Clause 83 - The notification period

Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 14 Hydref 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 11:30, 14 Hydref 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 252, in

clause 83, page 40, line 33, leave out from 'date' to end of line 35 and insert

'the notification period shall be defined on a case by case basis by he court.'.

I have alluded to the amendment, so I shall be brief. It would replace the mechanical formula. I wish to emphasise the obvious in that we are talking about young people with varying characteristics and backgrounds. Given that they are at a relatively early stage in their lives, they have no hardened background, but something that we can attempt to analyse and treat. Why, therefore, in a formative stage of a young person's development, should there be an automatic period to be on the sexual offenders register?

We have established that such a period will be stigmatising, so harm could be caused. I accept completely that the sexual offenders register exists to protect the public. I also accept the Under-Secretary's arguments, but I return to the overriding factor that we shall make much more progress in society if we tackle some of the acts at an early and effective stage. That process would undermine the Government's excellent programmes under which they say that earlier intervention is the answer. A mechanistic approach will underline the fact that we will not consider the individual characteristics of the young people involved. Will the hon. Gentleman consider such matters?

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I do not wish to restate the arguments with which the Committee is becoming familiar but, as has been said many times in Committee, I wish to emphasise to the hon. Lady that the age and circumstances of the particular child offender are always taken into consideration at every stage of the criminal justice process from investigation, to consideration of whether to prosecute through the court to the final disposal. The individual's circumstances are always taken into account.

There are, of course, within the scheme already different periods for which a young offender would be on the register. As has already been said, for those aged under 18 years, the period is half the time that it would be for an adult who was convicted of a similar offence. Offenders who are subject to a detention and training order, for which the maximum term is 24 months, would be on the register for five years, but other young offenders who are convicted of serious offences that have not been dealt with by a custodial sentence, but by a reprimand, final warning or other community sentence, would be subject to notification requirements for one year or two and a half years, whichever was appropriate. There are circumstances in which a young offender guilty of the most serious offences may be subject to section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, which would result in a

life period. I can tell the hon. Lady that only three young offenders have received a life sentence for a sexual offence since 1996, so we are talking about a small number of young people. I certainly have no qualms about emphasising again that young people who commit those grave offences need to be dealt with in the appropriate way.

The hon. Lady again mentions the idea of registration requirements reflecting the individual circumstances of the offender. I emphasise that we must guard against the notification requirements becoming part of the sentence. They are not part of the sentence; they are an administrative consequence of it that affords the appropriate public protection. That is an important point to emphasise.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I feel that there is no meeting of minds on the subject. My concerns remain, but the Under-Secretary has put some useful points on record, and I thank him for that. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 83 ordered to stand part of the Bill.