Clause 53

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 1:30 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 1:30, 22 Tachwedd 2007

The purpose of the conditional caution is to prevent young people from going to court. That is the purpose of the pre-court disposal. Our hope and wish is that that intervention will prevent future court appearances. I accept the potential issues that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but in the evaluations that have taken place so far, anecdotal evidence suggests that about 70 per cent. or 71 per cent. of victims are satisfied with how their cases were dealt with. That evidence is anecdotal, but I hope to publish it shortly. However, there is merit in examining the extension to 16 and 17-year-olds, provided for in clause 53, based on experience to date. It is done for a purpose, which is to intervene before individuals come to court. If their behaviour deteriorates and they fail the youth conditional caution system, they will come before the court in due course, and all the issues that the hon. Gentleman mentioned will come about.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the costs of the youth conditional caution. If he examines paragraph 726 of the explanatory notes, he will see that we anticipate that it will result in a saving for the courts. On current projections, it will be £98,000 for the Court Service, £68,000 for the police and potentially more than £300,000 for the youth offending team in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. There will be a financial saving, but I emphasise that it is not being done for the purpose of saving resources. It is being done because we hope that pre-court interventions will help young people to face up to their behaviour, and not to embark on a long career in court.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome made an extremely valid point. We have conditional cautions for 18-year-olds, and the Bill will extend them to 16 and 17-year-olds. It is valid to ask why we are not doing it for 10 to 16-year-olds. It is a potential anomaly. I do not rule out considering that at some point, but I want to take things at a pace that ensures that things are done properly. I am happy to examine the question; there may be merit in considering an age of criminal responsibility of 10. It would involve consideration of a number of details in a wider consultation, which I  may consider. We would need to examine not just the individual’s responsibility but also the important issue of parental responsibility. For those children aged between 10 and 15, there may well be greater parental involvement than there is for those who are aged 16 or 17, and indeed for those who are 18, the age for the current operation of cautions.

We need to examine the needs of parents and carers, administrative procedures and the resource implications, but I will not rule out that possibility of extending the age at which conditional cautions would apply. The aim at the moment is to extend that measure to areas where there is potentially a high level of offending among 16 and 17-year-olds. As hon. Members know, this measure is designed to be a pre-court diversion to ensure that we try to take action before escalating into court in due course. I hope that both hon. Gentlemen will welcome the measure, I hope that I have been able to offer some answers to the questions that were put and I commend the clause to the Committee.