Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 8:15 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has identified very clearly the nature of the problem and has come forward with proposals to help deal with it. He made a number of points that are very telling. Perhaps a couple of other matters could be added to the issues he referred to. The first is perhaps implicit in what he was saying: the very high reoffending rates among this particular group. The second, and slightly different, point is that there is a disproportionate number of young offenders from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, which is an aspect that we have not much discussed in the course of the Bill. It is not a function of any greater criminality among that group. All the evidences suggest that, for whatever reason, the likelihood of a custodial sentence-or, for that matter, a refusal of bail at an earlier stage-is much greater for people from that group, compared to offenders with comparable offences. There seems to be an in-built bias against BME offenders, which is a matter that needs to be addressed. The other issue is what happens after certain custodial sentences are completed because, after short sentences there is, effectively, no follow-up. That is a significant contributor to the high reoffending rates.

I hope that this proposal-that there should be a requirement to produce a strategy for offenders in this group-commends itself to the Minister. The phrasing of the amendment is perhaps a little difficult in terms of what might be appropriate for statute. However, the principles that the noble Lord has advanced are surely ones that would commend themselves to the Minister. Again, I hope that he can either indicate policy acceptance of the thrust of the amendment or agree that he will consult further with the noble Lord, maybe with a view to bringing back at Third Reading something to meet the common objectives of the Government and Members of your Lordships' House. Certainly, I would support the noble Lord's aspirations in this respect.