Clause 2 - Penalty notices

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:00 pm on 6th February 2001.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 7:00 pm, 6th February 2001

We will do our best to ensure that the Committee has the draft guidance before it rises. That is our intention.

To conclude, I will tell a story. A young man in my constituency, who lives about two streets from me, two Fridays ago, at the age of 17, got drunk celebrating his birthday. He was refused admission to a nightclub because he was so drunk, and a taxi driver refused to pick him up. He disappeared and has not been found. He was at the same school as my son. In our neighbourhood, his disappearance is the biggest issue: all the families think all the time about what has happened to him. Many think that he fell into the river, but nobody knows. His disappearance is traumatising the city of Norwich.

Suppose that event had not happened, but the boy had committed the type of offence that we are talking about, and suppose the system had worked in a much better way. I am glad to report that the clubs are now dealing with such situations in a much better way. They have learned lessons from that awful tragedy. Would it be better to have a form of intervention that said to the boy, ``You shouldn't behave like that in the future. These will be the consequences if you do''? Alternatively, would it be better for a fixed penalty notice to be slapped on him, which his parents might pay?

The intervention is the key thing. It is a question of saying to the individual, ``This is how you behave or don't behave.'' I accept that there is weight in the hon. Gentleman's point, and I am not trying in what I have said to dismiss what he is saying. I do not regard it as a trivial or trite or party political point. However, we have built our reforms of the youth justice system on the proposition of telling young people that they must not behave in certain ways. The fixed penalty offences set out in clause 1 are precisely the offences where intervention has the greatest chance of making a difference. There are comparisons with the driving offences, but they are not strong. That is why I stick to our position, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing the amendment, well meant though it is.