HL Deb 23 March 1999 vol 598 cc141-2WA
Lord Elton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What in the most recent convenient period of 12 months was:

  1. (a) the average number of 12, 13 and 14 year-old boys and girls, and 15 and 16 year-old girls, held in custody on remand; and
  2. (b) the average number of unoccupied places in local authority secure accommodation, giving these figures by region or administrative area if possible and stating in similar terms on how many days during the period, and by how much, the former exceeded the latter; and [HL1477]

What arrangements will be made from 1 June 1999 onwards for the detention in remand of 12, 13 and 14 year-old boys and girls and 15 and 16 year-old girls remanded in custody where no local authority secure accommodation is available either locally or within a reasonable distance of the home of the person so remanded; and what, for these purposes, they define as a reasonable distance. [HL1506]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

From 1 June 1999, a court may remand a 12 to 14 year-old or a 15 or 16 year-old girl to local authority secure accommodation, but only if that person is charged with, or has been convicted of, a violent or sexual offence, or of an offence punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment for a term of 14 years or more; or that person has a recent history of absconding while remanded to local authority accommodation and is charged or has been convicted of an imprisonable offence alleged or found to have been committed while he has been so remanded. In either case the court must also be of an opinion that only remanding that person to local authority secure accommodation would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm from them. In other cases, the court may remand a child or young person up to the age of 16 to local authority accommodation.

Under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, local authorities are under a duty to comply with any court-ordered remand to local authority secure accommodation made under Section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. This duty may be discharged by a local authority by providing their own secure accommodation or by making arrangements with other local authorities. The use of local authority secure accommodation is a national resource which is available to all local authorities in England and Wales.

A government funded building programme was put in place to expand the local authority secure estate by 170 places specifically to allow for implementation of the provisions in relation to court-ordered secure remands. These places are now available.

The implementation of the court-ordered secure remand provisions needs to be seen in the context of the Government's overall youth justice reform programme. In the longer term, provisions in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, including the duty under Section 38(4) to ensure the availability of bail support for children and young people who are remanded or committed on bail awaiting trial or sentence, when fully implemented will help to stabilise and reduce the demand for secure accommodation.

The statistical information sought cannot be provided in the requested form. The Department of Health publication Children Accommodated in Secure Units Year ending 31 March 1997, England and Wales contains the latest relevant information about local authority secure accommodation. This publication indicates that of the 279 children accommodated in secure accommodation at 31 March 1997, 99 had been remanded to such accommodation. Of these 99, there were no 12 year-olds, eight were 13 year-olds. 20 were 14 year-olds, two were 15 year-old girls and one was a 16 year-old girl. Of the 324 places available in secure accommodation at 31 March 1997, 279 were occupied and 45 were not.