§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am particularly glad to have the opportunity of commending this Bill to the House. It is a Measure drafted and produced by this Government, for which we are responsible. However, it is the culmination of a great deal of work and thought over many years by people both inside and outside the House who are concerned with the problems of crime and punishment and penal treatment generally.
There is nothing in the Bill which is in any way dramatic or spectacular, which is as it should be because it does not deal with problems that should be dealt with in spectacular ways. Nor do I believe that it is a controversial Bill. I hope it will be welcomed on both sides of the House, and I look forward to the Committee stage producing much valuable advice from hon. Members on both sides on the ways in which the lines that we have set down can, if possible, be improved and further developed.
It is a very important Measure indeed for two main reasons. The first is that it is a constructive effort to deal with the problem of crime and punishment, which gives rise to very great concern to the wide mass of the British people. The second is that it contains a number of suggestions of an imaginative character; it breaks a great deal of new ground and is often experimental. These experiments and new ideas can be immensely rewarding.
The general philosophy underlying the Bill is this: the social problem that we all face is the growth of crime, and particularly the growth of violent crime. In recent years the number of indictable offences has been rising, though there is some sign of a tailing off in the increase. Within that total, the number of crimes of violence has been rising at an alarming rate.
966 Next, largely as a concomitant of that, there has been an enormous increase in the prison population, which is about four times the size it was before the war. This leads to very grave overcrowding in our prisons. I sometimes hear or read of people saying that prison means nothing nowadays. I wonder whether they would say that if they knew that it meant living two or three in a cell designed for one.
The conditions in our prisons—and this is certainly not the fault of the Government—are very serious. We must pay particular attention to this problem of overcrowding, which in itself is bad but is also important in that it makes the job of the prison service much more difficult and the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption far less likely than it otherwise would be.
The Bill tries to tackle both problems. First, it increases the scale and range of penalties available to the courts. Secondly, it embarks on a new range of non-custodial penalties designed to find methods of awarding punishments to criminals which do not involve incarcerating them. That is the theme of the Bill—first, the greater scale and range of penalties in certain circumstances and, second, a wider range of alternatives to imprisonment in other cases.
I wish to pay particular tribute at this stage to the Advisory Council on the Penal System, under its distinguished Chairman, Mr. Young; to its subcommittees under Lord Widgery and Baroness Woottoon; and to former members of the Advisory Council who are now in the Government, my noble Friend Lord Sandford and my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary, whom I particularly welcome as my colleague in these matters because for many years he has paid great attention to them, and hon. Members on both sides will agree that he has profound knowledge of this subject.
I will briefly give my own philosophy on these matters. My first principle is that the courts alone can decide what is the appropriate penalty in any particular case. There is a tendency sometimes to say that people should put pressure on the courts, but I would regard this as quite wrong. The Independence of the courts is the part of the fundamental basis of our constitution, and only the courts, 967 faced by an individual and the evidence, can really determine what the appropriate sentence is in any particular case. My first principle, therefore, is that the courts must decide what to do with any person who is found guilty of any offence.
Second, I think we should distinguish between crimes of violence and other crimes, and I would like to see tougher sentences passed on violent criminals. I should like to see other criminals dealt with in ways other than imprisonment. There is a clear distinction here, though my definition of violence goes a fairly long way. For example, I would include drug peddling, because I regard drug peddling as a violence against the human spirit equally as iniquitous as any physical violence.
Thirdly, the purpose of punishment is threefold. Deterrence, clearly, is one of the most important purposes. Second, I believe—I may sound old-fashioned—that an element of retribution must inevitably enter into any system of punishment. But we should never forget that redemption is the third element of any penal system. We must never assume that any person is beyond redemption, and we must always remember that one of the purposes of imprisonment, or any other penalty, is to restore the person concerned to society in such a condition that he can take his rightful place as a member of it.
As I said, the growth of crime generally is marked by two things: first, the increase in violent crime, and second, the very alarming increase in the proportion of crimes committed by young people. It is true that this has happened in other countries as well, but that is in no way a consolation to us. If we say that it is worse somewhere else, we should remind ourselves that it may get worse here, too, in the not too distant future. To study and try to elucidate the cause of the growth in crime must clearly be our anxiety all the time. This is a long-term problem involving many factors. In many ways, the fact that there are no international wars involving Britain means that the aggressive instinct of our young people breaks out in other forms. The breakdown of family discipline and the decline in religious discipline are also factors. The old dis- 968 ciplines are weakening, and proper new disciplines have not yet been found to take their place. These are long-term considerations, but meanwhile society must be protected against the growing level of crime.
The first action, surely, must be to improve the means of detection, because detection is the best way of preventing crime. That is why we have been concentrating on strengthening the police force. I am glad to say that recently the strength of our police forces has been increasing in a very encouraging way. Second, we have been providing them with very much improved equipment, and expenditure on equipment is rising rapidly. Third, we are always seeking means of transferring from the police to other people jobs which can be done by others and do not need to occupy the attention of a trained policeman. In all these ways—by increasing the strength of the police force, by giving them better equipment and by releasing them from duties they need not undertake—we are trying to strengthen our police so that they can concentrate on the major battle against crime.
The second stage, once a man has been brought to trial, is to ensure that the processes of trial are as efficient as possible, and the Courts Act passed last Session will make a big contribution to that.
There remains, in the Bill we are discussing, the question of penalties and what are the right penalties which should be provided as maxima by this House for the various offences with which people are charged. As I said, it must remain always for the courts to decide, within the maxima laid down by Parliament, the appropriate sentence in any case. But I am quite certain that courts will always pay attention both to the climate of public opinion—after all, magistrates and judges are part of the public just as anyone else—and to the view of Parliament and will interpret, from Parliament's views as to the relative importance of the maximum sentence in any given type of offence, what they should regard as an appropriate, normal sentence for that particular type of offence. Therefore, in settling the maxima for various offences, we are also giving the sort of guidance in general to the courts that it is our duty to give.
969 Deterrence is part of the main purpose of criminal justice, but we must never forget redemption. I believe that a prison regime should be hard and simple, but it should never be deliberately harsh. Deprivation of liberty, particularly in the conditions existing inevitably in some of our prisons at present, is in itself a very serious punishment indeed. I do not accept the views of some who say, rather glibly, that in the old days prisoners were dealt with so toughly that they never came back for more. That is totally untrue. I prefer to accept the view of an experienced prison officer who spoke the other day of the changes of recent years. He said, "We do not turn them out as bloody-minded as we used to." We should never forget, in ensuring that the courts have full power to administer condign punishment for vicious crime, that the purpose of condign punishment is not only retribution but also redemption and restitution to normal society.
Against that background, I should like to explain the main purposes of the Bill which I commend to the House. The first item to which I refer is the increase in penalties for firearms offences. In general, it is a fact that the maximum penalties available to the courts are very high, and recently maximum penalties have been reviewed by Parliament in the Theft Act and the Criminal Damage Act, which established a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment for new forms of criminal damage. Also, the maximum penalties for most serious offences of violence against the person are being reviewed by the Criminal Law Revision Committee, and it is important to await its views on this difficult subject in the light of the new situation that has arisen since the abolition of capital punishment.
It seemed that there was one area in particular where new measures were necessary, and that is concerning the use of firearms, because this has been outstandingly the most disturbing growth in the pattern of crime in recent years. By Clause 24 I intend, if the House approves, to increase the maximum penalty, particularly for the use of firearms to resist arrest and the possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, from 14 years to life imprisonment. By visiting on these offences the maximum penalty known to the law, we should show clearly how seriously Parliament takes the growth in the use of firearms in Britain.
970 My next point is reparation. The courts at present have considerable powers to order reparation from the criminal to his victim, but they are not entirely satisfactory. Lord Widgery's Committee pointed this out with some care. It suggested that reinforcing and modifying the law on this matter would make it much easier for courts than it is at present to impose upon a criminal an obligation to recompense the victim of his crime. That is entirely in line with modern thinking on this matter.
We must recognise the practical limitations. Only too often a criminal has no means from which he can make reparation. But when he is able to make reparation it is most important to give the courts clear opportunities and guidance that it is the considered view of Parliament that those who commit crimes should make good the damage they have done to their victims. That does not affect the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as it is at present; it is already provided within the scheme that any reparation received by the victim should be offset against the total of compensation he receives under the scheme, and this will not be changed.
A particular feature of the Bill is the proposal of criminal bankruptcy, which again arises from a recommendation of Lord Widgery's Committee and in turn owes a great deal to an earlier suggestion of the Law Society. This is in the nature of an experiment. It is designed to ensure that criminals who commit large-scale crimes, especially fraud, should not be able to benefit from the fruits of their criminal activity. This provision will not be easy to enforce. It will involve a good deal of effort, particularly by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and possibly more staff. That is why we think it right, at any rate in the first instance, to limit it to substantial frauds. The figure that we have suggested is £15,000. The purpose of the proposal is that the court should be able to make a criminal bankruptcy order, as a result of which the Official Petitioner, who will in practice be the Director of Public Prosecutions, will then be able to proceed in the normal way of bankruptcy proceedings by presenting a petition and ensuring that compensation through the bankruptcy is paid to the victims of the crime, who will be named in the criminal bankruptcy order.
971 This is very much in the nature of an experiment, but one which has very good antecedents and arguments for it. If it is successful, as I hope and believe it will be, it will provide for many people a feeling of a new measure of justice. There is still a good deal of suspicion, some of it justified, that people can get away with things by spending a short time in prison and afterwards retire to live gracefully on the proceeds of their crime. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that that will not happen in future.
My next two points are fairly small but valuable. I want to deal first with the provision for the forfeiture of property used in the commission of a crime—for example, radio sets, printing apparatus and the like—and, second, with Clause 23, which gives the higher courts power to disqualify from driving an offender who has used a vehicle in the commission of a crime. These are not major matters, but they are useful additions to the powers available to the courts.
On this theme of the powers of the courts, I would refer to suspended sentences. There is a general feeling that the present provision is not in practice working as intended. Rather than having fewer people in prison, it has often meant the courts awarding suspended gaol sentences when otherwise they would have imposed fines or probation. This arises from the mandatory nature of the provision. It is surely wrong that courts should be faced with a situation where, although they think a short term of imprisonment is appropriate they cannot impose it and either have to pass an inappropriate sentence or to pass a longer sentence, as sometimes happens.
We shall, therefore, withdraw the mandatory provision of suspended sentences. This does not mean that we are withdrawing from the general principle involved; we are just changing the practice. We shall make it clear that we are following the principles of the First Offenders Act, that with anyone who is a first offender, in the sense that he has not had a previous sentence of imprisonment, the court will be required to obtain information, usually a probation report, about him, and the magistrates' court which decides on prison, if it does, will have to state why this is being done.
972 We are anxious to make it clear that prison should be regarded as a penalty of last resort in this type of case. At the same time, it would not be right to withdraw from the courts, as has been done in recent years, the ability to award a short-term sentence without mandatory suspension, which I do not believe has worked as it was thought it would. Therefore, we intend to give the courts more flexibility to enable them to award more appropriate penalties. After the initial impact of the change, this will mean some reduction in the prison population.
These are the general measures that we have in mind to increase the powers of the courts and to make their powers more flexible, thus enabling them to deal with offences on a basis which would appeal to modern society.
I come now to another series of proposals designed as an alternative to imprisonment. The second half of my outlook on this is that those who need not be sent to prison, those who are not guilty of violent crimes, should be punished in other ways in the interests of relieving the strain on the prison service and in the interests of the community. We propose a number of new ideas, some of them experimental, which will, I hope, be fruitful in the long run.
The first is community service. I was attracted from the start to the idea that people who have committed minor offences would be better occupied doing a service to their fellow citizens than sitting alongside others in a crowded gaol. This principle was recommended by Lady Wootton and her sub-committee of the Advisory Council. We have considered, with probation service local committees and voluntary bodies, how this can be done. The proposals that we have put forward are of a practical character. The courts will have the ability to sentence people, as an alternative to prison sentences, to 240 hours of community service work. This will, of course, have to be a voluntary choice of the individual concerned for a number of reasons; after all, if it is not done voluntarily the work will not be good. The alternative will be to go to gaol, which means that it will not be entirely voluntary.
We have in mind two sorts of community service. We are thinking, first, 973 of practical work that does not involve a relationship with other people—decorating houses for deprived families, constructing playgrounds, or working in hospital gardens. Secondly, we envisage work for individuals, such as helping elderly or handicapped people in the house or garden. Obviously, those selected for this kind of work will have to be chosen with great care. It will not be for the court to decide the sort of work to be done in individual cases. The probation service and voluntary organisations will satisfy themselves that adequate opportunities are available in the area, and will inform the courts of these opportunities, and the courts will be able to decide whether people should be sentenced to this form of service.
Objections are sometimes raised to the idea of voluntary workers and sentenced individuals working side by side. This is not of great substance; the trade union movement has not objected in any way because it, too, recognises the need to bring about a reduction in the prison population. We have consulted voluntary societies, and do not believe difficulties will arise.
This is a wholly novel concept in this country. It has been tried experimentally in other countries, but it is new to us. I have high hopes for it. As I said at the beginning, I like the idea of sentenced persons doing something useful for their fellow citizens rather than mouldering inside a prison. In fact, such voluntary activity might well lead to their continuing to do it in the future of their own free will.
The next experiment is that of probation hostels and bail hostels. A grit deal of work has been done in this area by voluntary organisations in providing hostels for people on probation—an excellent way of keeping them out of prison. The Salvation Army has provided a new, experimental bail hostel. These hostels are for those who would otherwise have been remanded in custody because they have no fixed address.
These are valuable new initiatives. Up to now they have been on a voluntary basis because the Government have not had powers to finance activities of this kind. We are now taking such powers, and this development should grow into something of considerable value.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Before he leaves the question of hostels, which I support, does he include in Clause 38 the possibility for hostels to be set up to receive persons on discharge from prison? There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between prison life and life outside.
§ Mr. Maudling
That is provided for already. I agree that it is very important.
Another point to which I would refer briefly is day training centres, an experiment designed to deal with people who are persistent offenders because they cannot cope with the complexities of present-day life. Instead of being shut up in prison, they will have treatment at a day training centre which will in one way or another help them cope with the problems which they will have to face.
There is a further proposal designed to deal with habitual drunken offenders. Such offenders would undergo treatment at so-called "drying-out" centres—as an hon. Member described them. We do not want people who are habitual drunkards locked up in gaol. They must be taken to an establishment where they can obtain treatment. Clause 26 authorises the police, instead of arresting and charging such persons, to take them to centres where the treatment will be voluntary. This will be a better way of dealing with the problem than by merely putting people in the "lock up" for a few days.
Another new idea is the deferred sentence, which can be of very great use to the courts. The idea behind this is that a person may be found guilty and should be sentenced but it may be that his circumstances will change in the relatively near future. He may be hoping to get a steady job, he may be about to get married, he may offer to do something to make good the damage he has done to his victim. There are many ways in which a man who has been found guilty could change his circumstances or have his circumstances changed a fairly short time afterwards.
I am therefore proposing to give the courts the power to say to a man, "All right, you are guilty, but we will not sentence you now; we will see what happens in six months. Come back then, and we will decide your sentence on the 975 basis of what has happened in the meantime."
There is a proposal about the parole system which devolves on local review committees responsibility for recommending release in the simpler cases. This is right because of the growth of the parole system. I know that there is a certain amount of criticism of parole, but it is misguided. Of over 7,000 prisoners who have been released on parole, only about 6 per cent. have been recalled to prison, and only half of those have committed fresh offences. There are about 1,600 men and women currently on parole who would otherwise be in prison. Of course, mistakes have been made from time to time. Recently we had to tighten things up. But the general principle of parole has proved itself, and I would like to pay a very real tribute to Lord Hunt and all the others on the Parole Board and the local committees for the painstaking and conscientious work they perform.
Clause 28 deals with a gap in appeal procedures. Where an accused person has been acquitted and a point of law has arisen, it cannot be taken to appeal because the accused has been acquitted. We are now making it possible for a point of law of this kind to be put to the Court of Appeal so that the law may be clarified although, clearly, the individual who has been acquitted will not be affected in any way.
Those are the main proposals. I want to say one thing about the probation service. As the House will have noticed, a very large proportion of these new ideas depend upon the work of the service. We have made it quite clear that we intend to expand the service. The figures we have in mind are an expansion from 3,400 whole-time officers at the end of 1970 to 4,700 by the end of 1975. Training arrangements are being expanded rapidly, and the number of officers whose training is due to be completed in the course of next year is about 450 compared with 350 this year, a very big increase indeed. Plans are in hand to provide 550 training places by the autumn of 1972.
There has been, as hon. Members on both sides have made clear to me, some controversy about the pay of probation officers. We reached an agreement, part 976 of which was that an inquiry should be held into the relative pay appropriate to the probation service and other forms of social service. We undertook to set up this inquiry, which was very necessary, and I am glad to say that Mr. Butterworth, the Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, has now agreed to undertake it. I am sure that he will do so with the co-operation and good will of all concerned. From my point of view, the sooner it is possible to thrash out these relativities the better.
The Government are wholly committed to an expansion of the probation service on the scale that I have mentioned, and all our plans for many of these new ideas depend upon the availability of the devoted and skilled work of the probation service.
To recapitulate the main proposals in the Bill, the Government believe that there is a real problem, as the country recognises, in the expansion of crime, particularly violent crime. We therefore propose introducing new measures based on two principles. The first is that those who commit crimes of violence should be punished severely, and the second is that those whose offences do not include violence should, so far as possible, be punished by means other than imprisonment. I believe that this is a clear and rational distinction.
This Bill, based on the work of many devoted people over a long period, will make a real contribution to the health of our society.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Question is, That the Bill be read a Second time. As many as are of that opinion—Mr. Callaghan.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
You are right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you assume that there is unlikely to be a Division at the end of the debate, but it would really be trespassing a little too far to assume that there will not even be any discussion!
Any new Bill on criminal justice is an important occasion, and I congratulate the Home Secretary on having the opportunity to introduce this Bill. This is especially so when we consider it against the period of great strain in prison policy and administration, and the fact that, as he has said, we are in an 977 era of rapidly rising crime, including—and especially—crimes of violence. One reacts upon the other. There is this increase in crime, including crimes of violence, and then the strain on the prison service grows.
There are now 40,000 offenders in prison, which is a very high number, higher than it has been for many years. More of them remain in prison for longer periods than they used to. This, too, is an important factor in considering our policy. If hon. Members have studied the pattern of sentences set out in a much-neglected but excellently-written White Paper, published during my era and called "People in Prison"—I regret to say that it fell with a dull thud on the populace, but it still contains a lot of useful material—they will have seen the tremendous change in the length of time for which people remain in prison and how many of them stayed in prison during the last 30 or 40 years and even more striking, over the last 60 years.
I have got out the figures which show that, between 1938 and 1968, in every category where man is imprisoned for a period longer than six months, there has been a great increase in the number serving that longer period. For example, for between six and 12 months' imprisonment in 1938 the figure was 1,881; now it is 5,858. In the year before the war there were only 581 men serving sentences between 18 months and three years; now the figure is 4,059. If we take three to five years, a long sentence which must affect morale, the temper, tone and attitude of the prison and the prison service, there were 158 people serving such sentences in 1938, which is about one per prison if they were to be spread round the country. Now there are 1,086—seven times as many. This is a very important matter in our attitude towards the problem of criminal justice and what happens after a man has been convicted.
It is one of our difficulties that this change in the much greater number of people serving long sentences has come at a time when there is considerable doubt about the value of prison as a deterrent, its use as a method of reform or rehabilitation or even as a punishment. I am inclined to agree with the Home Secretary and what he had to say about the value of prison as a punishment. He had something very important to say, if it works 978 out in the way he hopes and if I understood him aright, in saying that those who committed and were convicted of crimes of violence should go to prison and others should serve something other than prison sentences. That would be a most remarkable transformation if it took place—it would be a revolution. I thought he said that. I think it will be a long time before we get to that position.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should have known that a saving clause would have gone in somewhere even if I missed it at the time. Because of overcrowding in our prisons, because there are now 40,000 men there, 14,000 of them are sleeping two or three to a cell. This, too, is militating against some of the reforms that the Home Secretary wishes to introduce.
The Home Secretary inherited the biggest prison building programme in our lifetime and he is carrying it on, but we are warned that unless we are careful, an even bigger increase in the prison population will come about. This was foreseen a few years ago, and in his last report the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police seemed to be calling for more severe sentences to counteract the current wave of robbery and assault. He said that although people could still walk down our streets safely, nevertheless he felt—and I feel—that we faced a serious situation.
I have never thought that there was some magic formula which would solve the problem overnight, and I do not think so now. I held that view before the election, when it was not entirely shared by others. No more does the Bill hold the view that there is some magic formula. "Step by step" is its mood. It is a modest Bill and it has much to be modest about.
Nevertheless, it is a rather puzzling Bill, because, despite its unassuming nature—and it will certainly not do any harm and many of its proposals will do some good—as the Home Secretary was good enough to acknowledge, these proposals derive from the work of two committees, basically from the Advisory Council on the Penal System under the chairmanship of Mr. Kenneth Younger, which set up two sub-committees, one with Lord Justice Widgery as its chairman and the 979 other with Lady Wootton as chairman. Both were assisted by able, devoted and public-spirited as well as expert people, including the present Under-Secretary at the Home Office, who gave their time freely. The House offers its thanks to those who volunteered their services.
Although we customarily and formally pay this tribute, until one has been a Minister and has seen the amount of work and time which people give to services of this kind, freely and without acknowledgement, only the chairman having his name attached to the work, one does not appreciate the number of meetings which have to be attended and the number of hours which are spent studying papers. The country is lucky to have a pool of people who give their services in this way, and we are glad to thank them for it. They must be gratified and perhaps a little surprised to see their proposals translated into a Bill only 18 months after they reported. In some ways, that is a little unusual.
In addition to the structure of the Bill, which is based on what I might call Widgery-Wootton—they are the authors of the main part of the Bill—there are some miscellaneous Clauses which are unrelated to any central theme. They are of a type which is well known to Ministers and ex-Ministers, that is to say, they are mainly an accumulation of proposals which have piled up in Departmental cupboards awaiting the legislative opportunity to take them up, to blow the dust off them and to incorporate them as the fag end of a Bill devoted mainly to other interests. This is done with every Bill which comes before the House from a Department.
But I am puzzled because this time the fag end seems to be a substantial part of the Bill, almost as though Ministers have been raking round for something to say. In Part I, Clauses 21 to 23, the issues are different. They deal with compensation orders, restitution orders, suspended sentences, community service orders and probation orders. They will undoubtedly help in the process that the Home Secretary has in mind.
