Schedule 15 - Dealing non-custodially with offenders

Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am ar 5 Chwefror 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Amendment proposed (this day): 100, in schedule 15, page 262, line 24, leave out ‘activities’.—(Paul Goggins.)

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:

Amendment 101, in schedule 15, page 262, line 27, leave out ‘restorative justice requirements’ and insert

‘participation in a restorative conference’.

Amendment 102, in schedule 15, page 262, line 28, leave out ‘justice’ and insert ‘conference’.

Amendment 103, in schedule 15, page 262, line 29, leave out ‘an activity’ and insert

‘a meeting or series of meetings’.

Amendment 104, in schedule 15, page 262, line 33, leave out ‘and’.

Amendment 105, in schedule 15, page 262, line 36, at end insert

‘and

(d) which is facilitated by a restorative justice practioner whose role is to prepare for, facilitate and follow up the meeting.’.

Amendment 106, in schedule 15, page 262, leave out lines 37 to 42 and insert—

‘(3) The victim is entitled to participate in any meeting which constitutes or forms part of a restorative conference.

(4) The restorative justice practitioner may allow any other person or persons—

(a) to participate in any meeting which constitutes or forms part of a restorative conference, or

(b) to attend any such meeting for any purpose specified by him including to provide additional information or to act as a supporter of the victim or the offender if he considers that their participation or attendance for that purpose would assist the process of restorative justice.

(4A) Participation by any person in a restorative conference shall require the consent of that person.

(4B) The Secretary of State may make rules about the procedure of restorative conferences.

(4C) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (4B), rules made under this section may, in particular, make provision—

(a) specifying the circumstances under which the court should consider deferral and imposition of a restorative conference requirement,

(b) specifying which persons may act as restorative justice practioners,

(c) specifying what training and accreditation is required for the registration of restorative justice practioners and the standards they will work to,

(d) conferring or imposing functions on restorative conference facilitators (which may include power to exclude from a meeting constituting or forming part of a restorative conference persons otherwise entitled to participate in it),

(e) about the period within which restorative conferences must be completed, and

(f) about the information that must be returned to the court including the participation of the offender, a report on the restorative conference, its outcome and any action which the offender has agreed to undertake.

(4D) Rules made under this section are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament in the same manner as a statutory instrument, and accordingly section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 (c.36) applies to such rules.

(4E) Without prejudice to the generality of section 1(5)(a), where the passing of sentence has been deferred the court may include in a community order or in a youth rehabilitation order an activity requirement—

(a) requiring the offender to underatake any action to which he has agreed in a restorative conference, or

(b) where the victim has agreed to participate in a meeting constituting or forming part of a restorative conference at a subsequent time, requiring the offender to participate in that meeting.’.

Amendment 107, in schedule 15, page 262, line 43, leave out ‘justice’ and insert ‘conference’.

Amendment 108, in schedule 15, page 263, line 1, leave out ‘activity concerned’ and insert ‘conference’.

Amendment 109, in schedule 15, page 263, line 2, at end insert—

‘(5A) A restorative conference requirement may be imposed whether or not the court considers that there is a real prospect that the defendant will be sentenced to a custodial sentence in the proceedings.

(5B) A restorative conference requirement may not be imposed unless the offender entered a plea of guilty to the offence.’.

Amendment 110, in schedule 15, page 263, line 4, at end insert—

‘(7) In this section “participation” may include a victim’s entitlement to participate by teleconference, video conference, or having another person represent their views to the offender on their behalf.’.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I do not intend to press amendments 101 to 105, but I was not happy with the Minister’s response, and I intend to press amendment 106 to the vote.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

First, we must dispose of amendment 100.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green) rose—[Interruption.]

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

Are you speaking against?

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

I have not put the question on amendment 106 yet. I have put the question to withdraw amendment 100.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

We have already debated it.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

We have debated it all morning.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

If the hon. Lady is suggesting that she is never allowed to respond at the end of debates, she is inventing parliamentary procedure.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

Minister, you have responded, but if you have something very brief to add—

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

On a point of order, Mr Caton. The Minister responded in full. I have indicated that I wish to put the amendment to a vote. [Interruption.]

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

On a point of order, Mr Caton. I did indeed have something to say, not least because I had had a conversation with the hon. Gentleman just before, in which I was prepared to tell him something to his advantage about what would happen to the ideas in his amendments at later stages, or in the guidance, which I spoke about extensively this morning. But apparently he does not want me to put that on the record, so I will not.

Amendment proposed: 106, in schedule 15, page 262, leave out lines 37 to 42 and insert—

‘(3) The victim is entitled to participate in any meeting which constitutes or forms part of a restorative conference.

