§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I hope that the House will endorse the Opposition's decision to choose for the general part of our debate the subject of crime. We have had debates about crime before. We had a good debate on the subject at the end of February. If I do not traverse again the various topics which were raised then, it is neither because I do not agree with what was then said nor because I do not recognise their importance. Today, however, without wishing to limit other speeches, I shall talk of professional crime, that is, crime organised as a business, employing experts, enforcing discipline and rules of its own, and, above all, making profits.
I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this aspect of the matter because I believe that in the past we have underestimated the importance of professional crime and its growth and because I believe that it is the clue which may lead us through the whole melancholy labyrinth of delinquency to an answer to the overall question. At the same time, I believe that the widespread existence of professional crime is in some sense the guarantee that the problem which has eluded the House for so long is, at least in principle, soluble.
1028 Whatever else can be said about delinquency or crime in general, professional crime is to a large extent rationally motivated. Its motive is profit. Make it unprofitable and it will to that extent be less likely to occur. Allow profits to be made either by laxity of administration or by obsolescence of the legal framework and it is predictable that professional crime will increase. We do not have to ask the managing director of a limited company whether he is the product of a broken home. Neither do we need to send for a psychologist.
The professional criminal is in crime to make money. No doubt, he exploits sex as he exploits gambling, drugs, violence and the loopholes in the Companies Act and our commercial law generally. But these are only the surface manifestations of his activity. His motive is to make a profit.
Here, I warn against a dangerous misconception which I have heard from the lips of those who ought to know better. I refer to the distinction drawn, when one is discussing professional crime, between crimes against property and crimes of violence against the person. I heard it widely canvassed, for instance, at the time of the train robbery, that that robbery was less important than a crime against the person because it was only a crime against property. When the professional criminals stopped the train, they "clobbered" the driver and they ruined the rest of his life by personal injury. The participants in a recent club fight are said to have been responsible for 12 unsolved murders.
Violence is an essential part of professional crime—violence to subdue the victim, violence or, perhaps, corruption to intimidate or destroy witnesses, particularly witnesses of identification, violence to secure security and discipline in the professional gang itself, violence or corruption to intimidate jurors or police men. If we could, therefore, eliminate professional crime, the motive of which in the end is always an attack on property, we should, at the same time, eliminate a great deal of violence in its worst and most organised form.
It now needs to be said that, although professional crime can, in principle, be eliminated or reduced, we are not at present winning the war against it. 1029 During the last two or three weeks, there have been three documents of outstanding importance published, each under the imprimatur of the right hon. Gentleman's Department—the Criminal Statistics for the Calendar Year 1965, the Report of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and the Report of the Chief Inspector of Constabulary. Last week, there appeared also a fourth document of equal importance published by the Estimates Committee of this House, which contained valuable suggestions, upon which, I hope, the right hon. Gentleman will comment, for the better deployment and use of our limited police resources.
The first three documents make rather melancholy reading. They show that we are not winning. The Criminal Statistics for the Calendar Year 1965 show a net increase in indictable offences known to the police of more than 6 per cent. over the previous calendar year 1964, and that year, in turn, was an all-time high year showing a net increase of 9 per cent. over 1963, which also was an all-time high year showing, I think, a similar increase over the year before that. I hope that no one will take comfort from the fact that 6 per cent. is less than 9 per cent. and say that the rate of increase is slowing down. An all-time high on top of an all-time high is no matter for comfort or complacency.
In dealing with these figures, we should remember the claim by Professor Radzinowicz, referred to, I think, by both Front Benches in both Houses, that the statistics of crime known to the police show only about 15 per cent. of the total crimes which were, in fact, committed. This would give a total of over 7 million indictable offences for the calendar year 1965. To quote another figure, claims on the main insurance companies last year for theft and comparable crimes amounted to £15½ million.
This, of course, is only a tiny proportion of the total turnover of the crime business and of its profits. They do not include the company frauds, the insurance frauds, a great number of robberies with violence, the building society fraud, the great export guarantee fraud, the proceeds of organised drug peddling or prostitution, crooked gambling, protection or dubious clubs. It is clear from considerations of this kind that the total profits of organised 1030 crime in this country far over-top the earnings of Bar and Bench put together, and probably of the whole legal profession—and, be it remembered, they are all, or very nearly all, free of taxation.
It is clear that we are dealing with no minor industry and no minor brake on our economy. Its increase in productivity, 6 per cent. in the last 12 months, is more than twice that of the national norm.
A particularly disquieting circumstance—I turn here to the Report of the Chief Inspector, is the increase in violence, the disturbing extent to which men carry firearms or other weapons in support of theft or, as he puts it, to settle personal grievances. One must remember that the gang fights which have proved such a startling feature of our London courts in the past few weeks are part of professional crime, though the actual deaths and injuries involved may have been due to the internecine warfare between rival gangs.
A striking illustration of the Chief Inspector's comments about the disquieting nature of the increase in violence comes from the third document, that of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who shows that in the Metropolitan Police area robbery and assault with intent to rob went up more than a quarter—27 per cent.—in the last 12 months. I must particularly ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what he proposes to do to deal with crimes in which violence is used to intimidate or destroy a victim, to suppress evidence of identification, or in support of a blackmailing protection racket, because behind these figures lies a terrible world of misery and fear and almost unbelievable callousness. We all know probably in our own constituencies of horrible individual stories which support this view.
Some London Members were lobbied last week by the Association of Sub-Postmasters. Sub-postmasters are typical of a large range of persons who have quantities of cash either on their premises or on their persons which their functions demand should be readily available and easily snatched. One sub-postmaster last year lost his wife because he pressed the burglar alarm. Others have suffered permanent injury. One in my constituency identified his assailant, who 1031 was then acquitted on a false alibi although he had a serious criminal record.
Apart from sub-postmasters, we read almost every day of wage snatches, bank robberies and of snatches and robberies of weekly takings. We are entitled to ask what the Government's plans are to protect people of this class. I intend no criticism whatever of the right hon. Gentleman. I simply think that we are entitled to know.
My theme today is that there are means available to us of protecting these people. But only if we give sufficient thought and priority to the matter. The paradox of it is that the boys in the big league of professional crime, the men at the top, are comparatively few in number. Of course, there is no Professor Moriarty, no "Mr. Big". There is no single organisation. To give some indication, the other day I asked the crime reporter of a well-known national newspaper how many criminals in a really big way of business would have to be behind bars to break the back of really big crime in London. He said possibly 70, certainly less than 100, and he mentioned a number of names. He mentioned to me somewhere between a dozen and 20 in all, already well known to me as criminals. At that time it happened that all were at large. Some had not been charged. Some were simply evading arrest. Some had been acquitted. Some had escaped from justice after jury disagreements, a point to which I wish to return. Some had escaped through loopholes in the law without having committed any technical offence.
The time has come to look at this question in a constructive way, and I wish to put before the right hon. Gentleman 10 points which within the framework of administration or of legislation he ought to consider, things which if he feels he has not the power to carry out himself he ought to say so. I have tried so far as possible to avoid those which were put forward last time by my right hon. Friend, Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, and I have chosen 10 somewhat arbitrarily because I was deterred from choosing more by the cynical comment of the Frenchman when the late President Wilson was said to have had 14 points, 1032 that it was four more than the Almighty had on a famous occasion.
My first point is that we should make the cleaning up of known criminal gangs a special operation with special priority. None of us should forget that A1 Capone, probably one of the pioneers of professional crime on a really big scale in modern urban civilisation, was rendered harmless not by the ordinary punishment reserved in Chicago for murderers, but because he had defrauded the Income Tax authorities. Professional criminals have to live more or less wholly outside the law, and that means that if one concentrates upon investigating the boys of the large brigade known to be in crime in a big way and does not simply wait for them to commit offences to see if one can catch them out doing it, one can in the end be certain that one will find them doing something which will put them behind bars.
The second is that we must stop putting a premium on violence in support of crime. That is precisely what we have done, I think. The House will know that I myself voted against the abolition of capital punishment. I did so very largely for the reason that I am about to give. But the House took a different view. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that I do not ask him to take a different view on this occasion. When, at the last General Election, I was asked why I had not included in my election address a pledge to attempt to return to capital punishment, and when I was criticised for not so doing, I said, quite frankly, that I thought it was inconceivable that a civilised Government of any party would seek to put on the party Whips on a matter about which convictions were so deeply held, and that three times in the last 16 years—1948, 1957 and 1964—different Houses of Parliament of vastly different political complexions had deliberately come to the conclusion that the death penalty should be abolished, and that, therefore, I was bound to tell my constituents that it was not predictable within any given period of time that a House of Commons would be elected which would reverse that decision.
I should think that that is true. But that does not absolve us from the responsibility of dealing with violence in support of theft and violence sometimes amounting to murder in support of theft. 1033 One must remember that the professional criminal is rationally motivated. He weighs up chances with something of the precision of a bandit or a military expert thinking of a military operation. He asks himself deliberately whether it will be the policy of his gang or of himself to carry or to use a weapon or a fiream in the course of their activities. If in any event he is going to embark on a course of action which will attract a long period of imprisonment—I say arbitrarily five years plus, but it may be that that is not the right frontier—he will carefully weigh up against the chances of a marginally higher sentence the chance of escaping identification altogether, perhaps by destroying the only witness of identity, the chance of evading capture or, if he is tried at all, the possibility of evading conviction. Violence or murder may multiply his chances of escape by any of these routes.
The fact that we have abolished the death penalty—whether it was a good or bad deterrent is something about which hon. Members have long since made up their minds—has put a premium on violence in a very large number of cases. Violence increased in London by between nearly one-quarter and one-third last year and much of it was by criminal gangs in support of theft. The fact that we have abolished these penalties does not, however, absolve us from the obligation of putting something in their place.
So far as I can see, when the right hon. Gentleman introduces, as I hope and believe he will, the parole system, he will tend to accentuate the premium on violence, especially when the prisoner has something salted away to enjoy when he gets out. Such a prisoner has every reason to co-operate with the prison authority. He may get out after one-third of his sentence when parole is introduced—may be after as little as two years.
I am not saying that what I am about to suggest is necessarily the best means of adding a deterrent. But it is the only one I can think of. I can only say that, if it is not thought appropriate, then something else must be thought of, because otherwise crime will become more and more brutal, more and more frequent and deaths and injuries by violence will go on increasing.
My suggestion is that, where violence has been used in support of crime, the 1034 Home Secretary should make it clear that the ordinary remissions for good conduct cannot be counted upon and that, the parole arrangements, will be very difficult to invoke in favour of a prisoner who has been convicted of an offence in support of which he has used violence or a weapon or the threat of violence or a weapon.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman should consider some kind of forfeiture of goods attaching to crimes of violence in support of crime. When I am told that the wives and children of criminals will be driven on to public assistance by such a threat I can only say that the wives and children of better men than they, who have not committed serious crime, are driven on to public assistance at present and that my withers are completely unwrung.
In any event, whether I am correct or not in this suggestion, the right hon. Gentleman should realise that he must add a penalty as an added deterrent to violence in support of crime and that the more he is convinced—as he is and I am not—that the House took a wise decision when it abolished the death penalty the more he is under an obligation to provide an alternative which will be really effective.
Next, I think that the right hon. Gentleman must legislate to control the places in which the professional criminal carries on his business, upon whose activities he battens and in which he is apt to invest his capital. We must control the clubs and I believe that the right hon. Gentleman intends to do so. I hope that he will let us know his plans. This is already being done in some places. It has been done in Manchester, where it met with quite astonishing and spectacular success.
When the powers were obtained by Manchester, of the clubs raided a large number were found to be engaged in drug peddling—and I know that that will interest the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short), who made a notable contribution in an Adjournment debate the other day. The raids yielded a number of absconders from prison and borstal. The raids discovered a nest of prostitution and, incidentally, it drove a minority of the clubs raided to go legitimate and to provide a very much needed amenity for young people.
1035 Where these powers of control do not exist they should be taken. We cannot attack professional crime unless we attack the places where the businesses are carried on. That means, too, that gambling houses must be brought within proper control. When I spoke in the last debate of a club in my constituency, the next speaker said that it was a Conservative Government who had introduced the changed law on betting and gambling.
I do not regard this as in any sense a party matter, but I must tell the House quite frankly that I supported not only technically but really the reintroduction of cash betting into this country. As a young member of the Bar, I came to be convinced many years ago that the contempt for the law and the corruption amongst the police which the almost universal system of street betting invoked, was far worse and more corrupting than any evil it was designed to cure. But I must say that, if I had know the extent to which betting shops would proliferate as a result of our legislation, I think that I would have been the first to insist from the planning point of view alone that there should have been greater control upon their activities.
I must say that I was wholly unaware, as a member of the Government who passed this legislation, of the extraordinary scale upon which gambling clubs and casinos would come about as a result of our law. Indeed, I can think that of all my colleagues, since we were certainly not warned of this and were told that the contrary would be the case. Either there was lack of foresight or there was bad draftsmanship in the Act, because the scale and quantity of these things has been altogether more than we expected.
But what is far worse than the scale of the gambling is the actual criminality which often surrounds it—the moving-in of the Union Corse, which has happened in my constituency; the moving-in of the American criminal; the doubtful management of some of the clubs; the strange origin of some of the capital employed. I have even heard it suggested that this is where some of the proceeds of the train robbery went; the unpleasant character of some of the members; the strong-arm methods for enforcing bad debts sometimes employed 1036 in clubs otherwise respectable and in some cases even crooked playing. These are matters which I would not mention if I was not sure that they were taking place on a large scale.
Short of putting the clock back, which I do not believe possible or desirable, it seems to me that the Government have two courses open to them if they wish to deal seriously with these matters. These are, first, very rigid control of gambling establishments and, secondly, complete municipalisation, as is the case in some French cities. I think that they must choose between these two and I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell us in detail what his plans may be.
Next, surely we must bring our commercial law up to date. We must deal with company law, insurance law and building society law. They have all been used as the instruments of crime in the past few years. "Why should I risk my neck climbing up a drainpipe?", said one criminal to a crime reporter friend of mine. "I", he added proudly, "am a company director".
Let me say, lest hon. Members opposite should rejoice in this confession for the wrong reason, that the relationship between that kind of company director, that kind of swindler, and the honest director of a respectable company is precisely that between the pirate and the merchant skipper. Both use the sea; both employ ships and each is in it for what he can get out of it. Nevertheless one precisely preys on the other. Just as some types of insect prey on closely related species, so the professional criminal uses the commercial law for the precise purpose of preying on honest people who are in commerce for legitimate reasons.
But let us look how trivial is the £50,000 deposit for insurance companies compared with a single claim; how easily faked, it would seem; trivial also in comparison with that insisted upon by Lloyd's underwriters‡ Let us look at the ease with which large sums can be syphoned off from companies by loans to directors, sometimes in defiance of existing law. Let us look at the methods whereby small States with complaisant regulations and obsolete company law can establish registrations for their own advantage which, none the less, can be used to manipulate great concerns in this country.
1037 Let us look at the, extent to which Board of Trade inspectors can be frustrated or fobbed off. If anyone doubts what I say, let him read the current number of Punch, in which a former colleague of ours, Mr. Geoffrey Bing, has written an amusing article entitled "Living with Dr. Savundra". Or let him consider the building society frauds, the London and Midland, for example, in which the two principal villians were not even charged or subpoenaed.
Clearly, we have only ourselves to blame if we, the centre of the modern commercial world, as we still are for many purposes, have a modern commercial law which is so behind the times that criminals can flourish and even obtain the entrée to decent society. So far, I have not mentioned the frauds on airlines, amounting I am told, to £900,000 to date, or the great export guarantee fraud whereby one gets the goods which one has exported and insured under the Export Credits Guarantee Fund stolen by a colleague abroad, so that one gets both the goods and the insurance money. I have not touched on the great merchant bank frauds. I am told that in the City of London now the Fraud Squad is so busy that unless the fraud complained of is more than £1 million one rates only a sergeant in the investigation, and that, if an inspector is wanted, the fraud must be of larger dimensions.
In the last section of my speech I want to talk about our criminal code and our criminal procedure. I do so with hesitation, knowing that what I say may offend some of the more conservative minded among my colleagues, and there is no greater conservative in this respect than the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), as he demonstrated at Question Time only a few days ago. We must reduce the number of perverse acquittals or disagreements on indictment. A number of very disquieting things have been happening lately in jury trials. The acquittal rate in contested cases is about 40 per cent. I share the view of the Lord Chief Justice that this is much too high and could be reduced without increasing the possibility of innocent men being convicted.
Of course, it is difficult to discuss these matters. It is impossible to name names and it is impossible to give cases, be-1038 cause those acquitted are assumed to be innocent of the crime with which they have been charged. But the Lord Chief Justice has said, and I must say that I agree with him, that out of four who are acquitted in 10 contested cases, three are guilty. The three who are guilty and acquitted, as distinct from the six who are convicted, are as often as not the really dangerous criminals. It is the mug who gets caught under the present criminal procedure. It is the simple man, the man on the fringe of the case, or the man who does not know how to "nobble" the jury, who is caught. To get off in this country it is quite enough to bribe or intimidate one juror twice in two successive trials, because after that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General will enter a nolle prosequi.
There was recently a terrible case at the Court of Criminal Appeal—and I mention cases which have been spoken of in public so that I may not be accused of attacking innocent men—which was reported in The Times and in which the court itself spoke of four successive unsuccessful attempts to "nobble" members of a jury and said that the fifth attempt had obviously been successful, because the man on the fringe of the case had been convicted, while those more dangerous criminals against whom there was overwhelming evidence had been acquitted.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)
I intervene because I do not want my silence to imply that it should be assumed from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that if I were seized of information that there had been, in regard to a particular accused, two "nobblings", to coin his phrase, of two separate jurors, the accused would achieve immunity from any subsequent proceedings.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am quite sure that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had evidence upon which he could act, he would do his duty, as every predecessor he has ever had would have done. I am not criticising the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but only speaking what I believe to be the truth. If I knew of the evidence upon which he could act, I would have given it to him already and would not have spoken of it in public.
1039 What I am saying is that when judge after judge and legal figure after legal figure speaks of the "nobbling" of jurors as a reality, he is talking about what he knows, in the sense that he is talking of what are moral certainties. Let me remind the House that only the other day it was shown in a case which acquired a certain notoriety, and which certainly employed the professional services of more hon. Members than one, that one of the jurors was alleged to have a long criminal record to his discredit, and the verdict was at least sufficiently surprising to cause some of us to raise our eyebrows. I bow to the superior knowledge of the hon. and learned Member for Warrington (Mr. W. T. Williams).
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Warrington)
I do not dispute the suggestion which I think is in the back of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's mind, namely, that one ought not to have on juries trying criminal cases people with criminal records, but it is unfair in this case to say that the juror had a long criminal record. He had two convictions, neither for a serious offence.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am glad of that correction of what I said. At any rate, he had two convictions, which is enough for my purpose.
I was about to add that, of course, the situation is rendered much worse by the right of challenge. An accused can challenge without cause seven jurors when being tried at the Old Bailey. If there are 12 people in the dock, 84 jurors can be challenged, which means that the accused can practically choose their own jury. If the accused are friendly with some of the accused in another court, the right of challenge can be used in a more computer-like and sophisticated fashion, and I am told that this is beginning to be done.
I implore the right hon. Gentleman despite the almost religious veneration with which juries are regarded in this country, to remember that there are some of us at least, who are not without experience in this matter, who want him to look at it very seriously indeed and to believe that some of these long-standing institutions are not to be immune from criticism.
