Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 20th January 2005.
I beg to move, that the Clause be read a Second time.
I do not know whether Liberal Democrat Members have any comments to make on the new clause, but I simply wanted to say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside gave an undertaking that we would introduce it at this stage. Basically, it proposes a compensation order in cases, so that parents of children under 10 can be ordered to pay compensation if their children have stolen or damaged property.
There are about 4,000 cases every year in which children under 10 cause significant damage, and we want to ensure that the courts can take action in those circumstances. They will take into account parental means and can make orders to pay compensation by instalments. Of course, it will always be necessary to consider the views of the victim, but the likely effect on the child and their family circumstances will also be taken into account. Often, orders will be taken in conjunction with intervention programmes to try to ensure that the behaviour is not repeated. Therefore an order is not simply a punishment; it is also a way of ensuring that parents take responsibility for the children's behaviour and that we limit the damage done to other families.
This is a good deal more sensible than applying fixed penalty notices to 10-year-olds.
The hon. Gentleman and I have discussed these issues previously, and I understand that he is reluctant to take measures to tackle antisocial behaviour and to protect people in the community. We think that it is absolutely right to tackle people who commit antisocial behaviour, and 11, 12, 13 or 14-year-olds are often responsible for a lot of that behaviour in our communities. In this case, however, I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is happy to support our new clause.
To avoid having to speak at length on the new clause, perhaps I can say that Her Majesty's Opposition strongly support it. Parents should be made responsible for the actions of their children, and we welcome the fact that the Government have introduced the proposal, even at this late stage.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.