HC Deb 05 June 1980 vol 985 cc1654-6
4. Mr. Cadbury

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider further measures to reverse the continuing rise in the level of juvenile crime and vandalism.

Mr. Brittan

By strengthening the police and improving the sanctions available to the courts we are already seeking more effective ways of preventing and deterring juvenile crime. We are also considering what legislative changes are necessary further to strengthen the powers of the courts in dealing with juveniles. But any reduction in juvenile offending must greatly depend on the continuing efforts of parents, teachers, and others concerned with children in the community.

Mr. Cadbury

I am grateful for that answer. Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that in my constituency and in many urban areas the level of vandalism is approaching intolerable proportions? It seems that in many cases parents are reluctant to assume responsibility for the behaviour of their children. Will my hon. and learned Friend consider giving the courts extra powers to impose fines on the parents of children who misbehave?

Mr. Brittan

I welcome the opportunity to describe the extensive powers that the courts already have. Under the 1933 Act the court must, when awarding fines, compensation or costs against a child, make the parents or guardians pay unless the parent or guardian cannot be found or the court is satisfied that he or she has not conduced to the commission of the offence by neglecting to exercise due care of the child or young person. In the case of older offenders between 14 and 17. the court has the discretion to exercise that power. I hope that the full extent of those powers will be appreciated. They have an important part to play in dealing with the problem that my hon. Friend identified.

Mr. Christopher Price

Has the Minister studied the various reports of Dr. Belson about the connection between violence on television and juvenile crime and vandalism? Will the Home Office start to take this connection seriously and study what should be done about it?

Mr. Brittan

The relationship between violence on television and what happens in the world at large is important, but I am not entirely clear what consequences for action the hon. Gentleman suggests should flow from that.

Mr. Farr

In view of the level of juvenile vandalism involving air weapons, will my hon. and learned Friend look into the possibility of pioneering a national scheme of instruction whereby young persons who want to use weapons of that sort can be taught to do so safely, legally and properly?

Mr. Brittan

I am glad to hear that idea. I should like to consider it. Perhaps I may write to my hon. Friend to see whether he has a further concept of how it might be worked out.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

What has happened since the general election? Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman recall all the promises that a Conservative victory would bring down the crime rate in this respect, since when they have gone up and up? What will the Government do about that?

Mr. Brittan

I do not accept that the figures bear the interpretation that the right hon. Gentleman has placed upon them. I concentrated on the question of the powers of the courts, because that is a practical step that can be and has been taken. The Government have already introduced 15 new attendance centres. They have introduced changed regimes in two detention centres. We are at the advanced stage of preparing proposals to put to the country relating to young offenders more generally. If we add to that the action that has been taken over the police it can be seen that we have been following a policy of implementing what we promised during the general election.