The law of England is really only a branch of social science—the lawyer 1040 ought to be an apostle of common sense and justice. He is not a hierophant indulging in a secret ritual in which only initiates of a mystery religion are allowed to take part. If he once gets that into his head he will not do very much good by society.
There are legal rights, established sometimes by prescription and sometimes by the statute law. There is what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne describes as the immemorial right of silence. I do not believe that the right of silence is self-evident, or necessarily proved as of benefit to society. I recognise that there must be safeguards, but I believe that the right of silence of the accused is at the bottom of the very small number of complaints against the police. Those who practise at the Old Bailey more often than I do assure me that the insertion of rather doubtful "verbals", as they are called, by unscrupulous police officers are largely provoked by their inability to get the information legitimately by reason of the Judges Rules. The Judges Rules ought to be very quickly examined, as ought to be the right of silence in criminal cases generally and the inability of prosecuting counsel to refer to that silence when it is unreasonably employed.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State is in the course of examining the preliminary hearing. He is doing this on the advice of many well-informed people. If he is to abolish the 1848 preliminary hearing, in its present form, or curtail it over a large range of cases, surely he ought to have another look at its character? Once one has dealt with the preliminary hearing so as to alter its nature, there is surely a case for seeing whether the Continental system may be better—that is with a right of inquiry by the examining magistrate in private, subject to proper safeguards, into what the proper explanation of the accused may be.
Lastly, this country needs a penal code. Our penal legislation is a jungle in which strange night creatures operate and even the pure white hunters, many of whom I see round me, while they indulge in a noble and elevating pursuit, are not given sufficient chance of meeting their game. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman how this country might 1041 acquire a penal code. Her Majesty's Government have already set up the Law Commissioners. I am not greatly enamoured of the original purpose for which Law Commissioners were established. The law is far too important a subject to leave to lawyers.
However, a penal code is something which lawyers are peculiarly well suited to draft. Under the presidency of the Law Commissioners, various aspects of the criminal code ought to be fanned out to the academic lawyers of the universities, so that they could draft books with parts of the code for submission to the public and to the legal profession. This happened in the case of Chalmer's Sale of Goods and Chalmer's Bills of Exchange, and it happened in the case of the Marine Insurance Act.
At the end of five years, we could have an intelligible set of laws which people could understand and look to with respect. One, at any rate, of the reasons why we do not get on very well with law reform is that we are dealing with an inter-related jungle of archaic ordinances within which it is almost impossible to divine the truth. The principal law book which we use in my profession, Archbold's Criminal Pleading and Practice, had its first edition in 1822 and has run through 35 editions. The only book which I know which is less like a literary work is Erskine May, which has suffered the same kind of fate. Both ought to be burned by the public hangman. Books which have gone through more than 20 editions over a period of 100 years are clearly in great need of revision.
My message is simple. We are not winning the war against professional crime. In principle, it can be won. There is no single panacea. But we shall not win this war unless we are prepared to give it a much higher priority than it has hitherto enjoyed. There must be more effort made, and more resources provided as well as more in the way of Parliamentary time. In short, and this is my one controversial remark, this subject must receive a higher social priority than even that of the nationalisation of steel.
The right hon. Gentleman is credited with the noble ambition of becoming known as a liberalising Home Secretary. 1042 I have no complaint with this ideal, although I must warn him that the field in which he is working is one which has been ploughed and sowed and reaped often enough before, without the addition of very much in the way of fertiliser. What he will find is nothing but the leavings of the great nineteenth century reformers. In the end, history will judge the right hon. Gentleman by a different and sterner criterion. He will be judged by his willingness to eliminate professional crime, which is endangering and corrupting our society and, which, even from the crude values of economics, is worth the effort to destroy.
I wish the right hon. Gentleman the best of good fortune in seizing the opportunity which I am certain is now his to seize.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has given us a characteristically dramatic account of certain criminal activities, accompanied by a substantial number of proposals—constructive mostly—for legislation. Not only did he commit himself to the austerity of giving only 10 points, rather than 14, but he also practised the austerity of not numbering them, so that I found it occasionally a little difficult to follow how far he had got. However, I took in as many as I could, with great interest.
I make no complaint about either parts of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. Much organised crime at present is of a dramatic and a horrifying nature and it is good that the public should be well aware of what is going on. I could tell quite a lot of horror stories, but I do not propose to do so for two reasons.
First, because my information, unlike the right hon. and learned Gentleman's, necessarily comes from official sources and much of it concerns matters which are sub judice. In other cases it is by no means always desirable that what the police know should be disclosed to the criminals before it can be acted upon. My second and more important reason is because I have, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, the responsibility for attempting to deal with crime, not merely to talk about it. Therefore, I 1043 will devote my speech not to describing the problem, but to saying what we are trying to do about it.
I recognise the urgent need for some new laws in this respect. In the autumn I propose to present to the House by far the biggest and most wide-ranging Measure in this sphere since 1948. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not trying to make too big a party point of the fact that we cannot reform the whole of the law at once. He said that he was only partisan at the end of his speech when he came to the Steel Bill. Even that partisan part of his speech emerged in a slightly less partisan form than its trailer in the Sunday Express yesterday.
Let me take one example. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked a good deal about gaming clubs. I agree that there is a big problem here, and, as I told the House last week, I have already worked out proposals for tighter control. I will circulate them for comment by interested bodies and will let the House know what I have in mind in the near future. What I am trying to deal with is the mess left by three successive Measures put forward by former colleagues of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He said that it had not been foreseen what would happen and that if it had been foreseen he would not have been a full party to the 1960 Act. But we have to face the fact that most of our troubles come from excesses, largely unforeseen I agree, which have flowed from the 1960 Act.
However, that was followed by another Act, a long Act containing no fewer than 58 Sections, in 1963. That was followed by an amending Act in 1964. None of these Measures dealt with the excesses. This is not a reason for complacency today, but it is certainly a reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman should not be too self-righteous.
§ Mr. Hogg
I hope that I was not self-righteous, but was perfectly candid. The right hon. Gentleman can also be candid by saying that, whatever criticisms we were subjected to by his own Front Bench, they did not consist in prescience of what took place. Therefore, the absence of foresight was equally his.
§ Mr. Jenkins
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is talking about the 1960 Act, that may, to some extent, be true. We had amending legislation, but some of the excesses which had developed were not dealt with in it.
I have always taken the view, when dealing with both Mr. Peter Thorneycroft and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that crime is not, by its nature, a suitable subject for party dispute or party passions. Provided that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not expect me to cover the whole field immediately, I am extremely happy to leave it there.
The crime figures in general certainly present a most disturbing picture. In the relatively short period of about 8 months that I have been in my present office I have never attempted to conceal this, or to gloss over the suffering, and, indeed, I believe, the fear which lies behind the figures. On the contrary, I have tried to draw constant attention to them. But we should not avoid complacency by falling into the alternative danger of painting the picture even blacker than it is. To do this would be to encourage the criminals and to discourage the police and those anxious to help the police.
Last year's criminal statistics for England and Wales became available a few weeks ago. They were published several months earlier than has recently been the practice, and I am sure that the House will welcome that change. They showed a continued rise, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. The number of indictable offences was up by 6.2 per cent. on 1964. But there was some flattening of the trend. This rise was quite bad enough—I make no bones about it—but it has to be seen against the background that in 1962, 1963 and 1964 the comparable figures were 11.1, 9 and 9.2 per cent.
There are two details of the figures which are worth mentioning. First, last year there was almost no increase in the number of juvenile convictions for indictable crime. The rise here was less than 1 per cent. Secondly, the number of murders known to the police was two down on 1964, despite some widely publicised suggestions to the contrary. The incidence of the crime of murder, horrible though it must be whenever it 1045 occurs, has remained remarkably steady for 30 years or more. If the other criminal statistics had followed the same course, our problems today would be a great deal less serious than they are.
At the same time, there can be no question of the slowing down of the rate of increase of crime generally being enough. The object must be to halt the wave in its tracks and then to turn it back. As I said in the debate in February, it is my view that the main emphasis in our struggle to achieve it should be on detection and on conviction. If the chances of detection are remote, the severity of punishment is a weak threat. But detection itself becomes an idle exercise unless it is followed for the guilty with the near certainty of conviction.
What are we doing to improve performance in both these directions? Detection is largely a function of the strength and efficiency, the equipment and organisation of the police. On all these matters I am grateful for the Report of the Estimates Committee which was published last Wednesday. We will study carefully all the 23 recommendations of that Committee and send a full reply. At this early stage the House will not expect detailed comments, but some of the recommendations were already being applied and others are under intensive consideration at the moment by the three working parties under the Police Advisory Board which have made good progress over the past six months.
On manpower, following the excellent recruitment performance of 1965, we have continued to achieve reasonably good results in the first half of this year. But I do not expect our problems to be solved by any dramatic increase in numbers, although I should certainly like to see a sharp increase in the number of graduates and sixth formers coming into the police service. We must make the very best use of the men we have. This, to my mind, is largely a question of equipment and organisation, and of morale, too.
On equipment, particularly the personal communications equipment of the individual policeman, we are in the process of a virtual revolution. A year ago, the Metropolitan Police had only 25 personal wireless sets at its disposal. Today, it 1046 has 275. By the end of this year it will have another 1,000. Next year, it plans to buy a further 1,500. This is a vast improvement in two years. Outside the Metropolitan area there has been a roughly similar rate of development. The preliminary programme outside London is 3,000 sets for this year and 5,000 sets for next year.
On organisation, as I announced on 18th May with, I believe, the general approval of the House, a big programme of amalgamations—the biggest programme of reorganisation of the police for over 100 years—is being put into effect. I should like to give the House an interim report on the progress so far made with these amalgamation schemes. What has occurred so far has, to my mind, been reasonably satisfactory.
Of the total of 98 affected, 56 police authorities have already indicated their agreement in principle to the proposed schemes. Put another way, our plans were for 29 new combined police areas. In 10 of these, all the police authorities involved are agreed in principle and it is only a matter of working out the details. In the case of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton, the new chief constable has already been designated and the new force will soon be ready to be launched. This is an excellent example.
This new force, together with at least nine others where agreement has been reached, should be in operation as combined units by 1st April, 1967. In a further 11 of the 29 new areas, all the police authorities concerned are currently discussing the proposals together. We have provided them with model amalgamation schemes, and I hope that agreement will soon be reached.
I turn to the areas of somewhat greater difficulty. Thirteen existing authorities have proposed alternative amalgamation schemes. Regretfully, I have had to tell 11 of them that they were not acceptable. But in the other two cases I am considering further representations. So far, only three police authorities have said that they are not willing to amalgamate. I very much hope that they will think again, and will not wish to stand out as islands of parochialism against the broader view taken in the country generally. My Department will be in touch with them again shortly to see 1047 whether they are still prepared to discuss voluntary schemes.
I am sure that the voluntary way is much the better way. The outstanding success of the existing Mid-Anglia and West Midlands amalgamations shows that if early agreement is reached and advanced planning is done in a friendly atmosphere the transition can be made much more efficient. But I must make it clear again, as I did on 18th May, that if it is necessary in the last resort, I shall not hesitate to use compulsory powers—and I shall use them in time for the programme to be completed by 1st April, 1968.
Where there have been difficulties and delay, these have arisen partly from the view that I should amend the Police Act so as to be able to amalgamate parts of existing areas—for example, taking parts of the county of Lancashire into a force covering the whole of the Manchester conurbation—or even postpone amalgamations until after the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government had been received.
I have received several deputations, notably from the Association of Municipal Corporations and the North West County Borough Association, to discuss these points, but I must make it finally clear that there can be no question of waiting for the Royal Commission, and I do not think it right, either, to seek a prior amendment of the Police Act. Amending legislation would raise other controversial issues which would cause delay and raise the difficult question of representation on combined authorities of parts of areas taken from their parent counties. In my view, it would weaken the links with local government which I have been most anxious to preserve.
Most important of all, it would set back by two years or more the whole timetable of amalgamation. Convinced as I am that this programme will greatly improve the efficiency of the police in the present most crucial stage of their fight against crime, I would regard it as unforgivable on my part if I allowed such a delay to take place. I am glad that the Estimates Committee agrees that the timetable should be kept to and that there should be no pause for interim legislation. But I am not quite so happy about its suggestion that amending legis- 1048 lation should be introduced immediately after the amalgamation programme so as to be ready for the Royal Commission. I hope that the Commission will recommend the creation of local government units which will also be viable police areas. At first sight, I feel doubtful about introducing a third stage, with a further piece of uncertainty, into the programme, but that is not a matter on which a decision is necessary now.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will lead himself to the conclusion, which seems to follow from his reasoning, that if he rejects the interim suggestion from South-East Lancashire and waits for the Report of the Royal Commission, although that Commission will put up a new structure of local government it does not necessarily follow that police efficiency, even at that stage, would follow the lines of local government when other criteria are much more important.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Not necessarily, but it is desirable, provided it can be combined with policy efficiency, that police work should be associated with local government work, and if it is possible to reach agreement on local government areas which are viable police areas it is very good that the two should be conterminous.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
We should get this point clear. The Local Government Commission is not being asked to make recommendations with police areas specifically in mind. Do we take it, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman is merely expressing a hope that when it makes its recommendations he or his successor will be able to create police authorities which will broadly follow the recommendations of the Commission?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Broadly speaking, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is putting the matter correctly. It would not be right to wait for the Royal Commission. We must do the best we can, under the terms of the existing Police Acts—and I think that it is a fairly good best—to secure amalgamations in the meantime. But when the Commission has reported the position can be looked at and, with a little adjustment, we may be able to get police areas back into association with 1049 local government areas. This is a matter to be judged when the Royal Commission has reported.
Concluding this section of my speech, I would like to pay tribute to the breadth of view which has been shown by most local authorities, and to the public-spiritedness of the chief police officers, for whom, more than anyone else, this programme necessarily involves upheaval and personal inconvenience. Both individually, and through their Association, the chief constables have assured me that they are doing all they can to support the reorganisation in the interests of the police service. I have been tremendously impressed by their loyalty to the service, and I greatly hope that the new police authorities will realise the importance of offering these able and experienced men who have to lose their individual commands, posts of worthwhile seniority and responsibility.
It is also vital that the closest consultation with the Police Federation and the Superintendents' Association be maintained throughout the amalgamation process. Chief constables are keeping the joint branch boards of the Police Federation informed of all developments, and the A.C.P.O. has readily agreed to a request that at the earliest possible moment the joint branch boards of the forces subject to amalgamation should set up special joint committees to discuss the problems affecting all ranks of the police service which the new combined forces will pose.
At the same time, the amalgamations must not attract too much of police time and attention. They are only a means towards greater efficiency, and certainly not the end itself. They must not divert the service from the experimentation with new methods which is already going forward vigorously. At the centre of the experimentation is the Home Office Research and Planning Branch.
A large proportion of the research programme is devoted directly to the combatting of crime. In four cities—Newcastle, Cardiff, Liverpool and Sheffield—we are conducting a year's controlled experiments into the value of traditional beat patrolling on foot as against newer and more orthodox methods. In Plymouth, we are experimenting with the more flexible deployment of men between plain clothes and uniformed duties; in 1050 Leicestershire, with the concentration of highly skilled clue-searching teams upon the scenes of crimes; in Liverpool and London, with the use of closed circuit television for observation purposes; in one regional crime squad area, based on Portsmouth, with infra-red viewing equipment for use at night, and in part of Liverpool, as well as across the border in the Kirkby area of Lancashire, with a special deployment of officers in cars.
In the Speke section of Liverpool results over the past five months have shown a 25 per cent. decrease in crime, a 20 per cent. increase in arrests and prosecutions, a 40 per cent, decrease in complaints, and a 33 per cent. decrease in traffic accidents—and, not surprisingly in the circumstances, a big improvement in police morale. A development of the experiment possibly more suited to a wider range of urban areas is also being tried by the Lancashire force at Accrington.
Where these experiments are successful, the lessons to be learned from them must be applied quickly and widely. In addition, we are studying with the Ministry of Defence the possible use of helicopters for police work, and are using the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment for work in connection both with the automatic scanning and searching of fingerprints and with the chemistry of these prints. We are determined that the police shall have the full resources of modern science and technology behind them, and we are now making rapid progress in this direction. We are also keeping our minds fully open to police developments abroad.
As part of the amalgamation programme, we are also paying close attention to the efficient internal organisation of big forces. But the largest force of all will not be created by the amalgamations. It already exists and is my direct responsibility as Home Secretary. The Metropolitan force is made up of 19,000 police officers and employs nearly 8,000 civilians. Despite daunting problems and heavy manpower deficiencies, considerable organisational advances have been made in the recent past. Scotland Yard itself will be moving, early in the new year, to a modern building which will incorporate the most up-to-date control and communications developments.
Nevertheless, as many of our foremost commercial enterprises have recognised, 1051 big organisations can benefit immensely by being looked at from time to time from outside. The Metropolitan Police is no exception. I have accordingly decided, and the Commissioner and the Receiver have welcomed this decision, that a firm of management consultants should be brought in to look, in the broadest way, at the distribution of functions and responsibility within the Metropolitan Police. The consultants will not be advising on police work itself—the value or otherwise of the beat system, for example. I am not sure that they would be qualified to do this, and in any event these matters are being fully reviewed in other ways.
What they will do is study the organisation of the force and recommend any changes which would seem to be desirable in the light of the most up-to-date managerial concepts. This will be a job of major importance, and I shall look forward to the report with the keenest interest and a determination that it shall be carried out. The names of the consultants will be announced as soon as the appointment has been made.
In all these ways, we are seeking to improve the efficiency of the police and, with it, the chances of detecting the criminal. But it is not much use detecting him unless he can be convicted as well. I have recently been giving close thought and study to this aspect of the matter. I have firmly come to the conclusion that, in all too many cases, particularly those concerning the most vicious forms of organised crime and the really big criminal conspiracies, the scales of justice are now weighted too heavily in favour of the accused.
This is not a matter of simple statistics. When we are told that 84 per cent. of indictments result in a conviction, that might sound fairly satisfactory. Even when this is broken down to explain that the 16 per cent. of acquittals amount to nearly 40 per cent. of all those who plead not guilty, this may not sound unreasonable either. After all, the innocent can be falsely charged, and there are few of us who would not be prepared to pay a high price for protecting them. But among the 40-odd per cent. are not only the innocent, but quite a lot whom everyone connected with the case—police, judge, counsel, and experienced Press- 1052 men who are reporting it—know perfectly well to be guilty.
The trouble is—here I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman—that they are often not the petty criminals. The petty criminals come mostly among those who plead guilty or, if they plead not guilty, are the 60 per cent. who are convicted. Amongst those who get off are the big fish—the men who do not operate on their own, but are the centres of networks of criminal activities. Nothing is more discouraging to the police and those who try to assist them than when, after long efforts, they catch one of these "managerial" criminals, they find that he is able to frustrate the processes of justice.
How can this be done? Largely, I think, through the power to intimidate or to corrupt both witnesses and juries. The problem of witnesses who find discretion the better part of valour is not an easy one to solve but the jury aspect of the matter may be less intractable.
The jury system is a foundation of the British legal tradition and, despite recent strictures, not least from the Lord Chief Justice, I am not in the least attracted by proposals that we should turn away from it. But this does not mean that we should not adapt it to modern circumstances. The problem of the perverse juror has always been with us to some extent. He may cause retrials at very considerable public expense and inconvenience. But when he is reinforced, in big criminal cases, by the corrupt or intimidated juror, a far more serious situation arises, and there is mounting and formidable evidence that, especially in London, this situation has now arisen.