(4) The restorative justice practitioner may allow any other person or persons—

(a) to participate in any meeting which constitutes or forms part of a restorative conference, or

(b) to attend any such meeting for any purpose specified by him including to provide additional information or to act as a supporter of the victim or the offender if he considers that their participation or attendance for that purpose would assist the process of restorative justice.

(4A) Participation by any person in a restorative conference shall require the consent of that person.

(4B) The Secretary of State may make rules about the procedure of restorative conferences.

(4C) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (4B), rules made under this section may, in particular, make provision—

(a) specifying the circumstances under which the court should consider deferral and imposition of a restorative conference requirement,

(b) specifying which persons may act as restorative justice practioners,

(c) specifying what training and accreditation is required for the registration of restorative justice practioners and the standards they will work to,

(d) conferring or imposing functions on restorative conference facilitators (which may include power to exclude from a meeting constituting or forming part of a restorative conference persons otherwise entitled to participate in it),

(e) about the period within which restorative conferences must be completed, and

(f) about the information that must be returned to the court including the participation of the offender, a report on the restorative conference, its outcome and any action which the offender has agreed to undertake.

(4D) Rules made under this section are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament in the same manner as a statutory instrument, and accordingly section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 (c.36) applies to such rules.subsequent time, requiring the offender to participate in that meeting.’.

(4E) Without prejudice to the generality of section 1(5)(a), where the passing of sentence has been deferred the court may include in a community order or in a youth rehabilitation order an activity requirement—

(a) requiring the offender to underatake any action to which he has agreed in a restorative conference, or

(b) where the victim has agreed to participate in a meeting constituting or forming part of a restorative conference at a subsequent time, requiring the offender to participate in that meeting.’.—(Paul Goggins.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee proceeded to a Division.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

On a point of order, Mr Caton. As a member of the Committee, am I allowed to vote?

The Committee having divided: Ayes 8, Noes 9.

Rhif adran 4 Decision Time — Schedule 15 - Dealing non-custodially with offenders

Ie: 8 MPs

Na: 9 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

Perhaps I may resume with the speech I would have expected to start four minutes ago but for the late arrival of some Government Members. The amendment we discussed this morning does not change where we are as a Committee. I have already expressed my profound disappointment with the Minister’s response to the points that I made on amendments 100 to 110. I was surprised by the dismissive way in which he spoke, because I know that he has more time for restorative justice and its place in the mainstream of the criminal justice system than he seemed to indicate. If he has  further opportunity, I hope that he will perhaps put on the record rather more positive comments than the ones he made this morning. While I did not expect him to accept my amendments lock, stock and barrel, I did expect more engagement from him. I hope that it will be possible to get a clearer, firmer and more committed engagement on these issues.

The Bill as it is currently drafted does not say who is responsible for seeking the consent of those who will take part in restorative justice. Even though it spells out that there are restorative justice activities, it does not say what they are. The model that I proposed is the one that reflects the experience in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. It is of a properly co-ordinated restorative justice conference at which there is engagement between the victim and the offender.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

On a point of order, Mr Caton. It might be that some lack of attention on my part has led to this conclusion, but I thought that we had finished this group. The right hon. Gentleman moved to withdraw amendments 101 to 105. We then had a Division on amendment 106, which concluded the group.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

It did not actually conclude the group, because it goes right through to amendment 110. None the less, I should like to know where you are going with this, Mr Goggins.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I am still deliberating. One or two Government Members might be called away on urgent business, so I am still deliberating on whether to press the other amendments in the group. I have two real difficulties here. First, the Minister talked about local delivery and innovation, and I do not disagree with him on that. Of course it is necessary to have them. However, he would not talk about local innovation in relation to policing, probation or the courts. It is as if everything could be determined at the local level by those who operate on the ground. Of course we require the talents and the skills of people at a local level and their innovation, but it must happen within a framework. My amendments propose a framework in legislation that is backed up by statutory guidance that would give restorative justice some real standing within the criminal justice system. I fear that the Minister’s reliance on non-statutory guidance sends out a clear message that the importance of restorative justice has not quite reached the level that we thought it had, which is regrettable. I genuinely hope that the Minister is prepared to reconsider some of those things.

Secondly, the Minister says that the non-statutory guidance is the way forward, but all my amendments are based on the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002, which is a statutory scheme in legislation that has operated so well in Northern Ireland. It has a 70% victim participation rate and a 89% victim satisfaction rate. That is not non-statutory guidance; that is legislation backed up by statutory guidance. I do not see how the Minister can say that it does not work, because it patently does. It has worked in Northern Ireland, and could work in England and Wales.

The other matter about non-statutory guidance that will concern the Committee is that it takes such a measure further away from Parliament and the scrutiny of Committees such as this, and puts it in the hands of the Minister to get on and deal with. It diminishes our ability to scrutinise it in a way that we are able to do in the Committee today.

