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It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I state at the outset that I shall not move the other amendments that are grouped with Amendment No. 133B.
I begin by paying tribute to the professionalism and dedication of our police, particularly against the background of evermore difficult and complicated--some would say politically correct--circumstances. I also freely acknowledge that other noble Lords, including, most notably, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, are much better qualified than I am to address these matters.
I turn to the amendment, the purpose of which is straightforward. It would give to the central police training and development authority the function of determining the core curriculum for police training. In the unlikely but conceivably desirable event that politicians were obliged to submit to some sort of formal training, they would, I suspect, be somewhat aggrieved to have their core curriculum set by, for example, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I do not anticipate that the Minister will accept the amendment--that is not surprising in the circumstances--but I would be reassured if he could confirm for the record that it is categorically the Government's intention to receive appropriate and adequate consultation with all interested parties, such as the Police Federation and ACPO, on the substance of the core curriculum.
The Minister will be aware that I have several concerns about ICT training for the police but I do not intend to weary the Committee on that matter--it would inappropriate to do so at this time. I beg to move.
Amendment No. 133B relates to the Government's intention to introduce a core curriculum for police training. Its purpose will be to establish national standards with a view to improving operational effectiveness.
I can reassure the noble Earl that the content of any curriculum will be developed in consultation with the main stakeholders within the police service and the Secretary of State. There has already been extensive consultation on these matters. I can report to the Committee that this provision met with universal agreement. We are happy with the results of that consultation and are delighted that it has worked as well as it has. We shall continue to consult both on the core curriculum and qualifications. I am happy to confirm also that stakeholders will include those organisations which represent the police service at all levels.
Our simple argument is that Amendment No. 133B is unnecessary. We are already consulting and shall continue to consult. We seek to establish a broad consensus on the content of the core curriculum but there will be a power to prescribe as set out in the legislation. That power will ultimately rest with the Secretary of State.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 89 agreed to.
Clauses 90 to 97 agreed to.
Clause 98 [Regulations for police forces]:
[Amendments Nos. 133C to 133E not moved.]
Clause 98 agreed to.
Clauses 99 to 103 agreed to.
Schedule 5 agreed to.
Clause 104 [Transitional arrangements relating to Authority's establishment etc.]:
[Amendment No. 133F not moved.]
Clause 104 agreed to.
Clause 105 [Vice-chairmen]:
We have now moved on to the next part of the Bill which deals with police authorities. Clause 105 deals with vice-chairmen.
We are not against the background and the principles of what is being suggested in this clause, but it provides that there can be an infinite number of vice-chairmen. It seemed to us that an infinite number was rather a lot so Amendment No. 133G suggests "not more than two" and Amendment No. 133H, more controversially, suggests that there should be only one. The other amendments are consequential. I beg to move.
I remind Members of the Committee that I chair the North Yorkshire Police Authority and am a deputy chair of the Association of Police Authorities.
Clause 105 gives official recognition to the role of vice-chairmen and I want to explain my concerns in relation to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. Police authorities are small bodies. Most have only 17 members. Six authorities have 19 members and the new Metropolitan Police Authority has 23 members. However, given the size of most police authorities and the areas they cover, each and every member undertakes a considerable workload. That workload is constantly expanding as we try to achieve best value; to respond to new duties under the human rights and race relations legislation; and as we seek continuously to improve the local policing services and make them more responsive.
As chairman of a police authority, I can testify to the enormous demands and obligations that that position involves. I simply could not cope without the help and support that I receive from the vice-chairman of my authority. I fully understand why two vice-chairmen are needed to carry out the business in authorities with much bigger populations. The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, would prevent that, as they state that police authorities can have only one vice-chairman, except for the Metropolitan Police Authority. If the MPA can be free to decide for itself the number of vice-chairmen it needs to operate effectively, I wonder why Parliament seeks to impose restrictions on the other 42 authorities.
The authorities themselves are best placed to decide how to go about their business, so I oppose the amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I do not want one problem to be resolved by creating another. I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for her determined work. As the chair of a police authority she carries out a tremendous job. I know from having long conversations with her that, from her perspective, it is essential to share some of that burden with a vice-chair. While her police authority may not need two, she may occasionally benefit from having a second vice-chair.
We have provided for that in the legislation for the Metropolitan Police Authority and, like the noble Baroness, I completely concur with the argument that in certain police authorities--for example, those that may be geographically large or those that are large in terms of their population base and where there is much activity for the authority to undertake, partly under delegated powers to their chair or vice-chair--it is valuable to provide the facility of having not just one vice-chair, but two.
I also agree with the line of argument that says that the decision as to whether to have one or more vice-chairs of an authority is probably best left to the police authority itself. For those reasons we oppose the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, suggested that because the authority is small, it should have more vice-chairmen. That appears to be an odd argument. The Minister referred to the "vice-chair". Fortunately the Bill does not, otherwise there would be quite a number of amendments. I appreciate that that may come from the background of the Minister, but I am glad that, presumably, the Home Secretary has nevertheless insisted that the Bill should refer to "vice-chairmen", which seems to me to be the more appropriate term.
The effect of Amendment No. 133G is that any police authority may appoint not more than two vice-chairmen. It is true that Amendment No. 133H, which is an alternative, suggests "a vice-chairman", but we were flexible to that extent. In the circumstances, I shall be flexible to the extent that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 134:
After Clause 105, insert the following new clause--
"POLITICAL BALANCE ON POLICE AUTHORITIES
(1) In paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 2 to the 1996 Act (balance of parties on council to be reflected in appointments to police authority), for the words from "the members for" onwards there shall be substituted "in the case of the members for whose appointment it is responsible, the proportion who are members of any given party--
(a) where it is a council that is responsible for their appointment, is the same as the proportion of the members of the council who are members of that party; and
(b) where it is a joint committee that is so responsible, is the same as the proportion of the members of the relevant councils taken as a whole who are members of that party."