I therefore propose, in the Criminal Justice Bill, to ask the House to introduce majority verdicts. In Scotland, a simple majority of 8 to 7 in a jury of 15 is sufficient to convict, but there the position is modified by the fact that they have a third, "non-proven" verdict. I would propose a much more decisive verdict of 10 to 2, and, as an additional safeguard, I would propose that such a majority verdict, as opposed to a unanimous one, should not be accepted until after a considerable retirement—so that there can be plenty of time for argument and for one group to convince another.
I do not believe that this change will weaken the position of the innocent, 1053 especially with the new criminal appeal provisions, but I am convinced that it will considerably ease the task of convicting the guilty. Nevertheless, majority verdicts by themselves will go only part of the way towards solving the problem of those jurors who, because they are themselves criminals, refuse to convict the guilty.
At present, persons with criminal convictions can and do sit on juries. The Departmental Committee of Jury Service, under the chairmanship of Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, recommended that people convicted of serious crime should be disqualified from serving. This was one of many recommendations of the Committee and action on the Report as a whole, which applies to civil as well as to criminal juries, must await a separate Juries Bill which I want to introduce as soon as Parliamentary time can be found. But it is so important that the system should be safeguarded against the juror with criminal convictions, who is particularly open to corruption and intimidation, that I am taking the opportunity of the Criminal Justice Bill to take into account this recommendation of the Committee.
As well as these provisions, the Bill, which as I have already said, will be a major Measure, will make a number of significant reforms in the penal system and the criminal law and the procedure of the criminal courts. For details of these proposals, however, as well as for other sections, I think that we had better await the Bill. But in view of recent speculation as well as other considerations, I thought it right to give the House the Government's decision about majority verdicts.
When I last addressed the House upon the general subject of crime, which was before the right hon. and learned Gentleman was forced, by electoral exigencies, to take on his present shadow responsibilities, I concluded by saying that the country could and must be made a safer place in which to live. I believe that I have shown we are taking some resolute steps in that direction. I also said that in our approach to penal reform we intended to be swayed neither by sentimentality nor by emotional and ill-considered cries for vengeance.
We want to deter, but we also want, wherever it is possible, to rehabilitate the offender as quickly as possible. This is 1054 in the interests of society just as much as in that of the individual concerned. I believe that we are remaining equally true to that principle. In all these matters passion and prejudice are extremely bad counsellors. I propose to avoid them both and to proceed with a mixture of realism and hope.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
The House, having heard the two opening speeches of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and the Home Secretary, will be glad that we have managed to wrest from our interminable discussions about the economy just a few hours on the subject of crime. I undertake not to speak for more than a period commensurate with a four-hour debate.
I make no complaint at all that the Home Secretary dwelt on what he is doing rather than on what the criminals are doing. The House and the country will applaud the point which he made at the end of his speech on the subject of juries. It is quite clear that the Criminal Justice Bill which he proposes to introduce in the autumn will be a major piece of legislation which will contain some very important matters. Is there no chance that the Home Secretary will provide us with a White Paper between now and the introduction of the Bill, because there will be matters in the legislation which ought to be digested and pondered? No doubt they are right, but it would be appreciated if we had some advance notice of some of these proposals, in addition to the proposal about majority verdicts.
While I applauded what the right hon. Gentleman said and agreed with the line that he took, I was sorry, in a way, that he felt unable to dwell a little more firmly on the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend—the growth and menace of organised professional crime in this country. I took the Home Secretary's point about painting too black a picture, but he, in turn, will take the point that at the root of what he and the police force are up against is the professional criminal, on a very much bigger scale than this country has ever known before.
I think that the public ought to know from somebody what is happening and what we are failing to stop from happening. They ought to know what the Home 1055 Secretary knows quite well—that at the moment organised crime is getting the upper hand and that, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, this is a war which we are not winning but which, in fact, we are losing. I doubt whether the country is aware of the scale of professional crime at the moment. We have criminal organisations today which operate like commercial corporations.
It is not uncommon for up to half of the fruits of any particular job to be put to reserve for the next operation, just as a company will provide for future investment. It is not uncommon—I hope that the Home Secretary will not think that I am over-dramatising, but these are facts of which the public ought to have some knowledge—to hire a safe blower for perhaps £5,000 a time, not as part of the gang but as a freelance, as a professional gentleman whose services can be obtained for any particular job. Very able and very ingenious men are engaged in these criminal organisations.
I am aware that the mail train robbery was thought to be the last word in ingenuity. I am not sure that it was quite the last word. I wonder whether the Home Secretary knows—I think he does—what the sequel might have been if that operation had been wholly successful. I think that the sequel to the mail train robbery would have been a bullion train robbery. Science today makes it quite possible to fit charges to the floor of a bullion train in such a way as to cause the floor to drop out at a particular point in the journey. The charges could be fired by electronic devices operated from the side of the line. Guards would be useless. The booty having fallen through the floor, men and lorries could do the rest. Perhaps that threat has now receded, but it might have a successor one of these days.
What is the answer to this sort of thing? I stress that one answer is a much stronger and better system of police intelligence. Really good intelligence is becoming a main counter to organised crime. I am sure that the Home Secretary knows that senior policemen have endorsed this view. Really good intelligence takes good men a lot of time. They cannot be hurried. They have to devote a great deal of time to discovering what 1056 is going on. The regional crime squads have a crucial rôle to play, and I stress to the Home Secretary that they need all the numbers and all the qualities that can be organised on their behalf.
As my right hon. and learned Friend said, all this is being accompanied by increasing violence. Page 36 of the Report of the Chief Inspector of Constabulary makes that quite clear. There is a ruthless calculation of odds by the professional criminal.
May I deal with one point that was mentioned neither by my right hon. and learned Friend nor by the Home Secretary? I refer to the big bunch of hoodlums, usually young, outside the criminal circle today, who are doing a good deal of mischief. There is one factor, in particular, to which I call the Home Secretary's attention. A great many of the young hoodlums, as opposed to the professional criminals, who take part in the raids, more often than not with weapons, are undoubtedly, to use the expression, loaded with amphetamine drugs. This is not easily proved, but I think there is a sufficient body of police evidence to show that this may be so. For this work amphetamine drugs are much better and safer boosters of morale than alcohol. The professional criminal would probably avoid both.
One consequence is that when weapons are carried by these hoodlums, they will be more ruthlessly and more violently used than might otherwise be the case. I have reason to think that a great deal of violence can be associated with the all-too-widespread distribution of purple hearts and similar drugs. The Home Secretary might do well to get an estimate from the police of the extent to which they think that the so-called soft drugs are playing a part, I will not say in organised crime but rather in disorganised crime, and rendering it infinitely more dangerous to the law-abiding citizen.
My right hon. and hon. Friends will talk about police powers and the state of the criminal law. I am glad that the Home Secretary has accepted that our detection rate is lower and our conviction rate much lower than it ought to be and that this is at the heart of the matter. I know that, as he said the other day, he does not like hitting out blindly, but there is no need to hit out blindly to realise that here the 1057 balance must be redressed. How will it be done? I think that the right hon. Gentleman must get the central organisation strong enough and ready to fight the sort of war that we have on our hands. I applaud his action in police amalgamations, and all on these benches will do all that we can in our local spheres to assist the right hon. Gentleman in what he is doing, but I am not sure that it will do the trick entirely by itself. For this war an infinitely stronger organisation at the centre will be needed. The right hon. Gentleman ought to think as Lord Kitchener thought in 1914; he ought to reckon with a long war, a five-year war, and to plan his central organisation accordingly. I do not think that in present circumstances the House or the country would refuse him anything for which he could reasonably ask, expensive though it might be. But the Home Secretary will not be forgiven if, for one reason or another at this point, he fails to ask for enough.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
The right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken so far have concentrated primarily on the professional criminal and crime of that character. My intention is not to follow them in considering that section of the criminal community, which, as my right hon. Friend said, is numerically a very small proportion of the criminal community, but rather to deal mainly with the very much larger section of the petty, persistent and inadequate criminals.
Before I say anything about that, however, I would say that I agree very much with the proposals made by both the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and my right hon. Friend, and I am struck by the fact that both of them find the principal answer to professionally organised crime in better organisation of the police, better equipment for the police, better methods of detection and, finally, improved methods of securing convictions.
I would be willing—though I would not go as far as the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone—to give careful consideration to the extent to which we could, and should, sacrifice some of the liberties and safeguards of the subject in the interests of the protection of the public as a whole.
1058 Neither the right hon. and learned Gentleman nor the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) found the cure—even to the organised professional criminal—in an escalation of punishment, although the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to stiffer penalties for crimes of violence, and I do not differ from him on that. There is a grave danger in adopting panic measures of escalating penalties. Perhaps it is correct to say that the number of crimes of violence in Birmingham in recent weeks has diminished, as has been suggested in the Press, because organised criminals are no longer patronising Birmingham, but are going to Newcastle or Manchester instead.
This is the first opportunity I have had since the winding up of the Royal Commission on the Penal System for saying something about the other side of crime; that is, the causes and treatment. I have said previously how much I regret that this large-scale, comprehensive investigation had to be closed. I am in no way criticising my right hon. Friend because I feel that he was placed in an invidious and difficult position. However, for the first time in many years we had the opportunity of looking deeply into the causes of crime and producing a comprehensive philosophy for dealing with the matter.
As my colleagues and I on the Royal Commission went around, talking to prison workers, officials of the Home Office, disciplinary officers in the prisons, probation officers, social workers and prisoners themselves we found time and again, when we asked them for their views about the way in which the penal system should operate, they gave the reply, "We are waiting for you to tell us." This is not altogether surprising, because since the Gladstone Commission placed the emphasis on deterrents and rehabilitation, one has found, in practice, that these two criteria so often conflict with one another that it is difficult in a modern penal system to know which has and which ought to have predominance.
One of the classic examples of this conflict is the question of family relations. To be deprived of the consort of one's family is probably the largest single punitive element in imprisonment. Yet to be deprived of that consort is also a factor which makes it probably most 1059 likely that those who are sent to prison will be unable to live an honest life in future. Time and again one finds that the break-up of the family—the inability of the breadwinner to provide for the children, the fact that the children are deprived of their parents, and so on—is a factor that produces crime in future.
If we were looking at this question simply from the point of view of providing the greatest possible deterrent, then we should provide for a minimal intercourse between the prisoner and his family. But if we are looking at it from the point of view of doing that which is most likely to rehabilitate the man and prevent his family from drifting into delinquency in future, the opposite should be our aim, and that is precisely the conflict which must be resolved.
The 150 or more memoranda which the Royal Commission received can be passed on to the Home Office and to the new Advisory Council on the Penal System, which I wish well in its tasks. But what cannot be passed on consists of the effect on our minds of 18 months of meeting people, visiting California and penal institutions, talking among ourselves, forming views and accumulating ideas. Unfortunately, these things are lost as a result of the winding up of this Commission. All that we can do as individuals is our best to give to the public at least the benefit of the views which we have formed.
It was abundantly clear to all who were on the Commission that although, just as a doctor can treat a disease without knowing the causes of it or without fully understanding those causes, none the less he, like those dealing with crime and penology, can deal very much better with these subjects if they understand the causes. Nothing was clearer in the 18 months that the Royal Commission existed than that there is the utmost paucity in our knowledge, statistics and understanding of the causes of crime.
I mentioned the break-up of family life. That is a potent factor, but there are others and I hope very much that one of the early and continuing tasks which my right hon. Friend will give to the new Advisory Council will be that of ensuring that the fullest possible evidence and statistics are made available, to be used, 1060 certainly not in the next year or two or, perhaps, in the next five or 10 years, so that we are able eventually to understand as far as we can what the real causes are. Unless we can understand them, how can we possibly give the right weight to these two considerations of deterrents, on the one hand, and rehabilitation, on the other? Unless we understand what it is that drives a man to crime we are not likely to stop him from committing crimes.
I turn to the question of treatment, and here I will deal virtually entirely with that form of treatment which is carried out within custody. I will put forward four principles which developed in my mind and in the minds of many of my colleagues on the Royal Commission in the course of our investigations, very much as a result of our visit to California. I regret that my right hon. Friend was unable to fulfil an engagement which, I read in the Press, he had to go to California. I hope that he will go there and I wish that I could come with him. I am sure that he will learn a great deal by going there, because he will find a system which, although we would not want to copy slavishly, contains a tremendous lot which we could follow.
These are the four principles regarding custody which I suggest we should follow. The first is that a man or woman should never be placed in custody as a punishment unless it is vital in his or her interests or that of society. I will develop this later. The second is that the whole time of a person's imprisonment should be used for the purpose of sending that person out less likely to be a delinquent in future. The third is that no one should be kept in custody a moment later than is necessary for that purpose. The fourth is that, when custody ends, the job of the Home Office, or whoever is concerned with the criminal, should not end there, but that the transition to a life of responsibility should then begin. I should like to say a little about each of those four principles.
First—no one should suffer custody unless it is vital that he should do so. I do not speak simply of keeping out drunks, drug addicts and vagrants—that goes without saying, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will do something 1061 about that aspect in his Bill. I am much more concerned with the very many people who do not need to go to prison at all, for whom prison does nothing whatever, and can do nothing whatever.
I should like to see a very much wider investigation—and again, I hope that my right hon. Friend's Advisory Council will do this as one of its earliest tasks—of alternatives to prison, not only short term, but long term as well. The old Advisory Council for the Treatment of Offenders produced a Report on short-term imprisonment and alternatives to it which I must say I found disappointing, negative and unsatisfactory. I hope that the new Advisory Council will look at this matter with fresh eyes.
There is a great deal to be learned about and thought of in the idea, for example, of sheltered workshops for inadequates; the converse idea of people going out from prison to work rather than being confined within the prison all the time; the idea of what is sometimes called "weekend custody", but which I prefer to call "detention by instalments", and the idea—although I think it may be over-emphasised—of using monetary penalties in lieu of detention. There is sometimes a danger of thinking that monetary penalties or compensation are the answer to a great many things, when the fact is that a very high proportion of those who commit crime would be quite unable to pay the kind of penalties that would be appropriate in the circumstances. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at all these matters again, and very carefully.
The second principle is that the whole of the prisoner's time should be occupied in such a way as to make him a better man to assume responsibility when he comes out. I remember that on one occasion my colleagues and I ask one of the prison governors what he thought was the effect of prison on people. He replied, "We take a man who is an indifferent swimmer, we keep him away from the water for three years or five years, and then we throw him back in at the deep end and expect him to swim." That was a very wise remark.
I agree that we are doing our best within the limit of our resources to improve matters. I hope that we will not think—because there is the danger that 1062 we might—that if we employ people for a full working week no more is required. A very high proportion of these people are inadequate people, they are unable to take responsibility, and have to be trained to take responsibility. I hope that my right hon. Friend, in particular, will see some of the experiments being made in California, and especially the tremendous use by the authorities there of group methods which, if nothing else, tend to break down and cure the loneliness which I believe to be one of the hallmarks of most inadequate criminals, and one of the important causes of crime. Apart from working programmes and group programmes, it is very important that we should train people who have not had any training, or cannot do the job, so that there is something they can do when they go out of prison.
It is important that we should maintain and encourage and foster the relationship between the man and his family when he is within the prison walls. A great deal follows from that, because it means we have to make it easier for that to happen. I do not think that we make it any easier by building our prisons at remote distances from centres of habitation so that families have a long distance to travel any more than we make it easier for people to get work in the local industries by establishing our prisons in that sort of area.
My third point is that no one should be kept in prison a moment longer than necessary. Again and again we found, and were told by those concerned with looking after offenders, that the point at which everything possible has been done to prepare a man for responsibility is the point to choose to send him out into the world—in many, perhaps in most, cases, under some form of supervision—but that if one keeps him in prison substantially longer than that he will from then on go downhill, his desire for responsibility will diminish, and when he returns to the community it will be much less easy for him to discharge his responsibilities as a citizen.
I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's ideas for parole, but as they are at the moment they do not, in my view, go far enough. If we are to give full effect to the principles I have mentioned it is necessary to combine this system of parole with a system of, at 1063 any rate, some degree of indeterminacy of sentence, so that we can send the man out when he is ready to go, rather than that he should have a pre-determined length of sentence which can be varied by only a fraction according to the amount of parole he obtains. I do not believe that any doctor would ever say to a patient, "You will go to hospital for six months". Equally, if we are looking for the rehabilitation of offenders, we should not think in terms of fixed periods, but rather of sending offenders out when they are ready to go.
That ties up very much with the point of necessary supervision of the transition stage, perhaps through a sheltered workshop or other such device. Supervision, whether by a parole officer or a probation officer, during the period after the man goes out is completely vital to ensuring that ultimately he assumes proper responsibility. It may be that if we discharge people quickly, and subject to supervision, a percentage will return—that is true in California, where quite a high proportion go back in that period—but I believe that to be very much preferable to sending them out with nothing but the kind of voluntary aftercare which applies to a very large extent today, or even the kind of compulsory after-care, not associated with a parole system, which might possibly take its place.
It may be said that this system of indeterminate or partly indeterminate sentence with parole will not deal with the professional criminal who lives by organised crime. I believe that, on the contrary, the fear of a wholly indeterminate sentence is likely to have a much more profound effect on criminals of that kind, knowing that the length of their sentence will depend in part upon the need for deterrence to be shown by the public, than the existing system of a fixed and determined sentence. I see no difficulty m that criticism.
I am delighted to hear that we are to have a comprehensive Bill this autumn. I am delighted that it will go as far in the direction I should like it to go as has been adumbrated by my right hon. Friend and in the White Paper on the Adult Offender, but I do not believe that until we can establish a really comprehensive penal philosophy of a kind which the 1064 Royal Commission was charged to work out, until we know which way we have to go and are able to start our programme on the basis of that knowledge, we can go very far. I have no real hope that the Advisory Council, which is to be an ad hoc body, will be able to fulfil this function. It may be that the Law Commission can go some way towards it, as was suggested by the right hon. and learned Member for Marylebone. I hope that one way or another my right hon. Friend will not make decisions on a basis of dealing with the problem of the moment rather than looking at the heart of the problem which the Royal Commission was designed to look at. I am confident that a Home Secretary with the liberality of my right hon. Friend will look at the matter in the way I have suggested. It is only the means to enable him to do so which cause me some doubts.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I was very happy to hear the Home Secretary speak of his plans for wide-ranging measures to be taken in the autumn. I am sure that we all hope these will prove effective.
There was one small point he made after that which I feel bound to take up. He commented on the fact that the number of murders had not increased contrary, I think he said, to the expectation of some people—or words to that effect. Of course the expectation expressed by myself, among others, was that the number of capital murders would increase, or the number of what had been capital murders. I do not think anyone who looks at the figures for the past seven or eight years will deny that they have increased quite substantially over the average for the last six or seven years. We have to hope that this increase will not continue but I, for one, have a very unhappy feeling that it will.
I was entirely in agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman said about deterrence. He said that this depended first on detection, and secondly, on the proportion of convictions. I think there is a third factor, the treatment of the prisoner after he has been convicted. One was delighted to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about the new methods of police work and increased efficiency. I wondered whether he had thought of a step which I believe would further greatly 1065 increase that efficiency and also improve their relations with the public. That is if the rather unhappy duties of correcting motorists could be taken out of the ordinary run of police duties by an extension of what are now known as traffic wardens.
I believe that nothing has done more to cause dissatisfaction—to use a very mild word—between perfectly honest members of the public and the police than the action that the police feel bound to take under the present laws affecting motorists. A policeman's duty is more to direct his activities against dishonest or violent people than against motorists who, although in some cases they may sometimes drive dangerously, come in an entirely different category of citizens for the most part.
