Clause 53 - Aims of youth justice system

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 12 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Sir Drefaldwyn 10:45, 12 Chwefror 2002

In actual fact, the hon. and learned Gentleman has saved me time, because he lucidly described the choice that the Committee needs to make. If the Committee agrees that the youth justice system as described in the Bill should purely be concerned with what we do when young people have offended—and, on a secondary level, with what parents might have done to prevent the offence—it should vote against the amendment. If, however, like myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mrs. Calton) and the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, the Committee feels that the

''principal aim of the youth justice system in Northern Ireland is to . . . promote the child's reintegration and the child assuming a constructive role in society'',

as the amendment says, it must recognise that that view is not adequately represented in the clause. That is the choice that faces us.

I want to end by giving a practical example of why the Committee should agree with the amendments. I have had some association with an organisation called Youth at Risk, which has embodied and tested the concept of tough love. That sounds a bit woolly and namby-pamby—letting kids off the hook by loving them and hugging them, to make them better people. The organisation says, however, that rather than simply creating a mindset of criminality in offenders, such a strategy gets deep inside the motivations of offenders and gives them the option to choose a different route. The statistics that the organisation has shown me in terms of reoffence are absolutely phenomenal, showing a reduction in reoffending to a fraction of its normal level. Therefore, we can see evidence that the amendments would achieve the result that we all want, by protecting the public by preventing children from offending, and ensure that those children become constructive members of society.

The arguments have been presented. I respect the Minister's remarks and I hope that hon. Members understand that there is an important decision to be made on an issue of principle. For that reason, Mr. Conway, I hope that you will allow us to have separate votes on amendments Nos. 278 and 284. There is no

point in voting on the other amendments in the group, because all of the issues are adequately summarised by those two amendments. Now that we have had a constructive debate on the matter, I ask the Committee to consider what has been said and vote accordingly.