But I want to take the House back a little, and it is worth spending two or three minutes doing so, because this is hardly the stuff to make the blood run and the pulses surge. The puzzle is to 980 find in the Bill the imprint of the new Conservative Administration. I can see the impact of Mr. Kenneth Younger and detect the influence of Lord Widgery and I can see what Lady Wootton had to say about it and I can find a dash of Wiler, with his report on habitual drunken offenders, but I cannot see any trace of the Conservative Party, apart from one cosmetic proposal. I suppose that a rather naïve bystander might say that that was a good thing.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that many of the proposals which are implemented by the Bill were first made by a committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not know anything of the sort. What I know is that the basic part of the Bill comes from the two White Papers which I have mentioned, which are the result of committees established in November, 1966, under a Labour Government by the then Home Secretary. Those committees laboured for two or three years and then produced their reports, and it is these reports which form the structure of the Bill. That is what I know.
As I was saying, it is probably a good thing that criminal justice legislation should not become the creature of the Conservative Party or even of Conservative lawyers, especially when we consider the hash that the Government are making of the rest of their policies. But it is not what we were promised. For example, there was Lord Hailsham. What he said in one of those scathing attacks—and it was said that he was one of the few men who had the capacity to raise this issue to a new high level, well above party of course—was that what was necessary was a fundamental reappraisal of our penal system. He said that a significant cause of lawlessness was our failure to legislate coherently on criminal law. Where in the Bill is the coherent legislation on criminal law which we were expecting and which we were promised 18 months ago?
We understood that the present Attorney-General had among other tasks the appointed task of framing legislation against trespass by demonstrators: should it be made—indeed, the suggestion was that it should be made—a criminal 981 offence? We were told that the Conservatives would propose new laws dealing with the problems of conspiracy by demonstrators who used violence after entering into a demonstration. The present Prime Minister, in a little more detail, said that the law was confused and out of date and that new legislation would be brought in to clarify it, especially on forcible entry, obstruction and violent offences.
We were assured—and this was the whole heart and philosophy of it, not the milk and water stuff that we have heard this afternoon—that the Conservative Party on the subject of lawlessness would challenge much post-war conventional wisdom. It was to be the voice of the Old Testament instead of the voice of Freud. In colourful language, the Conservatives said:This issue is a plank out of the heart of Tory oak.In a less elevated mood, after the Selsdon conference, it was said:Conservative campaign strategists have been deeply impressed by the electoral benefits of Richard Nixon's law and order campaign for the American presidency in 1968.That was a little nearer the electoral knuckle, although the writer had to admit that despite the electoral benefits in terms of votes, crime had increased in the United States after Mr. Nixon's election, just as it has in this country after the election of this hearts-of-oak Government. We had the pre-election shouting and the attempt to capitalise on the current deep public concern which should not be mocked, attempts by Conservative propagandists to secure a harvest of votes. That was the intention.
Now the election is over and here is a Bill which owes practically nothing, if anything, to Conservative Party thinking in five years, but practically everything to the Advisory Council on the Penal System. I do not want to embarrass the Home Secretary, but I suppose that we ought to congratulate him on not believing his own party's pre-election propaganda and on producing a largely sensible Bill. But when I reflect on the attacks on the Labour Government and how this was made a party political issue before the election, and how attempts were made by a number of Conservative speakers, including those who are now leading Conservative Ministers, I say that, although there is joy in heaven over one sinner 982 who repenteth, this is a squalid example of how to try to get votes by preying on the public's fears, but failing to carry promises into legislative practice.
§ Mr. Norman Fowler (Nottingham, South)
The right hon. Gentleman will notice one significant difference between Conservative policy and Labour policy, and that is that police recruiting is totally unrestricted, which compares markedly with the two years when the right hon. Gentleman was Home Secretary and there were severe restrictions on it.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is true, and I shall come to the question of resources later. However, I should be very interested to hear how police recruiting has gone in the last 18 months, although it is probably too short a period in which to judge. This is the kind of argument which was used well before the election, and if it is to be put on this basis I point out that more police were recruited during 1964 to 1970 than in any previous comparable period. It is the sort of approach which the hon. Gentleman has repeated which is in sharp contrast with the honeyed and mellifluous tones in which the Home Secretary introduced this modest Bill with which no one can quarrel.
§ Mr. Maudling
It is fair to point out that the rate of expansion of the police force is very much higher than the rate left behind by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Although I do not have the figures, I am assured that that is not true. I suggest that the Under-Secretary of State produces the figures—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I suggest that the hon. and learned Gentleman does it when he winds up. He will find that the record for recruitment to the police service happened during the lifetime of the Labour Government when there was an increase in the force of well over 4,000. There has never been such an increase since.
We see how quickly the Tory reverts to type. The Bill bears no relation to anything that the Conservatives said in opposition. To be fair, the Under-Secretary of State did not say it—he was a member of the Wootton Committee—but 983 his leader, the Lord Chancellor, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General said it in an endeavour to see if they could get a cheap harvest of votes from it.
There is nothing in the Bill with which anybody can quarrel. There will be no Division on it. If I had been at the Home Office, I should probably have introduced something very like it myself. It is unlikely to cause divisions on a party basis, despite the great propaganda campaign, although I suppose that there will be scope for differences of opinion in Committee, probably across the Floor, so to speak, as between members of parties. The Bill has aroused no excitement, very little interest and hardly any comment. I make it clear that I welcome many of its provisions. They can be of value in the punishment and treatment of the offender.
Clauses 14 to 18 dealing with community service are as potentially valuable as anything in the Bill. Certainly I would have wanted to introduce something like them, however unrelated they are to what Conservatives were saying before the election. They propose a new type of non-custodial penalty. It is a very ambitious and worthy idea that those who have done damage to the community should expiate their offence by giving some part-time service to the community. As the Widgery Report said when referring to financial reparation,the simple principle of redress was once the very cornerstone of English criminal law.I see every reason why we should go back to it in this instance.
But the same principle can be used in respect of service to the community. Such service can, as the Home Secretary said, take the form of constructional enterprises for the benefit of the community as a whole without regard to individual reparation—such as cleaning beaches, restoring canals and helping in hospital kitchens—or of acts of personal service to individuals—for example, decorating the homes of elderly people. I agree that there is a very strong case for this sort of provision and I hope that it will be implemented. However, I hope that the people concerned will not just be involved in what might be regarded as menial tasks. One of the most important aspects will be, not just the task offenders are engaged in and not 984 even the social value, but the contact it will enable them to have with people who are not offenders. This is especially true of the young offender who has not become hardened in crime; it can help to link him with the community as a whole.
I accept the general conclusion of the Wootton Report, namely, that it is necessary to link projects with voluntary organisations, that offenders and non-offenders should work together and that offenders should be overseen by the probation and aftercare service. This new type of penalty cannot be a soft option. It will be a great misfortune if such a worthy idea as this is launched in a half-baked way, and that is why the proposal for an experiment is sensible. But I do not know, and the Home Secretary did not tell us, the way in which this work will be co-ordinated. We may well need a special agency to bring together the work of the voluntary organisations, to ensure the proper oversight of the work done by the offender, to ensure that there is a proper flow of work projects, and to see by close links with the local trade union branches, that the interests of paid labour are not prejudiced.
All those things will be important, and I am not sure that the probation service can carry out the kind of co-ordinating and supervising work which is necessary, although we should by all means use it and, through it, the voluntary organisations. It would be a tragedy if the scheme were to fail as it is one of the exciting new and imaginative ventures to emerge from the Wootton Report. It would be very unfortunate if there were a spate of Press publicity in two or three years saying, "These people are not doing their job. They are wasting time. They have not been employed on worthwhile projects." If this scheme is to be an alternative to prison—and it would be wonderful if it were successful—I ask the Home Secretary to take close oversight of it and to concern himself personally with the nature of the organisation set up to run it. It will be as important as the prison service in some ways.
I am dubious about the provision to the effect that 50 per cent. of the costs of the scheme will be borne by local authorities. In a scheme of this sort, which clearly will save the State a lot of money, it is asking too much to expect local 985 authorities to bear 50 per cent. of the cost, especially if they are dealing with people who are not local residents. I should have thought that 75 per cent. was the sort of figure that we should offer in a case like this. I would not boggle at the thought of the State carying almost the whole of the cost. I hope that the Home Secretary will look at this matter again.
The Home Secretary is right to propose an entirely new form of order as opposed to the proposal in the Wootton Report for giving magistrates the dual opportunity of either imposing a new order or extending an existing order. I agree with the Bill and I am against what is said in the Wootton Report. As this is a new system and it concerns an important matter, it should be treated as such.
I am glad that the Home Secretary had something to say about the probation service. I yield to no one in my admiration of it. However, I should like to feel that it is as closely integrated as possible with the rest of the services dealing with the treatment of offenders. At a time when the prison service is slowly lifting itself out of the rôle of simply locking people up and then unlocking the doors and adopting a new attitude, it would be a great misfortune if it were to feel that a new and imaginative task was to be given to the probation service and it was to be responsible for carrying out the other and less rewarding tasks. It would create a division between the two.
I recognise the reasons which led the Wootton Committee to turn down the idea of the prison service handling this, but I should like to see us develop over a period of years a situation in which the prison service and probation service grow closer together. I know that this suggestion may cause some controversy—but then, why not? I should like to see the two services grow closer together instead of being further and further apart. They have been moving in that direction; some members of the probation service have been working inside prisons. I welcome that. Anything which could bring the two services closer together so that the treatment of an offender is regarded as one from the moment of conviction to the moment of his finishing with the law in any capacity would, I believe, be 986 of benefit both to the services and to the offender.
The probation service, if it is to have these tasks thrown on it, must be treated with generosity, and I was glad to hear what the Home Secretary said. The whole essence of the Bill in practice will mean allocation of sufficient resources to enable the job to be done.
We welcome the fact that the Bill gives some recognition to the victim of crime. That is in the proposals for compensation in Clauses 1 to 9. This principle that the victim of crime is recognised will be widely accepted. The Howard League for Penal Reform and N.A.C.R.O., the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, say:It is simple justice that offenders should not benefit from the proceedings of their crimes.My doubts are not about the principle but the practicability of it. I shall not trouble the House with it now, but this will be developed in Committee. As regards the provisions for bankruptcy orders, this will be largely window dressing, I am afraid. I doubt very much whether there will be much in this matter of criminal bankruptcy, or that it will have more than a cosmetic effect.
On the question of the firearms provisions, I have a feeling that this is what I would call a cosmetic provision, that the maximum sentence for the use of firearms is increased. During the lifetime of the Labour Government the maximum was increased for certain offences to 14 years. I should be interested to know whether the Under-Secretary could tell us how many sentences of 14 years have been passed since that provision was introduced. I think there have been very few. I doubt whether the proposal to change 14 years' imprisonment to a life sentence will make very much difference, and, frankly, this is what I would call a cosmetic proposal rather than one which will be of real significance in the fight we are conducting in this matter.
As regards suspended sentence, dissatisfaction with that has been growing. I think the Bill is moving in the right direction. I was interested in the figures in page 5 of the Wootton Report, which points out that after the introduction of suspended sentences the number of people who were given fines dropped 987 rapidly. In other words, in 1967 those fines amounted to 21 per cent. of the whole of those convicted of indictable offences; in 1968 they were 13 per cent.; and in 1969, 13 per cent. A reasonable deduction from this, though no one can prove it, is that the courts have used the suspended sentence not only to scale down prison sentences but also to scale up fines, as it were, and, as it were, have said, "If it is a choice of imposing a fine or a suspended sentence we will impose a suspended sentence." They have upgraded the penalty, in my view, against the intentions of Parliament, because that was not the intention when the suspended sentence was introduced. Though nobody can prove this, it seems likely from this drastic fall in the number of fines imposed. I agree entirely that in the future this should be optional instead of obligatory. We shall have to watch and see the result. In 1967 nobody could foretell what was likely to arise. Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman? We must give him full credit if that is the case.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that a number of my hon. Friends and I pointed out this likelihood at the time when that Bill was going through.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am very glad to be able to pay tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, then. It is a very good thing when one can say "I told you so", provided one can say it in the nice way that he has said it.
We shall have to watch to see the result of this, but I hope that the suspended sentence will be used with discretion. I certainly hope that there will not be a drop in its use. Coupled with supervision orders it would have some effect.
There is a number of Committee points which we shall want to raise. For instance, I am not at all sure about this driving disqualification in Clause 23. It is an arguable one, and I think some of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite also will want an opportunity to discuss that.
On Clause 10, I am not at all sure what effect we shall get when the courts are free to pass sentences of less than six months.
988 On Clause 38 we shall want to discuss the question of bail hostels. This is a welcome provision, to provide for bail hostels along with day training centres. There has been growing dissatisfaction with the present system of bail. I have not time to discuss it this afternoon, except to say that when the Home Secretary says that in his view the fundamental principle is that the process of trial should be efficient I would add to that "and speedy". I believe it is the lack of speed in dealing with a number of cases which has resulted in some of the disquiet which now exists about the bail provisions. I myself would much prefer that justice should be speedy rather than that there should be people out on bail for very long periods, though I think there is a case for saying that the provision of the bail hostels under the Bill will do a great deal to help. The Cobden Trust Report was very valuable on this matter.
The Bill, perhaps naturally, has nothing to say about the fundamental causes of crime and the treatment of the hardened prisoner. The Home Secretary told us what his philosophy was about it, and here I must say that I think the Conservative Party has let us down on this in view of all the speeches made by Lord Hailsham about the fundamental causes of crime and all the rest of it, because there is absolutely no new thinking in this Bill to carry us forward, despite all the promises and undertakings which we were given about the purpose of imprisonment and everything else.
What we do know, and it is on this that the House and others outside must concentrate, is that 50 per cent. of men sentenced at the present time for 18 months or longer—half of them—are re-convicted within two years of their release. If we take the young men released from borstal who had previous experience of juvenile institutions, the percentage of them reconvicted within a period of three years is 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. Of what value is borstal and prison? What valuable purpose is it serving? Is it, perhaps, a deterrent? Apparently not. Has rehabilitation value? The figures do not seem to bear that out. Has restitution? Obviously not. These are fundamental questions which concern me. I do not pretend to know 989 the answers, but it is to these more than to anything else that we should be directing our minds now.
I know that research is going on. Perhaps it is a long, painful process. We have an identikit picture of the average criminal in this country. He is male; he is young—probably under 20; he has been in trouble since he was a child; he lives in a large city; he has a poor education; he comes from a broken home. The Home Secretary told us that the absence of family discipline and perhaps the effects of war are responsible for aggressive instincts breaking out. We do know that many of these people have no decent environment, that they have no places to play in, that they need decent education, and that there is a need for ensuring that the centres of our cities, which are spawning grounds of crime, are torn out and rebuilt. These things are important, and whatever we know or do not know about the causes of crime we are all aware of where they can be found. The picture I have given is a statistical one which can be made up by selecting any group of statistics.
It is an open question that the sentence of the court has less impact on the future behaviour of a criminal than his own past record. Despite the fact that a large Royal Commission foundered, I hanker after an inquiry into the purposes and the rôle of imprisonment and the extent to which it can be integrated elsewhere. The Royal Commission foundered because people could not agree on these basic questions. Perhaps we should make another start some time. I know that research is going on, and it may be that the research should be carried a little further before we ask these questions at large.
If this modest Bill is to succeed, more resources and more manpower must be devoted to it. It will be money well spent; of that I am sure. Indeed, it may be offset against prison expenditure. At a time when we read that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is saying to the nationalised industries, "Spend, spend", perhaps he could turn his attention to the Home Secretary and say to him, "Spend, spend". Perhaps we could then get on with these schemes and get more institutions built and modernised.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
A very small number of us must have a nostalgic feeling of having been here before. This is the fourth Criminal Justice Bill since the war. Like its predecessors in 1948, 1961 and 1967, it deals mainly with penal reform, and will, we hope, be considered in a bipartisan way, in spite of the efforts of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) to stir up a bit of party feeling about the zeal displayed by us—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not think I was really trying. If I had been, I should have been a lot worse than that.
§ Sir D. Renton
The right hon. Gentleman's speech would have been more constructive if he had made no attempt at all in that respect.
The other thing which the Bill has in common with its predecessors is that it is experimental. It was hoped that all three of the previous Acts would reduce crime, reduce the prison population and lead to the reform and rehabilitation of offenders but, unhappily, those hopes have not been fulfilled. Since 1948, crime has more than doubled and so has the prison population.
In considering whether this Bill will succeed where its predecessors failed, we need to discover what has gone wrong under the present law. As the only Member of the House now who served on the Standing Committees on all the three previous Bills and piloted one of them through Standing Committee, I must accept my share of responsibility for what went wrong.
The Widgery and Wootton Reports have made great contributions to the subject in the limited aspects with which they deal, but if the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East was really trying to draw attention to the thinking that had gone on before the Bill was published, he might have referred to the report of the committee presided over by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner), which I think is the best recent analysis of the problem as a whole.
What will distinguish the discussion on this Bill from previous discussions is doubt about the value of prison as such. 991 Because of the lack of alternatives, we have necessarily had to rely on prison to a tremendous extent, but the clear intention stated by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary today is that we should try somehow to get away from such great reliance upon it. The report of the Committee of the Society of Lawyers, over which my hon. and learned Friend presided, on page 7 says this:It seems that at present many men and women are being sent to prison unnecessarily.One of Her Majesty's Queen Bench judges, however, went much further than that on 13th September, when Mr. Justice Lawton said:Loss of liberty is an inappropriate, useless and expensive sanction for approximately three-quarters of those who now find themselves in custody.I doubt whether any hon. Member will go so far as to say that three-quarters of those in custody should not be there. I should think it is perhaps more like one-third, but I am sure that Mr. Justice Lawton is right in condemning the excessive use of custodial treatment.
As to deterrence, prison certainly does not seem to deter people from crime these days, if it ever did. Most of them regard prison as a risk worth taking in the hope of the reward they will get from their crime. That is all that deterrence can be said to amount to.
As has been said both by the Home Secretary and by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, the prisons are so overcrowded that reform and rehabilitation on a large enough scale are impossible.
What then should be done? I agree with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that we can distinguish crimes of serious violence from the general run of crime against property. There must be stiff prison sentences for crimes of serious violence plus compensation for the victims, and I naturally welcome Clause 1 of the Bill. As to other crimes, there is no doubt that prison has been overdone, and the fault lies partly in the interpretation which the courts, perhaps with good reason, have placed upon the existing laws.
As to criminal offences other than violence, we must make a clear distinction between three types of offender, especially if they are still young and by 992 "young" I mean under 25. In the first category are the serious criminals who have chosen that way of life or have become so caught up in crime that they cannot disentangle themselves from it. In the second category are young people who commit even quite serious offences, either out of a misguided sense of bravado or to relieve boredom, or for both those reasons, but who do not think of themselves as serious criminals, and it takes time before they enter that category. In the third category, which is very numerous in the run of cases which come to quarter sessions at present but which will become before the Crown Courts in future, are the young people who are psychologically disturbed, perhaps only temporarily, the "mixed-up" products of broken homes and problem families, children who have been either rejected or, paradoxically, over-indulged by their parents.
In the second and third of those categories are a high proportion of all young offenders. There is a danger of their graduating through detention and borstal to prison and thus becoming permanent additions to our criminal population and thus entering the first category of those who get hooked on crime. We must bear in mind the limitations of borstal, because the borstal success rate is now down to only 30 per cent.—and that was not the fault of the Tory Government. This means that it is vital to deal with these young criminals by probation and in other ways which the Bill envisages.
My right hon. Friend has emphasised that community centres and day training centres are to be only experimental. But this experiment must succeed; it must pass from experiment to establishment as soon as possible. I hope that there will not be too gingerly an approach to this experiment, and I hope that it will develop.
I should like now to consider the situation of the first category offenders, those who are rightly described as serious criminals. We must not regard them as being beyond redemption. Many started on crime when they were very young, perhaps having come from families with criminal records and having grown up thinking that crime was a natural way of life. They may have gone to approved school by the age of 14 and afterwards spent most of their lives in penal institutions. In spite of their further offences 993 it is vital for the courts—and only the courts can do it—to try to get them "unhooked" from crime while they are still young enough for that to be possible. I believe the courts should adopt this course even if it means taking calculated risks by putting them on probation or giving suspended sentences.
Under the present law a further offence of any seriousness committed during probation normally means a custodial sentence when the offender is brought before the court again. I suggest this practice should be reconsidered. Let us take the example of a man of 22 with a bad record, having been in and out of custody since childhood. Then when placed on probation at 22, let us assume he goes straight and for the first time since he was 12 years of age commits no crime for a year. In the eyes of the probation officer, and to anybody else who thinks about the matter, that would be regarded as success and the beginning of a process of de-escalation. However, under the present law and practice when the man comes back to the court, in spite of that success, because he has committed a further offence he must be given a custodial sentence in nearly all cases. Therefore, any further success cannot be achieved and the last hope of his redemption is destroyed, even if the probation officer has recommended that probation should continue.
Similarly, when a further crime is committed during a suspended sentence, instead of merely applying the suspended sentence automatically and adding a sentence for the further offence, the court should have power and be encouraged to take a fresh stocktaking of the position which has arisen and should be empowered to take a reasonable chance. For this reason I greatly welcome Clause 13, which I regard as the most important Clause in the Bill. It says that the court shall not send anybody—even a person over the age of 21—to prison if there is any other suitable way of dealing with him and that this should apply even when there has been a suspended sentence.
There will always be people who complain that a court has dealt too softly with an offender in practising the art of redemption. Having once had my own house burgled, I understand such an attitude, but we must make up our minds and ask the public to make up its mind.
994 We can either practise the art of redemption with some hope of reducing the criminal population and thereby eventually reducing crime, or we can treat them "tough and rough" with the certainly of adding to the prison population and intensifying the crime rate. I shall never forget the words of Mr. Chuter Ede in 1948, when he said that we must make the punishment fit not only the crime but the offender. That is the vital test. I hope, however, the victims of crime will feel better about the art of redemption when they know about the improved power to order compensation which is contained in the early Clauses of the Bill.
I welcome the Bill mainly because it will reduce the number of offenders sent to prison and borstal and increase the prospects of their redemption. I hope that in Committee the ways in which the courts have interpreted their powers under the present law will be examined and rectified where necessary.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary asked us to welcome the Bill and there is much in the Bill which I, as a layman, am prepared to welcome. I am prepared to do so in the non-partisan spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman said we should consider the Bill.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) made certain remarks which the Home Secretary regarded as partisan, I believe he was merely referring to the partisan way in which the Conservative Party treated the subject before the last election. This subject should not be treated in such a way, and I shall be happy to see the Bill treated in Committee in a non-partisan spirit.
The great point made by my right hon. Friend the former Home Secretary was the need for much greater resources to be devoted to this area than are devoted to it at present.
My main reason for intervening this afternoon is to express some concern at the lack of any adequate evidential basis for some of the policy set out in the Bill. Some of the provisions are based on various reports, including the Widgery and Wootton Reports, but there are aspects of policy dealt with in the Bill 995 on which apparently there has been little evidence.
The Home Secretary said the Bill is often experimental, and there have been experiments in the past. However, we seem to know very little more today about these experiments than we did when they were originally initiated.