In regard to increasing the proportion of convictions, a certain amount has been said already about changes in procedure. I shall suggest one or two further changes which might perhaps be considered and also what might be done after conviction in certain cases. In welcoming the news that we are to have majority verdicts by juries, I wonder whether, when the time comes to consider the whole of the jury system, if possible the present number of jurors, 12, might be looked at. I believe this goes back almost to the Norman Conquest. That does not necessarily mean that it is wrong, but it does not necessarily argue that it is right. One would have thought that in this day and age, especially with the great inconvenience which long cases cause the juries, the number might safely be reduced.
The hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), in an interesting speech, referred to the necessity of trying to find the root causes of crime. With that I agree except to say that there are a great number of such causes. He spoke of the prisoner who needs help, but one should not forget the large number who choose a criminal career for reasons which perhaps up to now we do not understand. The size of the problem is difficult to grasp. Last weekend a number of newspapers gave publicity to a report which said that last year £42 million worth of property was stolen by the commission of indictable offences. I was able, with the help of the Library, to get hold of the original document 1066 which published the figures, the Security Gazette. This is based on reports from chief constables and is, I believe, the only organ of this nature in the country.
It showed that property stolen by indictable offences alone was worth £42 million, but it went on to say that the amount obtained by fraud was not certainly known. The best police experts believe that it was not less than the same amount. That adds up to over £80 million. It went on to say that by the best estimates of chief constables of petty pilfering and other offences which were not always reported must amount to between £75 million and £100 million more. So what we are dealing with is a loss to the country of well over £160 million last year.
The most disquieting fact I find in this publication is that almost every form of crime showed sharp increases which are reflected in the official figures. These increases are not evenly spread. The Security Gazette showed that in the Metropolitan area thefts of property increased by 23 per cent. over the year before, but losses by robbery last year were up by 83 per cent. on the previous year. This breaks down to about 27 per cent. more cases of robbery and approximately 50 per cent. more gained in each case. The report goes on to say:It will be surprising if the incidence of robbery does not rise sharply.That, perhaps, is an under-statement. The total amount taken by robbers in the Metropolitan area is quoted as over £2 million last year, of which less than 9 per cent. is estimated to have been recovered. These are startling figures. These increases are not limited to London although they are less great in other parts of the country. Smaller but significant increases are shown everywhere. In Dorset where, until I became a Member of this House, I served for a number of years on the quarter sessions, I find that the cases are not only more numerous than they were in my day but they are also more serious. I believe the country is now faced with a hard core of dedicated professional criminals some of whom are in what the Home Secretary described as the "managerial class". A little lower down the criminal scale from the managerial class come the ordinary run of hard-core criminals whom in days gone by I had to try and, before that, 1067 to prosecute or defend. One saw accomplished professional criminals who regarded prison as an occupational hazard. They knew full well that they would spend a proportion of their careers in prison; how much of their lives they spend inside depended upon their skill and good fortune. They regarded prison, I will not say without distaste, but with no great apprehension.
Prison was a place where they met their friends and where they exchanged techniques in criminality. It was a sort of university of crime. Many crimes, and some of the most serious, have been planned in prison. In some cases, especially now that the regulations governing talking have been so greatly relaxed, prison cells are nothing less than operational headquarters from which a future series of crimes is being planned at this very moment. This is not satisfactory. I say at once that these comments do not apply to the majority of inmates of prison who are not in this grade of crime, but they apply to a hard core of dedicated professional criminals.
The statistics show clearly that our present methods are simply not adequate. We have already heard from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) of the alarming increase in the use of firearms by criminals. This is a matter which I have frequently raised, and I appeal yet again to the Home Office to take adequate steps, especially with regard to sawn-off shotguns, which seem to me to feature more and more in hold-ups of all kinds.
My right hon. and learned Friend spoke of witnesses being approached and of jurymen requiring police protection. This is reported in the papers, not occasionally, but increasingly often. Before the war such things were unheard of. I should like to know what steps the Home Office will take to check these sinister developments which, if they are not checked, will threaten the whole foundation of our system of criminal law.
Last week the B.B.C. initiated an important television programme in which two very senior lawyers, members of previous Administrations, were interviewed by Robin Day and made some interesting suggestions. It was suggested, for example, that if a suspected person 1068 refused to make a statement to the police or to give evidence at his trial, the prosecuting counsel should be free to comment on this fact. I suggest that in certain cases, with which I will deal presently, this would be an improvement on our present procedure. An innocent person has nothing to lose by making a statement or by going into the witness box. A really innocent person has everything to gain by making the fullest possible disclosure to the police and letting them check it.
The participants in the B.B.C. programme also suggested that when an accused person has recent convictions for similar offences, evidence of this fact should be admissible in his case. It was stressed, however, that offences of a different nature or committed long before should not be included. A further suggestion was that the Scots doctrine of law affecting alibis should be adopted south of the Border. This was described as being that, where a prisoner relies upon an alibi, he should be bound to produce it to the prosecution at the earliest possible moment so that it can be checked.
I doubt whether those three suggestions are entirely acceptable for the ordinary run of cases—possibly they go a little too far. We have to protect the liberty of the subject, and this is an important point that must never be lost sight of. Nevertheless, I ask the Home Secretary to consider seriously whether these procedures or something like them might not be permitted at the trial of a hardcore professional criminal. To do this, it would be necessary to take an entirely new step and to have two sorts of criminal proceedings for people in different categories. This would be something entirely new but surely not, for that reason, entirely wrong.
If one wants to make sure that professional criminals with their great experience and considerable knowledge of legal procedure do not evade the responsibility for what they have done, they should not be allowed to shelter behind the protection which is provided for the use of ordinary, honest citizens who are not at all in the same category. Professional criminals who have chosen to wage war against the community should be prevented from using these procedures which are designed to protect ordinary, honest citizens.
1069 Less than 40 per cent. of all crimes last year were cleared up. Too many dedicated criminals who are brought into court succeed in escaping, perhaps because the jury is kind-hearted or because of their great and professional knowledge of criminal procedure. It could be that in some cases they succeed because witnesses have been terrorised.
I suggest that the Home Secretary should set a standard. It should be for him to say what it should be, but he might, for example, set a standard of three convictions for indictable offences involving dishonesty or violence in aid of dishonesty within a period of, perhaps, five years, time in prison not to count, so that, anyone would be notified by the judge at his third conviction that as from that moment he had come into the category of a professional hard-core criminal and that, should he come before the court again, he would lose his right of silence and of not going into the witness box. He would be in the position that the prosecution could give evidence of recent similar crimes which he had committed. This in itself would be the greatest possible deterrent to a person of that character, who would realise that if he was involved in trouble again, he would have great difficulty in escaping from it.
I accept that that is an innovation and something quite new, but so are the steps that the criminals take. We did not have jurymen and witnesses intimidated and bribed until now. These new and altogether rougher methods on the part of criminals call for a definite step on the part of the Home Secretary on behalf of the citizens, who need to be protected against the skilled professional criminals.
The punishment should also be effective and should fit the criminal rather than be tailored to fit the crime. If a man with a record of a long series of violent, dangerous crimes is brought before the court for committing a lesser offence and on the same day a normally honest citizen has committed a similar offence is brought before the court, it would be absurd to suggest that they should both receive the same sentence, and I do not believe that many courts would impose this.
I give that example to show what I mean. I suggest that dedicated hardcore criminals, once they had been so 1070 pronounced, should be in danger of rather longer sentences, although I agree that these should be mitigated by a parole system if they show genuine signs of a wish to turn over a new leaf and start again in an honest life.
A small alteration in the current administration arrangements which would greatly assist courts in assessing sentences would be that where a prisoner has a record of previous convictions, it should in every case include the dates on which he or she was released from prison as well as the dates on which he was last convicted or admitted an offence. Usually the date of the offence is given, but very often the date of release from prison is not given. The interval between these two dates is of tremendous importance to the court in assessing to what extent the prisoner has made a genuine effort to go straight after his last term in prison.
I consider it necessary that these professional hard-core criminals should be segregated as much as possible when they are in prison. They should have less privileges of conversation, especially with other less contaminated prisoners. I have reason to think that recruiting is done in prison by hard-core professional criminals who, perhaps, want two or three young men to drive cars or to take a minor part in a scheme which they are planning. This should be stopped as far as possible.
I also think that there should be greater facilities for assisting a professional hard-core criminal or anyone else who really shows signs of wishing to reform. I believe there comes a time in the careers of criminals, professional and otherwise, when they begin to wonder whether the game is worth the candle and whether they should not consider turning over a new leaf. It is important that anyone who shows the slightest genuine and sincere sign of this should be helped to the utmost. In view of the amount of money that crime is costing this country we should do a lot to help the man who wishes to go straight. I realise that there are organisations, such as the New Bridge, to which hon. Members and others belong. But more could be done. Retired probation officers with experience of the major prisons in London and other large conurbations could do wonderful work on a part-time basis by visiting prisons and seeing those prisoners who 1071 wish to see them. They, with their great experience, would know very soon whether a person had a genuine wish to reform.
We must press these professional criminals who carry out such a disproportionate amount of crime and inflict such a disproportionate amount of the total amount of hardship and loss on the public. We must make their lives more difficult, and if possible less profitable, and at the same time we must make it easier for any of them to reform if they show a sincere wish to do so. I hope that with the measures which the Home Secretary has outlined, the Government will succeed in achieving these results. We are watching to see whether they will.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. David Ensor (Bury and Radcliffe)
The House as a whole will realise that today we are faced with a grave social problem. I am sure that we were interested to hear from the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) of the percentage rise that has taken place in a number of categories of crimes in the last few years. What the general public ought to realise is the fantastic increase that has occurred since 1938, the last full year before the war. Some categories have gone up 100 per cent. and some have gone up 200 and 300 per cent. In the case of larceny from unattended motor vehicles the offence has gone up by no less than 740 per cent.
The increase in crimes of violence, sexual offences and all offences in which there is some element of drink or drugs is truly alarming, and I think it would be fair to say that while we in this House bear some responsibility for not having taken action earlier, there is a great responsibility on the members of the public who have failed in their duty to bring up their children as they ought to have done.
I should like to refer to three points—the prevention of crime, the administration of justice and the treatment of convicted persons. I am sure that most of us will agree that the criminal law as it stands today is in a mess. It needs codification, clarification and to be put into language that most people, apart from us lawyers, can understand.
1072 However, if I may say so, there is another aspect in regard to juries apart from the corruption of one or two. A situation which existed for a considerable amount of time is the irresponsibility of juries. That existed before the war. I should like to refer to a conversation that I once had with one of our criminal judges, the late Mr. Justice Humphreys, when I raised this matter with him. Although the answer is perhaps slightly amusing, it has a great strain of common sense in it. I asked him why we were having difficulty in getting convictions from juries, particularly in the bad offences like being drunk in charge of a car and certain sexual offences. He said, "Because half the jury do not believe it could have happened and the other half do it themselves." This is to some extent true, and until we can get some sort of responsibility into the people who are called to sit upon juries we shall always have this problem with us.
I recently undertook a tour through Europe to discover for myself some of the problems. Being aware that we had a ghastly problem on our hands here, I wanted to know what other countries were doing about it, if anything. As a result of my investigations at that time I was in some doubt as to the efficacy of the jury system at all. I saw working perfectly well in a number of European countries a system which had no jury. The trial was conducted either by three judges or by a judge and two assessors. I am not one of those who regard the jury system as it exists in this country today as being utterly and completely sacrosanct. Possibly my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary may be right when he suggests having a majority verdict, but I am not with him entirely when he mentions the figures of 10 to two. Those figures should be considered with some considerable care.
On the prevention of crime, I am and always have been firmly convinced that two of the greatest deterrents are detection and conviction. Detection, of course, depends on a highly efficient police force and one which is above suspicion. I think that, generally speaking, we can congratulate ourselves on the efficiency of our police forces and their lack of corruption. Every walk of life has its black sheep, but I think that the police are, on the whole, singularly free from them. What we are suffering from 1073 is a grave lack of numbers, and I think it is absolutely essential that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should look as a matter of urgency into the whole question of recruitment, payment and salary scales for police officers.
My third and last point concerns the treatment of convicted persons. I should like briefly to refer to two aspects of this subject, from the juvenile side and from the adult side. When I was conducting this investigation throughout Europe I was amazingly impressed by the vast amount of work that was going into the prevention of crime amongst juveniles. After all, if we get an enormous increase in serious crime amongst juveniles, it will ultimately have a very serious effect on the adult figures. In Holland, in the Scandinavian countries, Belgium, and in the Soviet Union and Spain they have a completely separate department in their ministries of justice devoted entirely to dealing with juveniles, with the ultimate intention that they should be kept from committing offences.
There are child welfare boards in those countries. The countries are split into areas so that those boards are in a position to know a great deal about the children within their jurisdiction. I was very impressed with those methods which went a long way towards preventing children from committing crimes and leading a life of crime. In view of the appalling increase in the consumption of drink and drugs, it is highly important that we should exercise much more care and effort and spend a great deal more money in dealing with problems of juvenile delinquency in this country. A short, sharp sentence is probably the ultimate deterrent for juveniles when everything else has failed. Our detention centres are going some way to dealing with the situation, but not far enough. The period of detention should be extended to at least 12 months. The amount of work that the detainees are made to do should be increased, and we should also look into the problems of their diet.
The question of what we are to do with the persistent sexual offender is a very serious problem. I draw the attention of the House to the case of a man—I shall not mention his name—who a few years ago was sentenced to 12 years' preventive detention for the rape of a girl 1074 of 11 and indecent assault on a number of girls under the age of 12. This man's record is interesting because it illustrates so well the absurdity of our present methods of dealing with people of this kind. At the time of his last conviction he was 42 years of age. In 1931 he was bound over for indecent assault. In 1939 he received three months' imprisonment for indecent assault. In 1943 he got four years' penal servitude for carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 16. In 1946 he was sentenced to five years' penal servitude for rape of a girl of 12.
As far as I know, he is the only person convicted of rape while serving a sentence in prison, because he happened to be working outside the prison wall at the time. In 1950, he received 18 months' imprisonment for indecent assault on a 12-year-old girl. In 1952 he was sentenced to eight years' preventive detention for indecent assault on an eight-year-old girl, followed, in about 1960, by his 12 years' preventive detention for rape again. What are we going to do with people like that?
The only difference between that man and the child murderer Straffen is the degree of pressure of a finger and thumb on a child's throat. This man will be out again at the age of about 50 and I suggest that it is a fair bet that within two or three weeks he will be back again possibly for murder.
When I was in Copenhagen I had many and long talks with Dr. Georg Stürüp, probably the world's leading psychiatrist, and we talked about these sort of cases. Dr. Stürüp had tried hormone treatment but that was unsuccessful. He had eventually tried a small operation, not castration, which relieves the strain on these sort of people, who, up to a point, cannot help themselves. This is the sort of case that we should investigate most carefully to find some way to avoid littering our prisons with those people, who will be back again for the same sort of offence soon after coming out. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will take some of these points into consideration.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, this is a terrible social problem for which we have a grave responsibility, but I want to make it plain that the parents of this country also have a grave responsibility, 1075 because it is the breakdown in family life, the "couldn't care less" attitude, the complete moral breakdown of a great number of our population which is causing a vast amount of distress, a vast amount of crime and a vast amount of misery throughout the country.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
We have had a very interesting debate. The speech of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) contained some interesting, provocative ideas, as did that of the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin). The hon. and learned Member's words, not all of which I agree with, indicated that the 18 months for which the Royal Commission, of which he was a member, sat have not been wasted. I add my voice to his protest at the fact that the Royal Commission was not allowed to continue its work. It is a great loss to the country and a tragedy that the Royal Commission, under its magnificent chairman, and with some very able members, the majority of whom wanted to continue with their work, was not allowed to continue. Abolishing it was an unprecedented and unnecessary step. How tragic a step it was was indicated by the hon. and learned Gentleman's fascinating speech, which we shall want to read and study in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and which shows the worth-whileness of the work being done by the Royal Commission.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) made a brilliant speech, in which he put forward Ten Commandments as he sees them relative to this whole matter. I hope that his speech will be well heeded on the benches opposite. We also heard an interesting address by the Home Secretary, who took this opportunity to reveal to us certain matters which are welcome.
This leads me to my first point, namely, the fact that we have totally inadequate opportunities in the House of discussing Home Office affairs, police affairs and crime. Nothing could be more illustrative of this than the situation with which we are confronted today. As my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, three documents of very great importance have been published in the past week or so: the criminal statistics; the Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis 1076 for the year 1965; and the Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary for the year 1965. Now, in addition, we have had the compendious First Report from the Estimates Committee published last Wednesday.
Each of these documents could well provide the foundation for a full-scale debate, yet it is only because of the sound sense of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that we have any opportunity during the whole of this Parliament to have a general debate on crime. I am sure that hon. Members opposite agree that it was a wise decision to raise the matter today and have at least a short debate.
§ Mr. Buck
Much too short, I agree. That is why I am talking with such great rapidity, to try to pack in as much as I can without stealing too much of the time which other hon. Members on both sides wish to use.
We commend the fact that the criminal statistics came out a little earlier than usual this year. We are extremely glad that these statistics and the reports of the Commissioner of Police and Her Majesty's Inspector are before us, but I ask that they be brought out a little earlier still. It seems appropriate that they should be brought out at the end of May. We should then be able to consider them in June and have a full-scale two-day debate on crime and matters pertaining to all this material in July as a set feature.
I also ask the Front Bench opposite to consider whether we should have something in the nature of a "Home defence" White Paper from the Home Office every year. This sort of theme was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) who suggested a White Paper now to precede the Criminal Justice Bill which we are to have. This we should certainly have.
I am glad to see the Home Secretary back in his place, because I wish to ask him most seriously to consider, if he is still Home Secretary next year, whether we should have an annual "Home Defence" White Paper, broadly corresponding to the Defence White Paper which deals with the whole of our Armed 1077 Forces. We rightly have ample opportunity in the House to debate matters concerning the armed services and to consider the impact of a possible aggression on this country. But there is a veritable war in our own country to preserve law and order, and we have scant opportunity to debate it.
I hope that these points will be noted and taken seriously by the Government. I am certain that a regular full-scale two-day debate in July, based on the Reports I have mentioned and on a Home Office White Paper, would be a thoroughly useful innovation and would make time properly available to the House so that we could thrash out the infinite number of matters raised by these Reports, all of which we would wish to consider in far greater detail than we can today.
One of the keys to the whole problem of crime, and particularly organised professional crime which my right hon. and learned Friend rightly made the theme of his speech, lies in the police forces themselves. It is the police who are the front line troops in the action. I am glad to see that from both Reports, the one from the Commissioner and the one from the Chief Inspector, there comes bursting forth pride in the services with which they are concerned. The Commissioner says:I am proud to report that nearly every one of them"—that is, the officers with whom he is concerned—has a great pride in his job which he carries out with professional zeal and devotion not always present in other walks of life".Similarly, the Chief Inspector pays tribute to the officers which are his concern:I record without hesitation the complete confidence of H.M. Inspectors of Constabulary in the service which has faced increasingly difficult problems with loyalty and determination.This ought to be commended in the House. It is time it was said in this debate.
Those of us who come into regular contact with the police—sometimes, on instructions, I have to cross-examine police officers in a way which, if I had my personal preference, I would not do, and at other times I appear for them—have a great admiration for the efficiency and devotion of the police service. This 1078 message ought to go out from the House today. Of course, there is found the occasional black sheep, but this happens in any institution or organisation.
