Howard battles to rescue 'child jails'

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Indy Politics
MICHAEL HOWARD, the Home Secretary, made a last- ditch effort yesterday to warn off Tory peers from wrecking his plans for secure units for 12- to 14-year-old offenders in a key House of Lords vote today.

Between 10 and 20 Tory rebels are poised to help Labour and the Liberal Democrats vote the provision out during this evening's Committee stage proceedings on the Criminal Justice Bill.

Baroness Faithfull, who is heading the Tory revolt, has argued strongly that secure training units, or 'child jails' are not the way to deal with juvenile crime.

'History, experience and research have proven that incarceration in residential secure units, far from the parents, the home and the community, fails in its objectives,' she declared last month.

Mr Howard summoned her to a meeting yesterday. He said the five privately run units would work and asked Baroness Faithfull for her support, which she withheld. Mr Howard has repeated to her his earlier warning that Lords' interference with his Bill borders on the unconstitutional because it has already been rigorously examined by MPs.

Government unease has been such as to provoke John Major to send a lengthy letter to Baroness Faithfull in advance of the Bill's Second Reading in an attempt to convince her of the need for, and effectiveness, of the change.

None the less, she criticised it, calling for juvenile crime to be the subject of an inquiry.

The Prime Minister's arguments came under heavy attack yesterday in a report by a consortium of groups representing the social and probation services and chaired by Baroness Faithfull. New Approaches to Juvenile Crime argued that sentencing offenders to the secure training orders will create more criminals.