Good—I am glad. I do not suggest that we amend the schedule, but it should be made quite clear to the supervisors of these youngsters, in practice notes, protocols or some other form of guidance, that they must give warnings in writing and copy them to the responsible adult. It may be that the parent of the child in question is not very responsible either, but it is important that no provision is built into the system that allows for any excuse for failure by the criminal justice system or the individual offender.
Another practical question that needs to be addressed concerns the summons that can be issued by a court for failure to appear, which is set out on page 108. We must be careful that we are not just passing optimistic legislation in the absence of a knowledge of what normally happens. If a person does not appear in answer to a summons, a judge can issue a bench warrant. No doubt a magistrate can do so too; my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate will be able to tell me about that. That power is fine, but very often there are not enough police officers to go and find that person. Such people do not necessarily stand around on the street corner advertising the fact that they are late or do not intend to appear. We must ensure that the personnel and resources are available for bench warrants and summonses of this nature to be not only issued but implemented.
Paragraph 6, on powers of magistrates courts, deals with the fining of young offenders under the age of 14. There may be some offenders of that age who have £250 in their accounts that can be extracted and given to the court, but I do not suppose that many of the sorts of people who unfortunately come in front of the courts will have that sort of money at that age. Essentially, we are fining the parent or guardian. We need to be careful that we are not just airily writing legislation that looks good on paper but provides an empty remedy. Even if the parent is the one who pays, we should bear it in mind that the benefits system might actually pay, not an individual, so the force of the penalty might be limited to some extent. I am not making a fundamental criticism, merely urging us to be careful.
Paragraph 6(4) states:
“In dealing with the offender under sub-paragraph (2), the court must take into account the extent to which the offender has complied with the youth rehabilitation order.”
That is repeated throughout the schedule. Surely, any court will look at the circumstances of the person in front of it. That does not need to be spelled out in black and white. Sub-paragraph (5) states:
“A fine imposed under sub-paragraph (2)(a) is to be treated, for the purposes of any enactment, as being a sum adjudged to be paid by a conviction.”
I wonder whether that is a typo or a term of art. Are we intending to say, “on a conviction” or “by a convicted person”, or is the expression “by a conviction” an accepted legal term in such circumstances?
Paragraph 7(2) states:
“The court may instead ... commit offender in custody”.
There is a word missing. I suggest that it should say “commit the offender”. More importantly, in relation to that sub-paragraph, surely all that we need to say is that the court may remand the offender in custody or in bail to the Crown court.