The key issue here—the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe mentioned it—is the lack of numbers and the difficulty in recruiting people of the right calibre into our police forces. Because of the absurdly short time at our disposal today, I cannot go fully into the detailed statistics, but it is interesting to note from the Chief Inspector's Report that there were only 77 recruits into the police last year who had passes in two or more subjects at Advanced level in the General Certificate of Education—a very small number indeed—and only about 772 who had passes in five or more G.C.E. subjects at Ordinary level out of a total intake of some 5,500 recruits commencing initial training during the year.
I suggest three ways which might help us in recruiting generally and, in particular, in recruiting people of the right calibre into the police force. First—I realise that this brings me into some conflict with the Police Federation—I suggest that we look again at the absolute rule that a constable shall serve four years before he can be promoted to sergeant. I am absolutely devoted to the proposition that a police officer should serve some time, an appreciable time, on the beat, but I do not believe that it should be a firmly prescribed time. In practice, a few officers would be able to gain promotion in less than four years. In my view, there should not be an absolute ban on any promotion before four years' service as a constable. I regard the inevitability of the four-year period as a deterrent which causes at least some people who contemplate going into the police to decide not to do so. I would like to see this question dealt with as part of a package deal with the Police Federation in which the police had a large increase of pay, and so forth.
Second, we should change the title "sergeant" for that existing rank in the police force. I am able to speak without fear of recrimination from all the noncommissioned officers in my constituency—I represent a garrison town—because I had the high privilege of serving a substantial part of my Army career as a 1079 sergeant. But I know that the responsibilities which I and my fellow sergeants carried in the Army bore virtually no relation to the enormous responsibilities carried by a sergeant in the police force. The present nomenclature gives an erroneous idea of the responsibilities of a sergeant.
We have the mothers to consider here, too. If an Army career and a police career are being considered side by side for a young man, both the mother and the young man will notice that, by the time he is 27, if he goes into the police, he may well be a sergeant, but if he goes into the Army he may well be a captain. There is regrettably the "snob" side of it to remember as well.
This is my second practical proposal, that the name "sergeant" be changed. Let us call the sergeant something else—sub-inspector, lieutenant inspector, whatever it may be—and in one fell swoop we shall remove another deterrent to recruiting.
Our present police structure will leave us in grave difficulties also in recruiting large numbers of police officers from the universities. It is a great pity that in Essex, for instance, there is only one graduate police officer and he is the chief constable. There are all the difficulties of coming into the service late after going into university, and so on, and the present system puts various problems in the way of attracting university graduates. Let us try, by all means, but if it proves still to be difficult, let us make sure that there are substantial opportunities for people, once in the police force, to go to a university. We have no time now to consider such possibilities as re-establishing the Police College in its old rôle, and so on, but let us at least consider taking the step of greatly increasing—at least trebling, as a start—the number of opportunities for scholarships to universities. Let us expand the Bramshill scholarship system which exists now. At the moment, the number of scholarships is absurdly small. The Chief Inspector's Report tells us that there were five places made available at University College, London, and three at the London School of Economics. A total of only eight is quite ridiculous. The Home Secretary should at once get 1080 in touch with the new universities to consider how the scheme can be expanded out of all recognition.
Those are three practical suggestions which I put to the Government. I am certain that they could have substantial beneficial effects on recruiting almost at once.
I greatly welcome the Home Secretary's announcement today about juries and majority verdicts. On a point of detail, I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us what the proportion is to be when one member of a jury drops out and the trial continues with 11. This is an important point of detail which should be cleared up fairly soon.
I believe in the jury system. It is right that it should be maintained. But I believe that the reforms announced and the implementation, or part-implementation, of the Morris Report now envisaged will go a long way to remove the evils which have made themselves manifest. They will, I am sure, work well. They will help to prevent members of juries being "nobbled", and juries will continue to behave, as the vast majority of them do, in a most responsible way. I cannot accept the aspersions sometimes cast upon them, as, for example, the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe did. The jury system is certainly not sacrosanct, and I believe that it can be improved, and I am delighted that it is at last to be improved and modernised.
I repeat that we ought to have a regular debate in the House on the state of crime in our nation, but we can secure a marked improvement in the national climate only if there is real leadership from the Government. The Government should be setting an example in showing a healthy respect for our great institutions, but this they have not done recently. They should show an absolute respect for truth, but this they have not done recently. I invite the right hon. Lady the Minister of State to pass these observations on to her hon. and learned Friend and ask him to deal with the whole question of police pay when he winds up, because it seems that our police officers are to be badly let down again.
I would remind the House of the vigorous speech which the Chairman of the 1081 Police Federation made at its last conference. He said:If any attempt is made to fob off the police at this time of crisis"—He had the crisis of crime in mind, not the financial crisis——with a diluted pay award in which we are sacrificial lambs on the altar of an incomes policy, no one on this National Executive of the Police Federation will be prepared to take responsibility for what will happen to the police of this country. This is a very plain message. Come September we want a very plain answer.We want an indication today what that answer is likely to be.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. William Price (Rugby)
I am glad of the opportunity to speak on a matter of grave public concern. We are in the middle of a crime wave unprecedented in this country. I illustrate the point by quoting figures. In 1957 there were 545,562 indictable offences. By 1965, less than eight years later, the figure had risen to 1,133,882, an increase of well over 100 per cent.
It is right that at this stage I should declare an interest. We have heard a great many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen from the legal profession. I belong to the other profession that operates in courts—the court and crime reporters. I have known many barristers and also many criminals, and lots of them are good friends of mine—both barristers and criminals. I have seen criminals start at a very early age and make their way through the normal progression of a broad State education, starting with conditional discharges and ending up with 10 or 12 years' preventive detention.
I have seen many lives ruined, but all these persons, friends and foes, knew one thing—that if they got caught they could expect no sympathy whatsoever from me. I have seen too many victims to feel pity for the criminals. I have seen old people robbed of their life's savings. I have seen honest decent citizens beaten into submission for virtually no reason at all. I have seen young girls forced to give evidence in assize courts in the most wicked rape cases. I have seen animals mutilated beyond belief. There is no end to it, and it is by no means a pleasant sight.
Why has this situation arisen? There are many reasons. I should like to deal 1082 with one. There can be no doubt that television and the newspapers have played a vital part. I am sure that many ideas have been planted in many heads. I quote from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, who said in his report for 1965:There is little doubt that whilst the publicity given to crime and police methods for dealing with it retains such a high news and entertainment value, it will also be a source of encouragement and enlightenment to many with criminal inclinations".I believe that to be true. I also believe that it is time that we dealt with this problem.
Criminals consider two very simple factors: "Shall I get caught?" and "If I get caught, will it be worth my while? How long shall I get?" It is true that the detection rate is going down. The police are often criticised. But I am surprised that they catch as many people as they do. I could make a very successful criminal indeed. I do not believe that the police would catch me very often, not because I am clever or because they are stupid, but because in the past the whole system has been geared in favour of the criminal and against the police.
There is a great deal to be done in the short term to build up the police forces, to provide better equipment and better facilities and to reduce the multitude of restrictions—this is important—which make the job of the police almost impossible. In the short term we need much more severe punishments. If people set out to break the law, then they must accept the consequences. We must have greater consistency of punishments not only in the magistrates' courts, where we hear so much criticism, but at quarter sessions and assizes as well. There is a good deal of inconsistency in the highest courts in this land. I find a feeling among criminals that Parliament is going soft, although I think they would make an exception in the case of the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne). It is not often that I agree with him. We have a duty to the vast majority of people in this country who wish to lead decent, peaceful and honest lives.
I am neither a pervert, I hope, nor a sadist. I shall not be popular with the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, but I am going to say what I have to say nevertheless. I am bound to suggest that there may be a formidable 1083 case for the reintroduction or limited forms of corporal punishment. The hon. Member for Louth asked last week what the Home Secretary intended to do about it, and the reply was that he did not believe in hitting out blindly. Neither do I. But I would hit out in certain cases where violence has been used and where other forms of punishment have failed.
We have a responsibility to criminals as well. I wonder whether some of my former associates now serving very long terms of imprisonment might not have benefited from a thrashing at some stage during their illustrious careers. There is nothing more depressing than to sit in court on a fine summer's day and see a young man sent down for 10 years. It has happened time and time again. The figures prove beyond any doubt that the velvet glove treatment of recent years has not worked. The time is rapidly coming—and if we do not move towards it, public opinion will force us into it—when we shall have to consider whether or not we are doing our duty.
I believe that the Home Secretary should do a number of things, and I should like to deal with just two of them. I believe that he should instruct magistrates, recorders and judges to pay more attention to the maximum sentences laid down by Parliament. There is a strange reluctance in many cases to give the convicted person more than a minimal sentence as opposed to the type of maximum sentence that the House felt necessary to impose.
I also believe that the Home Secretary should raise the police force to the status that it deserves. Of course policeman go wrong—that has been mentioned time and time again today—and the rest of them stand condemned as a result. I know bad coppers. I have heard them talking about their exploits in the cells where a good old-fashioned thrashing did not go amiss. I have known policemen who have pursued grudges against certain individuals without justification. I have known policemen who have perjured themselves in court. But, with these very few exceptions, police officers are doing a magnificent job in the face of overwhelming difficulties. They have to contend with bad conditions, overwork, a curious form of public resentment, a 1084 criminal who will gladly ruin a police officer's career if he thinks that it will get him acquitted and shabby lawyers anxious to make a quick name.
I am amazed that the morale of the police force is as high as it is, but I warn Parliament not to push its luck. The day is coming, if it has not already arrived, when the police will turn a blind eye. Why should a young police officer go down a dark alleyway and get the thrashing of a lifetime if he cannot be assured of the support of the public, the judiciary and Parliament? People will not easily forgive us if we do not say clearly and loudly that crime does not pay.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price), although there was much in it with which I could not possibly agree. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly that the prime duty of Parliament is to ensure the safety of society for the law-abiding citizen and if, like the hon. Gentleman, I believed that corporal punishment was a means of achieving that end, I would support him in what he said.
I ask him to look again at the Report of the Royal Commission which considered corporal punishment after the war. The Report showed that when the histories of those flogged or beaten by court order were compared with those dealt with in other ways for similar offences, the later careers of those flogged or beaten showed greater violence than those who had been sent to prison.
On one thing I am sure we agree—the present high rate of crime and low rate of detection. It is not so much whether the amount of crime is or is not over 1 million offences, but the fact that, as with all graphs, one has to see which way the trend is going. The serious aspect of today is that the trend in crime is going up while the trend in detection is going down. For the last two years running under 40 per cent. of crimes have been cleared up.
We therefore come to the inevitable answer that the lesson is that too many people are getting away with crime. But there is another factor which one can draw from other aspects of the reports which have been published. This is the 1085 clear corollary between the rate of detection and the under-manning of the police force in particular areas. For example, the Metropolitan Police is 26 per cent. below establishment and the detection rate is at the appallingly low figure of 21.3 per cent. That is no criticism of the Metropolitan Police, who are doing a magnificent job, but there is a clear corollary, as I said, between the number of police in an area and the successful rate of crime detection.
Therefore, it seems that the first essential must always be the provision of adequate numbers of policemen. I listened with interest to what the Home Secretary said about the methods used and the steps taken to improve police efficiency. But, while improving efficiency, we have also to find means of improving the overall number, and today we are 18,000 policemen short. I bitterly regret that the economic situation into which the Government have led us means that the police pay increase due in September will have to be foregone, for I believe that this will be a substantial disincentive to the recruitment of more police.
In looking realistically and, I hope constructively, in the short-term at the problem—and excepting the facts that the police are under strength and that we have had a substantial crime wave—I want to suggest one or two things which could possibly be done. First, is the better use of existing police time. I hope that the Home Secretary will carefully consider the comments of the Estimates Committee on the use of police officers as ushers in courts, which seems unnecessary, and the extension of the use of traffic wardens, as already mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn).
I hope that in the Criminal Justice Bill, which is to be a compendious Measure, the Home Secretary will find room to introduce reform into the system of committal proceedings. I have mentioned this before and the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to say, in answer to a Question, that he had studied, among others, the pamphlet that Mr. Edward Gardner and I wrote on this subject. I believe that reform of committal proceedings would reduce a considerable amount of unnecessary time spent by the police in the courts.
1086 Since time is short, I want to turn now to court procedure. I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to introduce majority verdicts. On balance, I believe this to be right, but I want to issue a warning. Having heard the speeches in this debate, I hope that we shall not be swept away by such a tide of determination to put an end to professional crime in particular areas that we may at the same time sweep away the judicial system we have had so long.
As someone who has spent as much time in the last 12 years as anyone else in this debate in the ordinary criminal courts, it seems to me that, on the whole, the jury system works very well. I have been impressed time and again by the obvious amount of care that juries take in coming to their decisions. I do not believe that in the rest of the country there is the same problem with regard to juries as we have heard exists in London. Therefore, while welcoming the decision on majority verdicts, let us remember the amount of good that the jury system has done and ensure that in our determination to deal with professional crime we do not sweep away all the rights and liberties of the individual.
We should also review the procedure with regard to the right of silence by the accused. I have never understood why the prosecution should not be entitled to comment upon the failure of an accused man to give evidence. He is not bound to give evidence, but if he chooses not to do so surely the prosecution should have the right to comment on the fact to the jury.
I also believe that the words of the present caution should be changed and that the Judges' Rules also require changing because, at the moment, they are tying the hands of the police too tightly in investigating crime. I believe that there is no reason why one should not cross-examine a man in a criminal court on the basis that he is now giving evidence that he had an opportunity of making earlier to the police in their inquiries. I believe, also, that by this means, we would ensure the conviction of the guilty, which I accept is as equally important to the end of justice as ensuring the acquittal of the innocent.
I found myself in agreement with almost all of the very interesting speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin). The House has to 1087 accept that, as we are faced with organised crime, so we are to expect that the sentences given by the courts are likely to get longer and longer. We have to rid ourselves of the idea that there is something horrific in the sentence of 30 years given to the train robbers. If people act as enemies of society, they must be dealt with as enemies of society.
But, equally, the corollary to that is the principle that the punishment is in the deprivation of liberty and that once a punishment has been given and there has been the deterrent effect of the long-term sentence, from the moment the person is in prison, the whole aim must be to let him come out less likely to commit crime than at the time when he went to prison. I am not sure who it was, but someone once said that it was easy to imprison, but difficult to release, and that is something which we ought all to remember.
I hope that it will not be thought that in arguing for a reform of the penal system I am adopting the "soft" approach. It is the realistic approach. It is also necessary for these purposes to see that we rid the prisons of many of the people who ought not now to be there. The most important need at the moment is the provision of hostels for adult offenders and hostels for the elderly, inadequate recidivist, rather than keeping them, at great cost to the State, in overcrowded prisons when they could be working outside under supervision in open surroundings. We have to get rid of sending drunks to prison and we have to find other means of dealing with people who fail to pay their civil debts. We also have to review the level of fines and, in particular, to realise that the maximum of £100 which can be imposed by a magistrate's court for any offence is inadequate.
I welcome the Government's proposals for dealing with adult offenders and for the release on licence of long-term prisoners. But who will have the duty of looking after those who are out on licence? I think that it will be the probation service. Undoubtedly, it will be on the Probation Service that we shall impose a far greater load at a time when it is over-stretched and undermanned. The aim of 3,500 probation officers by 1970 is now a dream which has no hope of achievement. The wastage from the 1088 probation service over recent years has been substantial, as the Minister of State knows.
I return to what I said at the beginning—that we have a farcical situation over the pay award to the Probation Service when six-sevenths of the service has had a pay award back-dated to January, 1966, while the other seventh, because it was still going through the process of negotiation, is now to have the increase, which it would have had back-dated to January, frozen for six months, so that the senior probation officer will be paid less than the ordinary probation officer, so that the man who has taken promotion may earn less than the man who has not.
The Minister of State smiles. I hope that she will tell me that my figures are wrong and that the Home Secretary has managed to persuade the Prime Minister to allow him to make an exception in this case, but I doubt it. Another tragic result of the economic mess of the country is that people like this will suffer.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
It may be an indication of the somewhat sweeping judgments which this subject invites that in the debate between my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) and the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) I find myself unreservedly on the side of the hon. Member for Runcorn.
Every hon. Member who has participated in the debate so far has sought to emphasise the magnitude of the problem which we are facing and if I seek to place the emphasis rather differently it is because there is no need for another voice to emphasise the problem. I hope that it will not be taken that I am suggesting that there is any room for complacency.
In his very interesting and, in some respects, moderate speech, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) used the expression "the corruption of our society" and, on a number of occassions, spoke of "winning the war". I am a little apprehensive about some of the headlines which we might see in tomorrow's newspapers. It would be surprising if there were not some increase in crime. We are living in a society in which people are driven by various pressures to leave their families 1089 and their roots to go to the new industrial centres.
They go to conurbations where they have no friends and possibly only the less desirable elements are waiting for them. When, to that, are added modern innovations in transport and inventions of the kind mentioned by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) it is not surprising if the result is an increase in those tensions which give rise to increases in crime.
I am not suggesting any return to a mythical golden age. This is simply one of the prices which we may have to pay for the undoubted benefits of living in an affluent society. One of the interesting aspects of crime at the moment, so far from the, increase in professional crime, is the surprising increase in completely motiveless crime, hooliganism, where there can be no suggestion of a desire for money and which is obviously a reaction against the refusal of some recognition which those concerned expect and which they have to find in a society of their own making.
I seek to emphasise this aspect of the problem because when war is declared against crime there is always a danger that the' public will see a situation, similar to that which existed in the war, when there is an overwhelming crisis to which we have to bend all our energies irrespective of other considerations. It rather invites from the public a cry for a sovereign remedy which will be a complete answer to the problem and which will lend itself to a crash programme giving rise to opportunities for conspicuous, demonstrable and vigorous activity and which may be put into effect oblivious of any other considerations. That is the danger of over-emphasising the magnitude of the problem.
When one proceeds one step further and announces a campaign against a particular aspect of crime, one is reminded of the campaigns which we have seen from time to time in the Soviet Union—against drunkenness, hooliganism and economic crimes—all of which have reduced for a period the crime in question, although possibly at some cost to individual justice. If there is a suggestion that the court, the prosecution, the police and the jury ought all to find themselves on the same side in a cam- 1090 paign, one is bound to ask who is on the other side, and the only answer can be the accused.
That gives rise to four rather disturbing factors. The first is that the jury itself is rather given to understand from what it has read in the Press that it is letting its side down if it does not bring in a conviction. The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) suggested that for the hard core of professional criminals, by which I took him to mean criminals with a number of previous convictions, some of the traditional safeguards should be removed before the finding of guilty. I find that a little disturbing. It is just criminals with a number of convictions who are most in need of protection from being wrongfully arrested in perfectly good faith and wrongfully convicted.
Secondly, after a criminal has been convicted, if, foremost in the mind of the court, is the suggestion that here is a guinea pig who can be used as a deterrent against future crime, then one reaches the stage where the rights, even of a criminal, tend to fade into the background. Outlawry, the declaration that a criminal loses all his legal rights, has, fortunately, been abolished long ago in this country. But one is reminded of the comment by George Bernard Shaw, that if one is concerned solely with deterrence, then the deterrent effect of hanging or imprisoning the wrong person is as great as the deterrent effect of hanging or imprisoning the right one.
One unhappy result of this kind of sentencing policy which sometimes comes to the surface is that public sympathy is driven on to the wrong side of the fence. There were members of the public who were horrified at the activities of the train robbers, and who felt their sympathies towards them warm a little when they recognised that the sentences imposed, as the hon. Member for Runcorn pointed out, meant, virtually, that these men had very little hope of being restored, at some future time, to take their place in society.