Having withdrawn some amendments and pressed one to a Division, which we regrettably lost narrowly by one vote, I now have to make a decision about the other amendments. I do not want to be a source of division in this Committee or in Parliament. I know, because of the extensive conversations that I have had, that there is support for restorative justice across the House. Members from all parts want to see it have a firmer place in the mainstream of the criminal justice system, and I want progress, not division.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Llafur, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would find things easier if the Minister were able to reassure him that some of the points that have been made would be picked up before the Bill had entirely completed its legislative process.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because that is exactly what I want to put to the Minister. I have two specific requests to which I hope he will respond. Will he arrange for a meeting between me, the appropriate Minister—if not him, then the one who leads on restorative justice—and the Restorative Justice Council, and perhaps other Members of this Committee from all parties, to look in detail at the amendments and how they might operate, either in the Bill or in guidance, and to have that meeting before Report, so that we may explore this in greater detail and find common ground, where we can?

Secondly, will the Minister confirm that he is not ruling out the possibility of further amendments in relation to part 2 of schedule 15 that might help to clarify restorative justice, operating pre-sentence in a way that would be helpful to us in Parliament but most particularly to the victims of crime? Can there be a meeting before Report, and will the Minister confirm that he is not ruling out the possibility of further amendments on Report?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

I am still not clear what the right hon. Gentleman is doing, since he has not told the Committee yet.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I am seeking an assurance before I decide whether to press my amendment. It is as simple as that, Mr Caton.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

I will always consider the possibility of new amendments. I am not sure that the meeting in the form that the right hon. Gentleman suggests would be creative. It sounds a very large meeting to discuss detailed amendments and such. Perhaps the sensible thing would be for him and me to have a conversation outside this Committee.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I am always happy to have a conversation with the Minister, outside this meeting or at any time. I ask him to consider involving others, not a massive cast list, such as one or two of his advisers and one or two  people who have been advising me. That would be a group of half a dozen people; that is not asking the earth.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

Without specifying who is there, it is difficult for me to say yes or no. The sensible thing is for the two of us to talk.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

All I can say is that when I sat in the chair where the Minister is sitting, if an Opposition Member had, in his own words, put forward arguments that were good-spirited, well-intentioned and well directed, the idea of not having a meeting before Report would have been unthinkable. I am going to take what the Minister said in good faith—that he is prepared to have a meeting. He has indicated that he is prepared to meet with me and I am prepared to talk to him about that meeting. I hope that he will be constructive; I am sure he will. That ought to be his nature and he is the Minister and in the end he is in charge of the Bill and can decide what goes in or not. I will put my trust in the Minister—I hope it is not misplaced.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

I beg to move amendment 88, in schedule 15, page 263, line 37, before ‘an electronic’, insert ‘in a case where the court also imposes a supervision requirement,’.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 89, in schedule 15, page 264, line 17, before ‘an electronic’, insert ‘in a case where the court also imposes a supervision requirement,’.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

The amendments are about electronic monitoring, more commonly known as tagging of offenders. They would prevent an electronic monitoring requirement being handed down without being accompanied by a supervision requirement.

The reason we are concerned is that there is no evidence that tagging without supervision makes much impact either on reoffending or rehabilitation. There is not that much evidence that it makes a difference with supervision, to be fair. We think there is at least some opportunity with supervision to use tagging to its best effect, importantly to detect breach. We know that our probation staff at the moment are good at detecting when someone should be returned to custody, as happens frequently. It is an important method by which the public are kept safe when offenders are being held in the community.

Part 4 of schedule 15 provides for an electronic monitoring requirement to be imposed as a requirement in its own right, rather than, as at present, as an ancillary measure to another requirement. Electronic monitoring, or tagging, is a valuable tool in the supervision of offenders and was accordingly included in the provisions for community orders in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. It provides an effective means of monitoring compliance, and we support the use of improved technology, such as GPS tagging, where it can be used to improve the effectiveness of sanctions and public safety in the community. The amendment addresses some concerns over the effectiveness of the Government’s proposals. The contract will be expensive, costing millions of pounds, so we want to ensure that the money is spent wisely.  Some £1 billion will be spent on the contract to tag offenders, and we want to be assured that the decision is not just the result of an effective sales job from G4S and Serco—the two current suppliers—and is based on something more sound than that.

It goes without saying that community sentences deal with offenders in the community, but it is vital for public safety that we get the provisions absolutely right. Electronic monitoring does exactly what it says. It monitors certain elements of an offender’s behaviour, but it does nothing to challenge it. We have serious concerns that the use of electronic monitoring without, or instead of, other valuable requirements could be detrimental to the effectiveness of sentences.