Let us take as an example suspended sentences. On what evidence have the Government acted and what is the reasoning behind the Bill's provisions on this subject? I am not criticising the Government for lack of evidence on this subject. Indeed, if there is to be any criticism on the ground of lack of evidence my own right hon. Friends must share in the criticism because it was they who initiated the experiment of suspended sentences.
The decision in 1967 to make a revolutionary change by introducing suspended sentences was widely welcomed. There was criticism of this experiment from certain hon. Members in this House, among them Sir John Hobson, and also from the National Association of Probation Officers which had many pertinent observations to make. I believe that too little has been done to assess the operation of this provision. No doubt there are many impressions about its operation but there is little by way of hard fact one can examine. The mandatory provision contained in Section 39(3) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1967, was highly controversial and was criticised at the time by the present Under-Secretary, but the then Home Secretary my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) stuck to his guns and introduced the mandatory provision. However, since that time little has been done other than to gather impressions to study the actual operation of this provision. Now under the Bill it is to be abolished. But we know little more about its actual operation than could have been forecast in 1967.
I should like to ask a few questions on which it would have been nice to have some guidance. I recently asked the Under-Secretary a Question about suspended sentences, and the Under-Secretary replied to say that they were a useful addition to the means of disposal currently available. But, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, 996 South-East pointed out, the suspended sentence has been used widely not in place of immediate imprisonment but in place of probation and fines.
In one of the answers that I was given on Thursday of last week, I was told that in only about two-fifths to three-fifths of cases in which suspended sentences were imposed had they been imposed in place of what before 1968 would have been sentences of immediate imprisonment. That suggests that in many cases suspended sentences have been used instead of probation or fines.
I hope that we shall be told what assessment the Home Office has made of the use of suspended sentences instead of probation or fines. I hope, too, that we shall be told whether it is a practice that the Home Office wishes to stop. If it is, does the Home Office think that the abolition of the mandatory provision will have that effect? My right hon. Friend appeared to believe that the abolition of the mandatory provision would have that effect. If the Government take the same view, I should like to know why.
I hope that we shall be told what studies are being made of the efficacy of suspended sentences as a means of disposal. The Home Secretary referred to the importance of deterrence. What estimate has the Home Office made of the deterrent effect of the suspended sentence as compared with other means of disposal? We all know the publication "The Sentence of the Court". In Tables 4 and 5 there is an attempt to assess the deterrent effect of various penalties in relation to each other. Is similar work being done in relation to the suspended sentence? In the Appendix to the 1970 Prison Report on research projects currently in being, there is no indication that any work on this is being done.
Still on this point about the efficacy or deterrent effect of suspended sentences, on Thursday of last week I asked what happens to people who are reconvicted and therefore become liable to the implementation of their suspended sentences? I was given various figures showing what has happened in that respect up to 31st December, 1970. It is interesting that the reconviction figures given do not include people whose further offences resulted in discharges or probation orders. I understand that this is because, technically, they are not convictions for the 997 purposes of this provision of the Criminal Justice Act, 1967. What is more, the figures do not include those whose further offences resulted in borstal, I understand because of the provisions of Section 39(8) of the 1967 Act.
I was told that figures for these categories were not available. Why are not they available? Are they believed to be negligible? What is the size of the group about which, apparently, the Home Office cannot tell us? Surely it is essential that figures of this sort should be available to provide evidence for judging the efficacy and deterrent effect of the suspended sentence.
I turn to another matter about which we know too little after three years of the existence of the suspended sentence. What assessment has been made of the effect of the suspended sentence on the size of the prison population and the duration of sentences of imprisonment served? Evidently we have a judgment on the size of the prison population. It is that there are various contradictory effects, or effects working in different directions, and, as a result, the size of the prison population today is much the same as it would have been if suspended sentences had not been introduced.
In an answer to me on Thursday of last week, the Under-Secretary made an interesting remark which is to be welcomed. He said:There is some reason to believe that, although the reconviction rate has not fallen, there has recently been some reduction in the proportion of cases in which suspended sentences are later enforced with a corresponding effect on the size of the prison population.That development is to be welcomed. In this respect, at any rate, apparently the Home Office has been able to make an estimate.
What about the duration of prison sentences served? Paragraph 11 of the Prison Report, 1970, says that suspended sentences affected… the average length of the effective sentence being served.In view of that, modestly, I asked the Home Secretary what that effect had been. The Under-Secretary replied:It is not possible to calculate the effect of suspended sentences on the duration of prison sentences served.We are not able to calculate it. We are not even able to estimate it. Neverthe- 998 less, the evidence suggests that suspended sentences have increased the duration of sentences served.
I come now to a few points about the mandatory provision which is now to be abolished because, it is said, it has not proved satisfactory. Once again, we know far too little about the operation of Section 39(3) of the 1967 Act. No doubt there are many impressions. However, there seems to be little hard fact. As the Under-Secretary said in an answer to me:The available statistical information does not separately identify offenders to whom any of these conditions apply or those cases where a court suspends a sentence of imprisonment only because of the requirements of the subsection."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1971; Vol. 826, c. 186–8.]In other words, we do not know in any measurable way what is the effect of this provision.
Certain questions arise from the abolition of the mandatory provision. In the view of the Home Office, what will be the effect on prison receptions of the repeal of the subsection? The Home Secretary has emphasised the importance of keeping down the prison population. But surely the initial effect of abolishing the mandatory provision must be an increase in receptions into prison. As far as one can see, it could be a very substantial increase.
The Home Secretary has said that in due course the abolition of the mandatory provision should reduce the prison population. Again, it is fair to ask on what sort of information the Home Office is working.
Instead of the mandatory provision, we are to have Clause 13 of the Bill. The First Offenders Act, 1958, did in respect of first offenders what Clause 13 does over a wider area. Despite the effect of that Act on the imprisonment of first offenders, the figures seem to show that the mandatory provision has caused a further reduction in the imprisonment of first offenders. Thus, as far as one can assess these things, there is a difference between the effectiveness of the exhortation contained in the First Offenders Act, 1958, and the mandatory provision of the Criminal Justice Act, 1967. Does the Home Office see anything wrong in this further reduction in the imprisonment of first offenders, and should not the mandatory provision be kept, if only for first 999 offenders? I should be glad to hear the views of the Home Office.
By this Bill, we shall be introducing community service orders. I welcome this proposal; indeed, I welcome all the aspects of the Bill which promote the treatment of offenders in the community. However, as the Wootton Committee recommended, I hope that there will be some examination made of how the provision actually operates, especially the extent to which it is used on people who would otherwise go to prison.
There is much in the Bill that I welcome. I hope that it will be dealt with in Committee on an entirely non-partisan basis. I hope, too, that we shall know a great deal more four years after the initiation of the Home Secretary's new experiments than we do today, four years after the initiation of suspended sentences in 1968.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye in this most important debate so that I may make my first contribution to the sea of words which ebb and flow in this famous and illustrious Chamber, but from which so much of history has taken her seed.
I must pay tribute to my predecessor at Macclesfield, Sir Arthur Vere Harvey, now Lord Harvey of Prestbury, who was a Member of this House for 26 years. Lord Harvey was respected and liked right across political barriers in both my constituency, which was his, and the House of Commons. I can say, without reservation, that I am proud to follow him as the representative for Macclesfield.
Why have I decided to make my first speech in the House on the Criminal Justice Bill? Because it is one of the major responsibilities of any Government to build up and maintain effective barriers of law and order within which the community can live, and live in freedom. It is not just a political commitment, but a moral commitment. However, in my opinion, where crime and punishment are concerned, for perhaps two decades successive Governments have allowed idealistic compassion to blind their eyes to reality. For whom do they show this compassion—the criminal or the victim?
1000 Too often I fear that it is the criminal about whom they are concerned. The victim must fend for himself or herself.
Prisons are gradually being converted into what can only be described as recreation centres. Prison warders are the victims of softness to prisoners. The last Socialist Government abolished the birch for violent attacks by prisoners on warders, leaving warders defenceless. When asked what punishment remained to deter them, the then Home Secretary gave the absurd answer, "Loss of liberty". Is it any wonder that prison officers complain that they are being used as guineapigs in a dangerous social experiment with nothing more effective than unproven theories for protection?
Is it any wonder that men and women throughout the country are growing more concerned about the increasing breakdown in law and order?
What are the facts? First, let us take crimes of violence in three different years: 1950, 1960 and 1970. In 1950 there was a total of 6,249 crimes of violence, representing 141.96 per million of the population. In 1960 this had more than doubled. There were 15,759 crimes of violence, representing 344.27 per million of the population. In 1970 the figure had more than doubled again. There were 41,088 crimes of violence, representing 838.74 per million of the population. My figures refer to indictable offences known to the police in England and Wales.
Let us be a little more specific and deal with robbery with violence. In 1950 there were 93,860 offences, representing 2,132.21 per million of the population. In 1960 there were 153,392 offences, representing 3,351 per million of the population. In 1970 there were 437,748 offences, representing 8,935.82 per million of the population.
That shows a tremendous rate of increase in crimes about which so many people are concerned. But let us come right up to date. In the first six months of 1971 the number of crimes of violence known to the police was 21,307, an increase of 13.4 per cent. over the first six months of 1970. The number of offences of robbery with violence was 237,982, an increase of only 3.1 per cent., I am glad to say, over the same period in 1970.
1001 Our "radical" legal legislators have had a blind preoccupation with punishing or treating criminals rather than preventing or deterring crimes out of which criminals are created and the resultant growing burden of incarceration and training which becomes more costly and sophisticated the more liberal our laws become.
We have allowed the purveyors of filth and pornography to degrade human dignity. Even when a courageous judge deals out just punishment to fit the offence, his good work is undone on appeal.
We have allowed trendy propagandists to teach us that notions of discipline and self-discipline are old-fashioned in the home, in school, and in personal relationships between man and woman. That has already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
We have allowed drugs to undermine the personal responsibility of too many of our young people, too often failing to appreciate the depth of the problem and failing to explain the full horrors of drugs.
We have allowed the very meaning of the word "freedom" to be perverted. In 1969 this House, on a free vote, abolished capital punishment some year or so before the five-year experimental period was complete, although—I say this with emphasis—a substantial majority of the people of this country wanted capital punishment retained. Perhaps many of those who voted for the abolition of the deterrent were those who complained most bitterly in this House in the recent Common Market debate that we could not take a decision to enter the Community when a majority of the British people opposed entry. That is an interesting comparison: one a political issue and the other a moral issue. Which is more important to this House?
I would support the reintroduction of the ultimate deterrent for three categories of murder: the murder of police officers, the murder of prison officers and murder resulting from armed robbery. The recent tragic deaths of a number of police officers has once again focussed public attention on the issue of capital punishment as a deterrent to violent crime.
I am aware that much propaganda has been made by the abolitionists of the 1002 figures supplied by the Home Office on the rate of murder in recent years. We are told, with some pride, that the rate has remained constant or even fallen a little. This particular myth, for that is what it is, has been perpetrated by the Home Office system of recording and adjusting the figures for murder, such adjustments not having been made in the past. Owing to the Homicide Act, 1957, many crimes, which in 1956 would have been murder, now fall to be entered as manslaughter, so the combined rate gives a truer indication of the rise.
According to Chief Inspector Colin Greenwood of the West Yorkshire Constabulary, the murder rate has at least doubled and the combined murder and manslaughter rate has quadrupled—facts which I believe are well hidden in official statistics. I ask this House to let the public have all the facts.
The Conservative Party has openly stated that the protection of the individual citizen is a prime duty of government and that urgent action is needed to check the serious rise in crime and violence. I am aware that already, in just 18 months in Government, the police and probation services have received large pay increases and have substantially increased their strength.
I am aware that the Courts Act has brought a major reform of the machinery of justice. I know that the law against vandalism has been strengthened—a long overdue reform—and that the powers of courts to order offenders to pay compensation to their victims have been improved by the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
I welcome the main provisions of this Criminal Justice Bill, which will increase the penalty for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, will change the present system of suspended sentences—which has been a bonanza of encouragement to petty offenders—will make the criminal compensate his victim to prove that crime does not pay, and further in thin direction, will, where appropriate, bankrupt criminals who would otherwise benefit from the proceeds of large-scale crime. There must be no more enforced holidays with remission, followed by an easy life on the proceeds of crime.
Proposals in the Bill will compel people guilty of certain crimes to give community service, and much has been said 1003 about that this afternoon. This is a particularly valuable proposal, as it will give offenders the opportunity of doing useful work. It will give them the self-respect of knowing that they have paid for their crimes and perhaps, also, it will breed a sense of social responsibility.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has on occasions—and he did so again this afternoon—expressed concern about the terrifying proportion of crimes committed by young people in their 'teens. As the chairman of a county youth service committee, having in the course of my responsibility met many young people, I suggest to my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Cabinet that they should consider bringing in a scheme to offer all young people leaving school, and before they seek employment or go on to college or university, a 12-to 18-month period of voluntary national service, in the social services, in the hospitals, in agriculture, in forestry, on environmental and amenity projects, in voluntary service overseas, or even in the Forces. Give young people the opportunity to serve, and they will accept the responsibility. With discipline, responsibility and a purpose in life we could see a great change in the crime rate among young people in Great Britain.
It is said that a country gets the laws it deserves. Once we are prepared to stop the rot in our society and stand up and defend the traditional and moral values vital to the health of our country, then we shall have a right to demand, as I feel we must, stiffer punishments for those crimes which our society can never tolerate. Although, in the words of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham,The atrocious crime of being a young man … I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny",I urge the House to take a sharper sword to crime.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) on so forcefully delivered a maiden speech. The hon. Gentleman suceeds a man who was respected on both sides of the House, and who was influential in the counsels of the Conservative Party. We have seen today that the traditional view of the Conser- 1004 vative Party is going to find forceful, forthright and courageous expression from the new hon. Member, and I am sure that everyone looks forward to hearing those views, even though not always agreeing with them. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if, on this occasion, I do not follow him down some of the more contentious avenues which he explored.
This is a Bill of lost opportunities. It is a Bill which contains interesting experiments, which I welcome, but, as has been said so well by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), we are faced with an exploding prison population, with a prison building programme which signally fails to keep up with that population trend, and with a growing feeling among members of the judiciary that, in relation to the inadequates with so many of whom they have to deal, prison serves no purpose other than to keep them away from the possibility of crime when they are inside prison. It does not seem to deter them from going back to the same sort of crime when they are released, and one wonders whether they are able to cope with the ordinary demands of life.
What does the Bill do in terms of reducing the prison population? One can argue that day training orders and community service orders will have an effect in effecting a reduction, but when one looks at some of the other measures a rather different picture emerges.
First, there is the restoration of the short sentence, so we are once again to have many people in prison serving sentences of up to six months. Second—and this is a good provision—the Bill says that supervision orders should be linked to suspended sentences. That is very good for those who were going to get suspended sentences anyway. But there will be a great temptation for judges, in cases where previously they would have given probation, to impose a suspended sentence, because they will be able to impose it in conjunction with a supervision order which will be administered by the probation service. Although where probation is appropriate it can be said that judges should only order probation, in fact they will use the double deterrent of a suspended sentence with a probation supervision order, which will 1005 mean that more people than ever will be given suspended sentences. As inadequates fail to respond to the threat gesture which constitutes a suspended sentence, more of them will return to the courts and the suspended sentences will be brought into effect.
When one talks about the failure of suspended sentences, one is talking about the failure of the judiciary. Suspended sentences have been criticised because, in order to deter the repetition of an offence, judges have imposed a higher sentence than they would have imposed had they been ordering a sentence to take effect immediately. They have done so to prevent the person concerned from committing another offence.
About 12 months later somebody given a suspended sentence turns up in a court in another part of the United Kingdom. He has hanging over him a suspended sentence of two years, but had he gone to prison at the time of the original offence he would have been sentenced to perhaps only nine months imprisonment. The new court almost always imposes the old sentence of two years, and adds to it something for the more recent offence, say six months, or nine months, which means that the man goes to prison for a longer period than he would have done if the suspended sentence had not existed. The fault lies with the judiciary which has been unable to resist the temptation of imposing a longer sentence than they ought to have imposed, in the hope that it would never be made effective.
Although the suspended sentence is being tinkered with in the Bill, it is not being tinkered with in relation to people aged between 17 and 21. It may surprise some hon. Members to learn that a suspended sentence of more than six months and less than three years cannot be imposed on people aged between 17 and 21, unless they have been to borstal already, in which case different rules are applied. That means that a person aged 19 cannot be given a suspended sentence of nine months or 12 months.
A few months ago I introduced a Bill, which was supported by hon. Members on both sides, to alter the rule embodied in Section 3 of the 1961 Criminal Justice Act which embodies this fetter on sentences. I was told then in a speech as able as always by the Under-Secretary 1006 of State that we must not have piecemeal legislation or deal with the law regarding youthful offenders in small packages. That Bill fell. But this Bill contains items like day training and community service. What is that but dealing with youthful offenders as well as older offenders?
Yet we still have not touched in this Bill on the problem which so annoys the judiciary—the inability to give sentences fitting the crime for people over 17 and under 21. The result, as has been said by many people, is that, when the courts feel that imprisonment is required and that borstal is no use, because of this provision, they give three years where they would have given 18 months—yet we are talking about reducing the prison population. This is not just to the accused and it imposes additional strains on the prison.
So, although artificial fetters have been reduced in this Bill by providing for short sentences in future, if that is a good thing, at the same time this other artificial fetter is retained. The smaller the range of method we permit our judiciary in dealing with young offenders, the more injustice there is likely to be and the greater the rate of return to crime. So the Bill has missed the opportunity to grasp that problem.
But there is another way in which our prisons are filled. If a person of no fixed abode is committed on a fairly trivial offence, he is not given bail, so he goes to prison. His trial may be months ahead and if he cannot find any surety, he may spend months in prison. The Bill does not deal with that. There is a reference to bail hostels, but it is not clear what they will do in this connection. Some people of no fixed abode, who are kept in prison for months without being dealt with by a court, may be acquitted or only fined or put on probation or given a suspended sentence at the end of the day. Yet they have helped to fill the prisons.
Nor does the Bill deal with the effect of disqualification. Over the years, it has been mandatory to impose disqualification for certain offences. Large numbers of people are so addicted to motor cars that, whatever the penalty—be it disqualification or imprisonment—they will go back to driving a car the moment that they are at liberty. Each time they did it 1007 they used to be disqualified for a further period. Some people are disqualified until well into the twenty-first century. I know of one such case in the last day or two.
These people come before a court for driving while disqualified. Because disqualification is becoming purposeless as a deterrent, they are sent to prison. They come out and do it again and are sent back to prison. They work honestly, they do not go to the State for social security, they are only sometimes dishonest—but they will drive motor cars. They usually drive them safely and with competence, but they are committing an offence.
The courts should have power when dealing with such offences to remit large accrued sentences of disqualification going on for years and years. Since last year, those compulsory disqualifications have been made discretionary, so with this sort of person, the courts are not imposing fresh disqualifications—but they have no power to remit all the other disqualifications. As a result, otherwise honest people with this addiction are going to prison year after year to work off offences of driving while disqualified.
There is one more small way to keep people out of prison. It may not be known to all hon. Members but, when a number of people are charged together, say in a long fraud case, if some plead guilty and some do not, those who plead guilty are kept in custody until the end of the trial of those who plead not guilty. As a result, the person who pleads guilty—he is often a minnow who knows that he will only be fined or given a small sentence and that it is therefore not worth his while brazening it out over a few weeks—is not sentenced until the end of the trial—
§ Mr. Lyons
I will hear the contrary view if I am wrong, but this is my belief. At the end of a long trial, such a man is then sent home with a fine or similar punishment. He should not be kept in custody in the first place. There should be ample power to send such a person home until the time comes for him to be dealt with.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I know that the hon. Member does not wish to make a bad 1008 point. Surely it is right that the court has complete discretion in these matters. There is no statutory provision to prevent the court giving bail to someone who has pleaded guilty. In the circumstances which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, this surely happens. What is the legislative programme which the hon. Gentleman suggests we are failing to implement?
§ Mr. Lyons
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman. If I am wrong I gladly withdraw. But I have observed this happening. If it happens, either there is some statutory sanction or the courts are keeping these people inside because they do not direct their minds to the problem or it is seen as some sort of intermediate punishment to teach that man a lesson before he is fined at the end of the case. But certainly it happens. If it has no sanction, then of course I do not press the point.
There are a number of matters which the Bill does not deal with—in particular, bail and the right way to handle disqualification. When it does mention disqualification, it does so to introduce what may be a harmful provision. We now have a provision in the Bill which says that, where a person uses a car or is involved with a car in a criminal offence, he may be disqualified as well as being sentenced in other ways for the offence. That sounds very good, but one has to bear in mind that, where the person disqualified is a lawless person, he is liable to be back in court thereafter for a succession of driving while disqualified offences. We are creating a situation which will drive people back to prison. It is doubtful that that is wise.
On the face of it, it is an excellent idea to enable the judges in criminal cases to award compensation for personal injury. But of course it must be said that one can get the compensation in the civil courts and there is also the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. That board awards damages out of State coffers, whereas the idea of the trial judge doing it is to take the money from the pocket of the wrongdoer.
Has any thought been given to enabling the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to make an order against a convicted person? After all, the board is 1009 the body which investigates the injury and decides what the compensation should be. Suppose the judge makes a quick assessment of the injury suffered. He may be far out. In making that assessment will he have medical evidence? It is often highly disputed what the effect of an accident is in terms of health. Doctors are called on both sides. It seems that we are saying in the Bill that a sort of rough guess should be made by the judge, perhaps based on the evidence in the trial.
To the extent that a judge may do this, he will be liable to reduce an award of costs or a fine, so that in the end it will cost the State money. What will happen if the victim is awarded, say, £700 by a higher court but feels that he could probably have got a little more—not a great deal more but some more—by the alternative course? Will he bother to start proceedings, particularly if in the civil court he feels that he may have a legal aid contribution to make? He could go to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, but will that body be influenced by an award of the judge at the trial?
There will be different bodies assessing injury compensation perhaps by different yardsticks. It also seems odd that while the judge at the trial will award compensation in open court and the matter will be reported—a civil action will be reported in the same way—the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board will work in secrecy. Why should this distinction exist?
Might it not be a good idea to let the board not only award compensation but also make an order against the convicted person? This would seem a more sensible way of proceeding.
As far as I know, the board does not award compensation to dependants. If that is correct, this Measure does nothing to alter that situation, and the position still remains that if one kills one's victim, the dependants cannot be compensated. In other words, the judge of the criminal court cannot compensate the dependants of the victim.
Might it not be useful to extend this new power of compensation in the criminal court so that dependants too can receive awards? Why should a man be able to avoid paying compensation if he 1010 has ample funds? This applies both to murder and manslaughter. The answer may be a civil action, but by the time that is brought, the money may be gone.
There is one other matter to which I must refer before resuming my seat, and I do not want to delay the House.
§ Mr. Lyons
I will deal with only one other point, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for delaying the House for this length of time.
I welcome Clause 42, to which reference has not yet been made. I have been seeking to have this type of provision enacted since I came to Parliament in 1966 and I had a Ten-Minute Rule Bill on the subject last year.
