Juvenile Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22 March 1990.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon 12:00, 22 March 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further statement on the progress of his policy on developing parental responsibility for juvenile crime.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

Our proposals were set out in the White Paper "Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public", published in February. We intend to strengthen courts' powers to require parents to attend court with their children and to bind the parents over. The parents' means would be taken into account in fixing the level of any fines for the children's offences and parents would normally be ordered by the courts to pay the fines. We have already received some encouraging responses to the proposals.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is necessary to make irresponsible parents more conscious of their responsibility for the criminal activities of their children? Does he also agree that, as the peak age of offending is 15, it is not good enough for some parents to expect schools to be totally responsible for the discipline of their children out of school hours?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

My hon. Friend is right. It is a very sad fact that young people sometimes appear in court with no parent alongside them. The courts ought to have a duty to order parents to attend unless it would obviously be unreasonable so to do. The whole House, I am sure, will agree that in deciding what is an appropriate financial penalty to impose on a young person the court should have power to bear in mind the parents' means.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Would that also apply to Members of this House? Over the years, children of many hon. Members—on both sides, but especially on the Conservative side—have got themselves into drug problems, and so on, through no fault of the parents, Members of Parliament probably being away from home all week? Will a Member of Parliament be held responsible for everything that his children do? I have never heard such a preposterous suggestion?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

The hon. Gentleman should look at the specific proposals. If he examines them individually he will find it very hard indeed to quarrel with them. Obviously there are cases—probably many cases—in which children get into trouble and it is quite impossible to say that the fault lies with the parents, but equally, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, it is preposterous for parents whose children get into trouble to say that it is nothing to do with them and that they need not even bother to turn up at court.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I welcome the accent placed by my right hon. and learned Friend on parental responsibility, but I wonder whether he agrees that there is a place for parental responsibility in relation to community service orders. My right hon. and learned Friend was right to strengthen community service orders and to increase their importance in the treatment of young people who have committed crimes. Might not an obligation be imposed on parents to ensure their children's attendance under the scheme?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

I am not sure about the obligation, but there is a very strong case for expecting those responsible for community service orders to make it clear to the parents what is involved and to encourage them to take the very closest interest in the punishment being meted out to their children.