HC Deb 24 January 1967 vol 739 cc1285-90

4.9 p.m.

Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to impose a sentence of 30 years' imprisonment for the murder of police or prison officers. Hon. Members will be relieved to know that I do not seek to raise in any shape or form the controversy which we have had in the House about capital punishment. Whether we like it or not, and many of us do not, we must face the situation as it is.

Much time has been given in this House to discussing the future and the welfare of those who are found guilty of committing murder. I think the time has now come to consider the possible victims and what steps we can take to protect them. I believe that throughout the country there is widespread anxiety and national concern at crimes of extreme violence which break out from time to time.

I do not know whether the House knows what the present position is, but, generally speaking, it is this, that a prisoner, provided he behaves himself, is entitled to one-third remission of his sentence. In the past, until very recently, any man who was reprieved from the death sentence, who had committed murder, as a general rule, I think I am right in saying, usually served a sentence of between nine and 11 years. That has become an accepted fact, unfortunately, within the criminal community, and is recognised as such. Now today the position is this, that if that person becomes involved in the first degree in a case involving—shall we say?—armed robbery of £50,000 or £70,000, he can be pretty well certain he will receive a sentence within the region of 15 years. Take one-third remission from that, and it means he serves 10. However, if he decides, when he is cornered, to fight his way out in an utterly ruthless fashion, regardless of the consequences, and somebody, very often a police officer, dies as a result, a life sentence will then be imposed on him, and in his mind, having regard to the practice in the past, he will serve nine or 10 years, which will be precisely the same as if he gives himself up when he is cornered.

That is a situation which, I hope, has been altered since by the Home Secretary, but it is certainly not clear in the mind of the public, and it is certainly not clear in the mind of the criminal community. There was a time, when the death sentence was in force, when the old, accomplished criminal would never go out on a robbery if guns were going to be taken. Today, one comes across cases where one finds exactly the reverse: they will not go out unless there are going to be guns there, in order that they can make good their escape. Equally, I think the House will agree there is little to deter prisoners who are serving a life sentence from committing violence against prison warders in the course of making their escape, regardless of the effects of that violence.

I do not believe that murder figures mean very much. I shall tell the House why. Frequently, murder is reduced by a jury to manslaughter; frequently, murder is reduced in the courts by the fact of a plea of diminished responsibility under the recent Act being accepted, and that becomes manslaughter; and frequently, murder is reduced, as a prison officer at Brixton told me, by the use of modern drugs. He told me that the number of people whom, in the last 10 years, he had saved from death as a result of modern drugs which are available, is quite enormous. If those people had died, instead of the defendants being charged with grievous bodily harm, they would have been charged with murder. I do not believe that figures presented in statistical form mean very much.

We all know that violence is on the increase. We all know that people go out on these bank raids and wage snatches armed with sawn-off shotguns regardless of the consequences because they honestly believe that if they kill somebody a life sentence will mean in practice only 9, 10 or 11 years because of what has happened in the past. I would be the first to agree that a 30-year statutory sentence is a savage sentence indeed, and I think provision should be made that if the learned judge of assize who tries the case is able to find special reasons in law for reducing it, then of course the Bill would enable him to do so, but we are dealing with hard, cruel, ruthless men; people who go out, quite cold-bloodedly, armed, and will shoot a police officer down, an unarmed man, before he even raises a finger against them, and to meet that situation we must have a deterrent which is both hard and practical.

The few minutes available to me this afternoon are not sufficient in any way to discuss this complicated subject in its entirety, and I do hope, for this reason, and having regard to the tremendous responsibility which this House owes to the police for the splendid work they are doing, and the loyalty and courage which they are showing in devotion to their duty, the House will allow this Bill to be presented.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)


Mr. Speaker

The hon. and learned Member rises to oppose the Motion?

Mr. Paget

Yes. In my submission the Bill is wholly misconceived. There was an anomaly which provided that the Home Secretary should have power to release on licence where there was a sentence of life imprisonment or on the same terms where there was an imprisonment for a fixed sum. That anomaly is being removed by Clause 36 of the Criminal Justice Bill and so we shall

have got rid of that anomaly. The Home Secretary's powers to release on licence in the case of a fixed term sentence will be precisely the same as those in the case of a life sentence.

So what the hon. and learned Gentleman's Bill would do would be to provide that the sentence in the case of the killing of a police officer on duty should be a lesser sentence than in the case of any other murder. In the case of a policeman being killed, then the accused would be a free man in 30 years. In the case of any other murder, he would never be a free man but could at any time be recalled from his licence. I did not gather from the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech that this was an end which he had in mind, or that he intended to say that killing policemen was a lesser offence than killing anybody else. This is in fact, the effect of the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 148, Noes 185.