This provision says, in effect, that when a prison is closed, the State rather than the local authority shall have the proceeds of the sale of the land. I am delighted to note that this piece of nationalisation is being carried out by a Conservative Government. They are taking old prison sites from local authorities and handing them over to the State without compensation. In this respect alone we have a Socialist Conservative Government.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I echo the generous words used by the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) on his maiden speech. It was a most robust performance and he delivered his speech with great confidence. I wish with all my heart that I had had the courage to deliver a maiden speech like that when I made mine. I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend and assure him that we look forward to hearing many future contributions from him.
Like the hon. Member for Bradford, East—though he did it more professionally—I wish to deal with only one aspect of the Bill and not to range over the wide spectrum of problems which confront us in considering this whole subject of crime.
There are always dangers lurking in a Bill about which both sides of the House appear to find themselves in agreement, 1011 and at the risk of rocking the boat—which in itself will make a change—I wish to address my remarks somewhat critically to one aspect wherein lurk certain dangers.
Before doing so, however, I wish to make it clear that there are a number of other subjects about which, like the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I should have liked to speak. He referred to the rising ratio of long-term prisoners in our prisons nowadays, and I agree that this will give rise to considerable problems. I would also have commented on what he said about the probation service. My right hon. Friend made some interesting remarks on this subject.
But I will abandon that desire to discuss one aspect of the Bill which causes me the most anxiety. I refer to the whole question of reparation by the offender, to which the first part of the Bill refers. In discussing this subject I resume, as it were, at the point at which the hon. Member for Bradford, East left off.
We are presented with a highly attractive concept which has been attracting the minds of penologists, criminologists, sociologists and lawyers for a long time. It is enshrined in some words used by the present Lord Chancellor when he was a Member of this House. When moving an Amendment to the last Criminal Justice Act he summed the matter up by referring to the "elementary principle of morality."
Philosophically there is much to be said in its favour and it appears to fulfil our main object of seeking to reduce the prison population. However, if we are not to suffer much disappointment and, perhaps later, disillusionment, it is wise to dwell on some of the enormous administrative problems with which this wider proposition will confront us, and I will give some of the implications that have not yet fully emerged.
What I am saying is no reflection on the Advisory Council on the Penal System, in whose Report it is made clear that the considerations are evenly balanced. Perhaps it would be wise to consider, first, what this Measure is likely to achieve. In doing so let us take a recent year. In that year there were some 750,000 offences of larceny, about one-third of which were cleared up. That 1012 of course gives no clue to the number of criminals involved because many pleaded guilty to more than one offence. About one-fifth of the offences involved sums of under £1 and another one-fifth involved sums of under £5. Only one in 30 involved sums of over £100. Most of the thefts represented not cash but kind, and as we are aware, the sums received in cash by criminals for goods are always low in relation to their original value.
It is clear, therefore, that the courts will face some valuation problems. I echo what the hon. Member for Bradford, East said in this respect because I am not clear what will happen to me if I prefer the shorter course of claiming insurance in the way he suggested. That will not be the only problem for the courts. It could be argued that it will be found difficult sometimes for the court to reconcile our present concept of justice for the offender with the desire to mitigate hardship to the victim. I will not say that there is a conflict here, but a conflict could arise that is fundamental to our present concept of justice.
The court will also have to decide when compensation and custodial sentences can be properly combined and when the first should have precedence over the second. Shall we have compensation orders after release from a custodial sentence? That will present certain difficulties. In the case of the more serious offence involving larger sums, it seems that it will be difficult to avoid a custodial sentence. That will reduce the prospect of reparation.
We know that prison industries are in no sort of gear today to enable a man to earn enough money to make any sort of reparation. Even if they were, it is questionable whether we ought to let the prisoner pay out with one hand what we put into his other. We must face this fact. It is important that people should realise this now, before they think that we have evolved a system for helping to provide reparation for victims of crime. We shall not produce any equitable system for reparation, because for some of the hardest hit reparations will prove the hardest to collect, and perhaps for some of the less hard hit it will not be nearly so difficult.
I want to dwell more strongly on the administrative rather than the judicial 1013 problems. As the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said of the men we are confronting—he was over-simplifying it a little—we begin with the small-time burglar, the larcenist and the theief. In most cases he has no fixed income, job or abode. He tends to live from hand to mouth. His possessions are very few. His ability to pay any kind of reparation is virtually non-existent. A system to collect from him would certainly be elaborate—dare I say, rather cumbersome? Yet I accept that it is from precisely this sort of man, who causes people loss or suffering in their small homes, that we most want to collect reparations. We must reckon also that, driven to pay a considerable part of it, this galère will be driven to fresh thefts.
The bigger professional that my right hon. Friend has in mind presents problems of another kind. He, too, has few open assets. His car will be on hire purchase. His principal possessions will be lodged with associates or women friends. He is rarely caught with the proceeds on him because all his experience has taught him how to dispose of the loot. His money will be either in a false name or in a safe deposit. To wring reparations out of him, by bankruptcy or other means, will be a formidable task.
Many professional criminals today dispose of large sums overseas, and that will involve a fresh dimension. This is a serious matter in assessing what additional powers we may need to carry out this proposal. If the police are required to chase the criminal's assets in addition to his loot, they will certainly need fresh powers to search premises, and to inspect the books and accounts of investment companies and banks, post offices, solicitors, building societies, betting shops, clubs and so on. They will have to examine the man's associates. We may even need to freeze certain accounts after the court has made an order. Shall we need to create a fresh offence of refusing to give the police information or assistance in these inquiries about the criminal's assets or of misleading the police in their inquiries?
There are some in our midst who would not regard this line of country as an elementary principle of morality. They would be more likely to cry that we were in danger of rigging up a little of the police state. This is the moment for a strong word of warning that if this 1014 proposal is to be effective, the powers will have to be a little stronger than they are now. A great many people, some innocent, will be mixed up in this. For instance, in a simple case of a lorry hijacked with £50,000 worth of goods and the goods disposed of for £20,000 to a middle man, and thence to receivers, thence through other hands, some quasi innocent—the purchasers of cut-price drink, cigarettes and so on—that has all to be chased back, and we would then begin the process of reparation. I do not wish to make a mountain out of a molehill, but it is right to dwell on this.
As for bankruptcy proceedings, these will be highly selective, in a sense, and almost an injustice. There are about 4,000 bankruptcy orders a year. The Official Receiver and this staff are fully occupied. If we are to add a fresh dimension to bankruptcies and bankruptcies which will require a good deal more reserves than some today, we should know what we are asking the Official Receiver to do. Who is to make the inquiries? Would it be the police, the probation officer or the Official Receiver's staff?
Finally, we are generally talking about reparations from men at liberty and men of whom we may be doubtful about whether any arrangement will be honoured or whether any bargain agreed will be adhered to. In fairness, there is a tiny category where reparation would work. This would be the occasional thief, the originally honest man succumbing to sudden temptation, and the isolated offender for gain—not the man living the life of crime—and we may catch that sort of man. But it is not a very big category.
I shall be accused of damning a cherished concept and of overstating the difficulties. But while I accept that the public wants this experiment, we ought not to fail to tell the public about the experiment's limitations and risks. I accept that there are advantages in a comprehensive scheme to replace the various miscellaneous provisions. But the dividend for prospective victims for some time to come will be very small. The cost of these provisions may well exceed the returns we obtain. We should leave no one under any illusion on this score. If we did, we should be in some danger of being made to look ridiculous by the criminal population.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has a most unfortunate habit of subjecting theories to the hard test of experience. If I defer until the Committee stage the pleasure of following him along the argument he has just developed—assuming that he and I are both fortunate enough to be selected for the Committee—I hope that he will understand that it is because there may be a little more time available in Committee, whereas this evening I am conscious of the passage of time.
I should like to use these fleeting moments on Second Reading to look at penal policy in general. Penal policy always is an emotional subject. As my right hon. Friend, the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, it was treated emotionally both during and before the General Election. The Labour Government were blamed for the train robbery, which occurred even before they came to power. Perhaps particularly for that reason I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on having resisted the temptation to treat the subject emotionally either in the Bill or in his opening speech today.
I cannot conceive that the Bill will gain him a standing ovation at the next Conservative Party conference, but it may earn him a modest place in some future history book, a place a little more worthy than that which will be earned by some of his other activities. For that reason I congratulate him, because this is an emotional subject—and properly so. Brutal crime on the one hand and brutal treatment of offenders on the other have in common that they are horrifying things, and when people are horrified, sometimes they react emotionally, sometimes even irrationally.
One factor of which every penal policy must take account is that it is dealing with irrational and unpredictable attitudes on both sides. Possibly one of the solutions is more research of the kind mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell). At present, those who devote research to shaping their theories are all too often associated with some kind of sloppy leniency. I suspect that those who advocate a rather tougher kind of repression, while equally guilty of generalisation, do 1016 not normally subject their theories to research in the same way.
The truth is that even those who have produced conclusions as a result of detailed research are all too often proved wrong because generalisations on both sides are patterns into which the criminal obstinately refuses to fit. There is no one reason why people commit offences.
There is a category of youngsters wandering around in gangs, with long hair and short skirts—or the reverse, according to the prevailing fashion—feeling rejected by the circles of the more successful, reacting against the deferential attitude to their superiors of their grandfathers. These youngsters have nothing in common with the tough, professional criminal who is in it because he sees it as a paying proposition. Nor with the middle-aged shoplifter.
Almost all the generalisations we make are likely to be confronted by counterexamples. It is easy to say, as one hon. Member has said, that so often it is the fault of the family, of the breakdown of the home. This is, I think, a little unfair on the family. One can have a family which has given the best of all possible homes to a youngster, only to find that, somewhere along the line, it has failed. It is a little rough on parents to find themselves blamed in that situation.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that in the case of the really serious recidivists, very nearly half come from families with some background of serious crime?
§ Mr. Archer
That is perfectly true. The statistics would tend to support a generalisation of that kind. All I am pointing out is that so often, when we advance this kind of generalisation, we find that there are counter-examples. It is unfortunate when particular individuals are caught up in a dogma into which they do not fit. So often, it is hard on the particular offender who is caught up in a similar kind of generalisation, because the result will be that he receives the wrong kind of treatment.
But the statistics which the hon. Gentleman quoted are far removed from the more sweeping kinds of generalisation which emerge in expressions like 1017 "the permissive society." That expression does not make for clear thinking. There is no one syndrome which includes the wearing of long hair, the sampling of drugs by teenagers, the occasional peek into subversive literature and the robbing of a bank. The more clearly we have it in mind that these things have nothing in common, the more likely we are to treat particular offenders in a rational way. We have to remember that any generalisation in this area will make a monkey of us if we persist too sweepingly.
I was fortunate enough, some 12 months ago, to visit some of the prisons in Israel where penology has reached a very enlightened stage. In the course of being conducted round, I was asked by the Commissioner to take particular note of someone we had just met—obviously a very friendly individual, one of the inmates who fitted well into the framework of prison life and who was obviously everyone's favourite. After we had had a talk and had passed on, the governor told me that this individual had murdered about 20 or 30 people. His practice had been to pretend to run a brothel, and when clients came along looking for the joys to be found there, he murdered them and rifled their pockets. I am not suggesting that we should draw any lessons from that individual. On the contrary. Any lesson we attempted to draw from experience of that kind could only lead to counter-examples.
Here was a man, not irredeemably wicked. Given the right kind of environment, he could lead a useful life. He had not been broken by long imprisonment; it had been his redemption. He was not condemned always to be alienated from his environment. Any generalisation in which I personally had indulged prior to that encounter has since gone up in smoke.
It is also true that any penal policy must take account of irrational elements, not only among the offenders themselves but also among the general public. It is not surprising that the victim of an offence reacts rather differently from those of us who can look at that offence with more detachment. When the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) said earlier that we showed less than an appropriate amount of sympathy for 1018 the victims of crime, we must recognise that sympathetic as we may be with the victims, their reaction is not necessarily the right reaction and it need not necessarily be our reaction.
Take for example Northern Ireland. We can have sympathy with people doing a difficult job in a difficult situation, without wanting to emulate their example. The public, confronted with a horrific offence frequently react with horror, and some may call for irrational measures to combat that kind of offence. I am not suggesting that we should not take account of this; we should be unrealistic if we tried to produce a criminal policy which did not take account of it. Our very earliest criminal procedure attempted to finalise the spontaneous reaction of the victim, by enabling him to re-enact before a court of law what he might otherwise have been led to do more quickly and spontaneously. It encouraged him to take advantage of the law, rather than to resort to self-help.
In the debate on the Children and Young Persons Bill in 1969, I attempted to trace the development of our criminal law from this blind hitting out of the hurt child irrationally, without necessarily looking at the direction in which it is hitting, through a period when we emphasised the formalised majesty of something metaphysical called "The Law", demanding that every departure from the rules shall be visited with its due consequence, to the concept which criminologists now call "social defence", that is, that people sit down and ask rationally what is best to be done. In deciding this we must take account of the irrational elements. If we did not, we would be ignoring the material out of which we were attempting to construct policy. To ignore the spontaneous reaction of any portion of the public would be to run the risk of losing its co-operation. But to say that one is taking account of irrational elements does not entail following an irrational policy.
I do not think that clear thinking is conduced to by suggestions that we are all engaged in a war against some impersonal abstract noun called "Crime", or against criminals in general. In a war the enemy is already identified. The whole point of criminal procedure is that it is essential, fairly and justly, to ensure that identification is accurate.
1019 Secondly, in a war, it is easy to suggest that the enemy should be eliminated. The very last thing anyone can seriously suggest is that we should eliminate every criminal in the personal sense of killing him off. To speak of "Social Defence" is to ask for clear thinking. It does not necessarily follow that we should adopt some kind of sentimentality or undue leniency. Some offences require stiff sentences and stiff sentences ought to be awarded. Nor does it necessarily follow that we should always expect the best of everyone, and find ourselves shattered when individuals prove to be impervious to reform.
The Home Secretary said we should never assume that anyone is beyond reform but, equally, we must take account of the fact that some people disappoint our best expectations. And it does not follow that we should abandon the vocabulary of right and wrong. Sometimes it is important to bring home to offenders that what they did was wicked. It is important that we should retain the concept of deserving, because nothing is more likely to lose the confidence of the offender and the public than for it to be though that someone is treated more harshly than he deserves.
But the best way to protect the public and the potential victims of crime, the best way to reduce the cost of keeping offenders in prison, the best way of helping the offender himself, is by persuading him if possible to adopt more law-abiding conduct.
That means two things in this context. First, that there must be a continual review of the penal system in the light of the experience of the last few years. We must not be afraid, any of us, to confess that something we advocated a few years ago has transpired not to work. It is not surprising that there will be changes from time to time in what the foremost of the reformers are saying. These Victorian prisons which have been mentioned, for instance, were designed by Jeremy Bentham, no less, the archduke of reform. But he had in his mind that they really would afford the advantages of solitary confinement, not that they should be used three or four to a cell. I see from my right hon. Friend's White Paper "People in Prison" that of the 46 security 1020 prisons in 1969 only five have been built since 1914. The startling heresy of one generation seems to become the dreary habit of the next but three.
Secondly, individual offenders will differ in their motivations and reactions to particular kinds of treatment, just as they will differ in the circumstances of any offence. That would suggest that the courts ought to be permitted to decide as freely as possible how to deal with the offender in a particular situation.
Personally—and I freely confess that this is the opposite of what I was saying a few years ago—I welcome the end of the mandatory provisions. I see that that remark occasions a startled expression on the face of the Under-Secretary. I am not suggesting that judges are infallible. Sometimes they, too, are unpredictable and irrational, but the answer to that is not to circumscribe their powers to react appropriately to particular situations, but to ensure that at the outset of their legal career, they are afforded an opportunity of knowing what is being said in this area of penology, by reform of our legal training, and to ensure that on appointment and from time to time afterwards they are brought up to date on these matters.
I look forward to the opportunity of discussing a number of these matters in Committee. I had looked forward at one stage to discussing them on Second Reading, but I see that the clock is against me. This Bill is not susceptible to dogmas. It merits a detailed consideration, and at the end of the day it may be that we shall not divide in Committee along party lines. I do not believe that it will be the final solution to our problems in penology, though it may provide a modest series of solutions to a series of disparate, but real. social problems.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I believe that the first duty is the one to protect society. The second duty is to treat the prisoner in such a way that he may eventually become a useful member of society. This Bill is a useful measure towards the second of those duties. The fundamental error of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is that he fell into the trap of believing that this is the 1021 only measure which the Tory Party intends to take in pursuance of the battle against crime.
Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that he is quite wrong. We regard this as a valuable measure because it carries into effect many of the suggestions which have been put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) and many others, most of whom have been working under what I would call the second duty whereas I have been perhaps more closely associated with the first duty of protecting society. Their part in this is every bit as important as the part of those of us who have been studying how to reduce serious crime. Both aspects are vital.
Dealing with the first duty it has been said many times that there are 40,000 men in our prisons. Fewer than 2,000 are recidivists. Those 2,000 or fewer are professional, permanent criminals and it is highly unlikely that society will recover any of them to lead a reasonable way of life in future. They are long-term permanent criminals with many convictions, nearly all for crimes of violence—robbers, robbers with violence, confidence tricksters of many years' service in their profession in which they have usually been rather a failure. We have to find a way of dealing with them. I dealt with this at the time of the Gracious Speech. It is essential that they be put away with maximum security and in some suitable place where prison staff and officers can look after them properly.
This Bill deals with totally different matters, of great value. First it deals with measures for expiation of the offence and only part of that, the expiation of the offence in enabling compensation orders to be made, reparation orders, criminal bankruptcy to be declared in those few cases where it will apply, and community service orders in respect of the young vandals for whom it will he very valuable indeed. It also deals with parole hostels, after-care hostels, with which the Under-Secretary has been closely associated, and the supervision orders which will arise under those heads when men go out on licence. When parole has been granted by the local review committees I hope prisoners will be allowed to go only to a 1022 hostel when they will get a job of work and then be subject to some provision order so that they will not fall back into the paths of crime.
I want to deal with two important points that have not been touched upon at all and about which I feel very deeply. They are both calling for stronger action, they are both specifically limited and they are dealt with in Clause 28. I refer to alcoholics and to those who are not mentioned, drug addicts. In 1968—and I would like to know the up-to-date figures—there were 35,000 convictions for drunkenness and 3,000 of those people went to prison over 200 women and about 2,800 men. They literally have littered our prisons and it is utterly ridiculous. The plain recommendation by the Estimates Committee of this House in 1968 was that… legislative powers should be sought to reduce the number of persons in prison for offences involving drunkenness and to provide them, under the aegis of the Prison Service with halfway houses.Let us provide them. This Clause is no good as it stands; there is no power for the officer who has taken in the drunk and presented him to the portals of the halfway house to order that he be kept there.
What we must see is that there is a proper power, providing for the compulsory treatment of these drunks in appropriate places so that we may be able to bring them back to a happy position in society, having in many cases effected a cure. The same is to be said about the treatment of drug addicts for whom there is no provision in the Bill. Shortly before the last election, and I am not ashamed of this suggestion, I recommended such treatment in a pamphlet which I wrote when I said:The proposals are simple. All alcoholics, on their second or further conviction, would be liable to be sentenced to a period of detention in a treatment centre for a period not longer than 12 months. The same system would obtain in the case of the drug addict. In both cases … it is argued that this is an infringement of the liberty of the subject. It is no more so than the breathalyser test and compulsory blood tests. In any event, there is no reason why these public nuisances should cause public time and money to be spent upon their treatment, unless such treatment may be effectively ensured. Provision can be made at these centres for them to be usefully employed, and thereby in part pay their way. A great many will be cured and redeemed for the benefit of society and themselves.1023 I urge the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend to take the feeling of this side of the House. I think I am right in saying that the whole of the Conservative Party—and I stand four-square behind this—would be overwhelmingly in favour of this being carried out. I am not sure that I shall not carry many hon. Members opposite with me, for this is a humane and sensible way in which to deal with these people instead of mixing drunks and drug addicts with criminals in prisons.
It may be said in reply that we shall find it difficult to get sufficient halfway houses for alcoholics and sufficient treatment centres for drug addicts. I appreciate that and if the courts cannot apply power in too many cases, there are other provisions in the Bill which will have to apply, but I profoundly hope that the House will take careful note of these provisions. It is no good asking an alcoholic to stay in a halfway house if he is free to walk out. There must be power to keep him there, and that treatment in itself is the deterrent. Similarly, the deterrent effect is lost if the drug addict is free to walk out of a treatment centre. It must be possible to keep them for a reasonable period for cure.
Of course, in each case it will be entirely a matter for the medical staff to say how long is necessary and no one would suppose that it would very often be 12 months. It is more likely to be 10 or 12 weeks, possibly with the right of recall if there is a further conviction, so that the period would normally be quite short. In this way, instead of having imprisonment for six months, when no useful work can be done and no reparation can be made, and after which the drunks and drug addicts are free to go on the streets and almost immediately come back before the magistrates, reformation would be possible.
I appeal to hon. Members to agree that even though some may find this a harsh way to proceed, it will be better for society generally and will strengthen the Bill if there are new Clauses, on which I shall ask the support of all my colleagues on both sides of the House, so that we may strengthen the provision relating to drug addicts and alcoholics.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has expressed views on which he hopes to carry the Government with him. There was much in what he said which could have the support of both sides of the House. I apologise for not commenting on his views, but I want to comment on some of the concepts of the Bill and on certain remarkable omissions.
It is inevitable that in a Criminal Justice Bill one should get a hotch-potch of ideas—inevitable but unfortunate. It is difficult to think of any Criminal Justice Bill which has expressed a coherent pattern of thought, whether about crime or about the way in which penalties are to be imposed. I fear that this is no exception. There is a good deal of window dressing in the Bill and I shall allude to that later.
A generally acceptable concept is that of compensation, but in the Bill it has not been clearly thought out. How is the court, magistrates' court or higher court, to form a competent view of the amount of compensation to be awarded on the sort of information generally available to a court at the conclusion of a trial? Civil actions take a long time to come to court. I am not suggesting that these considerations should be deferred for a year, or anything of that kind, but one of the difficulties is that these matters have to be carefully analysed. Medical reports have to be assimilated, for instance. That is how there is formed a view of the quantum of damage.
Is the court at the end of the trial to be expected to form a realistic view of compensation in personal injury cases? I very much doubt it, but if it is, there is a burden on the Government to spell out in the Bill, or at least in the rules, the criteria by which the thinking of courts is to be guided, just as previous legislation has prescribed how the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board should consider these matters.
There is another feature of these provisions which is a little unfortunate. The Bill refers only to personal injuries, but many people are the victims of crime when their personal injuries may not be highly significant, but when their consequential loss is considerable, and that 1025 consideration at the moment is excluded. My suggestion—and in effect I am thinking aloud for the matter is clearly in an early stage—is that the court should make an order but that the actual amount of the compensation should be referred to a referee, the county court registrar or even the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, so that a proper analysis of the position may be undertaken.
