HC Deb 16 April 1964 vol 693 cc583-5
25. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to strengthen the law dealing with hooligan behaviour.

26. Mr. N. Pannell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the growing tendency to hooliganism, he will introduce emergency legislation increasing the penalties for this type of offence, which casts an unjustifiable slur on the generally law-abiding youth of this country.

Mr. Brooke

I know of no evidence which suggests that existing powers are inadequate to enable such behaviour to be dealt with. For example, for malicious damage exceeding £5 in value there is a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment, or five years if the offence was committed by night; for carrying an offensive weapon in a public place there is a maximum of two years' imprisonment; and for using insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace there is a maximum of 12 months.

Mr. Lipton

Whatever the actual law on the subject may be, is not the Home Secretary aware that in recent years the penalties imposed for acts of hooliganism and vandalism have been excessively lenient? What does he propose to do about that?

Mr. Brooke

I am sure that the hon. Member is equally aware that my business is to recommend to Parliament any changes that seem desirable in the maximum penalties, but it would be wholly wrong for me, or any other member of the Government, to make suggestions to magistrates or judges as to the particular sentences they impose.

Mr. N. Pannell

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that the problem could be met if there were minimum sentences instead of maximum sentences, involving payment for damage done? Will he also consider effective action in the case of mass hooliganism, such as the use of fire hoses? If he has no powers in this respect, will he seek them?

Mr. Brooke

I do not know about fire hoses, but if someone is prosecuted under the Criminal Justice Act and is convicted the penalty may be a fine of £20 or sentence of three months imprisonment and, in addition, an order to pay compensation for the damage caused.

Sir T. Moore

If, as my right hon. Friend has said, the law is adequate to deal with this mass hooliganism, how is it that it continues and increases? Someone is not administering the law, that is all.

Mr. Brooke

As I have said, it would be wholly wrong if members of the Government were to seek to interfere with the discretion of the judiciary in these ratters. I think that today's events have shown that members of the judiciary are not afraid of imposing deterrent sentences.