Committee (and remaining stages)

Part of Crime and Security Bill – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 7th April 2010.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 8:45 pm, 7th April 2010

My Lords, I have some sympathy with the views of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and indeed some other speakers, about wash-up, but I have no intention of veering off-track into the minefield of trying to change the rules for wash-up. That would be foolhardy of me. We are where we are.

Gang injunctions for 14 to 17 year-olds are needed because, unfortunately, this age group has shown itself to be vulnerable to the temptations of the gang lifestyle and as violent as their older peers-unbelievably violent at times. The Home Office report Monitoring Data from the Tackling Gangs Action Programme, produced in May 2008, found that the average age for the first conviction of young gang members was 14. Briefing from the Metropolitan Police Service received last week shows that of the recorded "gang" flag-marked offences in London, 45 per cent of accused are under 16 years of age and 42 per cent are aged between 17 and 23. There is a clear operational need for these injunctions to apply to 14 to 17 year-olds as a tool to prevent these violent offences and to help the young people out of the gang lifestyle.

Secondly, under-18 gang injunctions are needed because injunctions work. During the debates on the Policing and Crime Act, Jackie Russell from the gang team in Birmingham wrote to the department about the use of Section 222 Local Government Act injunctions against over-18 gang members. In her letter she said:

"Injunctions were able to reduce serious harm offences by 15%, robbery by 12.5% and violent crime by 6%".

We are being asked to create these powers by our operational colleagues-those who know best what is needed to manage these violent individuals. Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Richardson, head of the Matrix Unit in Merseyside, wrote to me on 15 June last year stating that the injunctions in the Policing and Crime Act must be applied to under-18s. His view was echoed by Maureen Noble, head of Manchester CDRP, and Councillor Jim Battle from Manchester City Council during their evidence before the Public Bill Committee on this Bill in another place.

We fully understand the need to protect the rights of young people who will be served with these injunctions. That is why we included a range of safeguards from the outset of the Bill, and we have strengthened these in response to debate in the other place. This point was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and others. The safeguards include: engagement of the youth offending team, who are experienced in dealing with young people, at the earliest stage and throughout the process; a mechanism for punishing breach, aimed at removing the individual from the gang lifestyle-a point referred to by a couple of speakers-and stating in the Bill that detention can be used only when no other sentence is appropriate and that the judge must give his reasons in open court for imposing detention.

We also propose, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, has said, to pilot these injunctions in a single area to assess how they work and the impact that they have before taking a decision on national rollout. That is extremely important and will give us some data from which to work.

We are providing a new tool to police forces and local authorities to manage the violent young gang members whom they identify as a huge problem and whom they are struggling to manage. The recent tragic case in Victoria train station shows how relevant such a power is. I urge noble Lords to agree that Clauses 34 to 39 should stand part of the Bill.