I hope that the order for compensation will not be used as an additional penalty, because that could constitute an obstacle to rehabilitation. Causing hardship to the family of the accused could be counter-productive and easily lead to further crime. I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) about death of a victim. I should like to know why compensation for the dependants of a person who has been killed is specifically excluded.
Finally in this regard, what are the sanctions for non-compliance with a compensation order? The idea of criminal bankruptcy is a useful concept, although I do not wish to be euphoric about its effect. Why has the figure of £15,000 been chosen as the limit? What is to be the staff of the official petitioner? For unless there is an effective staff, this provision will be a waste of time. It will be interesting to know what sort of research and study the Home Office has made of the likely results of this proposal. I fear that the benefits are likely to be somewhat elusive, because the clever criminal, and certainly the more substantial criminal will devise schemes by which to avoid this provision. Appeal against a criminal bankruptcy order is specifically precluded. I should like to know why.
The main purpose underlying the Bill is that underlying the 1967 Act—namely, to reduce the size of the prison population. One hon. Member has spoken of going to prison as being an enforced holiday. Going to some of the older London prisons where three men share one cell, and this was certainly not the case when the prisons were built 100 years ago, is far from being an enforced holiday. These appalling conditions are not and cannot be considered to be conducive to rehabilitation. The new ideas in the Bill will require substantially increased expenditure if they are not to 1026 fail. Great burdens are to be imposed on the probation service and the aftercare service but unless the Government provide the wherewithal for these functions to be undertaken efficiently and effectively and take an enlightened view of the pay structure of these services, grave damage will be done to these important concepts.
I am not sure what the Government have in mind with the idea of community service. What sort of work are people to be required to undertake? When is it appropriate to make an order? Again, what are the criteria to be applied? Why is it to be subject to the defendant's consent? There is a requirement that if community service is not performed satisfactorily the person will be subject to penalties. It is very difficult to determine whether someone is performing these tasks satisfactorily. One court will take one view and another court may take the opposite view, and accordingly guide-lines are required. These are matters about which the House requires to know very much more.
Three omissions from the Bill are important. The first relates to bail. A great deal of disquiet has been expressed recently by Justice, by the London Criminal Court Solicitors Association and by the Cobden Trust about the inadequacies of the present administration of the bail system. We are told that about 40,000 people a year are remanded in custody awaiting appeal. Of those, about 21,000 ultimately receive no custodial treatment and 10 per cent. of the 40,000 are acquitted, yet they have quite frequently been remanded in custody for long periods.
These various researches indicate serious anomalies in the administration of the hail system. There is great variation of practice and approach between different courts. Although it is impossible to obtain total standardisation, there should be a greater measure of standardisation than we have at present.
The price of refusal of bail can be very high, not only to the individual but to the country. For the individual, it frequently involves loss of employment, disruption of home life and loss of accommodation, and it can also have a tremendous effect on those for whom remand in custody is unsuitable. For the country, it costs about £25 a week 1027 to remand someone in custody, and there is also to be considered the considerable benefits to be paid to the families of such persons. So the price of deprivation of liberty can be very serious to both the individual and to the community.
These researches have also shown that abuses take place. There is too much bail bargaining, as every practitioner in criminal courts realises. Some police officers abuse their powers in this respect, and this is something that should be looked into urgently. Some courts will remand in custody in order to impose a punishment, which is not the purpose of remand. Not all courts by any means make adequate investigation into the question of whether an accused person should be remanded in custody or on bail. There needs to be careful investigation into an accused person's whole background—his health, his family, his employment record. One suggestion is that we should investigate the possibilities of the "Vera" system—which allocates points to various criteria affecting an accused person which is being employed in Manhattan at present, apparently with some degree of success.
There are still courts which accept, almost blindly, police objections to bail. In one court, the magistrates recently said that, on the advice of the police they proposed to refuse bail. In Willesden magistrates' court a colleague of mine appeared in a case recently in which, in his view as an experienced practitioner, bail should have been granted almost automatically, but because the police objected he was almost intimidated by the court when he dared to ask questions. The view was that, after all, the police were opposing bail and was this not good enough? I do not say that all courts, or even the majority, adopt these attitudes, but some do, and the Home Office should not turn a blind eye to them.
We ought to use, much more frequently, out-patient facilities at prisons when people are remanded in custody for medical reports, and we should also use the services of local doctors in this connection. All too often, people are remanded in custody for medical reports when it is not essential to do so.
Legal aid should have been considered in the Bill, but this has not been done. 1028 There are great anomalies here, too. Why should not legal aid be made available on appeals to a judge in chambers from a refusal to grant bail? The new concept of a duty rota of solicitors at magistrates' courts to assist unrepresented defendants should also be considered by the Home Office.
I have argued, on previous occasions, as has my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) for compensation for those acquitted after having spent long periods in custody. The Home Office have said that this is not practical, but schemes of this character are now operating in France and Germany. I cannot see any good reason why this, too, should not be carefully explored. If it is successful in those countries, why should it not be applied here?
I believe these to be serious omissions from the Bill.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Before the hon. Member leaves that very important point, one of the reasons lies in the burden of proof. One might get a result in which in a civil action brought in respect of the loss suffered the plaintiffs succeeded against the accused person for damages, but the hon. Gentleman is asking for compensation because of an acquittal. An acquittal does not establish the innocence of the party concerned, and parties still have left open to them the general civil rights, if they wish to use them, in respect of, say, stolen property or the like.
§ Mr. Davis
I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is sometimes very difficult to establish a case even where there has been an acquittal. Cases in which compensation is available from the State are all too infrequent. All I say is that the Government ought to look very carefully at the experiments which are being carried out in France and Germany where, admittedly, the procedures are different and the burden of proof is different. Nevertheless, if it applies successfully there, there is at least a prima facie case for further inquiry in this country.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)
I give a general welcome to the sensible reforms now before the House. As I shall probably have to serve on the 1029 Standing Committee, I shall deal with some matters in more depth later. As it is, I want to make two brief points and to deal with one other matter in rather more detail.
Clause 23 is clearly designed to add disqualification as a penalty for offences other than motoring offences but where a motor car has been used. What seems likely to happen in practice is that the person convicted will serve a prison sentence and then have disqualification added at the end of that prison sentence. We may then find that criminal back in court time and again because of breaches of the disqualification.
I commend the whole idea of community service. It is exciting and interesting, and something which we should try.
I want particularly to comment on Clause 24, which increases the penalty for the use of firearms. As representative of a constituency where in the summer our chief of police was gunned down with pistols, I can only say that I very much welcome the Government's intention to increase the penalty from 14 years to life. But I wonder whether that is enough. Has not the time come to say that the private possession of revolvers for any reason should be stopped? I appreciate that a person must have a licence in order legally to be in possession of a revolver, but the fact that certain people can have revolvers and use them for legal and sporting purposes means that they are on sale in gunsmiths. One can see them in any gunsmith's window. They must be stored, and, therefore, they can be stolen. Burglaries occur in gunsmiths which are a source of guns, pistols and other arms for those who wish to use them.
I appreciate that in many cases it is not the legally-held gun but the stolen gun which is used in crime. The fact that one must find out whether a person has a licence means that a pistol can pass round among criminals.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
Is my hon. Friend aware that many thousands of users of pistols belong to officially-approved and properly-constituted pistol clubs? Moreover, very seldom, if ever, is a pistol used in crime which can be traced back to the registered holder. Almost always it is an illegally-possessed pistol which has no record in police files.
§ Mr. Miscampbell
That is the point I am making.
I accept that there must be a sacrifice, and I am asking people to make a sacrifice. We must say that it is not worth people having pistols for the amount of sport that they provide. In my professional experience, I have never known a legally-held pistol to be used in a crime. But the fact that pistols can be bought in shops and can be seen in gunsmiths means that we should put a stop to their sale. If a private individual must be in possession of a pistol, the pistol should be provided by the State for specific purposes.
§ Mr. Laurance Reed (Bolton, East)
Surely increasing numbers of people are possessing pistols, not for sporting purposes, but because they feel that the laws do not protect their interests. If we want to bring in a reform such as that which my hon. Friend suggests, we must first persuade people that the Home Office and the Government are capable of dealing with crimes of violence.
§ Mr. Miscampbell
I agree. I am merely saying that this is one small step which we should take. I recognise that it would be no more than a small step. If we provided that the mere possession of a pistol was a serious criminal offence, we should take a valuable step towards stopping the use of firearms in criminal activities.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
I support most of the provisions in the Bill. We need not approach this matter in a party political way. I welcome many of the proposals in the Bill, particularly as some of them are ideas which many of us on this side of the House have been putting forward for some time.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) that prison has not deterred the commission of serious crime and that it never did. When men were hanged for sheep stealing, sheep stealing still continued, and when men had their hands cut off for stealing, stealing still continued. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is absolutely right in saying that we need a full inquiry into the question of the effects of imprisonment.
1031 I hasten to assure the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who made a stirring maiden speech today, that prisons are far from being recreation centres. I visited a large number of prisons—men's and women's prisons, closed and open prisons, borstals and detention centres—in the course of an inquiry which my Estimates Committee made in 1967. While there are many shortcomings, I should not say that they were places to which people went for a nice easy time.
Many of the shortcomings in our penal system arise from the fact that our prisons are old and antiquated and very difficult to run and use up a great deal of prison officers' time in foolish activities, such as locking and unlocking doors, which take them away from working with the prisoners and helping to rehabilitate them. This is a serious disability from which our prison system suffers.
I should like to have seen certain reforms in the Bill. There are far many more adventurous ideas which can be put forward which would provide alternative opportunities for different activities among prisoners for work within the community. A very interesting and useful start has been made in many respects in building prisons and detention centres. There is an enormous amount of socially needed work which could be done in the community. I hope that the results of the experimental ideas in the Bill will give the Home Secretary and his colleagues in the Home Office encouragement to be a little more adventurous in their proposals.
I am very disappointed that there is no proposal in the Bill for conjugal visits for long-term prisoners. This would have a far-reaching and salutary effect on men who are incarcerated for 15 or 20 years and whose personalities are likely to suffer serious deterioration as a result of long-term imprisonment.
I agree that a large proportion of the men in prison should not be there. The majority of the women in Holloway and other prisons should not be there. I have visited Holloway several times. I was there about a fortnight ago to see the girls who had managed to get on the roof to demonstrate against certain conditions in the prison. It is very disturbing to 1032 see young girls aged 17 and 18 in prison. I am sure that alternative methods of dealing with women prisoners could be found.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East spoke about a prison population of 40,000. The overwhelming majority of them are men. Women are much more law-abiding and do not tend to go in for crimes of violence unless they are egged on by boy friends, husbands or other undesirable male company. Many of the women in prison are highly disturbed, and prison is not the place for them, particularly when we are so short of doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists in the prison service who can give offenders the kind of rehabilitative treatment which the majority of them urgently need.
One cannot calculate the cost in emotional and psychiatric disturbance of putting mothers who love children in prison or in any other kind of custody, involving as it does the break-up of the family and cost to the community if children have to be taken into care. What the majority of women need when they get into difficulty in this way is care and guidance at home, and this means that we have to build up to a much greater extent the social work system and probationary system within the localities—on a much wider scale than we have at the moment.
Almost 40 years ago the Report of the Departmental Committee on Persistent Offenders, Cmnd. 4090, said that for the majority of women the traditional type of prison was both unnecessary and harmful, and it recommended a non-prison atmosphere for them. That was 40 years ago. We have not really made very much progress in the last 40 years. Look, for example, at the girl of 23 who was sentenced recently for a very serious offence when a small baby was taken away from its parents. It was a terrible offence, but if we look at the sentence of three years' imprisonment I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will feel that the sentence of imprisonment was not necessary. Bearing in mind the circumstances attaching to that person, this was a very sad case and needed very different treatment.
In the same way, quite a large proportion of the men who are sent to prison 1033 for fairly short terms also need other kinds of treatment. Something like 40 per cent. of male prisoners have drink problems. These are long-term problems. Usually short-term sentences are given. I am certain that we should go rather further than the proposals of the Bill, namely, that those who are picked up for offences of this kind should be in some kind of establishment, a hospital, or a place like Grendon, where they can be dried out. As I indicated in my intervention in the Home Secretary's speech, we need to go further. It is not enough to put them in some place where they can be dried out, as it were, and cleaned up, as at the Spring Hill Open Prison, where most of the inmates belong to this kind of case. They are there for short periods; they are off drink while they are there, and they are in very pleasant country surroundings—but what happens when they are discharged? They go back to precisely the same environment from which they came and face the same sorts of problems which drove them to drink in the first place, and with no help of the sort which they ought to have. They are taking up in Spring Hill places which could be used for different kinds of offenders.
We ought to be looking not only at hostels for young offenders, bail hostels, probation hostels, but we ought to be looking urgently at hostels for men and women discharged from prison, hospitals which could provide for a bridging period between discharge and the time when they return completely to life on their own. Wakefield Prison has a hostel of this kind, where there is still supervision by the prison officers. This has proved very useful, because men are able to go out for a job and have a perfectly normal working day and yet they have a certain amount of supervision which helps them till the time they are able to return to their families, if they have them, or go into "digs" and be on their own. There is a large number of men who spend long periods of time in institutions from an early age when, perhaps, they were in children's homes, because of the break up of their own families, which, often, led to borstal, which in turn led to prison, a psychiatric prison, or a psychiatric hospital. They are continuously at a disadvantage, never able to hold down a job and to organise them- 1034 selves and to run their own lives in a normal way.
The proposals in the Bill for dealing with the younger offenders are very valuable indeed, and I believe that many young offenders will respond very much better in the day centre or hostel than in borstal or a detention centre. One would hope that the recidivist rate, which is very high, with the provision of this kind of establishment would show a considerable reduction, but again, after discharge from this kind of centre it is not enough to send the person back to the kind of environment whence he came.
The shortcoming in the Bill is that there is no reference at all to the development of community responsibility. What is urgently needed both for adult offenders and for young offenders is involvement in different sections of the community in their rehabilitation and resettlement once they are released from prison or from the probation hostel or whatever, and for the young offenders there is a very good case for building up the youth service in a much more positive and functional way so that young people can be very much more under the supervision and care of youth leaders and those people working in this field. Indeed, why should not young people who are the active corps in youth clubs take under their wing young boys who have been in difficulty, and thus accept some degree of greater social responsibility, in seeing that those boys are helped back to normal life?
All this will place an enormous burden on an already over-burdened and understaffed probation service. I must say that I agreed absolutely with my right hon. Friend when he said that this is going to place an additional financial burden on the local authorities. The provision in the Bill for the Government to meet only 50 per cent. of the cost is nowhere near adequate enough. If, as it is hoped, the Bill is going to save some £23 a week for each man kept in prison—because that is the average cost—quite clearly it is unfair to say to the local authorities that the Government will have that amount of money through the reduction in the numbers of people going to prison, but an additional burden will be placed on local authorities, but the Government will bear only 50 per cent. of that increased burden. So I would very much hope that the Home Secretary will 1035 look at this again to see if he can go very much nearer to meeting 100 per cent. of the cost. That would be fair in the circumstances.
In conclusion, I welcome very much Clause 42, which is the recommendation, absolutely in toto, made in the Eleventh Report of the Estimates Committee, in which we recommended the Home Office to take the first opportunity to introduce legislation to repeal the 1952 provision. I am delighted that the Home Secretary has found it possible to do this, but I should like to utter one word of warning. I hope that this will not mean that the Home Secretary will feel that in future he will be able, while accepting this recommendation, to take over the sites without paying the current market value to the local authority, or that that money should be used to purchase land away from the towns to build new prisons. If prisons are built away from centres of population enormous difficulties will be created for those who work within the prison system, solicitors, doctors, relatives and all who need to visit prisons, often at short notice.
With those reservations, I welcome the Bill and hope that some of the proposals for improvement that have been put forward from both sides of the House will be accepted in Committee.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
Before dealing with the Bill I will refer to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell). I think it is quite unnecessary to impose strict control on legitimate users of pistols. There are not many of them and they enjoy their pastime, as they have done for many years, in perfect safety and security. Whether or not pistols are banned, they will continue to come into the country through the ports, as they are doing now. This is a lucrative sideline for those who are engaged in the trade.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what he said and on the manner in which he presented the Bill. There are certain points with which he dealt in great detail and with which I find myself fully in agreement, notably in relation to restitution by criminals, the criminal bankruptcy method and the proposals for the community services. There is one point, 1036 however, which sticks out like a sore thumb to me and that is on Clause 24, which relates to the Firearms Act, 1968.
Those of us who were lucky enough to be at Brighton when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke of his proposals concerning the Firearms Act, 1968, were much impressed by what he said. Clause 24 lays down that the penalties under the Act shall be increased. I should have more faith in that doing the slightest good if the Firearms Act were working properly. I have turned up a few statistics, and I find that the maximum penalties laid down in that Act have been consistently and regularly ignored by the courts.
Since 1968, there have been about 7,000 successful convictions under the Firearms Act, 1968. The average penalty imposed by the courts has been approximately 4 per cent. of the maximum laid down. For the Home Secretary in the Bill to increase by a few years the penalty for contravening a Section or two of the Act makes little or no difference.
Under the Firearms Act, for using a firearm to resist arrest, which is a serious crime, the maximum penalty is 14 years, or a fine, or both. In 36 successful convictions since 1968 the average prison sentence imposed has been two years seven months. The Bill increases the 14 years' penalty to life imprisonment, but when the courts have so consistently ignored Parliament's wishes, what is the value of increasing the sentence by a marginal amount?
The maximum penalty for carrying a loaded firearm in a public place under the 1968 Act is a fine of £200, or six months' imprisonment, or both. There have been 1,787 successful convictions, but the average fine imposed has been the paltry sum of £7.70. On this evidence what difference would it make if the maximum penalties under Sections 17(2) and 18(1) of the 1968 Act were increased from seven and 10 years to 14 years respectively? The average penalty under Section 17(2) imposed by the courts has been two years five months. Under Section 18(1), which calls for a maximum penalty of 10 years, the average penalty imposed by the courts has been two years six months.
Similar evidence applies to other proposals. In some cases the maximum fine is to be increased from £200 to £400, 1037 although only 3 per cent. of the maximum fine has been imposed in the past. It therefore makes little or no difference if the maximum is doubled. I have a list of all the offences under the 1968 Act for which fines of £200 can be imposed. The average fine which has been imposed in many thousands of successful prosecutions since 1968 is in the region of £7 or £8.
Sections 16 and 17(1) of the 1968 Act lay down a maximum penalty of 14 years, which my right hon. Friend is increasing to life. Under Section 16 there have been 63 successful convictions and the average penalty imposed has been only three years one month. Under Section 17(1), on 36 successful convictions since 1968 the average sentence has been only two years seven months.
In the light of this evidence, which is irrefutable as it comes from the Home Office, it is meaningless for Parliament marginally to increase penalties as the Home Secretary proposes. If the intentions of this Bill are not to be made a mockery of, as happened with the 1968 Act, the House must safeguard its intentions by imposing a varying level of minimum penalties as well as maximum penalties.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
I do not wish to go into the personal differences that have arisen between the hon. Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) and Harborough (Mr. Farr), except perhaps to indicate a preference for the viewpoint of the hon. Member for Blackpool, North. I am astonished at the comparative ease with which even low-grade criminals manage to get hold of firearms. Whilst I defend civil liberties to the hilt, I agree that in this matter certain sacrifices ought to be made for the common good. The real evil lies in the ease with which criminals, or anyone else for that matter, can obtain firearms. If in his reply the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) can suggest a method of helping in that direction, I shall be pleased to hear it.
The right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill in a low temperature style. He was right to do so because the Bill is not a great reforming measure, and he did not put it forward as such. It heralds no new radical approach to penal policy, nor 1038 does it contain any revolutionary theory on the treatment of offenders. It is a useful, neat, little tidying up Measure and contains some sensible innovations. I welcome it as such. It is not a repressive or reactionary Measure. Indeed, I would be surprised if the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn, whom I have known for many years, were to allow himself to be associated with a repressive Measure.
The language used by the Home Secretary was in line with modern and progressive thinking on penal matters. It was certainly different language from that used by many of his colleagues during the General Election. I am sure that the Bill will be a disappointment to those hon. Members and others who think, and have always thought, that the way to handle a criminal is by rough and tough treatment. Such people frequently suggest that if one is rough enough and brutal enough one can sweep the streets clear of criminals at a stroke—or, in view of such people's obsession with the birch, at several strokes.
All theory and research have proved the opposite. One has only to look at some of the worst prisons in America, where there is a viciously repressive régime and brutal attempts to break a prisoner's spirit, to see that the result is invariably violence to the prisoner and violence to the warder as well. This is one lesson we can learn from the George Jackson episode.
It is significant that the people who urge tough measures and talk about bringing back the birch are seldom there to see the birch being administered. They do not have to adminster it themselves and are not subject to the day-to-day pressures that result from a repressive régime. Nor do they have to deal with the prisoner who, having lived for a long time in a brutal atmosphere, comes out of prison not as a good citizen, but as somebody hostile and more in revolt against society.
Much of the confusion in people's minds about crime and punishment is caused because they are confused about the criminals themselves. I was pleased to hear the Home Secretary say that there were two specific categories of prisoner. There is the hardened, violent criminal and I, like the Home Secretary, take the view that the man who runs a 1039 well-organised criminal syndicate and who is invariably vicious, clever and successful should be dealt with by a long sentence. There is no other way to deal with such a man. But as anybody knows who practises in or who has any experience of the courts, the vast majority of criminals are not of that sort at all. They are usually highly unglamorous they are a nuisance rather than a menace they are pathetic and riotously unsuccessful. They go in and out of prison and within a few weeks of release commit another offence, for which inevitably they are caught and returned to prison. Whatever other conclusion can be drawn, what is certain is that repeated doses of imprisonment have been completely ineffective in changing their course of action. Therefore, I welcome some of the constructive suggestions put forward for alternative ways of dealing with offenders other than prison sentences.
I should now like to put forward a few constructive suggestions about the Bill itself. I welcome the Clause dealing with compensation and orders against convicted persons. The weakness of the Clause is that the vast majority of people against whom it will be used will not be able to pay because they are either paupers or have their money cleverly salted away. Why should the principle of awarding compensation in criminal cases not be further extended? At the moment under the Bill it applies only to cases of loss of or damage to property—a power which was already in existence under the Forfeiture Act—or to any personal injury. I should like to see it extended to people who are out of pocket in other ways.
I have particularly in mind the Trade Descriptions Act. This Act has been in force for three years and has proved to be a useful measure from the consumer point of view. One practical defect in that legislation is that it provides no means of compensating the victim of a misleading trade practice. Weights and measures inspectors frequently say that people who complain to them about matters under the Act often lose interest and, when told that the Act cannot procure them compensation, refuse to act as witnesses in criminal prosecutions. I feel that there is a case for a trader being able to compensate his victim, and it would be a far more valuable contribu- 1040 tion to the Bill if a provision were included by which the victim of a misleading trade practice under the Trade Descriptions Act could be so compensated. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will deal with that matter when he replies. Such a suggestion is in line with the thinking in the Bill. It could be done, and if I am fortunate or, depending on the way one thinks, unfortunate enough to be a member of the Committee on the Bill, I shall put down an Amendment. I now give the Government due notice of my intention to do so. I feel that the vast majority of the Clauses are best dealt with in Committee.