In the response to the consultation, the Government note that there was support for tracking as long as it has the primary purpose of addressing reoffending or protecting the public. What evidence do the Government have that tagging is an effective means of tackling reoffending? Neither we nor any of the major interest groups have been able to find any. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation does not have any either. In fact, its 2012 report notes:

“It is, of course, unproven whether EM is effective in preventing reoffending” and we share that view. On the whole, responses to the consultation argued that the requirement needed to be backed up with further rehabilitative requirements or that the preventive effect of a tag was likely to last for the duration of the order only—if we are lucky. The Government’s impact assessment is far from encouraging, because it notes:

“Use of tracking may discourage offenders from committing further offences”.

However, no one knows that for sure. It is an awful lot of money to spend without a little more evidence on which to base the investment, especially given the evidence to the contrary that, with a bit of supervision and amending the way that the contract is done, a much more effective solution could be found.

It is our concern that the Government may consider electronic monitoring as an easy, non labour-intensive alternative to requirements, such as supervision, that do the genuine heavy lifting of probation work. Our amendment would provide that an electronic monitoring requirement could be imposed only with a supervision requirement, ensuring that, as well as the offender being tracked, the offender’s behaviour is also tackled. With current technology, the tag cannot tell you whether the subject has been drinking or has been abusive to their partner. We even have plenty of examples of curfews being breached when someone is wearing a tag, because the technology is not infallible.

The changes would ensure that an offender had contact with probation staff, during which their behaviour could be challenged and efforts to comply with their order and reduce their risk of reoffending could be supported. All the evidence we have and all the research that has been done tells us that what really makes a difference is the relationship with, and the monitoring by, an offender manager. Where, therefore, is the front line of the rehabilitation revolution, as it is being called, to be found? At the moment, it seems to be all about speeches, with what we are doing on the ground evidence-free and, by the look of it, potentially very expensive.

There is serious concern about the contract for the tagging. The Government propose to contract out the majority of the supervision work to providers in the private and voluntary sectors. The enthusiasm for tagging might be driven by a belief that it is somehow an easy service to contract out, and if tagging is considered separate from other community orders that might be the case, but no one seems to agree with the Government on that, if that is indeed their argument. Our concerns about the Government’s handling of the tagging contract, and the risk of lengthy and exceptionally expensive contracts that do not permit for advances in technology, suggest that it might be less easy than it looks.

I hold my hands up: if Labour won the next election we would not want to be lumbered with the best part of a seven or eight-year deal with a couple of contractors. It seems that the contract will be carved up between, at best, two providers. Without wishing to insult the Ministry of Justice, the track record of such contracting is not great. The Minister will be aware of the débacle over interpreters, and we certainly do not want to see anything similar with electronic monitoring.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Llafur, Birmingham, Selly Oak 2:15, 5 Chwefror 2013

While my hon. Friend is on that subject, do we have any indication of the cost? I understand that the current budget for tagging with community punishments is £120 million, but presumably the Minister plans to spend much more.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

That is my understanding also. It would be helpful if the Minister could provide the Committee with an estimate of the cost of this provision in the Bill, and an idea of how many offenders he expects will be tagged. Unless tagging is accompanied by supervision, it is just money down the drain. When we are making cuts elsewhere, that is a lot of money to spend on something that has no proven effectiveness.

The probation inspectorate also reported concerns about the number of cases in which electronic monitoring was being included in community orders without the recommendation of a pre-sentence report. In 2008, it found that 90% of community orders with electronic monitoring curfews had been made following a pre-sentence report but, worryingly, only 29% are now imposed with the benefit of such a report. The Minister will understand why I am concerned. The inspectorate raised concerns about the targeting of community orders with electronically monitored curfews and about their being used in inappropriate situations, such as domestic violence cases. Those concerns are extremely serious.

We will obviously listen carefully to what the Minister says, but we want some explicit assurances that tagging will not be used as widely as seems to be suggested, without pre-sentence reports and, importantly, without supervision. We must not get too carried away with the use of electronic monitoring and roll out provisions even further. We need to be sure that the basic use of the tool is targeted effectively and responsibly. We have some serious concerns to which I would be grateful if the Minister would respond.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

I should start by saying that there is a specific issue with the amendments in relation to their effect where electronic monitoring is imposed to monitor compliance with another requirement—currently usually a curfew—but I will focus the main purpose of my remarks on the concerns that the hon. Lady has raised.