It is most unfortunate if the sentencing policy is to drive public sympathy on to the side of the criminal.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The point that I was making was that the public have to expect that people who behave in that way 1091 are likely to get sentences of that kind but that one should expect them to be dealt with on a basis of reform. I was certainly not suggesting that the public should have sympathy with the train robbers, I was saying the opposite, that the public should accept the sentences.
§ Mr. Archer
The hon. Gentleman and myself are perhaps at one, as neither is anxious that the public should have sympathy with the train robbers. We perhaps differ on the possibilities of reform if men are incarcerated for that length of time.
I should like to refer to the very interesting speech made by the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin). Most of us would be anxious to see the period in prison used for constructive purposes of the kind which he has in mind. But the other day some of us were privileged to visit a prison and to discuss this matter with the governor. He told us that his hope was that some of the prisoners would be taught useful trades and that they would have inculcated habits of applying themselves to work, so that when they left prison they would be ready to take part in the economic life of the country. We asked whether this was happening and he said that men were working for two or three hours every morning.
We asked whether it would not be better if they worked for rather longer periods during the day and he said that, of course, it would be better, but the difficulty was that there were not enough staff in the prison service. When my right hon. Friend is considering the matter of recruitment to the police he might find it profitable to consider recruitment to the prison service, which at the moment is desperately under-staffed.
Thirdly, there is some danger, when the public is invited to consider itself engaged in a war against the criminal, that it might think of itself at engaged in a war against the deviant. Young men are condemned because they allow their hair to grow long and they wear narrow trousers. It would be a thousand pities if the mere deviant was not merely labelled a criminal, but was on some occasions actively pushed into becoming one. We certainly do not want to create a society which is entirely uniform and priggish.
1092 Fourthly, it is vitally important that we should actively enlist the sympathy and co-operation of the public in whatever activities are thought to be right in fighting crime. When I ventured to raise the question of the use of the jury system at Question Time the other day I received the weighty and very welcome assistance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Maryle-bone. I hope that he will not consider that that assistance was any the less welcome if I say that one of the matters that we clearly ought to consider, if it is suggested that we should curtail the jury system, is the fact that this is one way in which the public can be invited to participate actively in the administration of law and to see for itself, what is going on.
It would be a great pity if we gave the impression that no one is entitled to pass judgment on what is a proven offence except members of the legal profession. One can draw a number of conclusions; one can suggest that in inquiries into the workings of the legal profession or into the workings of the police, representation of the public would be actively welcomed. I am suggesting that, while we are undoubtedly facing a very real and serious problem, we should invite the public to take the view not merely that we are asking for its co-operation in fighting the criminal, but that we have not entirely overlooked the importance of justice.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I am very glad that the usual channels have managed to squeeze in a little time for a debate on crime, because I believe that the very first duty of Government is to keep law and order and to protect the lives and property of Her Majesty's subjects. I do not think that that duty has been fulfilled very well since the war. But the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has certainly shown that he is fully seized of the seriousness of the position and I have enough faith in him to believe that he will have the determination and ability to do something effective about it.
The statistics speak for themselves and I will not repeat them here. One cannot open a newspaper without reading of a murder or attempted murder—and it should be remembered that attempted 1093 murder may ruin a life. The truth is that the lawless and the thugs are gradually coming to realise, and to take advantage of, the fact that they can fight their way out of a tight corner with knife or gun without risking their own lives. The Chief Inspector of Constabulary reports… a growing determination to commit crime, regardless of consequences.One consequence which they no longer have to regard is death. No one will ever persuade me that that is not the most powerful of all deterrents. Of course, this can only be a matter of personal judgment, because no one will ever be able to prove how many potential murderers have been deterred by the prospect of the death penalty. But for myself I repeat what I said when both Houses of Parliament decided to repeal the death penalty in all circumstances, namely, that if I had voted for that Bill I should consider myself an accessory before the fact of every future robbery with violence.
What are the reasons for this ever-rising tide of crime? I would like to discuss for a few moments what has been described as disorganised crime or hooliganism. My right hon. Friends have dealt with what they have called big, organised crime. I am quite sure that the first and foremost reason for the increase in disorganised crime can be summed up in the phrase "lack of discipline".
Too many parents and too many teachers have abdicated the duty of bringing up children in the fear of the Lord, or if non-Christians—and they are a majority of the nation—prefer it, have abdicated the duty of teaching their children to choose correctly between right and wrong. Above all, the best kind of discipline, self-discipline, seems to have departed from us. We are no longer a responsible society.
Our former colleague, Charles Curran, whose defeat at the last election I very much regret, in an article in the Sunday Telegraph of 31st July put it so well that I would like to quote him. He said:A large part of our population … are moral nihilists. They have abandoned both religious belief and the behaviour patterns based on it. We have turned into a secular society; but we lack a secular ethic.1094 Very few people seem to care.
Pandering to the rotten core are, first, the pornographic literature which floods all our bookstalls; many films and plays; and much television; all calculated to excite lust and violence in people who no longer believe in, and are no longer taught, self-control; and which threaten to turn our cities into Chicagos of the 1920s. We in this House should recognise that there are active influences at work today which lose no opportunity on screen, on stage and in print deliberately to denigrate and deride such old-fashioned concepts as duty, honesty and loyalty; and I believe that these writers and critics bear much responsibility for the crime which so disfigures our national life.
Other modern phenomena tending to increase crime have already been mentioned—drugs and gambling. I am glad to hear that the Government are at long last proposing to take some more effective steps to control the supply of drugs and so to protect people from themselves. Gambling is a different kettle of fish. To me, in itself, it is neither a sin nor a crime. It is nothing to me that fools lose fortunes every night in this "swinging" city of ours. Gambling is objectionable only because, in its excesses, it is leading to the kind of crimes which result from the protection racket—a kind from which we have mercifully been free hitherto—and from creditors who cannot recover gambling debts in the courts taking the law into their own hands.
The dilemma of Governments faced with such a thing as gambling was well expressed by one of our predecessors in this House, John Milton, who, in his Areopagitica, said:Lastly, who shall forbid and separate all idle resort, all evil company? These things will be and must be. But how they shall be least hurtful, least enticing, herein consists the grave and governing wisdom of a State.Therefore, while I am very glad to hear from the Home Secretary that he is proposing to deal with the 500 or so commercial gaming clubs, I wonder whether the law does not need amending; because it seems to me that either the law is being broken or that it should be changed. 1095 The Willink Commission on gambling, in 1951, believed thatno sensible man could but wish that gambling played a less prominent part in the life of our Nationbut that in moderation it was harmless. Thus, the 1959 Bill, in the words of its author, Lord Butler,was framed with the object of keeping gambling within reasonable bounds … of discouraging or preventing excess.What went wrong? There can be few better examples of the best-laid schemes "ganging agley" and of the best intentions misfiring than the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, the object of which was characteristically summarised by my noble Friend, Lord Margadale, at the time, as beingto have things above board and not under the counter.The intention of everyone on both sides of the House who supported that Bill wasto do nothing which would permit the introduction into this country of that kind of commercially organised gambling which takes place in certain continental countries.Section 9 of the Act swept away all the existing law regarding gambling, including the ancient offence of habitually keeping or using a place for the purpose of playing games in which there was an element of chance for money. Instead, Section 10 sought to prohibit this type of gambling in which the organiser has a direct financial interest in the stake by imposing three conditions for their legality. These rules, Mr. Butler thought and said at the time, should be suitable for the conduct of genuine private gaming. But, alas, they have not prevented the very abuses which all Members then expressly wanted to guard against, although all Members then realised that it would prove difficult to find language which would clearly distinguish between proprietors' clubs and promoters' clubs masquerading as proprietors' clubs.
I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is investigating ways of taking more of the ill-gotten gains of these clubs, but it would be much better if the Home Secretary were so to amend the law that there was not much to take. If that cannot be done any more successfully than was attempted in 1960, per- 1096 haps we should bring back the old law against habitually keeping or using a place for the purpose of gaming. But we cannot make people good by Act of Parliament. These measures might help by removing temptation.
I wish to say a few words on the forces whose duty it is to enforce the law—the bench and the police. It seems to be becoming generally agreed that the Judges' Rules are too heavily weighted in favour of the accused and that too many people whom everybody knows to be guilty escape punishment on technicalities. When two such legal luminaries as Lords Shawcross and Dilhorne agree that certain changes should be made, the Home Secretary and others concerned will, no doubt, take notice, and act. I was very glad to hear what the Home Secretary said today on one limited aspect of this matter. I would reinforce the request of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that the right hon. Gentleman should publish a White Paper well in advance of his proposed Bill.
The best way in which the bench can help in this national predicament is to impose sentences which will deter. It was a most unusual and refreshing experience from those benches opposite to hear the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) thinking more of the victim than of the criminal. I should like to take this opportunity most respectfully to congratulate the Recorder of Birmingham, Mr. Michael Argyle, whose warning, we read, has caused burglary offences and vandalism to fall spectacularly. I would that all magistrates would take a leaf out of Mr. Argyle's book, but it is not for us in this House to presume to interfere with the judiciary. All that we can do is to ensure that the maximum sentences are such as will deter and are not derisory.
Lastly, the police. The first thing to notice is that at this of all periods in our rough island story the police are well under an already inadequate establishment. I find this inexcusable, and I believe that no Government should tolerate such a state of affairs for a minute longer than it takes to set it right. It it is pay, then more pay must be forthcoming. Over a year ago, my right hon. Friend 1097 the Member for Ashford wrote in the Daily Telegraph:Of course another huge increase will break Mr. George Brown's heart. It is acceptable only to a society which gets its priorities right, and comprehends that only the thinnest of blue lines stands between this country and a breakdown in civilised standards.Incidentally, increased expenditure on the Youth Service is another way in which we might risk breaking the First Secretary's heart.
But it is more than a matter of pay and conditions, and I warmly congratulate the Home Secretary on having boldly grasped the nettle of amalgamation. Seventeen separate county borough forces in Lancashire alone typifies the folly which has been allowed to continue too long. Amalgamation will, amongst other things, accelerate promotion, and, if any of the top people are not up to their job, no handshake could be too golden for them.
Next, is our attenuated police force being used to the best advantage? The answer can only be, "No." I draw the Home Secretary's attention to these words in a leader in The Times last week commenting on the latest report of the Estimates Committee:It is absurd when crime increases steadily every year that so much of the time of the police should be taken up … in acting as Ushers and escorts in the Courts, or dealing with traffic offences of a type which could perfectly well be handled by traffic wardens … Too much of the policeman's day is taken up with paperwork required by the Courts, by the Ministry of Transport, and other worthy bodies. Parliament cannot exempt itself from blame in this.How often has that lament been heard? How seldom, if ever, has anything been done about it? Why cannot there be a separate force of older men within the force—as, for example, the Royal Army Pay Corps—to do all these very necessary tasks; and other separate force of traffic police, as suggested time and again in the House by myself and others; so as to leave the others free to do their main job of preventing crime and detecting and apprehending criminals?
Far too much young and highly qualified manpower is wasted on doing petty jobs which have to be done but which could well be done by the over-fifties. And that does not improve the police "image" with the public.
1098 Finally, we all have a part to play in this battle. Public co-operation is not encouraged by the now famous booklet on "How to Complain". Far too much time is already taken up by far too many senior officers in investigating complaints over half of which I am informed are frivolous. I suggest that a senior police officer should appear regularly on television in order to tell people how they can help the police to prevent crime. But however it is done we must, between us, win this war.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
The debate has been a very constructive one. We have had a challenging introductory speech by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and a similarly constructive speech from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I want to make four brief points. First, the word "crime" is in itself emotive. It creates in people's minds—including my mind—a prejudiced and jaundiced view about what should be a matter of cold analysis, in which we should dismiss as far as possible the sentiments that we naturally have about this anti-social activity.
The one thing that has struck me about this debate is that all the lawyers in the House seem to conclude, from their special knowledge, that there are serious weaknesses both in the law as it is written and, apparently, as it is carried out. That confirms my many years of reflection that I would not necessarily go to a member of the legal profession if I wanted the right answer to this problem.
I am concerned primarily with the victim and the redress of the wrong that has been done to him, and, secondly, with the offender and his reform. I have said that the word "crime" is emotive. It is also glamorous. I subscribe to what was said by an hon. Member opposite. Too many of our national newspapers and too many of our broadcasting programmes—excluding news features—view crime in its most glamorous, sexual and salacious form. The local Press is a glorious exception to this. Its reporting is usually exemplary; it gives the facts without dressing them up. But in the cinema and in the theatre, and in so many other spheres, the glamorousness of crime is pinpointed.
1099 In a prosperous society an evilly disposed minority is apt to receive too much example and too much encouragement from libertarians—by which I mean the people in the theatre and television world, and those who belong to the world of communications. None of us wants to be repressive, but it is plain that, taken collectively, the material which is distributed through the Press, and put into our homes by the radio and television, has a deleterious effect, especially in the formative years of the young person.
That is not to deny that as many as nine out of 10, or even 97 out of 100 boys and girls, are not influenced by their parents as they should be. But I should like them all to be so influenced. But if it is the fact that, adding up all this environmental influence of an affluent society, 3 per cent., 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. of our boys and girls are driven to the wrong conclusions, against a background of weak family life, it is clear that we, as a society, should examine the question whether it is right for us to continue to allow the unadulterated distribution of this kind of material.
The House is rightly entitled to say, "This is a restriction of liberty," but whereas, long before 1930, every divorce case in this country was reported in the Press down to the most sallacious detail, in the 1930s the House decided that that kind of reporting should cease. As a result, divorce cases, to the extent that they are worth reporting, are reported in only the most general details in the Press. All the old stuff has gone. Against that background the Home Secretary should consider whether it is possible, in these days, to adopt a negative attitude, or to say that the reporting of certain matters in the Press, or on the B.B.C. or I.T.V., is undesirable.
A White Paper on "The Child, The Family, and The Young Offender" was published in August, 1965. As chairman of a juvenile court for some time I am aware that everything that such a court says or does is controversial. My work in a juvenile court was the most challenging work I have ever done. I never had any doubts about decisions taken in the senior courts, but in the minds of those who sat in juvenile courts I found that there was constantly a challenge as to whether they were doing the right thing. 1100 I suggest that there has been a gradual improvement, although it is hardly noticeable and in my opinion it stems from better education and from the act of the 1963 Act, which gave child care officers and local authorities considerably more power.
I am convinced that the House, sooner or later—and the sooner the better—will have to make its mind up clearly and without doubt that the young men who make up our police forces should confine their duties solely to dealing with crime in the general sense and that we should have a separate force of highway police. The sooner this is done the better. The longer we avoid taking a decision—and this applies not least to the Home Office and the Ministry of Transport; this problem is largely unresolved because of the duplication of departmental interests—the more the police will be in disrepute, and the longer they will be hampered in their reach for real crime.
I want to enlist the Home Secretary's assistance in respect of the consequences of the actions of juvenile courts. As many of us know, they have the later oversight of many of the boys and girls who appear before them. In 1964, no fewer than 5,219 young offenders were on after-care charge of juvenile courts after their cases had been heard. Of that number, 4,419 received their first employment. Anyone who has dealt with special cases arising out of the juvenile courts knows that the first employment is the essential factor in getting a young person back into ordinary society.
Of the 4,419 young persons that I have mentioned only 12 boys and two girls were taken into the Armed Forces. In reply to a Question I asked him on 6th July of this year my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said:We do not know how many of the total of 4,419 applied to join the Services.I know that 12 boys and two girls were accepted.All applications are considered on their merits …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1966; Vol. 731, c. 76.]Those words sting, because boys and girls who have been through the courts and who are looking for a job for the first time do not have many merits to commend them.
Perhaps Ministers will tell me that they have to be very careful about barrack 1101 room property which is left about all over the place. They may say that they must take great care to ensure that such property is not the subject of further larceny. But if I tell the House that in addition to the 14 who went into the Forces 373 went into distributive work and 591 went into personal service, am I to gather that those forms of service are less liable to make a boy or girl commit further crime?
I hope that the Home Secretary will help me in this matter. Out of experience of cases dealt with by child care officers, in my area, I would ask that before a boy or girl is turned down by the recruiting officer the report of the appropriate local officer should be obtained. I do not ask that the boy or girl should be recruited, necessarily, but that the report should be borne in mind.
I turn now to police modernisation and amalgamations. I come from South-East Lancashire. I would go further than the Home Secretary, and say that there should be a national police force for some of the particularly vicious crimes. These should be dealt with by that force immediately that they are suspected to fall into a serious category. I recognise the Home Secretary's driving initiative to get amalgamations, but purely because of the omission of this House in 1964, and possibly a Home Secretary who did not look far enough ahead, we are left with an inability to amalgamate except for police areas and not parts of those areas.
I can quote vividly the experience in my own area. Within 12 miles of Manchester Town Hall there is an urban district—Lancashire County Council—between my own Borough of Oldham. Between Oldham and Rochdale is an urban district, between Rochdale and Manchester an urban district, between Bury and Manchester an urban district and between Bury and Bolton an urban district. Therefore, all round Manchester, with the exception of Salford and Stockport, there is a natural area of communications and people's habits and of industry which is similar in many respects.
Salford and Stockport are contiguous to Manchester, and he is, therefore, able to recommend that they should be one police authority, though I now understand that Stockport is trying to opt out 1102 and go to Cheshire, which I can understand. My right hon. Friend says that he is unable, because of the speed which is required, to make any alteration. What is he doing? He is going to connive at bringing back not to one county borough, but to a number an old county organisation which is irrelevant to South-East Lancashire.
If the priorities of the Gracious Speech are to be varied by the Prime Minister, during the autumn and the winter we shall be legislating for an Ombudsman, legislation which is not yet wanted in the country. It is certainly a third- or fourth-year job for a Labour Government. But in this case, the Home Secretary and the Minister of Transport should not plead lack of Parliamentary time on problems like this and problems of making our transport efficient. I concede the short-term decision of the Home Secretary, but how long will it take a Royal Commission to deal with the curious, contradictory pattern of Lancashire?
The essential, efficient modernisation of the police there points to one thing, that as this area is roughly 10 to 12 miles from Manchester Town Hall and 3 or 4 million people live there, I suggest that, in his rush to efficiency, he should consider whether this important part could be the subject of a mere amendment, merely to say that parts of a police area should be dealt with by amalgamation. I know that he is afraid of all the other arguments across the rest of Britain. He is, therefore, afraid of history and of modernising in an efficient way the police force in that part of Lancashire. I hope that, even at this late stage, he will change his mind and bring in the legislation which is wanted.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I correctly expected that there would be a wealth of speeches from lawyers and experts in this debate. I do not suggest that lawyers are not experts. I realised that, by the time I made my speech, a wealth of knowledge and experience would have been contributed. This has been a valuable and worthwhile debate.
This will save me referring to many of the things which have already been said, probably better than I could say them. I had hoped to speak for a few minutes 1103 just to put the more pedestrian point of view—that which is shared by a large majority of my constituents and, I believe, a large majority of the constituents of other hon. Members. To this extent, I should say that I join the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) who gave us very shortly the feeling of so many of the public.
Public concern with the present situation is rising. People are concerned not so much with the quantity of crime as with its type. The horrible and vicious attacks on innocent people by thugs and gangs of thugs have been mentioned. These concern the public very much. I am encouraged to hear the debate. In the 11 years that I have been a Member of Parliament, I have never been so encouraged to notice the tendency towards recognising what the public feel about the crime rate. In the past, I have been very despondent to hear speeches concerned mainly with statistics and the treatment of criminals. These are probably very necessary. However, we should face the fact that we have to get down to the job of reducing crime, especially horrible crimes.
