HC Deb 29 June 1972 vol 839 cc1636-8
2. Mr. Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the percentage increase in crimes of violence against the person, and robberies, respectively in the five years since 1967; and how this compares with the overall percentage increase for all crimes in that period.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

Indictable offences of violence against the person known to the police in England and Wales increased by 61.9 per cent, between 1967 and 1971. Because of the changes brought about by the Theft Act, 1968, the figures for robbery, and for all indictable offences, for 1969 and subsequent years cannot be compared directly with those for earlier years.

Mr. Fowler

Would my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agree that the trend is for the most serious forms of crime—crimes like robbery and offences against the person—to increase by more than the average, and has not the time come to take a new initiative against professional crime in this country, notably by strengthening the CID?

Mr. Maudling

I agree that the most serious feature of the crime statistics is that violent crime has risen much more rapidly than crime as a whole. The way to deal with this is by strengthening the police forces, which we are doing and shall continue to do, and by giving adequate powers to the courts.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Will the Home Secretary give his view of the frequent tendency for courts to give armed robbers, for example, sentences considerably below what Parliament has set as the maximum? Can he say whether, in his view, the system under which the police are enabled to take steps to prevent, for example, the holding of guns in places where they are relatively accessible might not be strengthened?

Mr. Maudling

I believe there is at present an inquiry into the subject of the second part of the question and I will look into it. On the first point, any Home Secretary must be careful about commenting on the sentences passed by the courts, but I am sure the courts are well aware of what is said in Parliament on these occasions.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Many of us were glad of the concern that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary expressed about violence on the screen. Has he come to any conclusion about whether there is a connection between this and the rise in violent crime?

Mr. Maudling

He would be a very bold man who said he was satisfied that there was a connection. To my mind it is surprising that the coincidence is so strong. I have been and I shall continue to be in contact with those concerned with this matter.