As the Committee will be aware from earlier discussions, we believe that the way to make community orders more effective and credible is for them to include an element that fulfils the purpose of punishment. We believe that to be essential if community orders are to carry the confidence of both the courts and the public. However, provided that is met, our approach has been to give the widest possible opportunity for the courts to use their discretion to impose the most suitable and proportionate requirement or combination of requirements for the offender before them. That is why, in designing the new mandatory punitive element of the community order, we have left it up to the courts to decide what fulfils the purpose of punishment in relation to each individual offender. Therefore, we are not attracted by restrictions, such as those set out in these amendments, that risk fettering the court’s discretion about which requirements to impose in a particular case, unless there is a compelling need for them.

In the case of the new location monitoring—“tracking”, “tagging” or whatever Members want to call it—provision, I am not persuaded that there is such a compelling need. Tracking will be available to the courts to fulfil the purpose of deterrence from committing further crimes. We believe that it will discourage offenders from reoffending, given that tracking data may be used to link them to the location of an offence. The type of offenders we envisage being subject to the new tracking requirement would be those prolific offenders, such as burglars, who continue to reoffend, causing repeated misery in the communities they live in.

The hon. Lady asks—not unreasonably—for evidence that tracking discourages reoffending. Some of the evidence that I bring to this debate actually comes from meeting offenders in Leeds who have been tracked; I met them when I visited the police and probation service there. The point made by police and probation practitioners in Leeds, which has also been made to me by senior police officers around the country, is that tracking and tagging has indeed had a mixed history, but that as technology improves and as the ability to track someone accurately increases, tracking becomes more effective. What I found interesting was that those who had been tagged agreed that tracking was stopping them from committing crimes.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am not surprised that the Minister was invited to meet offenders who thought the process was working well. We are not saying that there is no place for electronic monitoring of offenders; we think that it can work very effectively when accompanied by supervision. The Minister mentioned improvements in technology. We need to be reassured that although the contract will enable improvements and advances in technology that are sure to come because it is such a very long contract, those advances will happen without the taxpayer incurring extra costs. Is he able to do that?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

Indeed. I was going to come to the issue of costs, but I will deal with it now if the hon. Lady prefers. The twin aims of the new competition for the electronic monitoring contract are to drive down costs and to introduce new technology. As she will understand, the competition for the contract is still going on, so it is impossible for me to give her a final unit cost. However, I assure her and the Committee that  the concerns that she has raised are precisely the concerns that the Government have. We want the process to be effective; we want it to be open to new technology, because I have seen on the ground that it is more effective, and to drive down unit costs.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Llafur, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Is there any evidence the Minister can point to—not an example on this occasion—that shows the effectiveness of electronic monitoring in the UK in reducing offending?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

Those who have been tagged, and have received this kind of supervision plus a curfew, commit fewer reoffences within two years of the order being made, compared with those who just receive traditional supervision. The short answer is yes, there is some evidence. I accept all the caveats and the scepticism, but those involved in the process agree on the key nature of the application of new technology and the appropriate combination, both of which seem capable of driving down reoffending, which is obviously the whole purpose. The type of offenders we envisage being subject to the new tracking requirement would be precisely those prolific offenders, such as burglars, who continue to reoffend, causing repeated misery in their communities.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East 2:30, 5 Chwefror 2013

I strongly endorse the search for appropriate use of electronic tracking; indeed, I was involved, in 2004, with the early pilots for electronic tracking and I hope that something has been learnt from them. The technology certainly ought to be a lot cheaper now. When the Minister was talking about the kind of offenders he intends to use tracking with, he twice referred to burglars. I would have thought that sex offenders would be quite high on his list. Will he confirm that the Government’s intention is to use tracking for sex offenders?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

Well, it could be. We envisage that tracking will be used for prolific offenders of all kinds who are liable to reoffend, and the right hon. Gentleman is right to identify sex offenders in that category. Clearly, the potential attraction to a court of imposing that kind of order—or part of an order—would be high, so I do not think that there is anything between us on that.

Tracking is not intended to be punitive, so in most cases we expect the courts to impose a punitive element alongside it. Imposing a tracking requirement does not stop the court imposing rehabilitative requirements, so as I keep emphasising, it would be part of the response to an individual issue, not the whole response.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

The Minister said that tracking was not intended to be punitive, but this morning we debated a clause that said that it could be punitive. I am a bit confused, because this morning the Committee decided that tracking could be punitive.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

I said this morning that it would be for the courts to decide that one of the elements of a sentence had to be punitive, and that will be different in different cases, but tracking on its own has to be done with something else to be effective and it cannot be considered punitive. It may be that the hon. Lady, from  her earlier remarks, is concerned that the new tracking requirement will be used as a substitute for what she sees as proper oversight of an offender, as provided by the obligation under the supervision requirement to attend appointments. I want to be clear to the Committee that that is not our intention.

