HC Deb 16 March 1950 vol 472 cc1222-4
1. Mr. Harrison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider increasing the penalties for crimes of violence, in view of the increase in the number of such crimes.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

The maximum penalty for robbery with violence is already imprisonment for life, and, except for murder, substantial terms of imprisonment may be imposed by the courts for all other crimes involving violence. If my hon. Friend is suggesting that in addition the courts should have power to impose corporal punishment for such offences, I would refer him to the answer which I gave to a number of Questions on this point on 9th March.

Mr. Harrison

As in previous replies he has given on this matter my right hon. Friend would not agree that these crimes have increased in number, will he now agree that they have increased in ferocity and audacity within the last month or two? Will he do something to stop this terrible wave of crimes of this kind?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir, I do not agree. I think that for certain purposes additional publicity has been given to these cases, and that the heavy penalties I have read out, in my view, would be sufficient, if inflicted, to deal with the matter.

Mr. Osbert Peake

In view of the strong feelings upon this matter on all sides of the House, and also in view of the fact that it is now 12 years since we had the Report of the Cadogan Committee on Corporal Punishment, will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the whole question, and consider some form of inquiry with a view to bringing the findings of that Committee more up to date than they are, in the light of postwar circumstances?

Mr. Ede

The right hon. Gentleman will recollect the discussions we had in the House when the Criminal Justice Act was going through, and the vote he himself gave on that occasion. I will consider whether it is possible to make available the information that was before the Committee to which he alluded.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in addition to the other arguments used, there is widespread alarm in the country at the increased violence of the actual crimes committed? Will he not reconsider the whole issue, and perhaps deal with it in the way suggested by my right hon. Friend?

Mr. Ede

I can only deal with the facts. Undoubtedly, at the moment, for reasons which may be capable of being misunderstood, a great amount of publicity is being given to this matter, and an attempt is made to create a sensational atmosphere.

Mr. Marlowe

Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that it is wrong to give publicity to these awful crimes?

Mr. Ede

I did not say that.

Mr. H. Hynd

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is also considerable feeling on all sides of the House that it would be wrong to reintroduce corporal punishment which is barbaric?

Mr. McAdden

Will the Minister tell us whether it is his view that much consolation will be afforded to the victims of these assaults by his suggestion that they are not hit with the cosh but hit with publicity?

Mr. Ede

I have not suggested anything of the sort.

13. Commander Noble

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many robberies, or attempted robberies, with violence have occurred in the London area during the last six months.

Mr. Ede

During the six months ended 28th February last there were 141 offences against Section 23 (1) of the Larceny Act, 1916, known to the police in the Metropolitan Police district and the City of London; that is, armed robbery, robbery with violence, and robbery or assaults with intent to rob by two or more persons. During the same period there were 26 offences coming under the remaining provisions of Section 23; that is, simple robbery and assault with intent to rob by persons acting singly.

Commander Noble

Is the Home Secretary aware that the statistics he gave to the House last week will be very cold comfort to the unhappy people who have been attacked? Will he give an assurance that every possible step will be taken to prevent these crimes, another of which occurred yesterday, which are causing grave anxiety to the people of London?

Mr. Ede

Every possible step is taken to prevent these crimes. I may say that I have had a conference with the principal police officers engaged; they are well aware of the public anxiety, and are doing all they can to take appropriate steps to prevent these crimes.