I welcome the Bill, as far as it goes. One day, I hope that some Home Secretary will come forward with a Bill which has been based on a great deal of research and with vast resources put at its disposal, which is the product of concentrating on just what effect imprisonment has on a person. I hope that some such Bill will include revolutionary alternatives to prison. Until that happens, this present Bill is not too bad a step.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger White (Gravesend)
Very properly, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary drew attention to the background to the Bill and the situation in which we find ourselves today. It is a background of an increase in crimes of violence of all kinds. During the first six months of this year, there has been an increase of 13.4 per cent. in crimes of violence, and indictable offences known to the police in England and Wales have totalled 821,000, which is an increase of 4.9 per cent.
Unhappily, we live in a period when cheats prosper and where crime pays. Chief Inspector Colin Greenwood of the West Yorkshire Constabulary, writing in the magazine Police, recently gave an assessment of the gamble taken by criminals in weighing the odds of detection and punishment. He estimated that the odds against getting caught were between 7 and 10 to 1 in the villain's favour. Admittedly, those odds were given by Chief Inspector Greenwood when referring to crimes which at one time suffered the ultimate penalty. Therefore it follows that they are much greater for other crimes of violence, certainly those involving robbery.
1041 The increase of crime is worldwide, and the increase of crimes against society, persons or property in this country is taking place against a background of many years of undeniable reform and patience, to say nothing of diligent and humane work on the part of everyone concerned with discipline and welfare.
As a lay magistrate, together with stipendiary magistrates and judges, I have had the painful duty of sending people to prison. I assure the House that there is nothing more painful. I can think of nothing that brings home to one such a sense of humility as when having to take a decision to sentence another human being to what is known as custodial treatment. In the parlance of the criminal fraternity, it is known as "bird" or "porridge". Whatever else it means, another human being is being set aside from the rest of society and locked up for a period of time.
Earlier, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) spoke about the experiment with the suspended sentence. I go part of the way with him in agreeing that initially, certainly, we saw a rise in the numbers receiving suspended sentences and possibly a drop in the total of fines. I assure the House that every effort has been made at seminars and sentencing exercises to impress upon lay magistrates that a suspended sentence is in fact a prison sentence and that it is in no way an alternative to a prison sentence.
Despite the high hopes expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, people who were sentenced two or three years ago to suspended sentences have been coming back to the courts and receiving sentences additional to those imposed on them earlier. The result is that they have had lengthy periods of custodial treatment, all of which have added to the burden of and given grave concern to the prison authorities. I trust that the provisions outlined in Clauses 10 and 11 will go some way to alleviate the present position. They are to be welcomed.
A great deal has been said already about the probation service and the aftercare that these latest proposals involve. It is important that every facility should be given to the probation service for those who will be allocated to it under suspended sentence orders.
1042 My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) touched on a very important point when he referred to the provision giving power to a constable to take an offender arrested for drunkenness in a public place to an approved medical treatment centre for alcoholics. I do not know how other hon. Members view this provision, but I can assure them that there is nothing quite so pathetic as the habitual drunk of no fixed abode who comes before the courts and is sent to prison. Although in many instances prison provides these unfortunates with food, clothing, shelter and medical care possibly far in excess of anything that they have ever enjoyed outside, the indignity of their circumstances has to be seen to be understood.
In the past, a prison sentence has been society's let-out. Very often, poverty-stricken old men without a soul in the world to care for them can find refuge only in society's places of punishment. While the provisions in Clause 26 will meet with the approval of the House and of all those concerned with this aspect of human frailty, it is to be hoped that the medical treatment centre for alcoholics is not the end of the road, but that thought will be given to what is to happen to them when they leave the centres. Are they to be sent back from whence they came, to some former haven, some refuge whore they can resume the life which brought them originally before the courts? I hone that we shall be told that the Home Office has this problem in mind. Surely we do not want to see such people coming repeatedly to medical centres, only to go through the whole nasty circle again.
I come finally to Clauses 42 and 43, which deal with prisons. I am a visiting magistrate to one of Her Majesty's prisons. In one institution that I visited as a lay magistrate I found a borstal allocation centre, a first-term offenders' prison and a long-term offenders' block, all in the same establishment. To say the least of it, such a situation creates great difficulties in terms of association for the inmates, the constant flow of arrivals and departures of people on short-term sentences and, finally, for the staff in maintaining the security of long-term offenders. The need for vigilance, good order and discipline must be maintained always, and I look forward to 1043 this Bill seeing to it that eventually this sort of situation vanishes.
I refer briefly to Holloway Prison. I am amazed at the decision to rebuild the establishment. In my opinion, the place should have been blown up. Certainly the nature of women offenders has taught us, if nothing else, that they are fewer in numbers, that, of those serving long sentences, possibly between 50 and 100 need locking up permanently, but that the vast majority need treatment of all kinds, preferably away from the atmosphere of a penal fortress.
Finally, I have no doubt about the necessity to ensure that the violent and professional criminal is held securely and is called upon to make restitution to those whom he has robbed. These anti-social scoundrels require the full vigour of discipline which society and a modern penal system can provide.
I believe that the Bill strikes the right balance. I trust that it will provide society with the proper protection that it deserves. I wish the Bill success.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
I cannot resist the temptation of saying that I have listened to a very different speech by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Roger White) from the speeches which he used to make as my political opponent many years ago. I agree with him now much more than I did then.
It has often been said that, unlike the continental systems, our legal system draws too great a distinction between the right to compensation in our civil courts and the jurisdiction to punish which is effected in our criminal courts. In the result, the criminal is punished, but few victims are compensated.
Under a number of statutes our criminal laws provide the power to compensate, but this is clearly limited in character and rarely used. Obviously a prime concern should be that, although the criminal is properly punished, the victim does not suffer and the offender is able to enjoy the fruits of his crime, despite his punishment.
I understand that, in substance, Clauses I to 9 adopt the recommenda- 1044 tions of the Report of the Advisory Committee on Reparation by the Offender. The report makes a careful analysis of the problem. I think that the provisions in Clauses 1 to 9 are sound, but we must not lose sight of the difficulties which will attend their administration.
In most cases of crime the victim already has the remedy of seeking damages in the civil court; but the cost of such proceedings, despite legal aid, the trouble and hardship which may be involved, the time which must elapse before a judgment is given, and particularly the opportunity given by the delay which must ensue to the criminal to dissipate his resources and the risk that he may not be able to satisfy a judgment, makes such a remedy very doubtful. These difficulties can, to some extent, be overcome by an award at the time of conviction. That is why I support these provisions. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that the remedy prescribed in these provisions is a rough and ready one.
Our criminal courts are already overburdened. A further task is now being placed upon them. They will have no time to make a detailed examination. It follows that these provisions can be used only in cases where the loss suffered or the damage which ensues can be estimated with some precision and shown clearly to result from the crime. It is satisfactory that the victim can still continue his remedy in the civil courts. I hope that these provisions will be carefully examined in Committee, because, despite the difficulties to which I have referred, I am rather attracted by the new Clause which was moved by the present Lord Chancellor on Report of the Criminal Justice Bill in April, 1967. The House may remember that his proposed remedy was a judgment in favour of the victim or a declaration of liability for damages to be assessed by the High Court or the county court. I hope that some attention and consideration may be given to that point.
I note also that there need not be a claim by the victim. In many cases today one finds that unless the victim is there to make a claim, no claim is pursued. In fact, in our magistrates' courts, even in some cases where a police officer says that he is instructed to press 1045 a claim on behalf of the victim, the magistrates will refuse to deal with it. It is a good provision—that no claim need be made by the victim—but I suggest that he should be given the right to attend so that he can furnish the court with any necessary information.
The provision in Clause 7 for the making of a criminal bankruptcy order is interesting. No doubt it can apply only to some few cases where the loss is considerable. The minimum loss of £15,000 seems too much. I should think that £5,000 would be about right. I regard these provisions—indeed, I think the Home Secretary said this—as an experiment. Despite the difficulties which attend them, they should be tried and, in the light of experience, continued, added to or amended in some appropriate way.
I turn now to Clause 11. When provision was made that sentences of not more than six months, except in certain cases, should be suspended, it was thought to be a wise procedure which would result in a decrease in our prison population and would abolish short sentences which had no real effect on the character of the offender. But it may have led to the imposition of longer sentences to avoid such suspension. Also, the suspension period of three years was obviously too long. Therefore, it is prudent to make the suspension a matter for the discretion of the court and to reduce the maximum period to two years. I should stress that the only danger is that magistrates with unfettered discretion may return to the imposition of short sentences which, in many cases, do no good. Some steps should be taken to see that they are properly warned against this kind of thing. Otherwise, the good intention in the original provision will be defeated.
I am somewhat doubtful about the provision in Clause 28 which gives power to the Attorney-General to refer a point of law to the Court of Appeal in the case of a person tried on indictment and acquitted. It is true that in certain cases where persons are acquitted there may be appeals by way of case stated. I recognise that. However, this is an innovation in that, where a jury has acquitted a person, there is to be a right of appeal on a point of law. It is true that the acquittal is not affected. That position has been safeguarded by the provisions 1046 in the Bill. There is provision also for the costs of the acquitted person in the appeal proceedings. But the person acquitted will have to undergo a period of anxiety until the appeal is determined. If the trial judge is held to have erred and a conviction would or might have resulted, there may be a stigma on the accused person. I do not like this departure from the existing law. It offends, to some degree, the principle that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offence.
I now turn to a matter which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis). I did not hear the earlier part of his speech. I am interested in the Cobden Trust Report published on Thursday last which discloses a very serious state of affairs. In 1969 nearly half of all those who were denied bail were acquitted or given a non-custodial sentence. The provisions in section 18 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1967, appear to have had little effect. Magistrates accept too readily what the police say. Too little inquiry is made into the individual's background and his circumstances. Mere suggestion by the police appears to be accepted without question, and some magistrates do not seem to appreciate the importance of granting bail to the accused.
The alleged offender is presumed to be innocent until he is convicted, and he should have a right to bail in all cases—I see that my reference to "all cases" has made the Under-Secretary of State frown, but he should wait a moment—subject to the exceptions set out in Section 18 of the 1967 Act. In other words, he should have a right to bail unless there is a clear reason, and some proof of that clear reason is given to the court, that it would not be right to grant him bail. Section 18(1) of the 1967 Act went some way towards that by giving such a right to an adult charged in a magistrates' court with a summary offence which is not an indictable offence. That Section should be amended so that it applies to all offenders.
A recent report published by Justice showed that about 90 per cent. of all defendants in magistrates' courts—more than 1½ million persons—were unrepresented, and it suggested the appointment of a duty solicitor, as in the Scottish 1047 system, to see persons in custody and advise them before they appeared at court. Such a system would help on this question of granting bail. The Bill contains no provisions about bail, and I hope that in Committee the opportunity will be taken to include in this Measure the provision which I have suggested, or some provision which will help to remedy the grave injustice that is often caused by a refusal to grant bail.
I welcome the Bill as a measure which contains a number of very useful provisions, but I welcome it more because I think that it affords the opportunity for a discussion on a number of serious problems in our criminal law.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. David James (Dorset, North)
I join the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) in welcoming the Bill. I have listened to many speeches which I should dearly love to follow, particularly that of the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer), who I think made one of the most interesting speeches that I have ever heard on this subject. But I have promised to be brief, and therefore "I must do my thing", as I believe the modern saying is, and my thing emanates from the fact that I was a prisoner of war in Germany during the last war.
I have therefore been behind bars, albeit under rather modified conditions, and allied to a few nights in various civil gaols when I was on the run, and I assure those who might think otherwise that being a prisoner is no fun. It is not something that I should wish on my worst enemy, unless it was necessary for the preservation of society. I therefore welcome particularly the second leg of the Bill which is designed to look for various alternatives, and I hope to catch the ear of my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who I know has done so much on this, about other possible alternatives not included in the Bill.
First, an obvious alternative to prison is a fine. Fines are referred to in the Bill, but I wish that we could go over to the good system which the Royal Navy has enjoyed for many years. A fine of £5 is a lot of money to one man, whereas a fine of £50 is chicken feed to someone 1048 else. I am not talking about parking fees, or things like that, but I suggest that when a fine is imposed to save a man from a prison sentence we should take a leaf out of the Royal Navy's book, and a leaf out of the book of the Swedes, and make the fine relevant to the income or salary enjoyed by that person and, if need be, make it recoverable through P.A.Y.E., or self-assessment which I gather is in the news. A variable fine would make it very much easier to keep men out of prison.
§ Mr. James
I cannot give my right hon. Friend that answer oft the cuff, but I suggest that if the type of fine which I have in mind were collected through P.A.Y.E. the figure might be rather less.
I wanted to pursue my right hon. Friend on another point just before he started to pursue me. He said that criminal bankruptcy might be extremely difficult to enforce, and largely inefficacious. I agree with my right hon. Friend, and I should like to advance an alternative proposition, namely, the possibility of anyone convicted having the opportunity of offering restitution before sentence is passed. My right hon. Friend referred to the possibility of this sum of money, whatever it may be, being salted away with confederates, or put into a marriage settlement trust, or entrusted to a girl friend, but the possibility that the offer to pay the money might be a negotiating point in fixing sentence would be a powerful inducement to the chap to hang on to the lot himself because he might be able to buy a substantial remission in his sentence. I am not suggesting that if he has stolen £100,000, and returns £100,000 with interest, he should get away for nothing, but I think that the principle of restitution might be better than the principle of criminal bankruptcy, particularly in so far as it would be open to a wife to achieve a marked reduction in her husband's sentence.
§ Mr. James
But it does not have any definite bearing on the sentence he may receive and the result of it, and that is the point I wish to pursue.
1049 There is a third penalty which I should like to consider more closely, and that is in connection with driving licences. I recognise that on this issue I shall probably have a collision with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) because I recognise that it has been Home Office doctrine, and lawyers' doctrine, for many years that the removal of driving licences can refer only to motoring offences. In my view a rather absurd situation emerges in that if someone parks three times with a defective rear light he can be deprived of his licence, but if he commits a serious criminal offence he cannot.
I should like to see the deprivation of a driving licence, which is a limited deprivation of liberty, as one of the penalties available to a court. I am not moved by the suggestion that that would prevent a man from earning his living, because nothing prevents a man from earning his living more than being inside. I regard permission to drive a car in a modern society as a privilege which can be maintained only by good behaviour, and I suggest that the limited deprivation of losing a driving licence would, in many cases, be much more efficacious than the present system.
I am doing my best to pursue other means of keeping people out of prison, and I shall now respond briefly to an invitation from the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) about yet another possibility. We are all concerned about those who appear to be habitual criminals. They start with approved school, and go on to borstal. They are in and out and, humanly speaking, those projections can go on throughout their lives. Such people fall into two categories—those who are vicious, and those who are weak and merely need a prop from society. For the latter category I think that we could do worse than revive the medieval concept of banishment.
I am not talking about transportation, or about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, nor am I suggesting—and I was not when I first raised this ten years ago and was taken to task by the New Statesman—any form of Devil's Island. What I am suggesting is that those who are criminals more through weakness than wickedness should have an option—and I should like to make it an option—to go to one of many 1050 islands which are not well inhabited. Scarba off the West Highlands is one which takes my fancy because I am a West Highlander. I mean this seriously. They would have an opportunity of taking their wives and children. They would have reasonable tools to earn their own living and they would have the maximum freedom compatible with the defence of society.
This type of life would merely separate such weak characters from the bright lights and dog tracks and might be an infinitely more humane way of protecting society from a man who is not vicious but merely weak. I should like him to take his family and have a "local" around the corner and I should like his children to have full schooling facilities. But I would not like to break up his life merely because he is inadequate. The hon. Member who challenged me to produce an idea may think that this is a very bad one. It had a very bad reception when I first introduced it ten years ago, and I am prepared for it to have an even worse one tonight—but I believe that it is one which should be accepted.
These are the alternatives which I should like to canvass if I am on the Committee dealing with the Bill. There is only one phrase in the Bill at which I should like to cavil. That is the proposal that, for certain categories of firearms offence, "life" should be substituted for 14 years. "Life" is now totally and utterly discredited. Everyone knows that it means on average nine years. People do not realise that many of those sentenced have committed a crime while suffering from a depressive disease and that they are rightly released after six months, when they are cured. Naturally if there is a good number of these people, this reduces the average sentence substantially.
I suggest that we should use the English language as it is actually employed and substitute for "life" the word "indefinitely". This is what we are discussing. The general public know what "indefinitely" means. They are highly suspicious of a life sentence. This would have the additional advantage that, if ever it were necessary—perish the thought—to send people to prison for life, at least when judgment was passed people would know that the phrase meant what it said.
1051 I will not go far into the subject of these relatively few but disastrous cases of people who shoot down policemen in cold blood, from whom the public must be protected probably for all time. It is not within the spirit of this debate that I should go further than that, but I should like my hon. and learned Friend to consider seriously, in the light of possible future legislation, whether the phrase "for life", which would eliminate all hope, is more humane than the death sentence. I do not want to take that any further, but it is often overlooked these days that, if one has spent only one year behind bars, the prospect of another 40 is utterly intolerable and insupportable.
I have suggested a few other ways in which we could keep people out of prison, because I want to keep prison for the hard core of people. Some of them could respond to treatment if prisons were not overcrowded and the rest of them, although they might have to be confined for the terms of their natural lives, should at least have a natural life which is as happy and as easy as is humanly possible.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South-West)
I apologise to the House for intervening in the debate when I have not been present throughout. For that reason if for no other, I shall intervene only briefly.
One should not rise in the House to speak on a Criminal Justice Bill within seven days of the events of last week without drawing attention to the fact—one can do little more, because it is irrelevant to the Bill—that for the first time in the history of this country, we, or some of us, have in the last week condoned the use of what I would certainly call—and I do not want to use emotive words—torture in British prisons. Little more can be said about that at this time, but it should not pass unnoticed that some hon. Members have lent their authority to the extraction by force of information from prisoners in Northern Ireland.
A more relevant point is that one of the purposes of the Bill is to review some of the fines which are already on the Statute Book. I suggest that there are many other fines beside those covered 1052 in the Bill which are now too low. Some may have started too low, but through inflation many are now too low. It would be a good thing if we got into the habit of having a "fines" Bill from time to time to raise the value of fines to keep pace with inflation.
There are individual fines which, although not much affected by inflation, have now clearly become too low because of a policy decision. One of these is the fine for the criminal offence of harassing tenants. The Government should have taken the opportunity of this Bill, as they could have done, to honour their pledge in the White Paper, "A Fair Deal for Housing ":The Government will take the earliest legislative opportunity to propose increases in the maximum penalties for harassment and illegal eviction.That was an undertaking based on the Francis Committee's recommendation. The Government were clearly saying to the country that they would take the first chance to see that this recommendation was carried out, even though they wanted more time to consider other recommendations.
This is the second Bill in which it would have been possible for the Government to honour that pledge and the second in which they have not tried to do so. I hope to give them an opportunity to do so by trying to move an Amendment after Second Reading to use the Bill to raise the fines in the 1965 Rent Act to the levels recommended by the Francis Committee. This might entail consequential Amendment to the Long Title, but the Government should consider it very seriously in the light of their public pledge.
The principal item in the Bill which interests me is the probation service. I would urge the Under-Secretary to pay close attention to, and, hopefully, to implement, the recommendations which will be made in the very near future by the Expenditure Committee, one of whose sub-committees has been looking at this subject over the summer months.
There is a great deal of feeling in the probation service about the possible risk that the service in England and Wales will be merged with the social welfare departments of local authorities, as it has already been merged in Scotland. The Scottish experiment has not been in operation nearly long enough for us to 1053 be able to judge whether it has been a success. Some members of the bench in Scotland certainly do not think so.
There is another consideration. The unified social welfare departments in England and Wales have been built up rapidly, and their bosses have been appointed all at once throughout the whole country. Without disrespect to them, some of those people might not have occupied the positions to which they were appointed had probation officers been free to apply for the jobs. Given the present quality of the social welfare departments in local authorities, it would not be right to put the probation service into that machine, at least at this time.
If we are to improve the probation service we must provide more money to employ more probation officers. However, we will get them only if we are prepared to pay them more. It is a disgraceful situation to find in newspapers each week advertisements for half-qualified social workers to start at salaries a couple of hundred above the starting salaries of qualified probation officers.
I hope the Minister will look carefully at the salary structure as well as at the levels of salary within the probation service. Probation officers suffer from the disadvantage that the service has a flat hierarchy. If we are to recruit probation officers of the quality we have secured in the past, we will have to give them at the age of about 40 a considerable increase in income such as is given to people in other professions when they are promoted to higher grades. Because promotion of this kind is not available in the probation service—in view of the flat nature of the pyramid—we should substitute another means of giving an increase in salary which would normally be obtained at that age.
May we be told to what extent the Government propose to allocate funds for the establishment of the various new devices provided for in the Bill—bail hostels, training centres and so on? The fact that these will be legally possible will not be sufficient unless the Government are prepared to make a good deal of money available to get these institutions established.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Miss Mary Holt (Preston, North)
I would have welcomed the Bill with much 1054 more confidence had it been more comprehensive. In recent years the public have become extremely concerned by the rising incidence of crime. Numerous speakers have quoted figures to illustrate this point and, while I do not wish to delay the House, a few extra figures will not go amiss.
In 1938 the number of persons found guilty of indictable offences totalled 78,000. By 1970 the figure had risen to 322,000. The adjusted figures—covering the discrepancy in the law after the passage of the Theft Act, 1968, and prior to that time—for offences of violence against the person known to the police numbered in 1968, 31,000; in 1969, 37,000; and in 1970, 41,000. They have gone up by about 10 per cent. in three years, and the public are rightly concerned about this.
People are shocked when they see unarmed police officers shot down by ruthless criminals armed with firearms. They are equally alarmed by the growing numbers of hooligans and vandals in our cities. They are shocked when they see criminals enjoying the benefits of suspended sentences, a form of sentencing which has produced so many anomalies that last week's New Law Journal described it asfast becoming our most litigated penal legal sanction, whilst at the same time giving the man in the street the impression that criminals who have been brought before the courts are getting off scot free.It is against this background that the Bill must be judged.
The measures to deal with crimes of violence against the person are limited to increasing the maximum punishment for firearms offences. I wish to be assured that the substitution of life imprisonment for 14 years for committing an offence with intent to endanger life will mean, in this case, detention for the remainder of the person's life and not merely a sentence, with remissions, amounting to less than 14 years.
The Bill does nothing to protect any further our gallant police officers who must face these criminals. Surely, if the Government could not introduce capital punishment they could at least have provided that in cases of murder of police officers, a sentence of life imprisonment should at least mean detention for the natural life of the criminal.
