HC Deb 02 March 1978 vol 945 cc643-4
5. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the increasing incidence of damage to property caused by football hooliganism, he will bring forward legislation to provide for compensation for victims of criminal damage.

Mr. John

Power to require an offender to pay such compensation is already provided by Section 35 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973. We have no present plans to add to that power or to the provisions of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.

Mr. Hannam

Why are these powers not being used by magistrates? Has the hon. Gentleman received details of the £2,000-worth of damage caused by Wolves supporters in January in my constituency, when 17 offenders were brought before the courts but no compensation orders were made? Will he take steps to ensure that magistrates are made fully aware of their power to award costs?

Mr. John

All magistrates are fully aware of these provisions. It is not the case that no use is being made of them. Over 27,000 orders were made under the powers of the Criminal Courts Act in 1976. I cannot instruct magistrates how to discharge their duties. They have the powers, and it is up to them to use them if they think fit.

Mr. Flannery

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the Hillsborough Division of Sheffield—my constituency—last year the Leeds-Manchester match resulted in terrible havoc being caused on the ground and a severe loss to shopkeepers and public house owners who had to board up their establishments? Is he aware that these people received no compensation at all? Does he know whether there is any provision allowing a local rate to be used in a discretionary manner for the payment of compensation to those poor people?

Mr. John

I could not answer that offhand. I will check the position. The situation is that under the Riot (Damages) Act, if what is termed a riot occurs as a result of the default of the police, that can be a matter for claim. Otherwise it is for the courts to impose an order for compensation upon individual offenders when they appear before them.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Does the Minister agree that the police have very many better things to do than to be "mixing it" with young football hooligans? Would he not accept that the main responsibility for discipline here has ultimately to rest with the clubs in respect of the drink and the many other things that are imported into the grounds? Will he recognise that the report published today is a sad and unsatisfactory document?

Mr. John

There are two reports out today which I am studying at the moment. I believe that they are both right to say that there is no simple solution. What the police say is that they can control violence perfectly easily within the grounds. The violence which occurs going to and coming from the grounds is what causes the problem. I agree with the hon. Gentleman to this extent: that there is no simple solution. We cannot say that if only the police were there they would be able to control the trouble. It is a vastly complex matter and includes the responsibility of us all in the way we bring up our children.

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