HC Deb 21 April 1970 vol 800 cc255-7

3.55 p.m.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the restitution by convicted criminals to their victims in respect of their crimes.

The provisions of the proposed Bill are as follows. Where a criminal has been convicted, the court may, in addition to, or in lieu of, any other penalty, give judgment in favour of the victim of the convicted criminal, and against the convicted criminal for the restoration of stolen property. or compensation for injury, loss, or damage. The sum in question would be assessed either by the court which convicted the criminal or by the High Court or county court.

The victim would be able to apply to the High Court or county court for enforcement of the judgment as though it has been obtained in a civil action against the convicted criminal. The fulfilment of the order of the court giving effect to the judgment would be a condition of the convicted criminal's getting a suspended sentence, probation, or conditional discharge.

The principle of the Bill is successfully incorporated in the law of practically every civilised nation except this one. The principle on which the Bill is based is the elementary one that if a man has done a wrong to another he should put it right. This is a principle of morality, of justice, and of social order; and it is generally a popular notion, and a healthy one in any society, that morality, justice and social order ought to coincide with the law and the penal system.

It is also a popular notion that this House ought to try to see that they do coincide, and the House is daily being made aware that far too many ordinary and decent people think that we have failed to achieve this necessary coincidence between the penal system and natural justice. They feel that they have been betrayed in that respect by this House. Their anger against, and contempt for this House, which should be their honoured protector, is deep and strong. Fashionable cant about the permissive society being the civilised society, and about the way of life of the tradi- tional Western free world being somehow " sick ", or rotten, or corrupt, and fit only for destruction, all this pretentious drivel is totally alien to the deepest instincts and convictions of ordinary decent people. If we are talking about a " sick " society, that is what makes people sick, and makes them sick with disgust.

What people require of this House is rather less of that sort of cant, and rather more common sense, common justice, and common morality. They are shocked, for example, at the idea of a person convicted of a huge robbery, often involving vicious cruelty, coming out of prison on parole and living on his loot like some sort of latter-day nabob. They are confused and disgusted by newspaper and television pundits canonising vicious and violent robbers. They feel that they are trapped in some mad, upside-down, practical joke.

If I am given leave to introduce the Bill, I shall insert a Clause to provide that newspaper proprietors who make profits out of criminal autobiographies should pay the relicts and orphans of the criminal's victims instead of benefiting the families of the criminals themselves. Otherwise, we will have the aristocracy queueing up to marry the heiress daughters of successful criminals with huge fortunes in trust from daddy's autobiography.

My Bill is long overdue. On 26th April, 1967, the then Home Secretary, faced with the proposals in this Bill in the form of new Clause 12 to the Criminal Justice Bill, turned is down. But he referred to it as a " most urgent " question. We were told that the idea was being considered by that dynamic body, the Advisory Council on the Penal System. The right hon. Gentleman said: I have no intention of being dilatory about it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1967; Vol. 745. c. 1700.]

We were practically promised that it would be dealt with in the then forthcoming Criminal Law Act of 1967.

But on neither account has the House seen any action. I submit that two years dilatoriness by the Government is enough, that the time has come for action and that this Bill is a suitable vehicle for that action by the House itself. So I hope that the Government will give time for the Bill, if leave is given to introduce it, as they gave time for abortion, homosexuality, no hanging, and divorce.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Iremonger, Sir D. Renton, Mr. Biggs-Davison, Mr. Robert Cooke, Mr. Crouch, Mr. Farr, Mr. Fortescue, Mr. Mawby, Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop, Mr. Edward M. Taylor, and Dame Irene Ward.


Bill to provide for the restitution by convicted criminals to their victims in respect of their crimes, presented accordingly and read the First time; to be read a Second time Tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 150]