Debates between Baroness Sater and Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 17th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Sater and Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames
Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak briefly to Amendment 221B in my name, which is a probing amendment on the need for a review of youth sentencing. I would also like to refer to my interests as set out in the register.

I appreciate that this is a very extensive Bill, and as a former member of the Youth Justice Board and a youth magistrate I note that there has been little reference to the youth courts. It would be a real opportunity lost not to commit to undertake a review of youth sentencing, especially with the ever-evolving criminal justice landscape.

As I mentioned on Second Reading, I have several concerns relating to youth sentencing, and one in particular that I would like to refer to today, which is the unfairness in the treatment of the jurisdiction of young offenders under 18 years of age with regard to the dates of the offence and their first court appearance. Simply put, young people who commit an offence as a child but are then not brought to court before their 18th birthday through no fault of their own are treated as adults in the adult courts. However, defendants who do not get to court before their 18th birthday will go to the youth court where they will benefit from all the specialisation and expertise of the youth court, the youth court practitioners and the youth court’s specific focus on the defendant’s needs and welfare.

It should not be a postcode lottery of where you live due to multiple issues, including court scheduling, that can affect which court you end up in and therefore how you are dealt with. Reforming this now is important, so that defendants are instead dealt with according to their age at the time of the alleged offence, which would mean that youth justice principles would be followed and all defendants would be given the same opportunity and fairness in having access to the youth court services and the support that is so needed to reduce reoffending. We know that the adult court cannot offer the same specialist support as the youth court.

In February, the MP for Aylesbury, Rob Butler, introduced a 10-minute rule Bill on this issue in the other place, where he outlined how his proposals garnered a wide range of support, not only cross-party support but support from key stakeholders and organisations including the YJB, the National Association for Youth Justice and the Magistrates’ Association. There seems to be no common sense or fairness that these young people are treated so differently.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up challenges and, in turn, some positive innovation in youth justice. At the same time, there remain outstanding anomalies in youth sentencing that pre-date the pandemic; I have spoken about some of those issues before in this place, and again today. All taken together, surely now is the right time to commit to a wide-ranging review and for the Government to bring forward a report. In doing so, not only can we address and meet future challenges, and keep under review the innovation we have seen, such as the use of video linking, to ensure that it results in the intended outcomes; importantly, we can also help to address the historical anomalies in the system that existed well before Covid-19.

I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister and hope that he will consider this review, which I hope will help to deliver and improve outcomes in youth justice.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness for speaking before her; I did not realise that she wanted to speak. I also apologise for erroneously referring to her as the noble Lord, Lord Sater.