We have heard so much about the treatment of criminals and the psychological approach. I hope that I am rightly interpreting the debate when I say that it follows the popular demand about the way in which criminals ought to be treated. Far too little has been heard of the severe penalties which criminals are entitled to suffer. There is no need for me to go into the exceptional cases. Some people ought to have more consideration because of their special needs, but, as the hon. Member for Rugby rightly said, the public expect and have the right to expect that the deterrent should be used. The theories and experiments of the past have gone a little too far. The public now want to see just and fair penalties imposed. Some members of the public think that it has been wrongly assumed that the criminal does not always know what he is doing, or is not of sound mind, or not responsible for his actions. Very often—perhaps in the majority of cases—the criminals know what they are doing. They carefully calculate exactly what sort of crime they will commit and its effect on the people who have to suffer.
1104 My impression, as a non-expert, is that, in the past, this House has been far removed from the area of crime. We have the lawyers, who are in touch with the criminals, but they seem to recognise, as did my right hon. and learned Friend, that what matters is what the public feel about these things.
Surely it is a matter for the public and the police in the urban areas where crime runs so high and where they have had the experience of and suffered from crime, and not perhaps the do-gooders who, if I understand it correctly, have had their day in this field to a large extent. Statistically, and in the eyes of public opinion, the do-gooders are not as popular as they were. At times they have partly been right in their interpretation of the problem, but only partly right, and they should admit that often they have been wrong.
For many years we heard that poverty and unemployment were the causes of much crime and that if we could remove extreme poverty the crime figures would fall. In fact, this was wrong. The figures did not fall. The more we get away from poverty and unemployment the higher the crime figures seem to go. This tells me that these people were wrong, and they could still be wrong in their solution to the problem.
The House today has shown that we can reduce crime. One of the answers to the problem is the use of the deterrent. Reference has been made to Mr. Argyle, the Birmingham Recorder. The reduction in the crime rate in Birmingham following what he said is no less than 40 per cent. We have seen nothing like this for many years, and it can be attributed only to what he said. Those who were influenced most by what he said are those who were going to commit a crime. What he said was more interesting to them than to anybody else, because they were directly affected by what he was likely to do to them when they arrived in court.
We ought also to notice the discouragement of the police, school teachers, others in authority and the general public by the soft attitudes towards the criminal. The police have been much discouraged, and this has been a great factor. Most hon. Members ought to admit that we do not represent the public's wishes about corporal and capital punishment. Without 1105 stating my own view, I believe that we ought to recognise what the public want us to do. The hon. Member for Rugby was probably right when he said that we ought to look more closely at the question of corporal punishment. I believe that there are a few isolated cases in which corporal punishment might be very useful as a deterrent. It would be only a few cases. I do not accept the figures quoted many times by experts and statisticians that corporal punishment has been proved useless as a deterrent, for I believe that corporal punishment may be of some use. It has been admitted even by do-gooders and experts that corporal punishment can be useful if it is administered at the time of the crime, and this proves that there may be some use in the deterrent force of corporal punishment.
In these days of the so-called enlightened electorate we ought to consider whether we should have a referendum. I believe that we should. Like others, I have come to this decision hesitantly. I believe that a referendum may not be a good instrument, but in this case I cannot see how the wishes of the public, many of whom have been injured by criminals, can be properly interpreted and how we can know for certain what they want without a referendum. It may be that by a majority the general public would opt for corporal punishment, and it may be that they would not. Certainly we ought to know exactly what the public wish us to do. We are their representatives and their only hope, and if we do not know for certain what they want, we cannot put it into practice. Up to the present hon. Members have refused to face the fact that perhaps the public want a return to capital and corporal punishment.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate and glad that a little extra time has been allowed. It is four hours since the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) rose to open the debate. It seems a long four hours, but it has been an interesting debate and there have been many excellent contributions from both sides of the House.
1106 Many hon. Members have drawn attention to the undermanning of the police force and several hon. Members have spoken about the amalgamation of police forces. I wonder whether many of them have had much experience of the proposals. I have, because in my constituency we have undergone, as a result of the local government reorganisation, the amalgamation of several police forces in the County Borough of Wolverhampton. We are facing a very serious situation. I hope that the strictures of the Recorder of Birmingham will not cause some of the bad lads of Birmingham to take a little trip to Wolverhampton, because we do not want them there.
We are 800 short of establishment in the police force in the county borough, only a little above half strength. This is a highly industrialised area, and we need the strongest possible force under these urban conditions. When amalgamation was in the offing many officers for various reasons opted to join the Staffordshire County Force. Mechanisation is being introduced very quickly, and many civilians are being employed to relieve police officers of some of the more tedious and footling jobs which they have to do. Nevertheless, there is a very serious shortage. We have a large number of officers who are working on the majority of their rest days, and this is not a good thing. They are, of course, being paid overtime. But a police officer should have his proper time off.
We cannot be complacent in the face of such a very serious situation. We have a curious situation—I do not know whether any other police force in the country has it—in which we have 100 police houses empty in the new county borough, ready for new recruits to the police force, but with no recruits to put into them. In the present shortage, experienced not only in the Midlands but in all large towns and cities, it is essential to find ways of relieving the police of some of the less important jobs. Many hon. Members have mentioned traffic control, and I will not go into that in more detail. Certainly traffic wardens could relieve the police on much of the routine work which they now do, and this could provide some sort of career prospect and promotion for the traffic warden force.
1107 We might get better recruits, men and women, as traffic wardens.
I hope to cover some new ground in the debate, since hon. Members have not spoken about possible sources of recruitment. There seems to be prejudice among some chief constables against cadets. Some of them seem to feel that there should not be more than 40 per cent. recruited to their police forces, although others take a more realistic view and welcome cadets as a source of recruitment. It is extraordinary to think that some forces have no cadets at all. Some have two or three. I understand that Bath has three, although the Wolverhampton Police Force has 100 cadets, so I am not at the moment castigating my local force. This is a sphere of recruitment which needs serious consideration by police forces throughout the country.
All the evidence seems to show that, although cadets are being considered, when the education officers of the police visit schools they almost always visit the sixth forms of boys' schools. Some police forces have a small number of girl cadets, but I suggest that there is profitable ground for recruitment from both boys and girls in sixth forms in our grammar, comprehensive and secondary modern schools. I mention this because one hon. Member commented on the low educational standard of many recruits to the police. I suggest, therefore, that boys and girls in sixth forms could provide useful additions to police forces.
Similarly, in the higher echelons of the force, there is little evidence to show that women are considered for promotion or for courses leading to promotion. Is this because there are too few women in the police force or because too many chief constables are prejudiced against women, or a mixture of both? Chief constables recommend suitable candidates for courses at, for example, Bramshill, but from looking at the evidence of the Estimates Sub-Committee which considered the police and reported recently, it appears that almost all candidates at these courses are men. I make my protest about this.
The Senior Staff Course at Bramshill is designed to prepare officers for the most senior posts; chief constables, inspectors and so on. There are about 1108 500 applicants for a course which can accommodate 24 students and I should like to know how many women officers have been recommended for this and similar courses. There is also the course for sergeants, to prepare them for appointment to the rank of inspector. The Commandant of the College, giving evidence before the Sub-Committee, stated:We do change our syllabus and our methods.Officers for that course go to the College in batches of 70 and, mirabile dictu, there are sometimes two or three women out of that total of 70. The third course, designed for outstanding young officers, was started in 1962. There are about 60 on each course and I believe that when the third course was held there was one woman student—for the very first time. I wonder how many women have taken that course since then?
It is clear that the whole question of recruitment and training of women in the police force needs investigating. There is considerable scope for building up the numbers of recruits if proper career opportunities were available and I believe that many graduates, men and women, would enter the police force if the career prospects were satisfactory and if the whole question of training were examined again.
When the senior men at present in the Metropolitan Police Force, who were brought into the Force under the Trenchard scheme immediately before the war, retire, a new kind of officer will obviously be promoted to those jobs. However, we need a more representative selection of men and women. By ridding the force of some of the rather footling duties which it must now carry out and by recruiting more cadets, men and women—and by recruiting more women at all levels—we will find, if we can persuade the general population to work with the police and with lay, professional and social workers, that a good deal could be done to combat crime, particularly among young people.
I am afraid that we now accept that crime and law-breaking is on the increase, notably among young people. In our large cities and towns young people are in very great danger and the figures for drug taking show this clearly enough; a rise of from none at all only four or five 1109 years ago to 145 teenage drug addicts last year. That is a large number of people under 20 years of age who are addicts to heroin. In many cities the police work closely with psychologists and social workers, in visiting the premises where these drugs are sold and in following up the case of families involved, but I regret to say that some police forces could not care less about this urgent problem, either because they are not really interested, because they do not think it a very serious problem or because they do not have enough men and women to spare for this work.
Scotland Yard has only 16 officers on its Dangerous Drugs Squad. Four spend their time checking on the dangerous drugs registers in chemists' shops, which leaves only 12 men to work in the field. I suggest that the drugs squads in every large city and town are in need of reinforcement. We know, too, that the drive to get hold of drugs of all kinds leads to thefts and burglaries at the places where they are stored and manufactured. If the police had more men to allocate for the protection of these premises, this grave problem would be on the way to some sort of solution, and many hon. Members are pressing for the police to have increased power to enter and inspect clubs, coffee bars, dance halls, pubs and other places where drugs are sold.
The police are well aware that a good deal of crime is committed under the influence of drugs or in order to get them, and that a good deal of prostitution is based on or is at the fringe of this serious problem. It is accepted that many young people are driven to prostitution to get hold of drugs once they have experimented with drugs.
I believe that large sections of the community, particularly young people, could be persuaded to co-operate with the police to help other young people of the kind I have described and who are gravely in need of help. One of the members of the Brain Committee, Mr. Lawrence Abel, suggested that youth squads should be set up to work among young people. They could be used to augment police cadets, men and women, and could work among young people who are obviously in need of help and who are congregating in the sort of places which most of us would not wish young people to attend.
1110 The recruitment of young people for this rôle has been carried out in Richmond by the Richmond Christian Fellowship. Their young members toured clubs, coffee bars and other places where young people gather and discovered Richmond's drug problem before the adult population of Richmond was prepared to admit that such a problem existed there. Great scope exists for this kind of work throughout the country. However, allied with it must be the possibilities of helping young people once they have been rescued, either by the voluntary forces about which I have spoken, by police cadets or by police women. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will be closely concerned with this problem in future. There are large numbers of young people throughout the country who could be helped in this way.
Attached to the centres I hope we shall see set up, there must be, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) suggested, some kind of rehabilitation follow-up for all these young people who get involved in criminal offences. It is not enough just to treat them in hospital for a short length of time; once discharged, they must be looked after by trained social workers. If necessary, they must be given training for jobs, otherwise they will drift back into the kind of criminal atmosphere and criminal circle from which we are trying so hard to rescue them.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
The hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) lent a vigorous and heartfelt touch to our debate. She has kept to the constructive and non-controversial tone that has animated it. I hope that I carry her with me in regretting that crime has now become our largest—indeed, our only—growth industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) pointed out, figures produced last week show that the amount involved in indictable offences has risen during the past year to £42 million, an increase of £8 million or of 23.5 per cent. I do not believe that there is another industry that can match that record.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) 1111 talked, in his notable introduction to this debate, about productivity. We cannot say by how much the thieves have increased their productivity in the past year because we do not know by how much recruitment into that industry has increased, but it is fair to say that if our export industries had increased their productivity in similar proportion to that of our thieves we would not be in our present economic mess.
One of the difficulties facing us in dealing with this problem is that the police have to fight on two fronts—they have to fight organised crime and they have to deal with the motor car. I am not one of those who think that the police are wasting their time in dealing with traffic offences. It so happens that in a few days' time we shall have the 70th anniversary of the country's first motor car fatality. It occurred in my constituency on 17th August, 1896, when an unfortunate Mrs. Driscoll was knocked down at the Crystal Palace and died of her injuries.
Home Office researches have discovered that, since that time, 10,273 people have been murdered in England and Wales, whereas the number killed on the roads during that period exceeds 300,000. It is, therefore, fair to say that during the last 70 years one's chance of being killed by a motor car has been about 25 times greater than that of being murdered.
The figures are diverging. In 1965, 153 people were murdered in England and Wales, and the number killed on the roads was 7,952. In other words, the chance of being knocked down and killed in car crashes was 60 times as great as that of being murdered. I therefore do not think it right to say, as some do, that the police waste their time when they deal with traffic offences, and that they should turn all their attention away from the roads to dealing with crime.
The Estimates Committee have suggested that the rôle of traffic wardens should be expanded, and that they should have some sort of career structure. The Committee is probably right in that recommendation, but we should recognise that its implementation means that a separate traffic police force will inevitably grow—not a thing which I would altogether regret.
1112 Like probably every other hon. Member, I welcome the amalgamations of police forces that have been announced by the Home Secretary, but it is important to remember that, by themselves, amalgamations do no good whatsoever; they are valuable only in so far as they provide a springboard for future reform. The main benefit that can come from them is an improved and more sharply defined career structure, because without that we shall never be able to attract into our police forces the requisite numbers of men with sufficiently high academic qualifications to deal with the frightening amount of fraud on which my right hon. and learned Friend dwelt.
Meanwhile, as the Home Secretary himself has admitted, amalgamations wrench the connection between police forces and local government. The new police authorities that have been set up to supervise the amalgamated police forces are, on the whole, not credible bodies. It seems that we are now waiting for the Royal Commission on Local Government to try to think of a suitable way in which a connection can be kept between local government and these new, larger police forces. I agree that it is desirable to keep some connection, but I think it even more important that the connection with this House should be strengthened as well.
During recent weeks the Government have not treated the House of Commons very well. We have seen the affair of the Prices and Incomes Bill. We have seen the sudden appearance of the Ombudsman. Regrettably, we are now told that quite soon Parliamentary control over Post Office affairs will be sharply reduced. I should like to see a move in the opposite direction with regard to the police. The accountability of the Home Secretary should be increased. This would obviously increase the power of this House. We would be able to question the Home Secretary more and to have more debates on this important subject.
I do not believe that by having more debates and increasing the accountability of the Home Secretary either the police or our liberties would in any way suffer.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
I should like to take up a point made in 1113 opening the debate by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). That is the sudden emergence in this country of the highly organised criminal syndicate activity. In my opinion, we do not have to look very far to see why this type of activity has suddenly arisen. We do not have to look further than to the passing of that very unhappy legislation the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963. I do not think that any single act of legislation has resulted in so substantial an amount of increased criminal activity as that piece of unfortunate legislation.
One of the reasons why gaming clubs have attracted the criminal element to them has been the very reason which the right hon. and learned Member stated in his excellent opening spech. That is because where there is a large amount of money there will always be a criminal element willing to exploit it. It is one of the ironies of the Act that it was the original intention that it should ensure that there was no financial exploitation of gaming. Not only have we had a financial exploitation of gaming on an enormous scale, but we have also had the emergence of the criminal exploitation of gaming.
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) challenged someone on this side when he said that crime was the biggest growth industry in the country. I believe he said that he could not think of a bigger one, but I can think of a bigger one, the gambling industry. One of the first steps I should like the Home Secretary to take in any new legislation is a thorough overhaul of the gambling laws. They are hypocritical, and when a law is hypocritical it is a bad law. It is absurb that we should be allowed to stake any amount of money we like—one can stake £20,000 if one wishes—yet the club proprietor or the bookmaker is not enabled, because of our hypocritical laws, to sue for his money back.
I am not suggesting that we should make gaming losses enforceable by law. That might be too drastic a step, but it seems absurd that, on one hand, we should allow and positively encourage people to gamble any sum they wish and, on the other, allow a situation to arise whereby the only method a club proprietor can use to get his money back 1114 is a strong-arm method and its ancillary the protection racket. That is one of the most unpleasant aspects which have arisen under our gambling laws.
A subject which has been discussed at some length and to which I give what humble support I can is the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that in the new Criminal Justice Bill he is to introduce majority verdicts by juries. We have always said that our jury system is the finest in the world, and I believe that it is, but that does not mean that we must not adapt our jury system to meet the needs and requirements of dealing with the highly organised criminal. The organised criminal does not cease to improve his techniques and it seems to me that in this day and age the techniques of justice should also be improved.
It is obvious—one has only to read the papers; one does not need to be a statistician or sociologist to know—that one of the new great crimes of the past few years has been the systematic nobbling and intimidation of jurors. I am quite sure that one of the methods that will make crime less attractive is the knowledge that the organised criminal will not be able to escape from justice once he gets into the hands of the police. It is regrettable that although the police frequently are able to catch the right man, due to the enormous power of the criminal machine the right man is able to escape justice. I give my wholehearted support to the introduction of this much-needed piece of legislation.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred to the introduction of an experiment in the police system in my constituency. Is is so rare that my constituency is mentioned by such an illustrious figure that I feel that I should comment upon it. My right hon. Friend referred to the introduction of the modernised village "bobby" idea. This means that one policeman is responsible for patrolling a district and that the population know who he is and so can trust him and report any complaints to him. While it is too early to say exactly how effective this method has been in combating crime, I know from the Chief Constable of Accrington that it has resulted in considerably better co-operation between the public and the police. I 1115 suggest that this type of co-operation and confidence between the police and the public is far more likely to result in decreasing crime than a return to the illiberal methods which have been advocated by many hon. Members today.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
This has been a most important and useful debate initiated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). I do not want to introduce a controversial note, but it is a little unfortunate that the Home Secretary, having made his speech over three hours ago, left the Chamber almost directly and has returned for about only two minutes since that time.
The background to the debate was given clearly by my right hon. and learned Friend. We face today a record number of 1,133,882 indictable offences known to the police in 1965. The Home Secretary appeared to take some satisfaction from what he called a flattening out of the curve—if I took down his words correctly. This is not, however, borne out by the remarks of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary who says, referring to the figures which I have given:These figures have reached such serious proportions that little satisfaction can be gained from the fact that as against increases of 9.1 per cent. in 1963 and 9 per cent. in 1964, the figure for 1965 is 6.2 per cent.My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) also gave figures taken from the Security Gazette of amounts which have been stolen, and I think the figures which he gave can be described as startling. He told us of property to the value of £42 million stolen in 1965. Of that amount, I understand that £8½ million was recovered, which leaves a minimum figure, taking the figures from the insurance companies alone, in the hands of criminals in this country of £33,600,000. There is no doubt, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, that professional crime in these days is big business.
Of course, there are other criminal methods of gaining money, apart from directly stealing it. There are the frauds, the so-called "long" companies which have been flourishing in recent months. 1116 There are the bogus insurance companies. There is the protection racket which thrives on the fringes of crime, on the gambling clubs and those who are able to be blackmailed into subscribing to this form of protection, and all the other things that go with it.
The other side of these figures, however, is probably almost as revealing. Of the total number of indictable offences, 34 per cent. relate to the threat to property or money to the value of less than £5. In 1965, there were nearly 180,000 cases of larceny from unattended vehicles. I believe that a vast proportion of these cases could have been prevented by the public—that means everyone of us has a share of the guilt—if simple precautions had been taken. I believe it is up to everyone to co-operate with the police in the prevention of crimes of this kind.
The real significance of the 1965 figures, however, is the growth in the rate of crimes coupled with violence. Crimes of violence against the person are now running at a rate of well over 25,000 a year. Crimes of robbery were up 22 per cent. in 1965. These and other figures combined with the increasing use of weapons, including firearms which have been referred to by many of my hon. Friends, indicate the growth of organised professional crime which is determined to stop at nothing whatsoever.