Where the court imposes a tracking requirement as part of a community order or suspended sentence order, the responsible officer in relation to the offender will be an officer of a provider of probation services and will have the statutory duties set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. These duties are to make any arrangements that are necessary in connection with the requirements of the order, to promote compliance with the requirements and to take any necessary enforcement action. I think the hon. Lady asked who would be the front lines managing the process, so I hope that answers her point.

Those duties are not optional; they are mandatory and in our view, require the responsible officer to take an active role in supporting and overseeing the progress of the offender subject to a tracking requirement. In addition, they are accompanied by a requirement on the offender to keep in touch with his responsible officer, according to instructions given.

We accordingly do not subscribe to the view that an offender subject to a tracking requirement also needs a supervision requirement to support and manage the order. Supervision is a valuable component of a community order where the court considers that it is necessary in its own right to promote the offender’s rehabilitation. There may be cases where the court decides to impose a supervision requirement alongside a tracking requirement, but we believe that decision should be left to the discretion of the court. For those reasons, I invite the hon. Lady to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

I really am tempted to press the matter, but we will wait until Report. It is an awful lot of money to spend on something that we do not know works and if we are spending it on this, it is being taken from policing or probation budgets where it could be argued that it would be better spent.

We should look at the experience in the United States when deciding whether the system is something we want to embark on at such a scale. The research that has been conducted found that in the US, where tags are more advanced, the role of local police and probation services is significant. It says that £883 million could have been saved over the past 13 years if tagging had been implemented in a different way. That raises lots of questions about whether we are again spending money without giving it proper thought, to fill a gap in the Government’s Bill because they have not properly thought through what to do with community sentences. Tempted as I am to divide the Committee, I think we will give the provision a little more thought, allow the Government time to come back with something a bit more intelligent, and perhaps come back to it on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 90, in schedule 15, page 269, line 16, leave out ‘with probation trusts’ and insert

‘for the provision of supervision of offenders’.

Amendment 91, in schedule 15, page 269, line 16, leave out

‘require each probation trust to’.

Amendment 93, in schedule 15, page 269, line 22, at end insert—

‘(3) The Secretary of State shall in each year publish a strategy for the delivery of appropriate and effective services for female offenders in the criminal justice system.’.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

Part 7 of schedule 15 was inserted into the Bill on Third Reading in the other place. It requires contracts between the Secretary of State and probation trusts to place an obligation on trusts to make appropriate provision for the delivery of services for female offenders. This includes making provision for women in unpaid work and rehabilitative programmes, with their particular needs in mind. The hon. Member for Darlington seeks to amend the provision by replacing references to probation trusts with a more general requirement for contracts made by the Secretary of State for the supervision of offenders to make appropriate provision for the delivery of services to female offenders. In addition, she also seeks to introduce a new duty on the Secretary of State to publish an annual strategy detailing delivery of appropriate and effective systems for female offenders in the criminal justice system. I will deal first with amendment 93, as what I say will also be relevant to Government amendment 79, which seeks to remove part 7 from schedule 15.

Let me first make it clear that the Government are committed to addressing the factors associated with women’s offending, and to taking a different approach where there is a need to differentiate provision for female offenders. Where the challenges are different, our responses likewise should be different. Only in that way can we rehabilitate female offenders and enable them to lead positive and productive lives.

We fully understand and are sympathetic to the concerns that prompted the insertion of part 7 of schedule 15 by the other place. We readily acknowledge that there are often many complex factors associated with women’s offending, including domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance misuse and homelessness.

Let me assure the Committee that a considerable amount of cross-Government work is already taking place to address those needs. Some Committee members may recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) gave a speech last year setting out the Government’s strategy for female offenders, which aims to ensure that women will benefit in key areas such as mental health and drug recovery. The strategy covers tackling violence against women, as well as troubled families and employment. It reflects the good work being done by the National Offender Management Service to implement many of the recommendations in Baroness Corston’s report. That work of course continues.

However, I do not believe that a statutory requirement to publish an annual strategy for female offenders is necessary, or indeed the best way forward. We have already committed to publishing our strategic priorities for female offenders. I am pleased to say that my  colleague, the Minister for Victims and Courts, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), whose portfolio includes responsibility for women in the criminal justice system, has been working to ensure that we get our current priorities right within the changing landscape of our rehabilitation revolution, and that women’s specific needs are properly addressed. As part of the process, she is undertaking a series of visits to women’s prisons and women’s community services run by the voluntary sector, to see at first hand the needs of female offenders and how they can be met.

The Government will publish details of our priorities for female offenders and how we will deliver them before the end of March. It will be a living document and will be updated in response to changing circumstances and new priorities. At this time of considerable change, that is more helpful both to Government and to stakeholders than a static document, updated annually, as envisaged by amendment 93.

