On 23rd July 2014 the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
Bishop James spoke in support of Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment to remove clause 29 relating to the creation of ‘secure colleges and other places for detention of young offenders’ from the Bill.
At an earlier stage of the Bill the Bishop of Oxford had also registered a concern about secure colleges, saying:
One cannot deny the attraction of a vision of a college for children convicted of an offence serious enough to warrant detention which is just like a school surrounded by an unobtrusive fence and with a first-rate education programme. It sounds good. However, the Bill presents this vision in soft focus and with very little clarity of detail. That is where I get anxious.
The amendment to remove clause 29 attracted the support of many Members of the House, but was opposed by the Government. It was therefore withdrawn by Lord Ramsbotham, who indicated that he would return to the issue at Report Stage.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I hesitate slightly to speak in this debate, not least because I am still rather new to your Lordships’ House and new in my role as bishop to prisons. However, I cannot help but note the wise advice of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in encouraging some space for rethinking. Many of us would applaud the overall intention expressed by the former Prisons Minister to establish somewhere that is primarily an education facility but with detention aspects. The difficulty for some of us is that we cannot at the moment see the detail of how that might be provided. Some of the points that have just been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, about staffing levels and so on are key to this. We encourage the Government to have the courage to be a bit more prescriptive regarding who might be the eventual provider than is the case now.
If a mechanism could be found for us to move forward without the need for the Committee to divide on this—which would put some of us in a difficult position—I am sure that it would be appreciated. Like others, I look forward to the Minister’s response in the hope that some consultative way forward on this might be found. I am sure that many of us around the Committee would be more than happy to be part of such a process.
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