HC Deb 22 April 1982 vol 22 cc413-4
12. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the rate of increase in violent crime since the ending of capital punishment; and what was the rate of increase over a comparable period before abolition.

Mr. Mayhew

In the 16 years since 1965 when capital punishment was abolished, the average annual rate of increase of recorded offences of violence against the person was 9 per cent. In the 16 years from 1950 to 1965, it was 10 per cent.

Mr. Adley

Does my hon. and learned Friend not agree that the best deterrent is probably one that is never invoked? However, in the light of those figures, is it his impression that there is a link between capital punishment as a deterrent and violent crime?

Mr. Mayhew

I happen to think that the best deterrent is the likelihood, and strong probability, that if someone commits a violent crime he will be caught and severely punished, but no one has been able to establish either for or against capital punishment on the basis of statistics. We shall soon have an opportunity to debate this matter.

Mr. Edward Lyons

In view of the fall in the occurrence of murder and a high clear-up rate of 97 per cent., and in view of the reduction in rape and other sexual offences, also with a high clear-up rate, is it not obvious that the real problem with which we are confronted is detecting those who commit run-of-the-mill offences?

Mr. Mayhew

I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that the higher the rate of detection, the higher the likelihood of deterrence.

Mr. Hill

Is my hon. and learned Friend not concerned about those who are in constant danger, such as police officers, prison wardens and those who must deal with acts a terrorism? Is there not a justifiable claim to bring back capital punishment for murder in those categories? Will the House again have a chance to vote on this issue?

Mr. Mayhew

I do not control these matters, but, like myself, my hon. Friend will have read that we are likely to have an opportunity to deal with these issues, and I do not want to anticipate the arguments that will be appropriate to that occasion.

Mr. Hattersley

Will the Minister answer the question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley)? Do the figures that he has just given justify the view that capital punishment was a deterrent?

Mr. Mayhew

These matters are open to a wide variety of interpretations, and I do not wish to add anything today that would spoil what I am sure will be an excellent debate.