(2) In paragraph 2(3) of Schedule 2A to that Act (which makes corresponding provision for the Metropolitan Police Authority), for the words from "the members for" onwards there shall be substituted "in the case of the members of the Authority who are members of the London Assembly appointed under this paragraph, the proportion who are members of any given party is the same as the proportion of the members of the London Assembly who are members of that party"."
This amendment clarifies the process of appointing councillor members of police authorities. Councils or joint committees are required under the Police Act 1996 to reflect as far as possible the balance of parties for the time being prevailing among members of the council or councils. The amendment will require them to take into account the overall composition of the council or councils taken as a whole, including councillors who are not members of political parties. They will be required to appoint councillors to the police authority in proportion to the composition of the council or councils as a whole.
As such, it corrects an anomaly left by the Humberside judgment. A number of Members of the Committee made firm protestations on the point at an earlier stage of the Bill. I reflected carefully on those comments and, while it does not benefit in any way, shape or form my own political party in local government, nor for that matter the political parties of other Members of the Committee, it seems to me to be right that we try to reflect more accurately the balance of political forces in the various local councils which comprise part of the membership of police authorities. I hope that the amendment will be welcomed. I am sure it will be. I beg to move.
It is sometimes thought that those who support political parties are motivated solely by electoral considerations and calculations of party advantage. Therefore, it is proper to record the fact that I support the amendment. Indeed, I am sure it will receive support from Members on all sides of the Committee. That consists solely of the representatives of the political parties currently engaged at this point in a crucial general election, the outcome of which is extremely uncertain. The Cross-Benchers, who might be thought roughly to be the equivalent of the independent members of county councils, benefit from the passage of the amendment, which I support.
I confess to the Committee that I have had a great deal of experience of this matter. I suppose it began back in 1934 when as a member of the Bar I prosecuted in a criminal case in Kent on behalf of the Kent police. In later years, I undertook judicial work in Kent, Essex and London and finally as Recorder of Rochester and then of Guildford. Later as a Queen's Counsel, I prosecuted in a number of murder cases. I have always admired the political independence of police authorities. They never seemed to be motivated by party advantage or considerations.
Although I was a supporter of the Government who passed the provisions in the 1996 Act, which the amendment will amend, I have grave doubts. Therefore, I say, "All right, let us accept the amendment because it merely continues an idea that was introduced in the 1996 Act, but if it is found to be unenforceable, let none of us worry".
I, too, am delighted that the Government have listened and finally brought forward the amendment. I thank them most warmly. The recent High Court judgment would have prevented any independent councillor from serving on a police authority. Clearly, that would have been wrong. It would have meant that the views of those local electors who voted for independent councillors could not be represented on police authorities.
This is a small but critically important amendment. It will return us to the status quo which prevailed before the recent court ruling, which we all call the Humberside ruling. It has been urged on the Government not only by the Association of Police Authorities but also by the Local Government Association, the Welsh Local Government Association and others. I, too, commend it to the Committee.
moved Amendment No. 135:
Page 93, line 14, at end insert--
"(1A) Before making a determination under section 17, the Secretary of State shall have consulted--
(a) those who he considers represent the interests of police authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;
(b) those who he considers represent the interests of chief officers of police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;
(c) any other persons whom the Secretary of State may determine, on--
(i) the considerations which he is minded to take into account in making the determination;
(ii) the objectives which he has determined for NCIS; and
(iii) other such matters as he may determine in order to inform the consultation process, including his assessment of the relative balance of funding, objectives and priorities which he is minded to determine for police authorities in England and Wales."
In moving Amendment No. 135 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 136 to 138. The provisions of the Bill radically alter the governance and funding of the two national police squads. When the squads were set up as recently as 1997, the clear aim was that they should be fully integrated within the tripartite structure which shares responsibility for policing between local and national interests. Two important steps are to be taken which increase central government control over the squads and considerably loosen the ties of local accountability: the reduction in the number of police authority representatives on the service authorities which oversee the squads and the move to fund the squads by direct government grant rather than, as at present, through local levies on police authorities.
I am sure that all members of the Committee recognise the important contribution that both squads make in fighting serious and organised crime at national and international level, but they also have a crucial role to play at local and regional levels in supporting and assisting local police forces. The levy system of funding had its difficulties but it at least provided an opportunity for debate about the balance of investment in local and national policing. However, if we move to direct central funding, decisions about the squads' priorities and funding levels should not be taken in isolation but in the context of the wider policing picture.
The other part of my amendment deals with consultation. I am most grateful to the Minister for his reply to my letter of concern about this matter. The Government have offered to consult on a voluntary basis but still do not wish to make this a statutory obligation. Discussions about how a non-statutory consultation process may work have so far not persuaded me that this is a sufficient safeguard. Statutory consultation will encourage greater transparency of government decisions about the funding of national and local police efforts, help government to strike the right balance in reaching those decisions and recognise that local police authorities and forces are key stakeholders in that debate and decision-making process. I believe that these amendments are important. They put scrutiny back into a vital policing service, and I urge the Minister to rethink his position. I beg to move.
Changes contained in the Bill to improve the funding of NCS and NCIS are vital. NCS and NCIS are right at the forefront of the fight against crime. They must be supported by an efficient and effective funding system if they are to drive forward the fight against high-tech crime, drug-trafficking, paedophilia and other forms of serious and organised crime. NCS and NCIS are major players internationally as well as at national level, and the need for international co-operation to combat crime continues to increase in importance.
We must move away from the parochial funding system that currently serves to divert attention away from the two services' operational and strategic priorities. The two directors-general of NCIS and NCS and the chairman of the service authorities support the need for improvement to the funding mechanisms to maximise the two services' operational effectiveness. We believe that the current funding system, which involves giving money to police authorities and then taking part of it away to fund both services through the levy, has proved to be divisive. A direct funding method will better enable NCIS and NCS to focus on working strategically with their partners to tackle serious and organised crime.