It follows from what I have said that the Government’s concern is not with the underlying principle behind the Lords amendments, now part 7 of schedule 15. However, we do not believe that the provisions are helpful, and I will explain why. As Members are aware, the Government recently published their proposals for taking forward the next steps of the rehabilitation revolution. The consultation document sets out our proposals to reform the management and rehabilitation of offenders in the community through a new focus on life management and mentoring support for offenders. Offenders with complex problems and chaotic lifestyles need support to turn their lives around, combined with proper punishment. That is the tough but intelligent package we intend to provide.

The consultation includes proposals on the provision of a wide range of services and proposals to introduce payment by results, so that in the future the taxpayer pays for services that demonstrate a reduction in reoffending. National commissioning would replace commissioning by probation trusts. We intend to open up rehabilitative services to a wide range of new providers in the private and voluntary sectors, who will bring their creativity and innovation to bear on this pressing problem and be paid by results to drive down reoffending.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Llafur, Wythenshawe and Sale East

Will the Minister confirm whether within the new framework for commissioning probation services the Government intend to agree contracts with providers specifically for female offenders?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

We are still at the consultation stage. People are bringing forward ideas. That is certainly an interesting idea, which we are considering, but we are in the middle of a consultation, so all good ideas are gratefully received, particularly from the right hon. Gentleman.

Given the ongoing consultation and proposed changes to the structure of service delivery and probation trusts, it could be unhelpful to introduce legislation specifying commissioning duties for women’s services. We need to hear consultation responses and reach a considered view on how best to deliver services that will enable female offenders to address the often complex factors associated with their offending.

With changes on the horizon, we must be mindful that introducing additional statutory provisions could have unintended consequences. Although I appreciate  that amendments 90 and 91 take account of the Government’s consultation, they would still leave us with a provision that is at best premature, given the ongoing consultation, and at worst could impose a counter-productive straitjacket on offender management services.

I assure hon. Members that we recognise that a particular set of needs and priorities are relevant to services for female offenders, and we will ensure they are addressed in our overall approach. Our consultation document specifically asks for views on how we can use the new commissioning model, including payment by results, to ensure better outcomes for female offenders.

I am pleased that as part of the consultation, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, recently chaired a stakeholder event to look in detail at how we might improve services for female offenders. That reflects her strong personal commitment to the issue, as well as the fact that the Government are still gathering views on the shape of rehabilitative services.

Finally, I assure the Committee that the removal of part 7 from the Bill will not undermine the delivery of appropriate services for female offenders. Indeed, there are already clear public commitments to that effect, which apply to providers commissioned by the Secretary of State to deliver offender management services. Objective 2 of the Ministry of Justice equalities objectives ensures:

“Provision of gender-specific community services to improve support for vulnerable women in the criminal justice system.”

To support that, the Government have provided an additional £3.78 million to probation trusts to fund 31 women’s community services in 2012-13.

Such services aim to address the factors associated with women’s offending, including substance misuse, mental health issues and histories of domestic violence and abuse. The centres also offer options for the courts to support and complement the statutory work of probation trusts in the delivery of community and suspended sentence orders and to support women in the successful completion of post-release licences. That additional funding is now embedded in National Offender Management Service community budget baselines, to allow for continued support of provision for women in 2013-14.

I hope I have reassured the Committee that the Government remain committed to ensuring the provision of appropriate services that address the particular needs of female offenders, and that ongoing work demonstrates that. In the circumstances, I hope that the hon. Member for Darlington is reassured and will agree not to press her amendments. I ask the Committee to support amendment 79.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

No, I am not reassured at all. Part 7, added in the other place, makes a lot of sense. I feel frustrated because we have been here before. We had these arguments all through the passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill; we were promised that there would be improvements and a strategy, and that priorities would be published. Nothing happened. This time, we are told that it will happen in March. I do not feel minded to be reassured. I would like to press the amendment to a Division, to keep part 7.

Part 7 determines that appropriate provision of services for female offenders must be supplied. The debate has been had over and over again in recent years, and it is disappointing that we are having to fight to protect part 7 from being removed and that we are having this row yet again. It leads people to think that there is some sort of difference between us on issues particular to female offenders, but I do not think that there is. We agree on those issues, but the Government do not seem to pin themselves down on what they should do about the matter. They are prepared to invest some money—about £3 million on 30 projects—but it is as though they are saying, “That’s the job done.” I appreciate that this is not the Minister’s area of responsibility, but given that he represents the Government, it would be good if he took the message back to the relevant Minister so that we might see some action on the issue.

Part 7 was added to schedule 15 by consensus in the other place, one of whose Members is the noble Baroness Corston. As many Committee members know, although some may not, the Corston report was published almost six years ago, and I understand that its recommendations were recently adopted as Liberal Democrat policy. [Interruption.] I am invited by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn to repeat the fact that the recommendations, of which I think there were 51, of the Corston report were adopted in full by the Liberal Democrats as recently as 2011—goodness.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

Yes.

