Clause 2 - Penalty notices

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 6th February 2001.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:30 pm, 6th February 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 2, line 39, leave out `18' and insert

`16 or over, or (in the case of a penalty offence which may only be committed by a person aged 18 or over) aged 18'.

The amendment would reduce the age at which a person could receive a notice to 16. Clearly, many of the offences about which we have been talking are often committed by those under 18. The Library estimated the figure as 25 per cent. of all offences, although for some offences that figure is as low as 10 per cent, and for others it is higher than 25 per cent.

Many of those who commit offences are in the 16-to-18-year age range. Many of those who responded to the consultation exercise undertaken by the Government supported the idea of including 16 to 18-year-olds. For example, Alcohol Concern supported the idea and the Association of Chief Police Officers was generally in agreement. The Association of Chief Officers of Probation said that one benefit might be to bring a child's behaviour to the notice of his or her parents, so there is an element of support there.

Why has the Minister decided not to choose 16 as the age at which a person can be served with a fixed penalty notice? I raise two other issues. First, if an officer is out dealing with an incident, there may be difficulties in differentiating 16 and 17-year-olds from 18 and 19-year-olds. It would be easier for the police if the age were set at 16. Secondly, different disposals could be used with the same group of youths in a way that might not be entirely fair. For example, if a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old were involved in an incident and the police decided to charge the one who was under 18 because he could not be given a fixed penalty notice, but the one who was over 18 was given a notice, it would be ridiculous. The older person would receive what most people would consider to be a lesser disposal than the younger one. Equally, if the police decided to caution the 17-year-old while serving a fixed penalty notice on the 18-year-old, the older boy might feel that that was unfair, because they had both been involved in the same incident.