We do not believe that statutory consultation is necessary under the new arrangements. However, as has been confirmed, discussions are under way with the Home Office officials, NCIS, NCS and the stakeholders. The discussions include APA and ACPO. The aim is to maintain links between the two services and their partners by ensuring a robust non-statutory consultation, perhaps with greater flexibility. Nevertheless, the important elements of accountability are there and in place. I am happy to make that a matter of public record. As the noble Baroness said, we have had an exchange of correspondence. I had hoped that that would provide the necessary reassurance to all sides of the discussion.
I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment. We believe that we have put robust measures in place. They certainly have satisfied the services. It is important that we now move to a voluntary and flexible form of consultation that will be of continued importance as, over the next few years, these important central services continue to develop their expertise.
I omitted to mention Amendment No. 138A, which is grouped with the amendment. I apologise to Members of the Committee for that omission. I ask why in future are the Scottish authorities not to be consulted about the appointment of the Director-General of the NCIS?
Scottish, English or even Welsh people present may think it inappropriate that someone called Johnny Cope should be standing up for Scotsmen. I should say that General Sir John Cope was the only chap that Bonnie Prince Charlie beat at the battle of Prestonpans. The Scots later wrote a rude song about it which I shall not quote to Members of the Committee. So far as I know the general was no relation of mine, but the name has stuck because of the song.
I cannot match that anecdote. The Government believe that there is no need for Scottish Ministers to be consulted twice during the appointment process for the director-general of NCIS. The process of appointing the director-general provides that the Secretary of State decides whether to approve the list of eligible candidates prepared by a panel of members for the NCIS service authority.
The intention is that the panel will interview the candidates and make recommendations to the Secretary of State. He is obliged to have regard to the recommendations and also to consult the Scottish Ministers before making the appointment. That ensures that the views of Scottish Ministers are taken into account before the appointment is made. The intention is that the Secretary of State will consult Scottish Ministers regarding the list of eligible candidates as well as concerning any recommendations made by the service authority.
I hear what the Minister says. I am still very disappointed by his response. The issue is about transparency. Although the 1997 Act provides for consultation, it does not say how the Secretary of State determines the size of the slices that go to these two very important bodies. If one does not have people watching and scrutinising what goes on then we shall be in deep trouble. We still do not know the right type of investment between national and local policing. However, the hour is late. I have no wish to keep Members of the Committee longer on a matter which may seem somewhat opaque to some people. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 136 not moved.]
Clause 111 agreed to.
Clauses 112 and 113 agreed to.
Clause 114 [Funding of NCS Service Authority]:
[Amendments Nos. 137 and 138 not moved.]
Clause 114 agreed to.
Clause 115 agreed to.
Clause 116 [Appointment of NCIS Director General]:
[Amendment No. 138A not moved.]
Clause 116 agreed to.
Clauses 117 to 124 agreed to.
Clause 125 [Chief superintendents]:
I am sure that the Minister is well advised in what he said but it seems odd that subsection (6), which appeared to protect the conditions of service of some of our police officers, should be knocked out of the Bill. Are the conditions of service of these police officers to be affected by this amendment to Section 50(6) of the 1996 Act? During a change in the structure of the police service the conditions of service should be preserved.
As my noble friend has pointed out, if a person is appointed before the coming into force of the Bill and the conditions of service of that person are questioned, a good deal of uncertainty could arise. The individual may be the person who suffers. I share with my noble friend Lord Cope a doubt about the omission of this subsection.
It is essentially a technical amendment. It will have the effect of removing a reference to Section 50(6) of the Police Act 1996, which is no longer needed as Clause 125 no longer makes any amendment to Section 50(6) of the Police Act 1996. I hope that makes some sense to Members of the Committee opposite. It is simply a technical matter.
Will the conditions of service of a police officer appointed before 1996 be adversely affected without subsection (6) if the amendment is carried? Will the conditions of service of someone appointed to a rank after 1996 but before the passage of the Bill be adversely affected if the amendment is carried?
There are no implications for conditions of service. Conditions of service are preserved and are unaffected by the removal of this reference.
We move to a matter which seems, to my noble friends and me and, for that matter, my honourable and right honourable friends in another place, to be of a wholly larger consequence than some of the amendments we have discussed in the past few minutes.
Clause 126 is about police conduct proceedings. I refer to circumstances where a police officer is up for a disciplinary offence and not a criminal offence, when he appears, like all the rest of us, before a court of law and answers to a charge. The standard of proof in a disciplinary offence is, of course, considerably lower than it is in a criminal court, and yet this clause seeks to insert into police conduct proceedings the idea that inferences may be drawn from a failure to mention a fact when questioned or charged. That is something with which we have become familiar--I hope that we are all supportive of that idea so far as concerns the criminal law--but police conduct proceedings are a different matter.
Our police officers are among the most supervised people in this country and, much wider than that, in most other countries. In the first place, they are answerable to the law of the land--no one is more answerable to the law of the land than police officers--and when the law of the land changes approximately 12 times a year as a result of Home Office Bills, as it does at the moment, it takes some keeping up with. Police officers are answerable to their police authorities and to all that that represents; they are answerable to the Police Complaints Authority with regard to individual complaints about their conduct; and they are extremely answerable to both Parliament and the media. It is noticeable that policemen, along with vicars and politicians, find that the slightest deviation from what is regarded as normal conduct is seized on by the newspapers and the rest of the media in a way in which the conduct of other members of the population--such as the editors of newspapers and journalists--is not.
The police are among the most supervised and scrutinised of individuals as they carry out their work. In these circumstances we should be extremely careful about the way in which we allow police disciplinary proceedings--necessary as they are--to be conducted. As I say, policemen are subject to the law of the land. They occasionally find themselves on criminal charges as a result of their activities in the course of their duties if they stray over the border--it is quite right that they should--but disciplinary proceedings are less than that. I, for one, am extremely unhappy about Clause 126 and I do not think that it should stand part of the Bill, particularly as the Bill has been introduced at such a late stage. This matter has not been discussed in another place; it has not been discussed anywhere. Unless it is discussed in less than 24 hours, when we have Report and Third Reading all collapsed into one, this is the only time it will be discussed. This is not the time at which we should introduce Clause 126.
