an MP, I visited Strangeways Prison. I walked past unused lathes, turners and training machinery that was mothballed for lack of resources, while prisoners were banged up for 23 hours per day. It was no surprise when, within months of that visit, the prisoners were on the roof rioting. It seems to me that we have not yet learnt the lesson that imprisonment should be an opportunity to give offenders the chance to get off drugs and to train for a more responsible role in society.
Much of the rhetoric of the Statement in response to the report and the report itself give that opportunity. I am afraid that the jury is still out about whether the Government will take it.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Lord. Lord McNally, for the warmth of their welcome. As barbed as were some of their comments, the warmth overwhelmed them. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary absolutely agrees with one thing said by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, which is that this is a once in a generation opportunity. We also agree with Patrick Carter's analysis and aim: to ensure that offenders are punished, the public are protected and the appropriate help is available to reduce offending.
I must tell the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, that the Government have done a great deal during the past six years to bring about significant change. The proposals contained in the Statement build on the work of the two services and would not have been possible were it not for the investment made by the Government and the huge improvements that have been brought about in performance. The Government will always ensure that there are sufficient prison places for serious and dangerous offenders, but in many cases what is needed is a tough, credible community-based punishment. As both noble Lords said, we need to rebuild fines as a credible punishment and build credible community alternatives as well.
To respond to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, on prisons, I remind him with the greatest gentleness that since May 1997, 14,700 additional places had been provided, including several new prisons. That has been very much this Government's effort. Although I accept that others may have started the journey, we have completed it. Prison operational capacity is at 75,000 places—as noble Lords will know, there is an operational marginal of 2,000—and that will be increased to 78,700 by 2006, which is up by 3,700, with the same additional operating margin of 2,000.
Investment in probation has been significant. We absolutely understand the challenge highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. The image that has been portrayed by some of rehabilitation and probation is inaccurate. That is why it gave me great pleasure to commend from this Dispatch Box the work done so well by our probation officers, prison officers and 93 others in non-governmental organisations that have worked with them to bring about the change in education.
That is a challenging agenda, but I hope that noble Lords will be assured that our past commitment has involved a significant increase in the financial support given to the services to bring that about. For probation alone, funding is at £830 million for 2003–04—up by £100 million from last year. It will rise again by £100 million during the next two years—by £30 million next year and by £80 million thereafter. We will also fund the annual increases in staff of about 750—up by 4 per cent—in the first year; by 1,150 in the second year, which is up by 6 per cent; and then by 1,600, which is up by 8 per cent. So staff numbers will rise by 4,300 from 14,700 in 1997–98 to 19,000 in 2003–04. That is a significant commitment and speaks well of the Government's overall commitment.
I heard what was said about rhetoric. Speaking entirely for myself, I listen to what people say but I really watch what they do. I respectfully say that what we have done to bring about change is very impressive. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, raised the issue of suicides. We have given the issue a great deal of attention. Noble Lords will know that there is an independent investigation of all deaths in custody by the Prisons arid Probation Ombudsman to help the Prison Service to reduce the number of deaths. Since 1997, we have invested millions of pounds in reducing suicides, including setting up the partnership between the Samaritans and the Prison Service. We shall continue to commit ourselves to those matters to ensure that deaths are reduced to the minimum level.
As I said, I welcome the warmth of the welcome that has been given to the Statement and the complimentary comment about the context and tone, with which I am totally ad idem.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Hurd of Westwell
My Lords, I join in thanking the Minister for her Statement. She will not mind my commenting—because it is not in any way her fault—that although my noble friend's comment about it was polite, the Statement had a tone of self-congratulation that is not especially convincing or congenial in this House.
Of course it is true that the work of the probation and prison services must be brought ever more closely together—especially in matters of resettlement. I entirely agree that there is much ground to make up there. But does the Minister also accept that different skills are involved here, which is why there have been two different services? She and I can think of many people who have been excellent probation officers but who would be no good as prison governors, and the other way round. There is concern, especially in the probation service, among individuals of long experience and great skill that their skills will be diluted or ignored in the change. Will she give some reassurance on that?
I have two specific questions. First, to what extent will the changes announced today require fresh legislation? Secondly, the Minister mentioned the 94 inspectorate, but only in order to say that further work is being undertaken on it. She made an important statement about independence—Members of this House have been concerned about that in the past. Does she accept that independence does not consist only of maintaining the principle that the two inspectorates publish what they wish to publish and report independently of politics to the Home Secretary and the public? The reserves of skill that they have accumulated over the years must also not he dissipated by reorganisation—they must not only be independent but continue to be effective in their independence.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, made some important points with which I can agree. For the avoidance of doubt, we very much value the difference in the skills exhibited by probation officers and in the Prison Service. They have different but complementary functions and we want to lose the skills of neither.
