HC Deb 24 February 1972 vol 831 cc1466-7
3. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will express as a percentage of the maximum penalty the average fine imposed by the courts in implementing Section 20(1) of the Firearms Act, 1968, relating to trespassing with a firearm in a building.

Mr. Sharples

Between 1st August, 1968, and the end of 1970 the average fine imposed on summary conviction in England and Wales for this offence was just over 4 per cent. of the maximum. There were two convictions on indictment, the penalty imposed in each case being imprisonment.

Mr. Farr

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply but can he say what is the point of Parliament laying down maxima for these very serious offences when they are so consistently ignored by the courts?

Mr. Sharples

These are matters for the courts. It would be a serious matter to impinge on their authority by imposing minimum sentences. As my hon. Friend knows, this matter has been discussed in Standing Committee.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Would it be possible to have a sentencing conference because, given the nature of the cases involved, the figure of 4 per cent. is extraordinarily low?

Mr. Sharples

Of course we do not know the circumstances of the various cases, but under the Criminal Justice Bill the maximum penalties for this type of offence are being increased and I have no doubt that the courts will take that into account.