Our view is based not on a desire for preferential treatment for women, as the Government themselves agree, but on an evidenced understanding of the differences in circumstances of, and the most effective means of tackling reoffending in, the female offending population.

I debated this issue in Westminster Hall with the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) a few weeks ago, so I know that there is no consensus across the House. However, I welcomed the response of the Minister in that debate, and she and I were in a great deal of agreement, if not consensus, on what we should be doing. But we seem to be lacking any action from the Government, which is the point that we are trying to make through the amendments and our desire to retain part 7.

As I have said, the argument has been had many times before, and it has pretty much been won. Progress was made under the previous Labour Government, particularly through the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), and we have seen the excellent, targeted supervision work that goes on in women’s centres around the country. It is great that the Minister is going to visit some of them, although it is not all that reassuring, given that she is the responsible Minister.

Members on both sides of the House have spoken eloquently in support of the need for intelligent provision of women’s services, and the Government included provisions for female offenders in the consultation. The Government’s response states that they

“recognise that women can have a different profile of risks and needs to men”,

and are committed to ensuring that there is suitable provision in the community to

“help to address factors associated with women’s offending, such as mental health; substance misuse; domestic and sexual violence; housing, finance and employment needs.”

We are therefore divided not on whether it is sensible to take action, but on how serious we are about getting on with it. The Minister will forgive my sense of frustration, having been through this row already—with, it has to be said, different Justice Ministers—and having been through this all before, at seeing absolutely no progress. After LASPO, which does not have a single direct mention of female offenders, the Government are now seeking to remove the only mention of them that has been successfully inserted into this Bill. Their argument is on the technicalities of it and the uncertainty about probation reform, but, having listened to the Minister, I do not think that that is sufficient reason to remove a statutory duty to make progress in an area that so badly needs it, and on which the Government have stalled, with progress having slowed since their arrival in office.

Helpfully for the Government, amendments 90 and 91 would solve their concerns. They remove any specific mention of commissioning structures. When this proposal was included in the Lords, it made reference to probation trusts. Since then, we have heard announcements about the Government’s intention to change the way probation services are provided. We did not want that to be an impediment to the Government accepting this part of schedule 15, so our amendments would make paragraph 29(1) read:

“Contracts made by the Secretary of State for the provision of supervision of offenders shall make appropriate provision for the delivery of services to female offenders.”

That allows for a change in the way that these contracts may be let in the future.

If the Government are serious about their commitment to providing a system that works, they should be more than happy to withdraw their opposition to part 7 and consider instead our amendments. If they are not, that is telling of their lack of genuine commitment to this area of reform. I do not think that what the Minister has said helps to shift us from that point of view.

Amendment 93 is simple, recognisable—it is almost word for word an amendment that we tabled to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill—and would provide for a duty on the Secretary of State to publish a strategy on services for female offenders. When we tabled it previously, we were fobbed off and told, “Oh, we’ll do it in a few months’ time.” That has not happened and it is just not good enough. We know that the Government are not opposed to the worth of such a strategy, as they have promised one before in their responses to the attempted amendments to the LASPO Bill and October’s consultation. The strategy, it was said, would be published before the end of 2012, but still we have not seen it. The Minister now says that it will happen in March, but I think he will forgive our lack of faith in that commitment.

This is not an area in which the Government can keep providing words but no action, and offering supposed support but running scared from anything that commits them to taking action. This is an issue on which we need to and can make progress, and part 7 should be welcomed  by the Government as an indication of their desire and plans to do just that. I want to push the Committee to a vote on this issue. The Government keep saying that legislation is not needed because a strategy is coming, but it has not come. We now need the pressure of legislation to make the Government take this issue seriously.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice

I am disappointed by the rather churlish tone of the hon. Lady’s remarks. She says that she wants action; I detailed the extra money, the new community services being set up in more than 30 areas, and the personal commitment of the Minister for Victims and the Courts, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald. I agree that that there is not much on this issue that actually divides the House, but if the hon. Lady insists on pressing for a vote, I urge the Committee to vote in favour of Government amendment 79.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 7.

Rhif adran 5 Decision Time — Schedule 15 - Dealing non-custodially with offenders

Ie: 10 MPs

Na: 7 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment 79 agreed to.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

Ms Chapman, do I understand that you want to press amendments 90, 91 and 93 to a Division?

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

The amendments were to change part 7, which the Government have just removed.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Llafur, Gŵyr

I am sorry; I had a note. We will move on.

Schedule 15, as amended, agreed to.