Division No. 246.] AYES [4.19 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Drayson, G. B. Kerby, Capt. Henry
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Awdry, Daniel Eden, Sir John Kitson, Timothy
Baker, W. H. K. Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Batsford, Brian Eyre, Reginald Lambton, Viscount
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Farr, John Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bell, Ronald Fisher, Nigel Langford-Holt, Sir John
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm) Forrest, George Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Berry, Hon. Anthony Fortescue, Tim Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Biffen, John Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Biggs-Davison, John Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Longden, Gilbert
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Black, Sir Cyril Glover, Sir Douglas Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)
Blaker, Peter Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Body, Richard Goodhart, Philip Maginnis, John E.
Bossom, Sir Clive Gower, Raymond Marten, Neil
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Grant-Ferris, R. Mawby, Ray
Braine, Bernard Gresham Cooke, R. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Brinton, Sir Tatton Grieve, Percy Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gurden, Harold Miscampbell, Norman
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Monro, Hector
Bullus, Sir Eric Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Burden, F. A. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Campbell, Gordon Harris, Reader (Heston) Murton, Oscar
Cary, Sir Robert Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Channon, H. P. G. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Chichester-Clark, R. Hastings, Stephen Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Clark, Henry Hawkins, Paul Nott, John
Clegg, Walter Hill, J. E. B. Onslow, Cranley
Costain, A. P. Hirst, Geoffrey Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Osborn, John (Hallam)
Crawley, Aidan Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Crouch, David Hordern, Peter Page, Graham (Crosby)
Crowder, F. P. Hunt, John Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Hutchison, Michael Clark Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Dalkeith, Earl of Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Percival, Ian
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Peyton, John
Digby, Simon Wingfield
Pink, R. Bonner Steel, David (Roxburgh) Ward, Dame Irene
Quennell, Miss J. M. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart) Wills, Sir George (Bridgwater)
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Ridsdale Julian Teeling, Sir William Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Russell, Sir Roland Temple, John M. Woodnutt, Mark
Scott, Nicholas Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Worsley, Marcus
Sharples, Richard Tilney, John Wylie, N. R.
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Younger, Hn. George
Sinclair, Sir George Vickers, Dame Joan
Smith, John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stainton, Keith Wall, Patrick Mr. Dance and Mr. Currie.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ginsburg, David Morris, John (Aberavon)
Allen, Scholefield Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Moyle Roland
Anderson, Donald Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Murray, Albert
Archer, Peter Gregory, Arnold Oakes, Gordon
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) O'Malley, Brian
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Oram, Albert E.
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Orme, Stanley
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Oswald, Thomas
Barnett, Joel Hart, Mrs. Judith Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Bence, Cyril Hattersley, Roy Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Hazell, Bert Paget, R. T.
Bessell, Peter Hilton, W. S. Palmer, Arthur
Bidwell, Sydney Hooley, Frank Park, Trevor
Booth, Albert Hooson, Emlyn Parker, John (Dagenham)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hoy, James Pavitt, Laurence
Boyden, James Hughes, Roy (Newport) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Bradley, Tom Hunter, Adam Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Brooks, Edwin Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Probert, Arthur
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Randall, Harry
Buchan, Norman Janner, Sir Barnett Rankin, John
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.) Redhead, Edward
Carmichael, Neil Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Reynolds, G. W.
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Chapman, Donald Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Richard, Ivor
Coleman, Donald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)
Conlan, Bernard Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Judd, Frank Rose, Paul
Crawshaw, Richard Kenyon, Clifford Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)
Dalyell, Tam Ledger, Ron Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Lestor, Miss Joan Ryan, John
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Davies, Robert (Cambridge) Lomas, Kenneth Sheldon, Robert
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Loughlin, Charles Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Delargy, Hugh Luard, Evan Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lubbock, Eric Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Driberg, Tom Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Snow, Julian
Dunn, James A. Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Spriggs, Leslie
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) MacColl, James Storehouse, John
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Macdonald, A. H. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Eadie, Alex Mackie, John Swingler, Stephen
Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) Mackintosh, John P. Taverne, Dick
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Maclennan, Robert Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Ellis, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow. C.) Thorpe, Jeremy
English, Michael McNamara. J. Kevin Urwin, T. W.
Ennals, David MacPherson, Malcolm Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Ensor, David Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Wallace, George
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Watkins, David (Consett)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Fernyhough, E. Mapp, Charles Weitzman, David
Finch, Harold Marquand, David White, Mrs. Eirene
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mason, Roy Wilkins, W. A.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mayhew, Christopher Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Foley, Maurice Mendelson, J. J. Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Mikardo, Ian Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Millan, Bruce Winnick, David
Forrester, John Milne, Edward (Blyth) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Fowler, Gerry Molloy, William Woof, Robert
Fraser, John (Norwood) Moonman, Eric
Freeson, Reginald Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Garrett, W. E. Mr. Ogden and Mr. Victor Yates.