Report (2nd Day)

Part of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 22nd October 2014.

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Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 5:15 pm, 22nd October 2014

I could go through go through the entire section, which is very lengthy, and deal with all the various aspects seriatim, but I am not sure that that would be a particularly useful process Report given that I am sure that all those who have been listening to this debate will have had the chance to see the entire detail of the relevant section of the secure college rules. I think that I have summarised fairly the Government’s approach in the rules. I also referred to those two specific examples to which reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Marks. There have been discussions at the various meetings that we have had. So I would rather not be tied down to specific examples of when force should be used. We believe that the structure is there. We are of course listening to the consultation carefully and we encourage all those who are concerned, of whom there are many in your Lordships’ House, to take part in that consultation to assist us further in arriving at a satisfactory position, which I am sure we will be able to do.

The publication of the Government’s consultation will also reassure the noble Lords and noble Baroness who tabled Amendment 108 that we will certainly make secure college rules before such an institution opens. These rules will be essential to ensuring that young people are detained safely and securely in these colleges, and that they are educated and rehabilitated effectively. However, I strongly believe that this does not need to be placed in the Bill.

It is in the context of creating secure college rules that I turn to Amendments 120A and 120B, which would set out in primary legislation the conditions governing the authorisation of the use of force. I welcome the noble Lord’s amendment, which adopts much of the approach taken in the consultation document. However, I believe that this is a case for the rules rather than for primary legislation. I have provided assurances on how they will come into effect.

I am grateful for the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, which relates to the evaluation of the secure college pathfinder. The amendment seeks to ensure that before a second secure college is established, an evaluation is first conducted and a report laid before each House. This is, in a sense, what lies at the heart of this debate: many noble Lords have said, “This is all being rushed, you should wait and ask the Government to go away and think again”.

At present we are committing only to establish one secure college in Leicestershire. This facility will be a pathfinder intended to demonstrate the success of this new approach to educating and rehabilitating young offenders. I entirely agree that the first secure college must be rigorously evaluated. I assure noble Lords that that is exactly what the Government intend. It is important to emphasise that the secure college pathfinder that will open in 2017 will be subject to a thorough evaluation to assess implementation, operation and delivery against key aims and objectives, including the educational attainment and reoffending outcomes of young people detained there. The findings of this evaluation will directly inform decisions about the future of secure colleges and the youth custodial estate more generally.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, addressed the House about concerns in relation to the mental health in particular of the proposed population of secure colleges. Of course, this will be a matter for NHS England, as I am sure she is aware, which has obligations to those in a secure college, in the same way that it has obligations to all members of the population. There is, as she may have seen in the design of the pathfinder college, a particular health unit placed strategically in the middle of the design. This will be the best way of delivering healthcare, uniquely tailored to those individuals.

I do not for a moment underestimate the challenges that these young people can present, and there may need to be a considerable amount of input in terms of medical help, advice and treatment. Although it is described as a very large establishment, a maximum of 320 is not large when compared with secondary schools, for example. There are some advantages in providing a larger number: there can be a better quality, and perhaps continuity, of medical attention. Of course, all this will be subject, as with the education provision, to inspections—inspections by Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, supporting the Care Quality Commission reports, which will all be published. The expert oversight will provide an additional view of the performance of this new establishment. So while I entirely agree that it must be properly evaluated to gauge its success, I do not consider that writing such a requirement is appropriate. I will therefore in due course ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

Finally, and less contentiously I apprehend, the Government are bringing forward minor amendments consequential to our earlier amendments to extend the secure college provisions to Wales. The purpose of Amendments 114 to 117 is to ensure that the text of the Welsh language version of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 is consistent with the English language version as amended by Schedule 5.

This is necessary because the two instruments are legally separate. I can assure the House that the effect of the amendments is unchanged.

I conclude by saying that the current system of looking after young people in custody is not satisfactory. Noble Lords have been generous enough to acknowledge that this coalition Government have achieved much by reducing the number of those who are in the secure youth estate. Those who remain clearly present challenges. Often they have not had any significant education in the past. They will have—I hope that the focus of the college will indicate this—a real opportunity for education in a significant block. They may not be there for a very long period, and it is important that the education provider—this is something that we are entirely focused upon—is sufficiently agile to give them sufficient benefit by way of education, in terms of often quite basic education provision, so that they can reap a long-term benefit. Noble Lords will be well aware that this particular cohort often has had very little continuity in its education in the past.

All this will be provided in a bright, barless environment. There will be at least one visit a week. As the secure college rules show, we are endeavouring to use increased technology to enable communication with families while the young people are at the secure college. They will have enough space to be moved around effectively but nevertheless have some independence.

This is a really good idea. Let us not be fearful of innovation. This provides an opportunity. Caution is understandable, but seeking to delay what may be to the real advantage of young people would be making a mistake.