2 Baroness Sater debates involving the Home Office

Tue 14th Sep 2021
Tue 21st Jul 2020

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Sater Excerpts
Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
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My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, and welcome him to this House. I will address my remarks to youth matters, and I declare my interests as set out in the register.

I very much welcome the Bill’s important extension of the position of trust to sports coaches, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, spoke passionately. I thank my noble friend the Minister for also bringing forward measures to finally enable over 80,000 deaf people across England and Wales to have the opportunity to participate in jury service. Disability should not be a barrier to anyone carrying out such an important civic duty.

I briefly share some concerns regarding the proposal to extend the use of video-linking, already mentioned by other noble Lords. During the pandemic, we have seen the benefits of remote participation in proceedings via live video or audio link. However, research by the Alliance for Youth Justice suggests that this can hamper the effectiveness of participation in court proceedings by children and can impact negatively on justice outcomes. There is little reference in the Bill to the youth court, or to provision for the welfare of the child with regard to the expansion of video-linking. I would therefore be most grateful to hear from my noble friend the Minister how she can help address these concerns and whether she would consider ensuring that the default position for children should always be that they never appear via video link for non-administrative hearings.

I also take this opportunity to bring to the attention of my noble friend the Minister the concerns around sentencing options for first-time offenders coming into the youth court. Magistrates in a youth court have only two sentencing options available to them for first-time offenders who plead guilty: a referral order or a detention and training order, for a minimum of four months. However, if a young defendant pleads not guilty and is found guilty, the options for magistrates widen and they can also give youth rehabilitation orders.

How can it be right that a defendant who has never previously been before a court and who pleads guilty—an act for which they would get credit in the adult court—can receive only a custodial sentence, in the form of a DTO, when a defendant who does not hold their hands up but is subsequently found guilty can be handed a non-custodial community sentence? Under these rules, the principle of welfare and rehabilitation that should be at the forefront of the youth court is lost, potentially creating more short-term custodial sentences and exposing hitherto non-offending young people to serious criminals in custody. This cannot be the answer.

I have spoken before in this place about my concerns that young people who commit an offence as a child but, through no fault of their own, are not brought to court before their 18th birthday are treated as adults in an adult court. Those defendants who get to court before their 18th birthday go to the youth court, where they benefit from the specialisation and expertise of the youth court, its practitioners and its focus on the defendant’s needs and welfare. This should not be a postcode lottery, but can be due to the multiple issues, including court scheduling, that can affect which court you end up in and, therefore, how you are dealt with. Reforming the system so that all defendants are dealt with at the age and time of the alleged offence would mean that youth justice principles would be followed. It would give all defendants the same opportunity and fairness of access to specialist youth services, which are designed to reduce reoffending.

It is widely acknowledged that, when given all opportunities and support to change their behaviour, many young people do so. I therefore ask my noble friend the Minister to consider these two extraordinary sentencing anomalies, and perhaps also to consider undertaking a wider youth sentencing review in the future.

Knife Crime

Baroness Sater Excerpts
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I very well remember the moment to which the noble Lord refers, which must have left lasting scars for all those involved. Last week, we brought forward in a statutory instrument a compensation scheme for certain offensive weapons. I think that the noble Lord’s wife is behind him, making sure that he says the right thing—I have now lost my track. We have had several knife amnesties over the years. Children need to feel supported in binning the knife and in not carrying knives, as opposed to feeling penalised. I think that that is what the noble Lord’s question stems from.

Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con) [V]
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The recent knife crime figures released by the Office for National Statistics are extremely worrying. We know that hundreds of dedicated and amazing individuals and hard-working organisations deliver excellent initiatives and projects to try to prevent and reduce knife crime across the country. Yet, as is obvious from the figures, with the increased demand on them, these organisations are not able to make the impact we all need. Should we not identify the most successful ones and invest more money in scaling them up? Is it time to review the amount of money allocated and where the money is spent in trying to combat this dreadful knife crime?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I totally agree with my noble friend that we should indeed learn from successes. There are pockets of very good practice all over the country. We do not always have the magic formula to know what the most successful intervention will be. However, our analysis, which was set out in the Serious Violence Strategy, makes it clear that there is a very complex interplay of different factors driving serious violence. It is therefore especially difficult to isolate specifics, but we are definitely sure that prevention and early intervention are key. They are the things that we are investing in, particularly in youth services, and our recruitment of additional police officers will of course help to that end.