At first, I was mystified by the clause. I could not understand why it was needed or what it would do. So I turned to the Explanatory Notes, and there I learnt a little more about it. However, they are rather peculiar in the way in which they express the Government's intention.
The notes state that the clause,
"Amends section 50 of the Police Act 1996 to enable regulations made under that section to provide for Section 34 of the Criminal Justice and Order Act 1994 to apply in a modified form"-- what on earth is a "modified form"?--
"to procedures leading to a sanction being imposed on a member of a police force".
The notes then state:
Such regulations would allow a modified caution".
I may be terribly ignorant, but I have never heard of a "modified caution". Cautions are cautions. They are not "modified" cautions. The notes go on to state something that does not need to be stated because it applies throughout our administration of criminal law:
"If the officer then chooses to remain silent, the tribunal at the subsequent hearing will be able to draw inferences from this".
In all criminal proceedings, if the accused decides to remain silent he either has a right to remain silent or, if he has no such right, inferences can be drawn anyway. I share with my noble friend Lord Cope of Berkeley an uneasiness about the proposed new subsection.
I automatically gave way to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, because a correspondent told me recently that the noble Lord originally sat in the other place as a "National Liberal". Therefore, it was with deference and in the hope that he may one day rejoin us that I showed him that courtesy.
We, too, share the concerns expressed. This is yet another example of the dangers of this Bill going through "on the bounce". It would be interesting to know from the Minister what consultations have taken place with the various grades of representation of the police services. As has been pointed out, the Bill introduces an imposition on serving police officers that needs a great deal of consideration. I do not know whether it will apply to other services, such as the fire service and the Armed Forces. It moves from the criminal to the disciplinary in a way that needs full thought and some consideration before we should allow it through.
This clause amends Section 50 of the Police Act 1996 to enable the Secretary of State, by regulations made under that section, to provide for the application of Section 34 of the Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994 (inferences from silence in criminal proceedings) to proceedings in cases of alleged misconduct by police officers. The regulations would also introduce a revised caution--which I believe is what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, was referring to--to be given when the officer is notified of an allegation of misconduct, similar to the caution given in criminal proceedings.
The proposed new caution will warn the officer:
"You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in proceedings under these regulations".
If the officer chooses to remain silent, the tribunal at the subsequent hearing may draw inferences from it.
The clause removes an anomaly and brings the regulations on police conduct into line with those in criminal procedures where the new style of caution was introduced in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The Home Affairs Select Committee, in its report on police disciplinary and complaints procedures in March 1998, proposed this change on the basis that it would go some way towards addressing concerns over the use of "no comment" interviews in police discipline investigations. The committee's proposal requires primary legislation because the provision in Section 34 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 cannot currently be applied to police conduct proceedings by statutory instrument. Section 39 of that Act enabled the Secretary of State by order to apply Section 34 in a modified form to discipline proceedings in the Armed Forces, but there was no equivalent provision for proceedings in police discipline cases.
Noble Lords have asked whether there has been any consultation on the matter. I can advise the Committee that consultation on the clause took place through the Police Personnel Procedures Working Group. At that stage, the police staff associations were, I am advised, entirely content with the proposal. It is obviously the case that some of the associations have had second thoughts over the matter. That is perhaps what has generated a great deal of attention and interest in the issue at this late stage. However, as I said, there has been consultation. The proposal has been around for some time. It is our view that this, if you like, equalises matters somewhat and brings the concept into line with criminal proceedings.
As a Minister who has some responsibility for police discipline matters and one who has to review the findings produced by tribunals where there is an appeal to the Home Secretary, I can envisage some circumstances in which the inference of silence could have a most important bearing on quite serious allegations. The current position in police conduct proceedings is that an officer can refuse to answer any questions when interviewed. In normal civilian employment cases, an employment tribunal would be free as a matter of course to draw adverse inferences following a refusal to answer any question or questions. This provision, which implements the report of the Home Affairs Committee, preserves a limited right to silence, but there is no reason that it should go further than the right in criminal proceedings. We believe that that is both right and appropriate. For those reasons, we are determined to resist the removal of this clause from the Bill. We believe it to be a most important clause.
If the Minister persists in that view, I shall have to issue a caution--it will not be a modified caution--with regard to tomorrow's proceedings. I have two immediate questions for the noble Lord. First, can he tell us what the intended modifications referred to in the clause will be; and, secondly, to which cases will such modifications apply? It is patent that the provision will not apply to all cases; otherwise, there would be no reservation in the clause. It is also obvious that it will apply with some sort of variation from the normal criminal procedure.
We should have some indication, at least in outline, of the modifications that the Government have in mind and the cases to which they will, or will not, apply before we pass this provision. The Minister referred to parliamentary proceedings. I do not know what proceedings will follow to enable us to consider what the modifications are to be and to which cases they will apply. I should be grateful to hear from the noble Lord what such proceedings will be.
With regard to the National Liberal Party, I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that that party amalgamated with the Conservative Party a good many years ago. Whereas it is true that my noble friend did stand originally as a National Liberal, his party amalgamated with the Conservatives in the same way as the remains of the Liberal Party (after the National Liberals left them) subsequently merged with the Social Democrat Party, which ultimately became the present party. That seems to me to have been entirely satisfactory. We are extremely glad to have received the support of my noble friend over so many years.
We are unhappy about Clause 130. It seems to shift the onus on to an accused person to justify his or her liberty before they have been convicted. Under the Bail Act 1976 it is quite clear that it is for the prosecution to persuade magistrates that there are exceptional circumstances sufficient to justify a curtailment of the assumption of liberty. As I say, we see absolutely no reason to reverse that onus which, if I may say so, seems to be a tendency these days on the part of the Government.
