HC Deb 26 October 1967 vol 751 cc1864-5
11. Mr. Lomas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will prosecute persons guilty of hooliganism at football matches under the Public Order Act of 1936, and thus allow magistrates to inflict heavier penalties on the offenders than at present.

13. Mr. Rowland

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to increase the penalties for unruly behaviour by members of the public at sporting events.

Mr. Taverne

Responsibility for prosecutions rests with chief officers of police; it is not a matter in which my right hon. Friend can intervene. The Criminal Justice Act, 1967, substantially increases some of the maximum penalties for various kinds of hooliganism.

Mr. Lomas

May I assure my hon. Friend that this kind of problem does not apply to Huddersfield Town Football Club? Is my hon. Friend also aware that thousands of people have their recreation at football matches ruined by hooliganism? Is he aware that I can see no reason why the Home Secretary should not instruct the police to prosecute under the 1936 Act, because by doing so stricter penalties could be enforced by the court?

Mr. Taverne

I am aware that a lot of entertainment is being spoiled, but it would be quite improper constitutionally for the Home Office to start instructing officers of police when to prosecute and when not to prosecute. I can assure my hon. Friend on this point that in practice some prosecutions are now being brought under the Public Order Act.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this problem is not unknown in Scotland? Will he seriously consider the suggestion that anyone convicted of hooliganism at a football match should be instructed to report to a local police station at 3.30 every Saturday afternoon?

Mr. Taverne

I cannot answer for what the Scottish Department has been doing in this matter. Again the question of the penalty to be imposed by the court is not something upon which the Home Office can give any instructions, because it would be improper for the Government to start telling the courts what to do.

Mr. William Price

In view of the fact that mob violence is getting out of hand, will the Minister do two things? Firstly, will he call the clubs together and instruct them of their responsibilities, and, secondly, will he suggest to magistrates that this problem will not be solved by imposing sentences which will deter no one?

Mr. Taverne

I will certainly consider the suggestion which my hon. Friend has made, but again we cannot start instructing magistrates on what penalties to impose. This is quite wrong and there would be an outcry in this House if we started to do so. I can assure my hon. Friend that it appears from recent Press reports that a number of stiff penalties are now being imposed.