Schedule 2

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice) 1:15 pm, 25th October 2007

You are very kind, Sir Nicholas. In that case, I shall just say two more things. Taking a random example, paragraph 22(5) states:

“The powers of a magistrates’ court under this paragraph may be exercised by a single justice of the peace, notwithstanding anything in the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980”.

In many ways that is a sensible thing to do to avoid having to bring together two or three magistrates to make a decision that could be made by one, but it underlines the point that the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead made on Tuesday about the need for adequate representation of youngsters within the criminal justice system. When decisions about the future of young offenders are being made by a smaller court, which is in the interests of efficiency, we must be careful that the offender is not left alone in the court. I suspect that no humane magistrate would want to do that, but we need to take care.

Furthermore, on the issue of making sure that these young people are dealt with properly, if copies of the revoking or amending order are to be provided to the parent or guardian of someone under the age of 14, as stated at the top of page 122, why are they not to be provided to the parent or guardian of any other minor who comes before the court?

Finally, paragraph 25, “Power to amend maximum period of fostering requirement”, gives the Secretary of State quite a big power in terms of the disposal of youngsters. It is not simply a question of raising or lowering the limit of a fine or the number of hours of unpaid work; the paragraph deals with the length of time for which a child can be taken away from its natural parents and handed over to the local authority. It can happen for all sorts of good reasons, as we discussed on Tuesday, but we ought to be careful. Such a power should not be exercised without far greater parliamentary intervention.

As always, I am deeply grateful to you, Sir Nicholas, for your patience and forbearance as I seek to tease the Government into producing better legislation. I look forward to hearing from the Minister either now, or in writing in due course.