The notion that magistrates must justify their refusal to deny bail is without warrant. It follows the trend exemplified in the Football (Disorder) Act where, if a Bench of magistrates does not impose a banning order for a football-related offence, it must give reasons for so doing. Our feeling is that, apart from the principle involved, the reasons that magistrates will give, if they are forced so to do, will very likely become formulaic. What use will that be to anyone? We believe that this is an indirect attempt on the part of the Government to lean on Benches to do the Government's general bidding in terms of adopting a more severe approach to their criminal function. For those reasons we do not wish to see Clause 130 stand part of the Bill.
"Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1.c of this article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial".
That has been the subject of some jurisprudence in the European Court of Human Rights. It was decided in the case of Wemhoff v Germany that a person charged with an offence must be released pending trial unless the state can show that there are "relevant and sufficient" reasons to justify his continued detention. The Committee will note that the onus is on the state to justify continued detention with relevant and sufficient reasons. In the case of Clooth v Belgium convention caselaw emphasised that objections to bail must be specific and must be supported by evidence rather than generalised assertion.
In the light of that interpretation of Article 5.3, I fail to see how the proposed clause can possibly comply with the convention. As my noble friend pointed out, what is likely to happen is that the decisions that are taken by magistrates will probably be compliant decisions in the sense of a "box ticking" approach. My noble friend referred to a formulaic approach. That is the kind of thing that will happen unless a duty is put upon the court to analyse the competing strengths of the arguments of the prosecution and the defence and to come forward with a reasoned judgment as to why bail should be refused in a particular case.
However, that is certainly not what happens at the moment. A person who is arrested and is taken to a police station can be detained and bail may be refused by the custody sergeant. Any objections to bail, and the basis for the objections by the police, are outlined at that stage. But then the arrested person will be brought before the magistrate on the following day. There a lawyer will appear with a file which the police have put together containing the police summary of facts and the police reasons for objection. The lawyer concerned will have no opportunity at that stage to consider the merits or otherwise of the file that is placed before him by the police. The matter will be dealt with on a very summary basis. There will be no room for an adversarial argument in which the case for the continued detention and the case for granting bail will be assessed.
That is the reason why the Bail Act 1976 placed the presumption of bail on to the statute book. As my noble friend said, this provision undermines that basic principle which is in accordance with the European convention. Consequently, I support him in objecting to the clause.
This clause simply requires a magistrates' court to give reasons for granting bail in cases where the Crown has argued in favour of withholding bail.
The courts are required by Section 5(3) of the Bail Act 1976 to give reasons when refusing bail to any defendant who benefits from the presumption to bail in Section 4. At present, there is no requirement, other than in cases where the defendant is charged with homicide or rape, for the courts to give reasons for granting bail in cases where the Crown has argued that one of the statutory exceptions is present. This clause will require courts to give reasons when granting bail in these circumstances, just as they are already required to give reasons when refusing it. The presumption to bail will not change; nor will the grounds on which bail may be withheld.
The aim of this clause is to achieve an objective which I believe is generally welcomed within the criminal justice system: the securing of greater transparency in decisions reached and in this instance bail decision-making. We believe that this will assist the police and the CPS in making their objections and greatly enhance public confidence in bail decisions, because the reasons for those decisions will be made plain.
We disagree that the presumption to bail will be undermined. The presumption to bail will not change; nor will the grounds on which bail may be withheld. The court will have to consider any prosecution submissions on bail. The measure is simply to ensure that these are publicly stated, publicly understood and publicly recorded.
For those reasons, we believe that the clause should stand part of the Bill. We think that it will project an important step forward in ensuring that the public have greater confidence in the system and that there is transparency and accountability.
Perhaps I may add this rider since convention rights have been raised. We believe that the duty to give reasons for bail decisions is very much in the spirit of Articles 5 and 6 of the convention and in the department's view is compatible with convention rights.
If it is a matter of public record, then it will help the police and the CPS understand the thinking behind that decision. If at some point in the future the question of bail arises again, it will enable them perhaps better to perfect their objections. I think that that is an important point and worthy of their consideration.
It was drawn to my attention after Second Reading that several non-governmental organisations were concerned about the clause. The National Children's Bureau approached me, hoping to discover the likely consequences of the clause.
Since I tabled the amendments, the Minister has kindly written me a helpful letter explaining that 4,190 children and young people each year would be caught by the clause and would be placed in the secure estate. Some 200 of them would be placed in Prison Service accommodation. Perhaps the Minister can clarify whether that means young offenders' institutions or other such places.
This is a matter of great concern and I hope that we shall have an opportunity to examine it thoroughly. Perhaps the Minister can also tell us whether there was an opportunity to look at the issue closely in the other place.
My particular concern is that the improvements that the Youth Justice Board has wrought over the past few years and the existing good provision for children in the secure estate will be undermined by the large increase in inmates that will follow the implementation of the clause. If the secure estate is swamped by such a large increase, the children in it will be handicapped, its purpose of reforming work will not function and the risk to public safety will be increased by the hardening of juveniles in prison.
According to NACRO, 25 per cent of young people at Feltham young offenders institution were taking crack cocaine and there was a woeful lack of any service to meet the need to get them off that horrific drug. An extra £24 million is to be spent on providing places for the new children and young people. Perhaps that could be better spent on working with the existing young people and providing them with the services that they need.
In addition, experienced practitioners are concerned that children who do not pose a serious threat to the public will be remanded into secure accommodation. For example, if a child steals a loaf of bread while on bail, that could be an imprisonable offence if it is the last in a long string of similar offences. I ask the Minister to consider improving the clause by making sure that children are put on remand only when they are a risk to the public. In other words, will he ensure that the degree of seriousness is always considered?