1055 The Bill provides for the disappearance of the automatic suspended sentence, which took from magistrates their discretion in sentencing. This provision led to many anomalies, and I welcome the change.
There are three other provisions to which I will refer. The first is the introduction of community service orders under which criminals may be ordered to do unpaid work. This is to be welcomed. It is an interesting experiment in sentencing which is well worth trying. After all, filling the leisure time of offenders with useful work to society is sensible and practical. Idle hands are the very things that get people into trouble.
The second is the codifying of the provisions which relate to the payment of compensation to victims, and I welcome these provisions. The third is the interesting experiment in introducing criminal bankruptcy. This is an imaginative attempt to deprive the criminal of the enjoyment of his ill-gotten gains. It is extraordinary and unrealistic, however, that this provision should be limited to victims who have lost £15,000 or more, as the poorer victims are surely those who most need to recover what they have lost.
I am disturbed to find that although the victim is to become a creditor in the criminal bankruptcy, there is nothing to make him a preferential creditor. One can imagine that in these cases the Inland Revenue will be the foremost creditor and will collar the whole or substantially the whole of the proceeds, particularly in a case where several crimes are considered together. The other victims, who are perhaps only ordinary creditors, will get a small dividend or nothing.
I welcome what I regard as an open-minded approach that has been adopted by the Government in dealing with the difficult problem of the criminal law, and I support the Bill.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
It is a great pleasure to follow in debate my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Miss Holt). I, too, share, as I think many hon. Members do, her misgivings about the meaning of life imprisonment and the protection, such as it 1056 is, that a sentence of this kind gives to the police. I will comment later on her remarks in this respect.
I wish, first, to take this advantage of replying to something that was said by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). He suggested that the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham, had made a promise when he was in Opposition which he did not keep. As the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East rightly remembered, Lord Hailsham said that he would want a fundamental reappraisal of our penal system. Lord Hailsham kept that promise. It was he who was responsible for setting up a committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers, which for the last 12 months has been spending a great deal of time trying to come to conclusions which I believe should have been reached by the Royal Commission that was dismantled by the Labour Administration.
I am most grateful for what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, my right hon and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Sir D. Renton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) about the work of that committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers. It would be more than modest of me if I did not recognise the excellence of the Bill's provisions, which implement the proposals made by the Society of Conservative Lawyers.
Whilst congratulating my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on including such excellent provisions in his Bill, I must press upon him what I believe to be the urgent necessity of considering again what is omitted from the Bill There are many excellent reforms which ought to be in the Bill but which are omitted. In the very short time for which I intend to speak I should like to mention briefly three of the reforms which ought to be in the Bill. One of them, the punishment for murder, has been touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North. To satisfy the great disquiet throughout the country about the punishment for murder, the Government ought to introduce a new sentence which would cover not only murder but also persistent violent crime.
I should like to see an amendment to the rules relating to the caution which 1057 police officers have to administer before they can question a suspect. I should also like to see a provision which would reform our jury system on the lines recommended by the Morris Committee.
As the House well knows, and as the country, too, well appreciates, the only and automatic sentence for murder is life imprisonment, and that is a wholly misleading title. In my view, it is a wholly inadequate punishment for the gravest of all crimes. Many would like to see capital punishment restored to the Statute Book, but they have no hope of persuading this Government or, indeed, any composition of this House, so far as I can anticipate it, to bring back capital punishment. But many of us would like to see this new sentence for murder. I should like to see the trial judge given the discretion of imposing, in proper cases, long sentences of imprisonment on a person convicted of murder. I want an end to this ridiculous anomaly of a person who is convicted of manslaughter, a lesser offence, possibly spending more time in prison than if he had pleaded guilty to murder.
I want to see this new sentence brought about in this way. At the end of a long determinate sentence for murder, I want the Home Secretary to be given the same powers that he has now in relation to life imprisonment, so that that determinate sentence will be ended by release on licence, which will enable the Home Secretary to recall anyone and will give him that power over that person for that person's life. This kind of sentence would be equally appropriate to deal with those who are convicted of violent crimes and have shown themselves to be of a persistently violent character.
I turn now to the second reform that I seek to persuade the Government to consider introducing into the Bill: namely, the introduction of some amendment to deal with the present procedure which the police have to follow when they question a suspect. Sir Thomas More held to the principle that a man need never be convicted out of his own mouth, and it is a principle which this House would do well to remember in any reform which it undertakes in relation to the procedure of police questioning.
1058 Why, in the case of a suspect who spontaneously wishes to give the police information—which may well be the truth and which may never be heard again—should the police have imposed upon them the fetters of a rule which makes it necessary for them to say to the suspect, "Be careful what you say, because what you say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence"? I ask the Government to consider some way of making this rule less of a burden on the police. I want to avoid acquittals of guilty people. At the same time, I am anxious not to put at risk the innocent.
I turn now to the reform of the jury system. I do not think there is an hon. or right hon. Member in this House who would not willingly agree that our present jury system is hopelessly out of date. The qualification for service on a jury is the qualification of what is called "a householder"—someone who is liable to pay rates. It was a qualification that was arguable as being an inapt and inadequate qualification when introduced, nearly 150 years ago.
Today, because of this qualification, a vast number of people who otherwise would be qualified to serve on juries by reason of age, experience and position in society are not eligible for jury service. We are getting far too few women and far too few young people serving on juries. The Morris Committee recommended in 1965 that a new qualification be introduced for jury service, to be known as "citizenship". This qualification would be evidenced by inclusion in the parliamentary register as an elector. All such people would be eligible for service as members of a jury, excluding those who could not read, write, speak or understand the English language without difficulty.
I have exhausted the time I promised I would not exceed, and must end by asking my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary if he will please do something which will enable this reforming Criminal Justice Bill to be a vehicle of those other reforms which, although they do not appear in the Bill, are, in my submission, equally necessary to the proper administration of justice in Britain.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Havers (Wimbledon)
When one is called at this time of night 1059 in a debate which has attracted lawyers on both sides of the House it is usually found that all one's points have been made and that all one's pearls of wisdom have already been spoken. The Bill is imaginative, constructive and logical and, so far as it goes, humane. It will be welcomed by all for those virtues.
The aspect which will be most attractive to the public is that of community service of which much has been said. It seems that this can be summarised by saying that it provides a half-way house between probation and prison. I very much hope that the experiment will get off the ground quickly, prove successful and that this new provision can be put into force as quickly as possible.
One of the proposals which attracted me was the power, lacking previously, when a suspended sentence is passed for a court to make a probation order to run with it. There have been many complaints from judges over the past four years that they were not allowed to make any sort of probation order at the time they felt that a man sentenced to a suspended sentence most needed the support of the probation service. It is rather ironic that the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) should criticise this variation. It must make my right hon. Friend feel, "How can I ever get it right and satisfy everyone?"
The compensation order follows very much what was dealt with in a report—again I am "plugging" the Conservative Lawyers' Society—published a few months ago. My hon. and learned Friend has not gone as far as I would like him to go. He has made some provision in the sense that there is power to defer a sentence for six months, enabling a court to see what steps have been taken by an offender to repay. In the report it was suggested that the term should be 18 months and that resolution to repay should be buttressed by the support of the probation service. It would immediately be said that it is too much for the service, but the very senior probation officer who served on that Committee was confident that this could be taken on. and I ask my hon. and learned Friend to look at this again and see whether the provision could not be extended.
The mandatory suspension of imprisonment for six months or less is to go. This 1060 is a very good idea and will meet with general approval. Here I support instead of criticising the hon. Member for Bradford, East in what he said about Section 3 of the 1961 Act. It is a restriction upon sentencing those who are between the ages of 17 and 21 which has met with unmitigated contempt and reproach from the bench. It is something about which I have never heard a kind word from any judge.
The point of this can be realised when dealing with two men, one of whom is 20 and really the ringleader, and the other is aged 22. The offences are serious and cannot be overlooked. The 22-year-old man deserves a 12 to 18 month sentence but it would be monstrously unfair and unjust to send him away for that time if the same sentence were not given to the ringleader who by chance is two years younger. The law prevents that happening. He has to be given six months or three years—which is much to long—or borstal, which is probably inappropriate. I invite my hon. and learned Friend, when the time comes, to consider whether Clause 10 should not also do away with these provisions which have been much criticised.
Clause 28 is most interesting. It provides a power which in a sense sounds rather like the old Court of Crown Cases reserved to the Court of Appeal to consider points which would not ordinarily get to it. I know of one or two judges who have said in the past, "I had to rule in favour of the accused and direct an acquittal. I am sure that was the right thing to do but I would have loved to have ruled the other way so that the point could be taken to the Court of Appeal where it could have been freshly considered."
Now it can go to the court. I take the objection made by the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) when he says that this could lead to a great deal of difficulty for an acquitted man who did not intend to pursue the matter in the Court of Appeal, which I suspect would be more than likely. Having been discharged he would probably not want to do anything else. I can see complications following because if it is an interesting point of law it will get in the law reports and may attract attention in ordinary newspapers. That may mean 1061 that a man, let us call him Mr. Smith, will have the whole of his case tried again on a point of law in the Court of Appeal and it is almost inevitable, if the decision of the trial judge which resulted in an acquittal is reversed, that people will say to him, "You were jolly lucky; you ought to have been convicted".
There is a short way round this. It would be rather fun to go back to the John Doe cases. In the old days, John Doe was a fictional name to be used in cases like this when points such as these were to be decided. If we used consecutive numbers with the name, John Doe 1, John Doe 2, John Doe 3, and so on, we should instantly indicate to any practitioner that this was one of those rare cases which had gone after acquittal to the Court of Appeal. This would mean that there could be no question of the acquitted man being identified and therefore no stigma if the Court of Appeal reversed the decision. This, again, is a matter for consideration by the Government. Generally, I regard this as a first-class Bill and I welcome it.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Fowler (Nottingham, South)
It is a pleasure to follow two of my hon. Friends who, through the Society of Conservative Lawyers, have made a direct contribution to the Bill, with at times the help of a few quasi-lawyers on their various working parties.
I welcome the Bill above all because it is realistic. That can be illustrated by the different ways in which it deals with the two extremes of the criminal league, the professional criminal and the petty offender. For the professional criminal the increase in maximum penalties for offences with firearms is particularly important and it hardly needs emphasising that offences concerning firearms have increased in the last few years.
What concerns us most is this class of criminal, the fairly young professional criminal. One of the most difficult and one of the most acute problems that society faces is exactly how we deter this kind of criminal. As do many of my hon. Friends, I like to believe that the police detection rate has an effect upon crime. I like to believe the conventional theory that a high police detection rate will have an effect in deterring 1062 crime. But however that may be generally, it does not have an application to this kind of young professional criminals
This was the point made by the two senior London policemen in their interview in The Times. I do not by any means agree with everything they said, but on this point I think they were right. They confirmed conversations which I have had in maximum security prisons with Category A and sometimes the hardly-less-serious Category B offenders. Many of these are exactly the young professional criminals who, up to prison, have lived by crime and who carry arms and who plan their robberies. If the theory of high detection rates had general application, it would apply to them, but in a space of a few years these men have a whole string of convictions behind them and criminal careers stretching from borstal to maximum security prison.
In spite of that, in spite of all the evidence of their own careers, they continue to commit crimes and many clearly intend to go back to committing crimes. They regard prison as an unpleasant but necessary price for following their profession. More than that, in spite of a whole career of failure, they stick to the rather childlike belief that the next crime will be the successful one.
It is true that some of the older criminals take a rather different view. They are worried by detection and, perhaps more than anything else, by the probability of receiving a really long prison sentence. But as I believe that the young professional criminals cannot be deterred in these normal ways, I think that, in these particular instances, the Bill's provisions with regard to criminals who carry arms are necessary, not as a deterrent but for their own sake. In some ways that is regrettable, but inevitably we have to accept it.
But none of this in any way implies that all prisoners are of the same criminal seriousness. At the other end of the scale are those for whom prison in inappropriate, because there is clearly very little that it can achieve for them. In Pentonville one finds alcoholics, and other prisoners who have severe drink problems. Almost invariably their offences are petty and their sentences short. The only thing that prison achieves for them is, perhaps, to dry them out. But they 1063 go out again. They go into the world—to the Salvation Army Hostel first, and then to sleeping rough, and then by another petty offence they are back in prison. The truth is that prison cannot tackle these men's basic problems. Prison staffs have neither the time nor the facilities for this. Yet these are the men who, wherever they should be, most certainly should not be in prison.
That is why I welcome the other main strand in the Bill which provides alternatives to prison sentences. It is a great tribute to the Bill that it recognises this need so clearly, and in many of is provisions concentrates on providing those alternatives. I do not claim that the alternatives to prison will be the whole answer to our present problem—clearly not—but we have a duty to try to develop them to the fullest extent.
The parole scheme has been much criticised—I think wrongly so. A study of the figures shows that parole is one of the few penal schemes in the last few years that has been an undoubted success. Only 3 per cent. of prisoners released have had to be recalled for committing further offences. That is a very formidable success rate. I agree that it is not the whole story, but it at least indicates that there is no great danger to the public in releases of this kind.
The scheme is capable of being extended. At present, parole is considered only after the prisoner has served 12 months in prison. If it were considered after he had served eight months in prison, another 3,600 prisoners would be eligible, and the full effect would be to reduce the present prison population by about 600—in other words, by about a whole new prison.
I do not want to push this suggestion now, because the success of the parole scheme has to a large extent been due to the cautious and sensible way in which Hunt and his colleagues have handled it, and the way in which I believe they have taken public opinion with them. But I should like confirmation that my hon. and learned Friend has not forgotten this potential for expansion of the scheme and that this is a step that could be taken.
I am very happy with the Bill. It tackles some of the real problems of crime. It deserves support. Incidentally, this is the first debate on crime we have had since I became a Member in July, 1064 1970. I hope very much that we shall not again have to wait 15 months for another debate of this type.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurance Reed (Bolton, East)
Most Members have voiced the public's disquiet about the increasing lawlessness and violence in our society, but, in my view, there is a group of crimes more disturbing than any other. I refer to sabotage, terrorism and other crimes which can be loosely grouped under the generic term "political acts of violence". I am disappointed that the Bill not only does not make any provision for tackling these crimes but seems to make no recognition of them. I should have thought that at the very least the provisions relating to firearms could have been extended to cover the use of explosives which endanger human life. These omissions are remarkable because increasingly people in public life are becoming the objects of threats and attack from extremists, anarchists and other subversive groups who believe that they have the right to use violence at any level to achieve their political ends.
The use of force to bring social or political change raises some interesting philosophical points. I believe that it is morally justifiable in a totalitarian State but totally indefensible in a democratic society where there are proper channels for pursuing change by peaceful means. Certainly no free State could long tolerate such crimes and remain free. Unless we treat these acts with the utmost severity, we could be driven towards greater repression, as has happened in Northern Ireland.
Parliament has always looked upon offences against the State as the most heinous of all crimes, not simply because the degree of violence used can end in multiple killings, but because they are directed towards the overthrow of the whole basis of legal order. The fundamental requirement in any society is the ability to protect itself against subjugation, and the chief duty of any Government is to safeguard the State and its institutions against external and internal attack. A Government which fails in this duty cannot provide, let alone ensure, the freedom and stability necessary for people to live their lives in peace, and without such a guarantee of stability the rest of law, whether civil or criminal, is largely rendered void.
1065 It is for that reason that the law has always looked upon subversion and insurrection as the most serious of crimes. Surely it is significant that Parliament, while it has seen fit to do away with the capital sentence for almost all offences, has retained it for treason. This is not an anomalous or historic relic. I believe that it is an act of deliberate policy springing from the recognition that in times of civil unrest and disturbance the judiciary must have the ultimate sanction at its disposal.
It is, therefore, very difficult to argue why the death sentence should not also be available for acts of sabotage or terrorism which result in the loss of human life or for any killing done or caused in the furtherance of political aims since the objective is one and the same. In fact, in most cases it appears that terrorism constitutes a treasonable act punishable by death and it is only the policy of the Attorney-General which prevents people who perpetrate these crimes from being prosecuted under this head. I do not propose to deal tonight with the question whether we should go that far, but I urge the Minister to consider the adequacy of the penalties for these offences and to see whether the law can be strengthened through the Bill.
This year there have been violent explosions at the Post Office Tower and at public installations, and there have been assassination attempts against two Cabinet Ministers, the Attorney-General, two junior Ministers and the chief of the Metropolitan Police. As politicians we ought to remember that while we may be principal targets of terrorists we at least can be given police protection around the clock, but that the people we represent are also vulnerable and are not so easily shielded.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
The House in this wide-ranging debate, in which suggestions have ranged from banishment to the return of the rope and the lash, comes once again face to face with the problem of how we should tackle the threat of crime in our society. Last year I attended a conference of Ministers of Justice of Governments belonging to the Council of Europe. Increase in crime, and in particular increase in violent crime, was found to be a feature common to all our countries. What else 1066 emerged was that there was neither a simple explanation nor a simple solution. The problem of violence is on the increase all over the world whether the Governments concerned are liberal Governments or oppressive Governments, and indeed, we in this country suffer rather less than most others.
The penal system, the courts and the prisons, have their part to play in dealing with this problem, but to attribute the increase in crime mainly to faults in that system, as has lately been done, in my view is wholly unjustifiable and misguided. As the Professor of Criminology at Cambridge has put it:The penal system may be able to rehabilitate some, to deter some, but it cannot get at the currents of crime deep in society.It is, at any rate, gratifying that the Government have resisted pressures from the get-tough school—and we have heard one or two voices from that school speaking stridently in this debate; and this Bill, for the most part, reflects the trend of our penal system in recent years to use discrimination in the treatment of offenders, to concentrate resources on the very small minority of really dangerous criminals and to give every chance of rehabilitation to those who are likely to respond.
As has been indicated more than once in this debate, this Bill comes before the House at a critical time in our prison system. The Prison Rules of 1964 said thatthe purpose of the training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to encourage and assist them to lead a good and useful life.As has been emphasised many times today, the fact is that the overcrowding in our prisons and borstals gives those words a rather hollow ring. At present, for instance, many young offenders are kept for up to six months in local prisons and allocation centres waiting for places at borstal.
I am not saying for a moment that the problem is simple. It existed in the time when we were in office. It is of course, the case that we shall continue to need prisons so long as vicious and cruel enemies of society exist and continue to commit the atrocious crimes which they do commit. But the deplorable feature of our present arrangements is that many 1067 men and women are in prison unnecessarily—and this has been a common theme in the debate—unnecessarily from the point of view both of the protection of the community and of their own future good. The Home Secretary seemed at one point in his speech to be agreeing with this proposition to the point of indicating that only violent criminals should be imprisoned, and we were expecting any moment an announcement of a dramatic amnesty which, if that principle were applied, would mean the emptying of most of our gaols overnight. But the governing words "wherever possible" quickly put an end to the illusion.
However, it is the case, as has been pointed out—and here is a sphere where something can be done, I think, to reduce the prison population, namely, to reduce the number of people in prison awaiting trial. Every year about 40,000 accused persons are remanded in custody awaiting trial. Of these, about 2,000 are eventually acquitted and about 20,000 are convicted but not given a custodial sentence. Several hundred persons wait for over three months in custody and are utimately acquitted. In 1969, 105 persons who were subsequently acquitted or discharged were held in custody for 11 weeks or more on remand or awaiting trial. Many persons tried summarily before magistrates are remanded in custody. As many as 10 per cent. of our prison population at any one time may consist of prisoners awaiting trial.
Something must be done about this, as has been said most eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman). and from the other side of the House. The Lord Chancellor pleads that something should be done, and it is high time that what is said is listened to in the courts.
The other aspect of a reduction in the prison population has been well expressed in an article by Mr. Alec Samuels in the Contemporary Review of July this year. He points out that, apart from the hard core of professional and often dangerous prisoners, the category A and B prisoners, many, at any rate, if not most, offenders 1068 who are in prison are pathetic, socially and personally inadequate men who in themselves represent no security problem, and they are usually to be found in local or open prisons. As has been said on both sides of the House, with particular eloquence by the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler), what is needed for this type of prisoner is treatment in non-prison institutions.
It is gratifying that the Bill provides for drying-out centres for alcoholics—a singularly unattractive description of the institution, but no doubt it meets the needs of the case. Similarly, there should be provision in the Bill for treatment for drug addicts in institutions, for the mentally ill in hospitals and for the feckless and work-shy in appropriate training and disciplinary institutions short of prisons. All these measures will result in the reduction of the prison population, which has now become an urgent necessity in our penal system.
There is a particular group of prisoners about whom something could and should be done at once—those who are kept in prison for medical examination. They are identified by Dr. Gibbens and Mrs. Dell in their report which is published in Medicine, Science and Law. It was found that 80 per cent. of the women who were in prison for medical examination were released on sentence. The report rightly urged the Home Office urgently to develop facilities so that offenders can be examined on bail by, first, expanding the provision at National Health Service out-patients' clinics to allow offenders to get appointments for psychiatric assessment without undue delay, and. secondly. by introducing outpatient facilities at remand centres and prison hospitals so that doctors can readily examine bailed offenders. These are measures which can fairly easily be implemented. and I should like to know whether anything is being done with regard to them.
In opening the debate, the Home Secretary properly considered the question whether the Bill will be helpful in reducing the prison population. That is a fundamentally important approach to the Bill. I agree that to a limited extent it should have that effect, and for that reason we commend the Bill.
1069 The most imaginative and hopeful provision in the Bill, and one which may help to reduce the prison population, is the proposal that the criminal courts should be empowered to require offenders to carry out service to the community. This proposal commends itself to almost every penal philosopher. Though it deprives the offender of his leisure and to that extent is punitive, it is more constructive and cheaper than a short term of imprisonment. It also emphasises reparation to the community.
This would appear to add a new dimension to our penal system and may help to bring offenders in close touch with their fellow citizens who most need help and support. It is to be hoped that in the process of this work offenders will see the value of service to the community and will see themselves as having some value to the community. The drop-out in many ways is one of the most tragic features of our society. Therefore, we strongly commend this proposal.
Experiments in this field have already been carried out in co-operation between the Home Office and bodies such as the I.V.S. I am sure there is an abundance of opportunity for community service both in work with or for individuals and in constructional projects.
I was very glad to hear the Home Secretary refer to the projects which were contemplated. One of my hon. Friends was a little worried, as are others, that these men and women, young and old, will be called upon to do only dreary and rather degrading work. However, the House will have noted the kind of work that is contemplated. It includes the construction of adventure playgrounds; clearing beaches and country paths; helping with reclamation projects and restoring canals; and cleaning up churchyards—and, my goodness, how that needs to be done! Most of our churchyards are a disgrace to the living and the dead. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, perhaps I should substitute the word "many" for the word "most". I am sure few would quarrel with that proposition. However, I must not be diverted from my theme. Many useful proposals are contemplated in work for the community service.
It is right to sound a warning note that too much should not be expected from 1070 the scheme too soon, and it is likely to be rather patchy. Some areas have no satisfactory community service operating and there will be problems in some rural areas. But the scheme should be practicable in all urban areas.