From our criminal justice debates, noble Lords will know that we are trying to develop a more holistic approach to the management of the offender, so that it will be seamless. In order to do that effectively, we are bringing the service together, but we will rely on the skills and ability of the Prison Service and the officers within it and the skills of the probation service and their development.
As for whether the changes will require fresh legislation, we do not believe that our recommendations will. In the Criminal Justice Act 2003, we have already introduced a framework and do not think that any additional legislative change will be necessary to implement most of the recommendations—the major ones. Of course, if we discover difficulties with some of the minutiae, we will come back.
Your Lordships will know that the nature of the inspectorate has not yet been definitively decided, but it is clear that it must be independent, robust in its operation, fair and frank. Having had the advantage of holding the office of Home Secretary, the noble Lord will know how vital it is for us to receive independent advice on how the service is being delivered. We are entirely committed to maintaining the independence and efficacy of inspections.
§ Lord Corbett of Castle Vale
My Lords, I welcome the new emphasis on education, training and work programmes in prisons but will my noble friend confirm that prison and probation is not about process—ticking the boxes of key performance indicators—but outcomes, mainly measured by falling rates of reconviction? Can she explain how the measures will end the position where 74 in every 100 prisoners under the age of 21 are back behind bars within two years?
Will she visit Mount Prison in Bovingdon, which I was able to do last month, to see the impressive range of rehabilitation work under way there, including the use of longer serving prisoners as mentors to those who are to be released earlier? Will she also guarantee that 95 there will be enough cash to turn the Statement's ambitions for rehabilitation into reality across the system?
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I can certainly reassure my noble friend Lord Corbett that that is our expressed intent. We too are monitoring carefully the impressive projects that are being carried out in a number of our prisons. We are seeking to identify what works so that we can spread that practice more widely. We have been encouraged, for instance, by the work of Youth Justice Board for England and Wales. Its efforts have significantly reduced recidivism among young offenders. It has fallen by 22 per cent, which is a very real reduction. We wish to take advantage of all the intelligence that we have available to make sure that that can be replicated across the piece. I agree with my noble friend about its importance. I cannot guarantee that I shall have an opportunity to go to Mount Prison, but I shall certainly ensure that the invitation is heard by my private office and indeed by the Minister responsible for prisons, unless he may beat me to it.
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, there is a degree of humbug in much of the Statement. The Minister will no doubt recall that Schedule 19 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was the product of the Home Secretary personally. It was his conditioned reflex to the courts having declared that the European Convention on Human Rights, accepted by the Government, disentitled him from playing any part, as this House had frequently pointed out, in the sentencing of people convicted of murder.
Schedule 19 resulted in his laying down minimum sentences that were at least 50 per cent greater than those which had been agreed a year previously, thus jacking up the whole of the sentencing regime for serious offences. The Minister will no doubt recall—hence my reference to "humbug"—how Schedule 19 pre-empted the Sentencing Guidelines Council, resulting in judicial discretion being removed and judges being prevented from sentencing according to the justice of the case. As a result, the suggestion that 8,000 more places are required is a gross underestimate. If the sentencing regime for all serious offences is jacked up as a result of the Home Secretary's Schedule 19, the Prison Service will find itself in an impossible position.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I am delighted that we are returning to a subject that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and I have debated on a number of occasions, so he will not be surprised by my saying that I do not agree with him. The noble and learned Lord will recall from our almost endless conversations on the matter that Schedule 19 provides the court with a starting point. It is not a minimum term; it is a starting point, with aggravating and mitigating features that the court can take into account in determining the nature and length of the sentence. I respectfully suggest to the noble and learned Lord that that does not detract from the 96 exercise of discretion, but rather it burdens the judge with exercising his judgment with a greater degree of acuity and clarity than was perhaps always obvious to the outside observer. It perhaps makes it easier for one to understand why the decision has been reached.
It would be verging on the unfair—I hesitate to say it to the noble and learned Lord, because I know that he would never wish to be unfair—to describe the Statement as "humbug". It is an accurate reflection of that to which we aspire in terms of sentencing. We have made it clear, as we did during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill, that the Government are wholly committed to ensuring that only those who need to be in prison, because of the nature of their offence or pattern of offending behaviour and for whom alternative sentences are not appropriate, should be there. We have made that point repeatedly.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has called for longer sentences for murderers and for serious offenders who have committed the most heinous crimes, but not for other offenders for whom we believe rehabilitation, restitution and recovery are possible.
