HC Deb 11 February 1993 vol 218 cc1101-3
9. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further powers he intends to give the courts to deal with the incidence of burglary, theft and mugging.

Mr. Jack

We are developing proposals to increase the powers of courts to deal with persistent juvenile offenders, some of whom may have been convicted of the offences to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Winterton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply and I am well aware that his office has been in touch with the Macclesfield division of the Cheshire constabulary, but is he aware that, within that division, burglary from the home is up by 30 per cent., theft of or from cars is up by 30 per cent. and theft of other sorts is up by 24 per cent? The detection rate in my division is some 35 per cent.—one of the highest rates of detection in the country, on which my police should be warmly congratulated—but is my hon. Friend not prepared to do something about the fact that much of the trouble is caused by young recidivist offenders who are arrested by the police and taken before the courts but released into the community to re-offend?

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend, with his usual robustness, puts his case with great clarity. I congratulate the Cheshire police on their efforts to deal with the crimes that my hon. Friend listed and on their support for the home watch scheme, which my hon. Friend also supports. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and I are four-square behind my hon. Friend in his wish to deal with persistent juvenile offenders who carry out many of those crimes. I wish that we had similar robust support from the Opposition.

Mr. Trimble

Before the courts can deal with offenders, they must be brought before the courts. What is the Minister's reaction to the apparent decline in the number of cases coming before the courts at the moment?

Mr. Jack

My reaction is to refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that the Home Secretary gave earlier on his efforts to improve the police service and its effectiveness, because in that way criminals can be caught and ultimately brought before the courts for justice.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

Is my hon. Friend aware that the frustration of police, magistrates and judges is not restricted to Cheshire at having to go on cautioning, cautioning, cautioning, and then releasing into the community young offenders who are persisting in their offending? Has the time not come to remove the hard core of persistent offenders from circulation?

Mr. Jack

My hon. and learned Friend will know the efforts that we in the Home Office are making to expand the amount of local authority secure accommodation, which would deal with some of the problems that he mentions. Equally, we must not forget that there are other ways of dealing with juvenile offenders. However, I agree that dealing with the persistent juvenile offender is an important priority; it is certainly at the top of my list of priorities and that of the Home Secretary.

Mr. Michael

Will the Minister face the fact that there has been a 163 per cent. increase in burglary in the past 13 years and that there is immense pressure on the police, with the result that there is a low clear-up rate? Will he respond to the Labour party's plea for urgent action? Is it not time that the Government faced up to their responsibilities and gave leadership and support to those who need to fight crime at local level?

Mr. Jack

I will respond to what the Labour party has said. I am flattered, to a degree, by the fact that it has endorsed the very policies that we are following. We have formed the new National Board for Criminal Prevention, reactivated a ministerial group on crime prevention, pioneered the safer cities concept and expanded it by a further 20. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would stand up and endorse the policies that have already resulted in a 90 per cent. reduction in burglary in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham, and reductions in burglaries in Bradford, Salford, Bristol and Deptford. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to endorse and support those policies.