Other options such as mentoring, special fostering and local authority secure accommodation often prove effective. The Home Office has found that the expected rate of reoffending among young people who had been sent to Shelbourne House in south London was 13 to 14 per cent less than among those who had been through the prison system. There are other options. Home Office figures show that 67 per cent of children coming out of Medway secure training centre reoffend within 20 weeks. NACRO has found that reoffending rates can be as high as 88 per cent. In those circumstances, we should favour other options for the sake of the young people and for the sake of the public at large. In addition, they should not be sidelined by Clause 131.
The Minister has kindly written to me with answers to my questions. However, for the record, can he say how many extra juveniles per year are expected to be placed within secure establishments as a result of Clause 131? Will that number be in addition to the 400 new places which the Youth Justice Board has arranged for the next four years? If not, can he say where the extra children will be held? Paragraph 390 of the Explanatory Notes estimates the cost of tagging and remand to be £29.1 million. Can the Minister say what proportion is attributable to remand criteria alone? Do the estimates include the running and capital costs? I look forward to the Minister's reply. I beg to move.
I support the points made by the noble Earl. I, too, am concerned about the great increase in the incidence of locking up children, more and more of whom are of a younger age. This is not the time to go into the world-wide consensus that children should be locked up only in exceptional circumstances.
I know that the Government are familiar with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international provisions. However, it appears that the proposal to remand into custody children as young as 12 for committing a string of imprisonable offences tips the balance between protecting the public and preserving the humane and proper treatment of individuals too far against the treatment of those individuals.
Perhaps I may remind the Minister of Article 17(1) of the Beijing rules on juvenile justice administration, which states:
"Deprivation of liberty shall not be imposed unless the juvenile is adjudicated of a serious act involving violence against another person or persistence in committing other serious offences and unless there is no other appropriate response".
Perhaps I may also remind the Minister that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that measures taken against children should consider the interests of the child first. It may be in the interests of the child to lock him up in a secure training centre or in Feltham young offender institution. However, I do not believe that that is likely to be the case.
The imprisonable offences for which bail may be denied could include stealing sweets from a shop, stealing tins of drink and breaking windows--the type of behaviour in which children sometimes engage when they are in great distress. I want to ask the Minister why we are doing this. What benefits does he see in locking up children as young as 12? Why have the Government made no effort to define "seriousness" beyond a string of imprisonable offences? How many children will be affected? We understand that we are talking about 4,190 children per year. Is the Minister happy to lock up that number of children every year? Where are they to go? And could the cost, which I understand will be £24 million, not be more appropriately spent?
I end by putting my support for this amendment in context and by saying why I decided to keep the Committee here at this time of night for a few more minutes. I read in the newspapers the story of a 17 year-old boy called Kevin Henson, who was remanded into custody in Feltham young offender institution. Kevin had been going off the rails since he was 14 when his mother died of cancer. He took up drinking but did not get the help that he needed. He got into crime and ended up remanded in Feltham. He wrote a note that said:
"I want to be with my Mum", and he hanged himself.
When I read about that case, I thought, "Is the best that we can do with a deeply distressed young person to lock him up in Feltham?" I felt guilty that that was the best that we could do and I decided that in future I should do what I could to make it clear why we should not consider locking up so many distressed children. Tonight is such an opportunity and I am glad to support the noble Earl's amendment.
I, too, support the amendment. I hear sighs from the Front Benches because we are dealing at this late hour with the topic of children in custody. I am sorry if this is taking up time. All I can say is that the situation is a source of shame to this country. What is so different about British children that they need to be locked up when children in Holland and other parts of Europe do not have to be locked up in similar numbers? Why are our children different? Is it that our system and approach are different?
In the early 1990s, I chaired a commission of inquiry for the Howard League for Penal Reform. I again hear a sigh from the Front Bench--I am sorry that the Minister finds it tiresome to talk about young people.
I do not find it tiresome to talk about young people. As it happens I have a very young family and I enjoy talking about young people. I should prefer it if the noble Baroness refrained from making personal observations. Actually, I am quite tired.
I am sorry that the Minister is tired. However, this is a serious subject.
The commission that I chaired included some of the most impressive professionals that one could find in public life. It included the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, who is now the president of the Liberal Democrats. He was then involved with the Police Complaints Authority and a sitting magistrate, and he was very knowledgeable on the subject of young offenders. The commission also included: Alan Levy, a QC specialising in children's law; Roger Gray, the criminologist and broadcaster; and Dr Irene Vizard, one of the leading child psychiatrists in this country. There were many people on that commission but we made our recommendations with one voice. We were profoundly concerned about the way in which custody--particularly remands in custody--took its toll on young people. Our experience was that increasing the number of child prisoners had a hugely deleterious effect on children. Children's experiences of custody were horrifying.
In the years just before our report there had been several suicides in Feltham. In the past 10 years, 30 children committed suicide in young offender institutions in this country. In 1998-99, there were 944 incidents of self-harm--children felt so distressed by the conditions of their custody that they harmed themselves. Bullying is also a serious issue in those institutions. Despite the best efforts of all involved, prison service staff had no background in childcare or welfare and their priorities were inevitably focused on containment and the security of the institution. For children and young people there was no such thing as a neutral experience of prison custody. Separation from their families, friends, home and community had a very deleterious effect on them.
Our report stated that we have to try to reduce the number of young people in prison, but we have seen an escalation in those numbers. It is estimated that the proposals will involve an increase of 4,000 in the number of children in custody. That is not an appropriate way in which to contain children. The Chief Inspector of Prisons recommended that we avoid doing so at all costs. Therefore, I say to those who are drafting this Bill and putting it before Parliament that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, said, issues arise that need to be dealt with. To remain silent is to condone the containment of children in this way. Many of those children are actually in custody for offences which derive from their own disturbed backgrounds, and what they really need is help.
Three years ago, in different circumstances, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, asked, "How much imprisonment can a society afford? What shall we have to go without in order to have such a large percentage of people made dependent on state funding?" But the numbers are increasing and all the evidence shows that it is damaging to children. I ask that the Government think again about these measures because of the cost to all of us as a society. There must be a different way.
