HC Deb 11 June 1959 vol 606 cc1163-5
32. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is yet in a position to state his plans designed to reduce crimes of violence.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

The White Paper on Penal Practice in a Changing Society indicated my plans for combating crime generally, including violent crime.

Mr. Hughes

In order to reduce the number of crimes of violence, what steps is the Home Secretary taking to classify them with a view to diagnosing the causes and treating the disease at its causes?

Mr. Butler

I think there is quite a reasonable answer to that question in that the Cambridge Department of Criminal Science, which we hope to develop into the Institute of Criminology, is already studying crimes of Violence in the Metropolis. A first instalment of the report is expected this summer. It will help us to study crime in this area. We hope to widen the study a little further, which, we hope, will bring us further information.

34. Mr. Edelman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will set up a departmental committee to inquire into the relationship between crimes of violence and the visual presentation of violence in television and films.

Mr. R. A. Butler

No, Sir. I do not think that examination of this question can usefully be separated from study of the causes of crime generally; and I believe that the causes of crime can more effectively be studied by research than by ad hoc inquiry by a committee.

Mr. Edelman

Has the Home Secretary noticed the interesting coincidence that the relatively low level of crimes of violence in Scotland occurs in a community where the ratio of television sets to the general population is one in seven, whereas in England, where relatively there are more crimes of adolescent violence, the ratio is one in five? In view of the general bewilderment, as to the cause of crimes of violence, will the Home Secretary consider the possible relevance between the unbridled presentation of violence on television and the actual rise of crimes of violence in England?

Mr. Butler

I would not necessarily accept a description of the relative virtues of Scotland and England on the lines described by the hon. Member, but I realise that this is a very serious matter. I would not accept the absolute view of the ill effects of all television, although there may be some evil effects. This is part of the general research we are undertaking and, if the hon. Member can send me any information, I shall be very glad to receive it.

43. Mr. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many attacks with violence have taken place in the last twelve months involving wage snatching, banks, post offices and all other categories, respectively; what were the figures for each of the previous five years separately; if he is satisfied that the present punishments are adequate to act as a deterrent; what fresh action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

I regret that the information for which my hon. Friend asks is not available. The Criminal Statistics are not classified according to the nature of the victim of offences of breaking and robbery. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the penalties provided by law for offences of this kind are adequate. They include maxima of life imprisonment for robbery with violence and fourteen years for robbery and for breaking offences where a felony has been committed. My right hon. Friend's proposals for dealing with crime generally were indicated in the White Paper on Penal Practice in a Changing Society, and he will continue to pursue the lines of action described there.

Mr. Osborne

May I ask two questions? When he speaks of life penalties being imposed, can my hon. and learned Friend tell us how many people have actually served a life sentence? Is that not a misnomer? As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in answer to a previous Question that the first report of the Cambridge Department of Criminal Science would be received this summer, will it not be received in time for action to be taken on it before the next General Election?

Mr. Renton

I should like to have notice of both those questions.