Report (2nd Day)

Part of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 22nd October 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench 4:15 pm, 22nd October 2014

My Lords, I have added my name to three amendments in this group, and will focus particularly on some of the health aspects. The question of how these colleges will be run becomes critical.

In his response to the previous amendment, the Minister said that there would be assessment of those with acute needs and vulnerabilities. I suggest that the health needs are far greater than has previously been estimated. I declare an interest as president of the BMA. Our report Young Lives Behind Bars is due to be published on 4 November. I have had extensive discussions with my successor, Al Aynsley-Green, who was previously the Children’s Commissioner and who looked at length into the management of offending children. He was particularly struck by the smaller units in Spain, and was clearly persuaded that moving children away from their original area of domicile, to which they would eventually return, was potentially quite harmful because of the disruption to the support for their health and well-being.

Children in the offending group generally have a much higher incidence of serious problems. About 12% are known to have been bereaved of a parent or sibling; that is far higher than the incidence among children in the general population. About 60% have significant speech, language and learning difficulties, 20% to 30% are learning disabled and up to 50% have learning difficulties. Put simply, about one in four has an IQ estimated to be below 70 and over a third have a diagnosed mental health disorder. Over a quarter view drugs and alcohol as “essential” to their well-being.

When the House of Commons Justice Committee examined reports on acquired brain injury, which affects around 10% of the general population, it found that it typically affects between 50% and 80% of the offender population. A relatively small 2012 study, covering 179 male offenders, found that 60% reported some form of brain injury and 40% reported a loss of consciousness, which indicates probably quite severe brain injury.

Can the Minister tell us where is the evidence showing the effectiveness of a short education programme that takes young people with severe trauma, brain injury, learning difficulties and so on away from their own environment? Where is the evidence showing the benefit of moving them away from the area that they have come from and to which they will return, rather than investing in the type of accommodation that has already been found to have improved outcomes for some of these young offenders, where they are in much smaller groupings with very personalised detention, and with a view to trying to reintegrate them into a society which has failed them many times before they started offending?