Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Labour)
My Lords, we are making remarkable progress—which, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is what I mean by being "on a roll".
Amendment No. 69 has been tabled in response to the debate on the amendment tabled in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, which sought to allow for a young offender to receive a second referral order where the youth offending team or other appropriate body recommended one . We had a detailed debate on the merits of allowing a second referral order in which I made clear the Government's concern that we must retain the integrity and effectiveness of the referral order. The order is targeted primarily at young offenders appearing in court for the first time who plead guilty to the offence, and it has the lowest reconviction rate at 44 per cent. We are anxious not to undermine its success. We are already making provision in the Bill to allow a referral to be made on a second conviction where a referral order has not been made previously and we are also easing some of the restrictions placed on its use. We have also responded to the debate in another place by adding flexibility to the referral order so that an order may be extended by three months or revoked early in appropriate circumstances where the youth offender panel recommends this to the court.
I have listened carefully to the arguments put forward in Committee and this proposed amendment is the result. It addresses both the concern put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and the Government's concern that a second referral order should not become the norm. I have accepted that there will be circumstances where it will be appropriate for a young offender to receive a second referral order; for instance, where a significant time has elapsed since they first underwent the referral process. However, requiring that this should happen only in exceptional circumstances and where the youth offending team recommends it will ensure that a proper gate-keeping process is undergone. We have consulted with the Youth Justice Board, which agrees with what the Government are proposing. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, will feel that I have gone at least a considerable way to meeting his point. I commend the amendment to the House.