HC Deb 18 February 1982 vol 18 cc394-5
12. Mr. Cadbury

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied that the punishments currently being imposed by magistrates on violent offenders are proving an effective deterrent.

Mr. Mayhew

In combating violent crime, sentencing policy has an important part to play. While the deterrent effect of any sentence is not readily measured, my right hon. Friend has no doubt that magistrates are giving full weight to the principle of deterrence.

Mr. Cadbury

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that in the Midlands there is extreme anxiety about the increasing number of violent attacks, particularly on defenceless old people? Is he further aware that there is great anxiety that the punishments being handed down to the perpetrators are wholly inadequate? Will my hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary urge the courts to hand down punishments more suited to deter crime of this type and to reverse this disturbing trend in our society?

Mr. Mayhew

I am well aware of the extreme anxiety in many areas at the increase in violent crime. I well know that my hon. Friend, being closely in touch with his constituents, accurately represents their feelings. His question relates to magistrates' courts. Magistrates are drawn from the community and serve the community in which they live, but they are subject to guidance from the Lord Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal, as are all courts. Guidance as to the type of sentence to be imposed should therefore come from those quarters and not from my right hon. Friend.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that as many as 76 per cent. of young offenders sent to detention centres commit another offence when they are released? Does he agree that this type of sentence should be replaced by a more effective custodial sentence, as detention centres have been shown to be utterly ineffective as a deterrent?

Mr. Mayhew

Although the 1969 Act gave power to abolish detention centres, for five years the Labour Government did nothing about it. That is quite remarkable in the light of the views expressed by the hon. Lady today.