Before the noble Baroness sits down, can I ask whether she feels that it is impossible to comprehend a situation in which Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons is able to certify a young offender institution as being unfit for the receipt of further juvenile offenders for their own safety?
We on these Benches support Amendment No. 140 and are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for bringing it forward. It is another illustration of the folly of rushing through this legislation. The answer to the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, lies at the hustings. The Government were clearly hell-bent on being able to boast various measures dealing with yobs, hooligans and thugs, and all the other Sun-friendly terms describing young people. The result is this rushed, ill considered Bill.
It is late and I am sure more than just the Minister are thinking of their beds. But if this Chamber is to do its duty, particularly its duty to children, we must have pause for thought. The idea, particularly after some of the recent reports of the appalling conditions in young offender institutions, that the solution is to send even more young people away almost beggars belief. I make no apology for quoting from the briefing from the Law Society. It states:
"The issue of how children are dealt with in the criminal justice system is a matter that has been under review and subject to considerable reform over the last few years. Intervention, in the shape of referral orders and parenting orders to divert the child from the criminal justice system, is part of long term strategy to reduce re-offending and pilots on referral orders are underway in different sites in the country. The treatment and care of children, whatever their offending history, is a sensitive matter and should be subject to public scrutiny and debate prior to legislative change. Unfortunately, the Bill simply proposes that a child's offending behaviour can in itself be sufficient to remand to secure accommodation even where the public is not at risk".
Ministers should take that kind of criticism of this measure on board and pause even at this stage, not least because of the criticisms made this evening from well informed, influential and committed people on the Cross Benches.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, quite reasonably asked me to re-address my question to the Minister, and that I do.
We have heard this evening some extremely well informed contributions in relation to these amendments. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, told us that a quarter of all youngsters at Feltham are on crack cocaine. That is a quite horrifying statistic. What conceivable benefit to a young offender, let alone to society, can there be in sending a young person to such a place with the near certainty that he or she will be subject to temptations and to opportunities that they may not have experienced outside? Therefore, is it not practical to consider placing a stiff requirement in the legislation that would prevent that?
With regard to Amendments Nos. 141 and 142, which exclude the second alternative of putting a young offender into secure remand, namely,
"to prevent the commission by him of imprisonable offences",
I consider that the case has been unanswerably made that paragraph (a) is sufficient. We should simply be concerned about circumstances in which it is necessary to protect the public from serious harm so that such a remand takes place and so that the second limb is implicit within the first limb, except in those cases where it is not necessary for a person to be remanded securely; namely, the re-commission of what may be considered to be offences of a minor order.
I have listened with considerable interest, and no little concern, to what has been said in support of these amendments, which have rightly been moved in a spirit of concern by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. It is a well-intentioned series of amendments. Ultimately, I am not convinced by the quality of the amendments, nor do I believe that they add substantially to what we are attempting to achieve in terms of the criminal justice policy, in terms of the way in which we approach the juvenile estate and the proper concerns about the way in which we treat juveniles in the criminal justice system.
The amendments will have the effect of leaving current law on the criteria for the secure remand of juveniles as it is. That means that a juvenile aged 12 to 16 years may be placed on secure remand only if he or she has been charged with a grave offence, or has a recent history of absconding while remanded to local authority accommodation and has been charged with, or convicted of, an imprisonable offence alleged or found to have been committed while so remanded. In either case the court must also be of the opinion that only a secure remand will be adequate to protect the public from serious harm.
The amendments collectively are defective. Amendment No. 140 would remove from the Bill the new criteria that would allow courts to remand into secure detention 12 to 16-year olds who repeatedly commit imprisonable offences while on bail or on remand to local authority accommodation.
Amendments Nos. 141 and 142 would remove the new additional and alternative condition that the court must be satisfied that only a secure remand would be adequate to prevent the young offender from committing further imprisonable offences.
The Government believe that courts should have the additional option of placing on secure remand young people in that age group who have a recent history of repeatedly committing imprisonable offences while on bail. However, there are clear safeguards. The court must also be satisfied that only a secure remand would either protect the public from serious harm from the youngster or--this is new--prevent the commission by him or her of further imprisonable offences.
We are not talking about minor offences. These are potentially serious offences which if committed by adults would attract a term of imprisonment; serious thefts, criminal damage, serious assaults and so forth. It is important that courts have the option of placing youngsters who repeatedly commit such offences in secure detention. It allows the courts to stop a serial juvenile offender from walking free from court and committing further offences.
Is it not the case that we often hear about such cases and read about them in our newspapers? Yes, perhaps we even read about them in the Sun from time to time. That is not to mean that we want to appeal to base instincts but the issue is a serious one and it frustrates the criminal justice process. Such cases can cause great offence and suffering to local people, local communities and the youngsters' families. At present, the law appears powerless to stop it and to do so quickly.
In saying that, we do not argue that any offending on bail would justify a remand into secure detention. The clause confines the new power to imprisonable offences. That would, for example, catch the kind of case we come across all too often where the young bail bandit commits a string of thefts and burglaries while awaiting a further court appearance. When during the past couple of years I have been around and about talking to representatives of crime and disorder partnerships I have heard that story in many of our towns, cities and communities. People simply want relief from it and they are looking to government to provide it. I do not believe that we can walk away from that issue.
Most importantly, the new clause will require courts to consider all the possible options before deciding whether to remand the child or young person into secure accommodation. There is a significant range of alternatives to custody and our Government have a record on that of which we can be proud. We are trying to provide a range of alternatives and we have strengthened them so as to ensure that community-based sentences as an alternative can be used whenever and wherever possible and appropriate.
In conclusion, we would expect the courts to use the power where it is appropriate and right to put such youngsters into secure remand--but only as a last resort. The clause has been deliberately designed in that way.
