HC Deb 04 March 1997 vol 291 cc539-40W
Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has for preventing children offending. [18914]

Mr. Howard

The Government attach a high priority to dealing with juvenile crime. We have acted to provide the courts with the powers they need to deal effectively with serious and persistent young offenders; and we have acted to reduce the use of inappropriate cautioning. But it would be better if young people did not offend in the first place.

We have, therefore, developed proposals for a new strategy which aims to reduce the risk of children turning to crime. The strategy is based on research about the effectiveness of early intervention with children. We propose that it should be delivered by local agencies, including those in the voluntary sector, working together in partnership in a new local organisation, which might be known as a child crime team. Its task would be to identify children at risk of offending at an early age, and refer them to programmes designed to help them stay clear of crime. A Home Office research study published today—"Reducing Criminality among Young People", by David Utting—describes a selection of the kinds of programme that might be effective.

Parents have a very important role to play in bringing up their children to respect the law. Most parents face up to their responsibilities, and we believe that they would co-operate with suitable programmes which reduced the risk of their children turning to crime. But there is a small minority of parents who do not bring up their children responsibly and who may refuse to accept any support that is offered. To meet that situation, we propose to give the courts a new power to make a parental control order requiring parents to exercise proper care and control over their children. The courts would be able to attach conditions, such as attendance at a suitable programme. The order would be available both where a child aged 10 to 16 had committed an offence, and where no offence had been committed but a child of any age up to 16 had demonstrated unruly behaviour likely to lead to offending.

These proposals are contained in a Green Paper which had been published today. I have placed a copy in the Library.

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