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Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 6th April 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Stern Baroness Stern Crossbench 5:45 pm, 6th April 2005

My Lords, I do not want to repeat what was said last night; I just want to make one point. Since the mid-19th century, people concerned with the welfare of children have been working towards enshrining in law measures for their protection. One aim of the campaigners has been that the identity of children in court, children in trouble and children from problem families should not come into the public domain. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said last night, protecting the privacy of children has always been a basic principle of the youth court and, before that, the juvenile court. We frequently hear in the media about, for example, a 16 year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, and we accept that that is how the law works.

That principle has become fundamental when dealing with youths in trouble, and there are reasons for that. One is that they may be exposed to danger by hounding, vilification or violence, and another reason is that they should enter adulthood without carrying with them a bad reputation which they gained before they were of an age to be deemed fully responsible.

Those principles are enshrined in United Nations treaties, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, reminded us, and accepted throughout the world. Yet, here we are discussing a Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill—not policy about children, youth crime, youth courts, neighbourhoods or any relevant topic—and, without proper discussion and without any substantial analysis, we propose to throw in the rubbish bin the received wisdom of all those who care for the rights of children and who fought for them for nearly two centuries. In my view, we should not be doing that; we should certainly not be doing it without giving it a great deal more thought than we are in relation to this Bill. I support the amendment.