HC Deb 18 November 1976 vol 919 cc1550-1
9. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to increase the penalties for crimes of vandalism.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Offences described as vandalism are usually prosecuted under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. The penalties range up to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment for most offences. I am satisfied that in general they are adequate. However, the maximum fine available on summary conviction would fall to be increased in the light of the recommendations of the James Committee, which I have under consideration.

Mr. Morrison

Is the Home Secretary satisfied that the present penalties act as a deterrent?

Mr. Rees

That is a different matter. Dealing with what can be done under the Criminal Damage Act, if we can do something about fines it will improve the situation. But that is a different matter from my arguing, whether or not one doubles fines, that they necessarily act as a deterrent. It is a much more subtle matter.

Mr. Greville Janner

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the greatest causes of vandalism is the excruciating boredom suffered by young people in cities such as Leicester who have nothing to do with their time when they have finished school? When considering that problem, will he do his best to see that there is increased provision and help for youth clubs and other facilities for young people?

Mr. Rees

That is important. Unemployment plays a part in this, together with the planning of estates. Having said that, judging from reports produced by the Home Office he would be a brave chap who would say that those facts alone explain the growth of vandalism in the last quarter of a century.

Mr. Charles Irving

The penalties seem appropriate. Would it not be possible for the Home Secretary to persuade the magistrates to use them?

Mr. Rees

That is a different matter because, whatever else comes to the Home Office, I have no power to control what the magistrates do.