Comments have been made about the statistics and I shall clarify the matter for the record. We estimate that about 4,000 children and young people would be caught by the extension of the secure remand criteria. That does not mean that the population of children and young people in secure establishments will grow by that number each year. In order to provide for that, we would need to provide about 370 additional secure places; 200 of those within the prison service estate and 170 in other parts of the juvenile secure estate. Allowing for the 200 places which we expect to become available from within the prison service juvenile accommodation, we estimate that Clause 131 will require a net addition of 170 places to the estate. That is over and above the 400 new places which the Youth Justice Board already plans to make available over the next four years.
The cost is of the order of £29.1 million a year. Of that, roughly £24 million is attributable directly to Clause 131. We envisage that the additional places will be provided in secure training centres under contract to the Youth Justice Board and funded like the present establishments through annual payments covering operating costs and the costs of the capital employed.
In government, we have been trying to improve the quality of education and training in the youth estate. We aim to provide a range of activities, including full education, training courses, physical education and, importantly in this regard, offending behaviour programmes which I argue will get to the root and tackle the causes of offending and, importantly, reduce the risk of re-offending. It will begin to enable such young people to lead a better life outside the institutions.
Under the order, those under school leaving age are required to receive a minimum of 15 hours' education per week, and all young people are required to spend at least 10 hours a day out of their cells with at least 30 hours per week engaged in purposeful activity. We are a long way towards achieving those objectives which we believe will improve the quality of support and encouragement that is given to young people.
Like many members of the Committee, I am very concerned about young people in our society. I have a young family. I spend a lot of time visiting the secure estate and the way in which we regard young offenders. The Government believe that there is a good deal more to do in that policy area but that, where essential, secure accommodation should be made available, and this part of the legislation provides for that. Therefore, we must resist these amendments, ultimately in the best interests of those whom they are designed to serve.
Before the Minister sits down, can he inform the Committee how many young people and children will go into young offender institutions, if any? Perhaps none will do so. However, can the Minister say how many of the 200 or so who enter the prison establishment go into young offender institutions?
I said that we would provide 170 places in other parts of the juvenile secure estate and 200 within the prison estate. Obviously, I shall consider the noble Earl's point further, but I believe that that answers his question.
I am very grateful to the Minister for his full response to my amendments and questions. I shall think carefully about what he has said. I should like to make two further comments. First, the Minister pointed out the important work undertaken by the Government to improve the situation of young people in prison. I visited Feltham recently and saw the impressive improvements to the juvenile section at that establishment. The Youth Justice Board is doing good work in mentoring and other matters, to which I referred earlier. One point that has been raised with me is that mentoring and specialised fostering can be very effective in dealing with young people on bail who are problematic. Another point raised with me is that 67 per cent of young people who come out of Medway secure training centre reoffend within 20 weeks. Would the £24 million be better spent on promoting those schemes whereby young people are dealt with before they enter prison? In an ideal world, if we had decent prisons where children were treated humanely, perhaps that would be the right place for them, but we know that at present that is not so.
Secondly, one must be careful not to allow extreme cases to make bad law, which is a remark that I have often heard in this Chamber. I am aware that there are some appalling incidents. I am assured that the kinds of measures that I have described can be very effective in reducing offending and bringing wild children under control. I shall consider very carefully what the Minister has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 143 is a minor amendment to the repeal schedule to the Bill. It repeals Article 64(4) of the PACE (Northern Ireland) Order. It is consequential on the amendments to that order made by Clause 84 of the Bill. It parallels the entry in the repeal schedule relating to Section 64(4) of PACE which is consequential on Clause 83 of the Bill. I fully and frankly admit to the Committee that in error it was omitted from earlier drafts of the Bill. The amendment simply remedies that omission.
moved Amendment No. 146:
Page 112, line 18, leave out "37" and insert "(Permitting use of controlled drugs on premises)"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 139(8) limits the extent of Clause 127 to Great Britain. Clause 127 provides for pensions for members of the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad. Policemen attached to these bodies for a period of service continue to "clock up" their pensions. The words "Great Britain" limit the provision to the mainland, which excludes Northern Ireland. Clause 139(6)(e) appears to contradict that matter to a limited extent. Nevertheless, I ask why the RUC is apparently being discriminated against in the matter of pensions?
We do not believe that there is any reason to depart from the normal practice when dealing with provisions which amend existing legislation. In this case the Police Pension Act 1976 extends to Great Britain. Clause 127, which amends that Act, should therefore continue to extend throughout Great Britain as currently provided for in Clause 139.
The devolved administrations have been consulted about the terms of Clause 127, including its extent. However, as primary legislation on pension matters is a reserved matter, there is no difficulty in our passing appropriate primary legislation on the point. The making of the necessary regulations would be entirely a matter for Scottish Ministers.
The noble Lord raised the position of RUC officers. Perhaps I should make it clear that NCIS is an organisation that extends throughout the United Kingdom. Clause 127 does not, as drafted, on the face of it extend to Northern Ireland. That appears slightly odd. However, I can assure the Committee that that does not cause any great difficulty. That is simply because we are ensuring that a small number of officers on fixed term appointments who may, before appointment, have worked in any UK police force are able to be members of a pension scheme. That pension scheme gives them the same benefits as they would have had had they not joined NCIS.
The pension arrangements applying to police officers with all UK forces are the same, although covered by different regulations and, in the case of the RUC, different primary legislation. It makes no practical difference under which regulations they are covered; the key is that NCIS will be responsible for paying the pension on retirement and that the pension should be calculated on the same basis as it would have been in the absence of a transfer to that organisation. It is not a question of discrimination. The point is covered. We understand the issue raised by the noble Lord. The clause simply ensures that the current provisions continue over.
Under Clause 139(6), Part 6, so far as it relates to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, covers Northern Ireland, whereas the rest of Clause 127--the provisions relating to the National Crime Squad--do not cover Northern Ireland. The Minister has given assurances that the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not be discriminated against. Many of us would take it extremely ill if the RUC were discriminated against in this way. However, in the light of the Minister's assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.