§ Baroness Walmsley
My Lords, I welcome the emphasis on prison education in the Statement. Does the Minister agree that education is the saviour of many an offender and prevents him reoffending? Does she further agree that the greatest barrier to delivering effective education programmes in prisons is overcrowding? It causes the demoralisation of the prison officers and a high level of sick leave. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has mentioned, prisoners have to be moved around from one prison to another and are unable to complete their programmes. Noble Lords may have shared my incredulity in hearing the Home Secretary blame the judiciary for sentencing drift, in the light of the fact that since the Government came to power, they have introduced about 700 new criminal offences in addition to the jacking-up of sentences to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, referred.
In light of that, perhaps the Minister will indicate what chance the Sentencing Guidelines Council will have of stopping sentencing drift and the inexorable rise of the prison population, about which Her Majesty's Government appear to be proud. I share the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, on the self-congratulatory tone of the Statement in respect of the increased number of prison places and the building of seven new prisons. I should have thought that that is an indictment and an admission of the Government's failure to tackle the rise in crime and to reduce the rate of reoffending.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I do not accept that the rise is the result solely of the efforts of the Government. There has been sentencing drift. The noble Baroness will recall from our debates on the Criminal Justice Bill that we referred to the imbalance in sentences from one part of the country to another. In the north-west, driving offences are dealt with in one way, whereas in places such as Essex, drivers who are found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol have a 74 per cent chance of going to prison. 97 There are regional variations that have nothing to do with government policy, because the same law is applied in very different ways in different areas of the country.
The drift in custodial sentencing in magistrates' courts has more than tripled. It has risen from five per cent to 17 per cent. In Crown Courts, it has nearly doubled, rising from 17 per cent to 28 per cent in the past 10 years. There have been changes in the way in which non-serious and non-violent offences are dealt with. Sentencing drift for theft and handling offences has nearly tripled. Eight per cent of offenders used to be sent to prison; that proportion has now risen to 22 per cent. For motoring offences, the figure has risen by 500 per cent for men and by 400 per cent for women.
We must address those drifts and changes in pattern. They cannot with due fairness and propriety be held at the Government's door. There has been a drift in the sentencing pattern. The Sentencing Guidelines Council will help greatly to stop the drift, because there will be very clear bench-marks to deal with regional variations. It will not mean that we will have total uniformity across the country, because at various times an offence may be more serious in one area and it would be totally explicable why that area might be dealt with differently. It is to be hoped that inexplicable variations will he minimised. That is a major improvement.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the welcome part of the prologue to the Statement is what amounts almost to the formal reinstatement of rehabilitation as a principal aim of the Prison Service. It is very important to recognise that when you bang the door on a prisoner the problem is not solved; it has reached its peak. Not banging the door is very important, too. Therefore, I welcome the new respectability and importance given to restorative justice.
All that comes very late in the criminal career. Noble Lords have heard me say previously that, if only all that ingenuity and money could be thrown into reaching people before they become criminals, we would all be happier and the prisons would be much emptier. I am very puzzled by the following two-line paragraph:The new National Offender Management Service will have direct responsibility for the punishment and rehabilitation of adult offenders both in custody and the community".Once again, we are coming in late in the criminal career. What is being done about juvenile offenders in this great effort, or will they be left in their seething thousands to feed the whole process when it is too late?
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that it is important to start as early as possible to ensure that people do not continue on an offending pattern throughout their lives. The Youth Justice Board will therefore continue the efforts that it is currently investing in that. On other occasions the noble Lord has commended the Youth Justice Board's work and its innovative use of mentoring, intervention and 98 school programmes. All that will continue, and we hope that the Youth Justice Board's good work will continue to thrive.
As the noble Lord knows, for some time the other concern has been, "You are doing all that for young, offenders, but what are you doing about adult offenders to try to replicate the interventions that are proving so positive?". That is our answer regarding what we seek to do with adult offenders. I reassure the House that we will continue to ensure that the link between the adult criminal path and the juvenile path is managed carefully. I agree with the noble Lord that the earlier we can intervene in an offender's offending pattern of behaviour, the better.
§ Lord Williamson of Horton
My Lords, although I welcome many of the points in the Statement, does not the Minister agree that the other side of the coin is that we need to increase considerably our efforts to explain honestly to the public that, over many years, short prison sentences have been a failure—that is quite clear because we have so much re-offending—and that community service or intermittent custody is an effective way of reducing crime because it is likely to prevent too much re-offending? The need to convince the public is very important, as the public normally suggest that a proper sentence for anyone is to send them to prison—that is widely seen. With the changes we need a real effort to convince people that a move towards community sentences and to intermittent custody is the way forward
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
My Lords, I understand and empathise very much with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson. The whole point is that the public must see that that is the case. We are trying to engage local communities to participate in their local criminal justice process so that they can see, touch and hear the consequences of what is happening. That is how people will discover for themselves that community penalties will be more effective. We will certainly do all that we can to ensure that the public have a proper understanding of what we have now discovered about what works, what does not work and what helps us to bring about change.