It is a little hard that local authorities should pay half the cost, and perhaps this matter may be more carefully examined in Committee. The sub-committee on whose report these proposals are made carefully examined the question of who should administer this community service and rightly concluded that the functions would be most appropriately assigned to the probation service.
There is no doubt that several proposals in the Bill will impose added burdens upon the probation service, and I am glad that the Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University is to be asked to consider the remuneration and conditions of employment of probation officers. I do not know whether his inquiry will be confined to those matters. Perhaps we shall have some elaboration on that point.
It will be interesting to hear the extent to which the probation service has been consulted about the additional burdens which will be imposed upon it. One's impression is that probation officers are very hard pressed to do what they are presently called upon to do. We on this side of the House would like to know what discussions there have been and what is contemplated to enable the probation and after-care service to cope with this work.
At present, I think that the service is in a state of rather low morale, partly because of the comparison of its pay structure with that of others employed in social work for local authorities, but partly due also to uncertainty about the future of the service. We should like to hear a little more on the subject from the Under-Secretary.
In this part of the scheme of the Bill, it will be very important to channel more resources not only to local authorities but also to voluntary organisations. My experience of some of them is that they have to spend far too much of their time at the moment scratching round for the odd £100. As voluntary organisations are to be at the heart of the community service idea, I hope that we shall see a more generous approach from the Government to their financing and to the 1071 provision of facilities. In the long run, it is through improving the environment as a whole—through education, the social services, and housing—that we can best hope to influence the crime rate. But we can do other things short of that major necessity.
I come now to the other non-custodial ideal which the Committee proposed and which the Bill adopts, namely, deferment of sentence. This is not the first time that we have discovered that Scotland has been doing sensible things for a very long time which we could benefit by adopting. I refer not only to Scotland's distinguished discovery of whisky in this connection.
I understand that deferring sentences after conviction takes place in Scotland in about 500 cases a year, most of them in the sheriff court, where I understand that the practice has proved quite beneficial. According to Lady Wootton's Report, the former Lord Chief Justice, on behalf of the higher judiciary, opposed this proposal. However, I agree with the Committee's view that a power to defer sentence will be a useful addition to the penal armoury.
As for suspended sentences, in the light of experience I am not disposed to quarrel with what is proposed in Clause 10, especially in view of the provisions in Clause 13(2). But I understand that I may incur the displeasure of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) in submitting so willingly to what is proposed in the Bill. I wait with interest to hear the Under-Secretary's replies to my right hon. Friend's probing questions on this subject.
It has been a very sad story. What was intended to be a means of reducing the number of persons committed to custody appears to have had the opposite effect because, unfortunately, the courts used suspended sentences as alternatives to fines or probation. There were fewer fines and probation orders, and the long-term result was that the numbers failing while under suspended sentence and then being sent to gaol exceeded what was ment to be saved on direct committals.
The proposals for compensation, restitution and criminal bankruptcy orders are, as has been indicated, the outcome of a highly technical report by the Widgery Committee. There is un- 1072 doubtedly considerable public concern that offenders should be required to recompense their victims, but the report indicates that there are many difficulties in the way of its proposals. I imagine that the Home Office has no illusions that not a great deal will be recovered from the offender as a result of the proposals in the Bill. However, Clauses 1 to 9 extend the courts' powers and tidy up the law in this respect. It may be that in appropriate cases the courts will make increasing use of those powers.
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) submitted these proposals to searching analysis. It is clear that intractable problems have to be faced. The main difficulty is that often the loot or the profit from crime will have been dissipated before the criminal is brought before the court. By the time he is in the dock he is often not worth powder and shot. I think that in no country have the obstacles to effective reparation by the offender been satisfactorily overcome.
There is likely to be a good deal of overlapping regarding remedying the losses suffered by the victims of crime. The victim can, of course, seek damages in tort, but this can be a pretty expensive business. At the end of the day the victim may, as the Committee points out, have nothing to show for his litigation but his solicitor's bill for costs. It is significant that the Chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, in the last report, said that, of the many thousands of cases with which it dealt, there were only six in which it felt that it could usefully have sued the offender if it had power to do so. Under the proposals of the Bill, the victim would have the advantage of an immediate award where this could be made, and he would not need to take any initiative to obtain it.
In this context it may soon become necessary—I invite the House to consider this point—to examine the set-up of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. That scheme has operated on a non-statutory and ex gratia basis since it was set up in 1964. In 1970–71 over £2 million of public funds was paid in compensation to victims of criminal injury. The Board obviously does its work with immense care. In suggesting that perhaps the time has come for its working and structure to be looked at, I am not 1073 implying any criticism of its work. But I cannot help detecting from the last paragraph of the chairman's report for this year, dealing with staff, that there has been too much movement of staff arising from the fact that the Board's staff is provided by secondment from the Home Office. This is one of the several problems in this sphere which I think needs our urgent consideration.
I turn now to criminal bankruptcy which was much trumpeted in the Press. As the right hon. Member for Ashford so eloquently pointed out, the practical problems to which it gives rise are considerable. The resources of the bankruptcy services are already severely overstretched. Yet the uncovering, realisation, and distribution of the assets of offenders through bankruptcy procedures would indeed be a formidable job. Professional crooks are not easily caught with funds which can be seized.
However, it is worth while to try this process, although it will clearly be on an experimental basis. The report contemplates only a handful of cases being dealt with each year. This is a sphere where great expectations have been raised by propaganda but where the practical result may prove to be minimal.
There are many other provisions in the Bill which we shall want to examine carefully in Committee. The success of the provision in Clause 19 for day training centres will depend on the staffs which can be obtained to run them, and we shall want to study the content of the rules, which we hope will be available before or at the Committee stage.
Provisions for increases in fines for breaches of probation are presumably intended to keep up with the inflationary trend. As to Clauses 22 and 23, I think that these will need careful study in Committee. Clause 23, in particular introduces a new principle of providing for driving disqualification as a punishment for offences other than those connected with motor vehicles. The problem is that thieves will steal cars anyway. But if the evidence given to us in Committee shows that the proposal will make things harder for criminals I think that we on this side of the House will be inclined to support it. But a real problem exists here, and the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) raised it, although the hon. Member for Dorset, 1074 North (Mr. David James) strongly supported the proposals—such is the many-sidedness of truth.
The Clause dealing with firearms has been much heralded, but whether increasing the penalty to imprisonment for life will make any difference is. I think, doubtful. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) spoke on this matter, and it is the case that out of 7,000 successful prosecutions relating to firearms the average sentence imposed by the courts was about 4 per cent. of the permitted sentence.
I doubt whether much good will be done by increasing the maximum sentence, and for my part I think that there is a good deal to be said for the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner in another place that if a criminal uses a gun for the furtherance of his crime then, in addition to the sentence that he gets for his offence, he should have a five-year fixed punishment for carrying a firearm—an interesting suggestion which I think we should consider.
On this question of firearms, I feel that there is a good deal of force in what was said by the hon. Member for Blackpool, North, namely, that there is a need for us to examine how effective the controls on the acquisition and possession of guns, revolvers, and so on, have proved to be. We are still apparently in the situation where any criminal who wants a gun seems to know where to get one.
As to Clause 26 which deals with the power of policemen to take drunken offenders to treatment centres, this is obviously a useful provision, provided that the police use it. How many medical treatment centres for alcoholics exist now? How many are contemplated? Where will they be? Perhaps we shall be told.
Clause 27 makes a small and sensible change which will relieve overloading of the parole board. As to Clause 28, we shall have to look carefully at this in Committee. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North has expressed concern that it might prejudice a man who has already been acquitted. But it may well be, as the hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Havers) said, that it will be possible to cloak the proceedings in anonymity, not only by using the formula 1075 of John Doe, but by ingenious care to ensure that the facts do not identify the persons concerned. At any rate, it cannot be contemplated that it will be tried very often, because only £5,000 a year is provided for the operation, and that will not cover many counsel appearing in many cases.
Clauses 38 and 39 provide for the setting up of a whole series of hostels, including new bail hostels. This is obviously a very important proposal. The key here is finance, and I hope that we shall hear that adequate finance will be made available.
Clause 42 has been described as an excellent piece of nationalisation without compensation. Local authority gaols are not to revert to them but are to be taken over. What has Islington said to this, with its Pentonville and its Holloway? What sound has come from there? I have no doubt that this proposal is necessary. I am told that they have no objection, which shows how enlightened Islington is.
Although we on this side will subject the Bill to careful scrutiny in Committee, on the whole we give it a welcome and wish it progress.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
Having heard all but 10 minutes of this debate and missed only the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell)—I apologise for that, but he was very effectively brief—I believe that everyone will agree that this has been an extremely interesting debate which will clearly lead to a fairly lengthy Committee stage. I have been asked many questions, some of which I will try to answer tonight and some of which I am afraid I will have to try to answer in Committee.
Everyone will agree, I think, that the vast majority of the speeches have been constructive and reasonable. I am not sure, with respect to the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr Callaghan), whether the adjectives "constructive and reasonable" would apply to parts of his speech, but I will deal with one or two of his other points.
I should like to start by complimenting and congratulating my hon. Friend the 1076 Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) on his maiden speech. I do so not only as a colleague in the House but as a neighbouring Member of Parliament. Certainly, anyone who heard him must have been impressed by the cogency, the clarity and the confidence with which his speech was delivered.
I made my maiden speech on a similar subject. Although I drew rather different conclusions and answers from those of my hon. Friend, I certainly did not deliver my speech with anywhere near the confidence and clarity with which he addressed the House. I am sure that we look forward to hearing him speak many times on many subjects. However, as I said, I did not necessarily accept all of what he said.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, this debate has taken place against a background of continuing concern about continually increasing crime. Although it is right to welcome the fact that, over the past few years, one can discern at least a slowing down in the rate of increase in crime, compared to that which applied in the late 1950s and early 1960s, what worries people both in the House and outside is not so much the rate at which the increase is going as the fact that every year the figure seems to be higher than it was the year before.
As my right hon. Friend said, what particularly worries people is that, within that figure, there is a far greater increase in crimes of violence. I will attempt to put that into proportion by reminding the House that, grave as it is, the number of crimes of violence amounts to only 2½ per cent. of all indictable crimes committed, and they themselves cover a wide spectrum, from the most serious crimes of violence at one end to quite minor sorts at the other.
I must take up one point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield because his remark about the statistics of murder put out by the Home Office being a myth was not correct. If one takes the years 1957 to 1970, one finds that the murder figures per year varied from between 110 and 150. In 1957 the figure was 135 and in 1970 it was 137.
Whereas it is right to say that in 1957 the law was changed regarding manslaughter to allow for the offence of diminished responsibility, there has been 1077 no change in the law regarding manslaughter since 1957. When one is taking the figures for the last 13 years, since capital punishment was automatically the sentence given for murder, there has been no change and, therefore, the figures are accurate year by year.
When, for purposes of comparison, the Home Office compares post-1957 figures of murder with pre-1957 figures, it always includes, for the purpose of comparison, Section 2 manslaughter cases, which before 1957 would have counted as murder.
I felt that I should say that at once because what my hon. Friend described as a myth is itself a myth which has been circulated freely outside the House but which I do not believe has any validity in casting doubt on the figures put out by the Home Office.
The major defence against crime must, as we have always said, be the likelihood of detection. This will remain the greatest deterrent. We must, therefore, lay great emphasis on the maintenance of a strong and efficient police force. As the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East chose to question what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, I must take up his challenge about police recruitment. The position is clear. Although recruitment was going extremely well up to the end of 1967, the right hon. Gentleman's decision to limit recruitment into the police force at that stage had the effect which we, then in opposition, told him it would have, that of practically drying up recruitment into the police force.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East challenged my right hon. Friend to tell him what the figures were over the last period. I have them with me and I will give the right hon. Gentleman first the figures which he may regard as the best example from the point of view of his argument; they are the figures in terms of financial years. After a net increase in recruitment of 3,655 in the financial year to the end of March, 1968, as a result of the imposition of a ceiling, recruitment dropped to a net increase of 499 in 1969 and 878 in 1970. Any restriction on recruitment was then removed, and I am happy to say that last year there was a net increase of recruitment into the police force of 2,028. In the first seven months of 1078 this financial year there has been a net increase of more than 1,900.
I do not understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said that he handed on to my right hon. Friend a higher rate of police recruitment than we have today. In the 18 months before the election, right up to June of last year, there was a net increase of recruitment into the police force of 2,042. In the 16 months since then there has been a net increase of 3,923.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I did not raise the question of police. What I raised was the disparity between the words of the Opposition spokesmen before the election and what they were doing after the election. I spent a large part of my speech talking about it, and that was what prompted the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) to intervene on the question of police. But as we are talking about the figures, I happen to have with me a statement given to me by the Home Office shortly before I left office. The strength for 1964 was 80,680. At the end of 1969 it was 91,762. That is an increase, during the period of the Labour Government, of 11,082, an average of 2.216 per year. I ask the House to note that. In the first four months of 1970 recruitment was running, according to Home Office figures, at the rate of 812 in those four months. I did not get figures for May. In other words, it was running at a rate of 2,400 a year. That is far larger, even if there were a fall-off in the second half of the year, than right hon. Gentlemen opposite can produce. I do not want to bandy statistics, but if they are to be bandied about—and this is what hon. Gentlemen opposite were doing before the election—let it be clearly on record that the increase in strength during the lifetime of the Labour Government, five years, with variations between one year and another, was far larger than any Conservative Government managed to achieve.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The trouble with the right hon. Gentleman is that he has never understood the case against him. It is not that recruiting was not going well in 1967, 1966 or 1965; it is that his actions as Chancellor of the Exchequer led to devaluation, which then caused him, as Home Secretary, to impose a ceiling on recruitment, which led to a disastrous falling off.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I have always said to the right hon. Gentleman that during the five years the figures went up and they were going very well until he intervened to prevent them; they were going very well until he took office.
§ Mr. Callaghan
With respect, they are not going better than when we left office. The figures for the first four months of 1970 show an increase of 812. Over the remaining eight months, as far as I can make out from the hon. and learned Gentleman's figures, there was an increase of only 1,000. They have been going worse since the Conservative Party came to office. I hope they will go better, but the hon. and learned Gentleman will have to steam hard if he is to approach anything like the figures of the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The right hon. Gentleman is obviously taking the calendar year. If he takes the first four months, I accept the figure of 800. The figure for the first eight months of 1971 is 2,020. But if one doubles 800, one still gets fewer than 2,020.
I leave that subject now and return to the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue this, he must not get excited.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I do not know what will happen when the right hon. Gentleman does get excited.
The effect of the increase in crime is an addition in the prison population, which has therefore led to the situation we have heard talked about by all sides of the House today, in which, although happily the figure has been consistent at 40,000 since May, 1971, nevertheless there is gross overcrowding, with some 13,000 living two or three in a cell.
It is against that background that the Bill must be judged, and against that background the Bill is relevant and constructive. As my right hon. Friend said—although I accept the remark of the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) that to a certain extent the Bill was a hotch-potch, as any Criminal Justice Bill must be—running through the Bill there are clearly two themes, first, the strengthening of the 1080 powers of the courts to deal with those who appear before them, particularly to give a more central position to the principle involved in compensation; second. to provide further alternatives to imprisonment for dealing with the lesser offender, whose presence inside the prison system tends to increase the overcrowding and to hinder any chance one has of doing anything with the other people who are there.
If we look at the Bill clearly, it will be seen that the increase in the penalties for possession of firearms, bankruptcy, powers of forfeiture and disqualification. the abolition of mandatory suspended sentences and the provisions with regard to compensation are there to strengthen the powers of the court. Community service, deferment of sentence, attendance at day training centres and the power of probation and after-care committees to set up hostels and bail hostels are further alternatives to imprisonment.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said that it was important to realise the limitations of the criminal bankruptcy scheme and not to expect too much of it. I agree. I hope that this will be carefully considered in Committee because I would be the first to admit that it has grave limitations. It is a very rough and ready means of creating bankruptcy. We have to realise that it is not so much aimed at achieving an equitable distribution among the victims as ensuring an adequate removal of the spoils from the criminal. If we look at it in that way we can see where it fits in to the criminal system although I hope that we shall have long arguments about the details in Committee.
I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Miss Holt) why the figure of £15,000 had been used. The answer is simply that it is experimental. We have been strongly advised, and the Widgery Committee recommended, that it was wrong to make major changes in the bankruptcy law until we were satisfied of the efficacy of the scheme. The Bill takes power to lower that figure of £15,000 if it is found that this is useful. I can assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford and other hon. Members that the limitations are well known to us and that we would value any assistance in Committee in trying to smooth out these various problems.
1081 The same applies to the proposals on compensation. They were described by the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) as rough and ready. There was a misunderstanding in the course of the debate about the purpose of these proposals. They do not interfere with the power of the civil courts to order compensation. They do not interfere with the power of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to make payments. They are not, and were never intended to be, a means by which the court at the end of a criminal trial should make an accurate assessment of the full amount of damage suffered by a person. By devising a simplified and more comprehensive system to deal with compensation it is hoped that the courts will use it more widely to grant some payment in respect of injury or loss suffered.
It is not suggested, in the case of serious injury, that the criminal court can be expected at the end of a trial to make an accurate assessment of loss. It may be felt useful, particularly in the smaller cases, for a court to have the power to order the criminal to compensate the victim to some degree. I assure the House that the Bill specifically requires that in determining what compensation should be paid, the court must take into account the means of the criminal rather than the victim. It will be part of the penalty.
I was asked many questions about the suspended sentence but in view of the time I will have to ask whether I may answer the right hon. Gentleman's questions in detail in Committee. The difficulty is that from the research which we have done we can tell the effect that suspended sentences have had on the number of sentences of imprisonment imposed and the length of those sentences but we cannot tell what has been the effect of the mandatory provisions because we do not know and cannot tell from the statistics whether it was the fact that the mandatory provisions were available which made a court decide to suspend a sentence in one instance when, if it had been left discretion, it would have chosen not to do so.
But what is quite clear is that the mandatory provisions have been proved to be wholly unpopular with those who have had to administer them. There is clear 1082 evidence that suspended sentences have been used more widely than was intended and also that the sentences given have been longer than they would have been if the man had been going down the steps at that time. One of the effects of the mandatory provisions has been—and this is only my own assessment—that when a court has been forced to suspend, it has said that if it had to suspend, rather than giving one month, which had been intended, it would give six months and suspend that sentence.
When there was a period of three years for suspension, a person might keep out of trouble for two and a half years and then come before the court again, so that the court was faced with the dilemma of carrying out the intention of the suspended sentence, namely, that it should automatically operate, or say that so much had happened since that it must change the original decision. For that reason we are right to reduce the maximum period for suspension from three years to two years.
I must say that as a member of the Standing Committee which considered the Criminal Justice Bill in 1967 I welcome the converts from the present Opposition to this proposal. We opposed the mandatory provisions throughout the Committee stage of that Bill, criticising them strongly. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that there was nothing in the Bill other than what the Home Office Advisory Council recommended, but I point out that in these provisions we are implementing not only what we said we should do but warned at that time would be necessary, but the then Government still voted us down at that stage.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I have scored rather more than one.
The second leg of the Bill deals with alternatives to imprisonment. Throughout, the Government have been concerned with tackling the problem of prison overcrowding by two methods: by building more prisons and by providing alternatives. Although the right hon. Gentleman said that we inherited from him the biggest prison building programme ever, I am glad to be able to tell the House that we have made substantial advances 1083 in the programme during the last 18 months. In the financial year, 1969–70, the last of the Labour Government, 80 new prison places were started; in the year 1970–71, that number was 1,500 places; in the present financial year, it is hoped to start 3,000. We inherited a situation with fewer than 5,000 places having been given planning clearance; today we have planning clearance for more than 10,000 additional places, 15 new major projects and a dozen further schemes about which we are in negotiation with local authorities. I am glad to say that much of the work of prison building is now being done by inmate labour.
But whatever we can do in prison building we must surely look to further alternatives to imprisonment. This is where community service comes in. However, in view of the lack of time, I shall concentrate on the proposal to provide for probation hostels to be provided by probation committees. I have always believed, and I think that it is the view of lawyers on both sides of the House, that many people go to prison because there is no alternative, nowhere else to send them. Time after time one has heard in court that there is nowhere to send a man if he is not given a short term of imprisonment.
One of the most important of the noncustodial methods dealt with in the Bill is the expansion of the use of adult probation hostels. I am glad to be able to tell the House that whereas until recently probation hostels were available only for those under 21, an experiment was begun last year whereby four hostels were provided for offenders up to 30. This year, two more hostels have been provided, and we have now entered on a programme which, if all goes well, will provide hostel accommodation for a further 1,700 adult offenders by 1976. This is a substantial programme and is, I believe, an important contribution to keeping people out of prison.
I equally believe that a great deal of importance should be attached to our proposals for bail hostels. I have listened to all that has been said about bail, and we shall take note of it in Committee, but I believe that there is far more hope of reducing the time people individually spend on bail by speeding up the rate at 1084 which criminal trials can be heard than by seeking to cope with the remand population. But I think that remand hostels will help.
Our proposals for day training centres are extremely important. I emphasise that this means, as has been pointed out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones), a commitment to expand the probation service, but we made that commitment when we took office. We announced last year an increase in the size of the probation services from 3,500 to 4,700. We have produced the new training places, and we are keeping abreast of the target.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the inquiry. I think that I am right in saying that the terms are for discussion with the professional bodies. It is an inquiry into what should be the comparative rates of pay between those involved in the various fields of social service.
No Criminal Justice Bill can ever cover everything that people want. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) has mentioned various points that he would like to have considered. On the subject of life imprisonment for murder, all I would say to my hon. and learned Friend is that the Criminal Law Revision Committee is, as he knows, reviewing what the penalty for murder should be, and we think it right to await the outcome of the review.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde, the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Havers) referred to Section 3 of the 1961 Act. I can assure them that we are aware of the criticisms, but this matter is at the moment before the Advisory Council and we feel it right to await its views.
Inevitably, I have answered very few of the questions which have been raised but I hope, as I say, to be able to deal with them in detail in Committee. I believe that, contrary to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East, the Bill has been generally welcomed. Rather than saying that it has had very little Press, I say that the Press it has had has been extremely complimentary.
1085 The Bill is a genuine attempt to cope with the problems we inherited and which we face. It sets out a framework in which penal policy can be developed. Compensation and criminal bankruptcy are important new factors for strengthening the powers of the courts to ensure that the criminal does not get away with it. The whole idea of community service is an important new experiment in depriving people of their leisure for constructive social ends as a new means of penalty open to the courts. We must continue always to distinguish between the major criminal and the petty inadequate with whom we ought to be able to find better ways of dealing. In that mood, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand that the Leader of the House wishes to make a short business statement. In order to do so within the rules of order it will be necessary for the Adjournment of the House to be moved. After the statement, of course, that Motion can be withdrawn and we shall proceed with the other business.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Goodhew.]