I think it used to be said that the professional criminal would not normally use weapons or violence—indeed, that he abhorred these things. But I think the situation has been changing very much for the worse. One only has to look again at the remarks of the Chief Inspector of Constabulary:It must however be noted that a large proportion of persons arrested or summoned by the police are not first offenders. This, together with the upsurge in crimes of violence in which, with the exception of robberies, the clear-up rate is high, would appear to reflect a growing determination to pursue criminal activities regardless of the consequences. A particularly disquieting feature of current crime is the readiness to resort to violence, frequently with the aid of weapons, both in the commission of theft and to settle personal grievances.My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) spoke a great deal about the activities of the professional 1117 criminal. If one wants to look further into that, one need only look at the evidence which was given in South Africa at the trial of Bradbury. For obvious reasons, I do not want to go into too great detail about that case, but anyone who reads the South African Press reports of the trial will receive something of a shock. Allegations of organised fraud, murder, bribery, secret courts and torture and even, in one case, of a person being nailed to the floor through his kneecaps at one of those secret trials were reported in the Rand Daily Mail on April 28th.
These stories, and what came out at this trial in particular, make the works of Ian Fleming seem tame by comparison. In 1960, Lord Devlin said that in this country there was comparatively little organised crime. He said that the vast majority of criminals who came into the dock were a nuisance rather than a danger to the State. While the second part of what Lord Devlin said may have been true then, I do not think that anyone would subscribe to the first part of that quotation at the present time.
Many of those who have taken part in the debate have described a growth in the rate of organised crime which today leaves us in a situation which would do credit, or discredit, to Chicago in the 1920s. Not only is this, and the publicity which it naturally receives, a scandal in itself, but it is an encouragement to others to believe that there is an easy road to success and affluence.
The Home Secretary referred to the encouraging trend amongst juveniles, but against that there is the very high proportion of crime committed today by those in the 17 to 21 age group. Last year, there was a 13 per cent. rise in the number of persons in that age group found guilty of indictable offences.
For those who seek the higher echelons of criminal life and their fruits, perhaps the lessons should be drawn from the case of James White, who had £120,000 from the train robbery. One can read the story of how he was blackmailed and terrorised by other criminals who sought to get the money from him. He lived the life of a frightened animal, until eventually he had the relief of being rounded up and sentenced to what he well deserved. He even made a mess of trying to sell his story to the Press.
1118 I wish that we had had longer for this debate so that we could have enlarged upon the very useful contributions made by the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) and other hon. Members on both sides about the treatment of offenders. I hope that we shall have a further opportunity in the fairly near future after the recess to debate the whole of this subject, which warrants a debate in itself. The House should be given an early opportunity to know the Government's intentions particularly in relation to the White Paper on the juvenile offender. I take it that we shall have an indication of the Government's intentions also with regard to the adult offender when the Criminal Justice Bill is published. That in itself is a subject for a debate. I say no more about the juvenile offender at this point except to re-echo a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) about the burden which implementation of the recommendations in the White Paper as they stand at present will put upon the probation service. The right hon. Gentleman will have to think about it very carefully indeed.
On the treatment of offenders generally, I endorse what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend about taking away from people who have committed crimes, particularly crimes of violence, the fruits of their crime. I draw to the attention of the Home Secretary and the House the proposals put forward by the Law Society in the memorandum which it submitted to the Royal Commission on the Penal System with regard to the almost automatic bankruptcy of persons sentenced for the commission of certain crimes. One of our biggest problems, when such large sums are involved, is in passing adequate sentences to prevent people who have committed major crimes from eventually emerging from prison to enjoy the fruits of what they have taken. Those proposals deserve serious consideration, and I hope that we shall hear the Government's views on them when the hon. and learned Gentleman winds up the debate.
Though one appreciates, perhaps, the reasons which led them to do it, I am certain that one of the biggest mistakes which this Government have made was the winding-up of the Royal Commission. It was the only forum we were likely to 1119 have in which these major matters of the revision of the whole penal system could be discussed and the evidence brought into the open.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
The hon. Gentleman must know that the Royal Commission wound itself up. Half the members said they would not go on.
§ Mr. Sharples
I think that it was fewer than half who said it; but it was a decision of the present Government that the Royal Commission should be wound up——
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
No. I must correct the hon. Gentleman again. It was a decision which I would not have dreamed of taking and the Government would not have dreamed of taking had not half the members of the Royal Commission said that they would not go on. What solution would the hon. Gentleman have found in those circumstances?
§ Mr. Sharples
My understanding is that the chairman and other members were perfectly willing to continue. It would have been quite possible to reappoint other members in place of those who wished to resign, and I can only repeat——
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin
It is only fair to the Government that I should say that I consider that my right hon. Friend had no alternative once matters had reached the stage they did. It is true that half the Royal Commission refused to go on. Originally six did, but when those six said that they would not carry on, another two followed, and that made half the Commission. They were mainly the academic members, and it would have been extremely difficult—I quite agree with my right hon. Friend—to replace those eight as things turned out.
§ Mr. Sharples
I do not want to pursue this, but I can only say that, whatever were the difficulties, a great opportunity has been lost. It is probably the only opportunity that we shall have this century to settle these questions as broadly as possible.
I turn to the other side of the problem—the question of the police. I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about police amalgamations. We are fortunate 1120 in having in time for this debate not only the Reports of Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and the Metropolitan Chief Commissioner, but also the excellent Report of the Estimates Committee, which deserves a debate of its own.
When one comes down to it, two main problems emerge with regard to the police. The first is that the police in England and Wales, the area covered by the Inspector's Report, are 15,000 men and women short of establishment. This shortage is concentrated in the areas where adequate policing is probably of the greatest importance. I believe that the majority of the problems of the police arise directly from this shortage. The excessive hours, the undermanning, the split shifts and the frequent weekend work—all these things tend towards wastage and premature retirement.
Mechanisation and scientific aids can help in many ways, but I have no doubt that the main deterrent, particularly to the non-professional criminal, is the policeman on the beat backed up, as far as possible, by modern aids. Statistics can show the number of crimes known to the police and those which have been cleared up, but they cannot show the number of crimes which would have been committed if an ordinary policeman on his beat had not been round the area at the time. I do not believe there is any substitute for the regular policeman who knows his area and the people living in it. The right hon. Gentleman gave the impression that he did not hold out very much hope of solving the problem of shortage of police manpower in the reasonably near future. I very much doubt whether either this House or the public will think this is good enough.
The second factor, which is coupled with the overall shortage of manpower in the police force, is the amount of time spent by the police on extraneous duties. This is covered very fully indeed by the Report of the Estimates Committee. Speaking personally, I am very glad that the Estimates Committee has not come down in favour of separate traffic police, for reasons which many of us understand. But many of its recommendations, particularly for saving the time of the police, the greater use of traffic wardens and civilian clerical assistants and arrangements for court duties, need very careful and urgent examination.
1121 I hope that we shall also hear from the Government what steps are being taken to recruit additional traffic wardens, which is one of the recommendations of the Estimates Committee for relieving the police of fairly routine duties. I understand—I take the figure from the Inspector's Report—that there are at present only 425 traffic wardens in the Metropolitan Police District. We ought to be told how many are likely to be needed when the new parking meter schemes in London come into operation. I understand that the number required will be very greatly in excess of that available at present.
I have spoken of the shortage of regular police. The House should be told what the Government's attitude is now towards police pay. My understanding—and this is referred to in the Police Federation Newsletter I received this morning—is that, earlier this year the Home Secretary intimated to the officers of the Federation, who had gone to see him because the morale of the service was so low, that this year's pay talks would not be conducted on the narrow basis of merely maintaining parity with the index of wage rates, as had been the case previously. The Newsletter goes on:When the views of the Home Secretary were made known to the service, they raised morale and persuaded many young men not to resign but to soldier on with the prospect of a fair deal on pay in September.I understand that this was the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman. The Under-Secretary of State should be quite clear as to the Government's attitude to police pay, including the attitude—and one does not blame the Home Secretary, who has been overtaken by events—to the rise which was due on 1st September. The House should also be told frankly what the position is concerning the pay of probation officers, who are in a similar position to that of the police.
Finally, I want to say something about the administration of justice itself. Unlike many hon. Members who have spoken, I speak only as a layman. We can all understand the frustrations of the police when a man they know to be guilty gets off, and there have been far too many reports in recent months of witnesses being tampered with and juries failing 1122 to convict for reasons which seem to the layman far from clear but which leave certain ugly suspicions behind. There is no doubt that many police officers feel that the scales are heavily loaded in favour of the criminal.
I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about this so far as it goes. These are extremely important matters which we shall need time to consider. A Bill is to be brought in shortly after the recess and it would help not only us but those outside who have to study these problems if a White Paper were issued in advance of the Bill so that these matters could be studied adequately. I also welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about Lord Morris's Committee on juries. I hope that, equally, the Committee's recommendations will be published in a White Paper along with the Government's decisions on them.
In welcoming what the right hon. Gentleman said, I want to enter a personal reservation. As I have said, I recognise the frustration of the police in many of these cases. The police naturally bring a man to court only because they believe him to be guilty, but we should recognise the danger of drifting into any system under which there is a presumption of guilt merely because a person is charged by the police. It is still, and I hope it always will be, the basis of British justice that a person—and that means any person—is innocent until proved guilty. I want criminals to be convicted, but equally I want it to be quite clear and virtually impossible for a man to be sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.
All these are matters which we should have the opportunity to examine carefully with the aid of a White Paper, and we should examine them on a broad basis and not solely upon evidence which has been produced to us lately as the result of particular incidents. The Home Secretary has a difficult task. We wish him well, but we shall judge him by the results which he manages to produce.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Dick Taverne)
Almost without exception, every speech has been constructive. I am glad that what disagreements there have been have 1123 been as much across the Floor as between the two sides of the House. Certainly, this subject is more suitable for this kind of debate than the censure Motion which was moved on the previous occasion. The only Members who may have reservations about the debate are those who have their names down to introduce the 30 or so other subjects to be discussed tonight, but that is not a consideration which appeals to those hon. Members now present.
However, I shall be brief and I shall concentrate mainly on matters concerning the police and the activities of criminals. We on this side of the House are grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) for having raised this subject, because, quite apart from anything else, there would be value in the debate if it only drew attention to the seriousness of the situation. I do not think that anybody underestimates the seriousness of the position. However, I shall have to neglect some of the valuable contributions about the treatment of offenders, and I am thinking in particular of that made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), whose remarks were appreciated by all who heard them.
A wide area has been covered from the first speech onwards, but I can be fairly brief in answering, because many of the issues cannot permit any final answer at this moment. Many will be dealt with by subsequent legislation. There will be legislation on gaming and clubs and there will be a Criminal Justice Bill to deal with matters like committal proceedings and other issues which have been raised, and the best time for a fuller discussion of those matters will be on consideration of the Bill.
We shall carefully consider the request for a White Paper. Some of the matters covered by the Criminal Justice Bill have already been the subject of a White Paper and some have already been announced, for example, the decision on majority verdicts. It was extremely encouraging to find virtually universal support for this proposal. We hope to publish the Bill before the end of the year and we do not wish to delay its introduction in any way. It will be a major Bill and 1124 will need long consideration in Committee.
§ Mr. Deedes
What concerns us is not how soon the Bill arrives, but the interval between its publication and Second Reading. That is why we want a White Paper.
§ Mr. Taverne
I realise that there are considerations in favour of publishing a White Paper and they will be taken into account.
The second reason why I cannot deal fully with many of the reforms in procedure and evidence which have been suggested by various hon. Members is that many are matters which will be examined by the Criminal Law Revision Committee, for example, some of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) about the silence of the accused and about putting in a previous record in certain circumstances, and I am told that in my absence the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) raised the issue of the Judges' Rules.
Undoubtedly, the climate has changed. Many of us accept that the balance is now loaded too much in favour of the criminal, but in the present mood created by the crime wave there is a certain danger—and I am very much in sympathy in this with my hon. Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer)—and I am a little worried about the readiness with which a number of speakers have airily dismissed as unnecessary certain safeguards for the accused. This is not the right kind of climate in which to consider a number of these very important issues concerning the liberty of the individual. It may be that we have to modify the Judges' Rules, that we have to scrap them. It may be that we have to reconsider the question of the silence of the accused.
But a few years ago any of these suggestions was regarded as heresy and these Rules were regarded as being essential safeguards for the protection of the liberty of the individual. Let us not swing too suddenly and too far the other way. It is eminently right that these kinds of questions should be very carefully considered by an eminent body of lawyers, a very strong Committee, such as the Criminal Law Revision Committee, and that we should make up our minds, 1125 not in an atmosphere of panic but as a result of very careful consideration of its report.
A third reason why I cannot give a final answer to many of the questions now raised is that they refer to police organisation, matters of recruiting and manpower which are now being considered very carefully by the working groups set up by my right hon. Friend. These will be reporting before the end of the year and it would be wrong at this stage for me to anticipate the conclusions of these committees. I am the Chairman of the Steering Committee, which is co-ordinating the work of these three working parties, on manpower, on equipment and on operational efficiency and management and I give the House the assurance that their inquiries are every bit as thorough as was intended when my right hon. Friend established these Committees.
Every single suggestion made in this House during the course of the debate is being considered by the Committees. This applies to the question of civilianisation, to the recruitment of women, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), to the extension of duties of traffic wardens and to the extremely valuable suggestions to which I found myself very sympathetically inclined, of recruitment of sixth formers, mentioned by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck). It is no exaggeration to say that the work being done by these working parties is the most searching inquiry into the methods and organisation of the police that has ever been undertaken.
I should, perhaps, refer briefly to some individual points. When the hon. Member for Colchester talked about the position of the Bramshill scholars at universities, he was quite right in saying that the position is not satisfactory, but in a way he painted the picture blacker than it is. The present position is that at the start of the autumn there will be 26 students at university. In the next year, other universities will be brought in and there will then be 15 to 20 students going every year, which means that at any one time there will be 50 to 60 police officers who will be students at universities. The position is better than he thought it was, although I do not think that any of us can feel smug and com- 1126 placent about this or imagine that it is satisfactory.
§ Mr. Taverne
The position has been very considerably improved. I want to refer briefly to two points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East about women police officers. I can assure her that there is no discrimination against women. Women have been chosen for the senior course and the special course at Bramshill. Both are selected by open competition, not by appointment. If the hon. Lady would like detailed figures I can give them to her in writing.
There is a first-rate career for young women and there is plenty of scope for opportunity. While I am dealing with the points she made I can also mention something in connection with the Wolverhampton force, to which she referred. It is now part of the West Midlands force. It is true that it has great manpower difficulties, although these have been partly aggravated by a review of the establishment and an increase in the approved cover; but this a good example of the way in which amalgamation is working out, because the Chief Constable of the new force told the Select Committee than with the amalgamations, they could now look forward to all sorts of equipment that could not be afforded before amalgamation.
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) asked for details about the fight against organised criminals. One can, to some extent, exaggerate the degree of organisation in crime. There is sometimes talk about "master minds" which is totally unjustified. Glamorisa-tion of crime in this way is sometimes found—the spurious aura of glamour which envelopes some criminal activities. But it is obviously true that much crime, and an increasing amount of crime, is organised. I do not think—and the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate this—that it would be in the interests of the police counter-measures to reveal in too great detail what is being done.
Regional crime squads are certainly making a major contribution in this field, 1127 as the right hon. Gentleman agreed. They are still in the experimental stage. Undoubtedly, there will be improvements which, in time, can be brought about. They provide a mobility, an ability to move across police areas which was not present before. They provide a concentration on criminals as opposed to particular crimes and the length of time over which the activities of suspected criminals can be watched which was not possible before. They also provide that concentration on intelligence to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly attached so much importance.
When it comes to some of the detailed organised crimes—for example, the stories from South Africa, to which the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) referred—again, as he knows, certain action has been taken by the Metropolitan Police, and no more can be said about this at present.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to certain proposals of the Law Society relating to making criminals bankrupt. I do not wish now to talk at length about the question of treatment of offenders. As the hon. Gentleman realises, this is a very complicated matter. Bankruptcy is hardly the most simple branch of the law. It must be viewed as part of the wider problem of restitution by criminals in which all sorts of questions of priority arise. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) referred to the need for the prisoner to maintain his family, a sense of dependence being an important factor in keeping the family together. We must determine where priorities in repayments should lie. These are all matters which must be considered together. For that reason, this may well be a question referred to the new Advisory Council on penal matters.
I have been asked a question about pay. The answer is very simple, although not necessarily one which will be popular: the "freeze" applies to the police, as it applies to everybody.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that as soon as the sixth months' "freeze" is up he and his right hon. Friend will place the question of police pay at the very top of their order of priorities?
§ Mr. Taverne
I think that I can go further than that. Certainly, during the course of the first six months—I believe that the Police Federation has been informed of this—there is no reason why the negotiations should not be started and be carried on.
Lastly, I wish to say something about a factor which perhaps has not received in this debate the attention which it deserved—relations between the public and the police. A major factor in the morale of the police is undoubtedly the public's attitude. My hon. Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton referred to this matter very briefly. There are many policemen who take a rather sombre view about the lack of public support. In some ways, I believe that they are too pessimistic. There are a number of signs that relations between the public and the police are improving.
For example, the number of letters of appreciation written by members of the public is increasing. It is worth noting that last year the number of letters of appreciation was well in advance of the number of complaints. There were more than 9,000 complaints last year, of which 90 per cent. were unfounded, as was revealed in a Parliamentary Answer. But there were nearly 15,000 letters spontaneously written by members of the public thanking the police for the good work that they had done.
Secondly, there is some evidence of more physical support by more members of the public for the actions of the police. I can give one example from the Metropolitan Police. Since the "Have A Go" campaign was launched by the Deputy Commissioner it has become customary for a letter of thanks to be written by the Assistant Commissioner to members of the public who have assisted the police. So far, the number of letters written to members of the public thanking them for their assistance this year is as large as the total number of letters written last year—and the number written in July was the highest yet.
But although relations may be improving there is no doubt that far too many members of the public regard the war against crime as something which affects others, but in which they are neutral. But crime is something in respect of which no member of the public can regard himself as neutral. It is 1129 a question not merely of the material damage caused, or the injury caused, but of the moral and psychological damage to society.
I also sometimes doubt whether the public realise the risks to which the police expose themselves in the course of their work, or the number of acts of bravery performed by policemen. Again, let me give an example. As everyone knows, the George Medal is awarded only for acts of very great gallantry, yet already this year seven George Medals have been awarded to the police.
What is also quite clear is that the public have not yet recognised the very great part which they themselves can play in the prevention of crime. Certain crimes will always go undetected. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that every petty larceny can be detected, however strong and efficient a police force may be. Every burglary cannot be traced. But a tremendous opportunity can be taken by the public, since so many of these petty crimes are committed by opportunist criminals, who can be discouraged by proper precautions. The public can play by far the biggest part in this.
Representatives of commerce and industry have been invited by the Home Office to join police and Home Office representatives in a standing committee on crime prevention. This has had an enthusiastic response. There is also far closer association with insurance companies than ever before. These contacts with the outside public provide a great stimulus for new ideas, quite apart from the improvement they can bring to the situation.
§ Mr. Gurden
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider the possibility of a no-claims bonus burglary cover?
§ Mr. Taverne
This can be discussed by the various bodies concerned. But the biggest contribution would be for the public to become more crime-conscious. Relations between the public and the police lie at the heart of the problem of crime, whatever new equipment there may be, and whatever new methods of policing are adopted. The police are entitled to the support of the public just as they are entitled to the support of the Government and Parliament, and one of the best 1130 things that have come out of the debate has been the ample demonstration it has afforded of the faith and support which Parliament as a whole has and can give to the police.