§ Mr. Hurd
There is public concern about sentencing. We carefully set out in the White Paper the various options. We preferred the option whereby guidance from the Court of Appeal should be published under statutory authority, which does not happen at the moment, and in a more accessible and single form. I think that that could provide substantial help in reassuring the public that occasional waywardness towards leniency in sentencing is corrected by those who should do that—the judiciary itself.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the extension of the maximum sentence of life imprisonment for carrying firearms, as suggested in the White Paper, would be dangerous because it would incite people who carry firearms to use them? Is that proposal not another example of the Government being more interested in the rhetoric rather than in the substance of fighting crime?
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels
Will my right hon. Friend look at the possibility of naming rape defendants once they are 404 charged and also at the improper way in which rape victims tend to be named by some of the press? Both those issues cause great concern to the community at large as rape is such a shocking and detestable crime.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people are bitterly disappointed that the White Paper offers so little in the way of help to the victims of crime, whose numbers have increased dramatically since the Government came into office? The derisory £136,000 now being offered to the 282 victim support schemes shows just how little the Government really care about the victims of crime. Will the Home Secretary now reconsider the decision to fund centrally local victim support schemes?
§ Mr. Hurd
One of the helpful things happening in this country is the increased interest in victims and the increased growth of victim support schemes. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we support the central and national associations for those schemes and they, in turn, give guidance to local schemes. This year, for the first time, we have a relatively modest sum for direct help to local schemes. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong about the criminal justice White Paper. One of the main points in the White Paper is the increased pressure on courts to award compensation in suitable cases.
§ Mr. Forth
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the public expect violent criminals to be put in prison for very long periods of time, if only to guarantee the safety of the public? Apart from the excellent prison building programme upon which the Government have now embarked, will my right hon. Friend undertake to look again at people who are now in prison and perhaps should not be, in order to ensure that those who should be in prison are guaranteed to be put there?
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend is quite right. Both policies must go on at the same time. We must always be looking for alternatives to custody for relatively minor offenders, some of whom now go to prison because the courts are not persuaded that there are valid alternatives. At the same time, we must ensure that serious offenders receive the prison sentences they deserve, not just because of the nature of their crime, but for the proper protection of the public.
§ Mr. Ryman
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it quite clear to those of his supporters who are obviously very ignorant about the machinery of justice that it is not for the Executive to express views about sentencing, but is a matter entirely for the judiciary? The right hon. Gentleman and the Executive should be careful not to infringe the discretion of the judiciary.
§ Mr. Hurd
I think it is perfectly reasonable that public concern about the occasional leniency of sentences should find expression in this House. In the White Paper, as the hon. Gentleman will see, we set out carefully the options for meeting this concern and I hope that he will think that the one we prefer, which I have already sketched, is the sensible one.
§ Mr. Spencer
If the judiciary does not pay attention to directions in the law reports or in textbooks on sentencing practice, why should it pay heed to any further publicity 405 on sentencing? Will my right hon. Friend consider, as a further option, giving the Crown the right of appeal against over-lenient sentences, with the requirement that the offender must serve any increased sentence?
§ Mr. Kaufman
What is the use of a White Paper which deals so substantially with sentencing criminals when one cannot sentence most criminals, as most of them are not caught? In view of the fact that the clear-up rate for crimes of violence has fallen by 5 per cent. under this Government, for burglary by 9 per cent., for theft by 12.5 per cent., for fraud by 19 per cent., for criminal damage by 23 per cent., and the overall clear-up rate for crime has now fallen to 35 per cent., when, instead of this complacent waffle about crime, will the Home Secretary take effective action to deal with this record crime wave?
§ Mr. Hurd
Throughout his comments the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be surprised and offended that the White Paper on criminal justice deals with criminal justice and not with police strengths. Almost every day I engage the right hon. Gentleman in one way or another on police strengths, police powers, crime prevention—to which I welcome the Labour party's belated conversion — and the different aspects of our strategy. The White Paper on criminal justice deals with criminal justice. When the Government introduce a Bill in the next Session, I am sure that the different elements that it contains will receive the support that they deserve from the Opposition Benches.
§ Mr. Hickmet
To pick up the point of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), inasmuch as the White Paper is designed to increase the powers of the courts in relation to sentencing policy, and inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman says that the courts cannot sentence those whom the police do not detect, what effect does my right hon. Friend think that the Labour party's policy of undermining confidence in the police and being anti-police, through their statements in this House and through the actions of the police committees, has had upon effective and efficient policing in this country and, consequently, upon the prosecution of offenders? Has not the Labour party undermined the authority of the police?
§ Mr. Hurd
Of course, and that is one reason why the Opposition make so much noise about it. — [Interruption.] They are at it again, Mr. Speaker. They know that they will not be taken seriously on this matter until they do something about Labour leaders, particularly those in London, who spend all their time undermining and sabotaging the efforts of the police.