HC Deb 03 March 1983 vol 38 cc361-2
9. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made by the police recently in improving the rate of those charged and convicted of criminal damage; and what proportion of those liable to charge are subsequently found to be below the age of criminal responsibility.

Mr. Mayhew

Over the past five years the clear-up rate for offences of criminal damage valued over £20 has remained at about 30 per cent. Between 1977 and 1981 the number of persons convicted of or cautioned for criminal damage rose from 50,000 to 60,000.

The information requested about those below the age of criminal responsibility is not collected centrally.

Mr. Latham

In view of public concern about the relatively poor success rate in clearing up this mindless and senseless vandalism, will my hon. and learned Friend see whether more can be done to improve those figures and, above all, to emphasise the responsibility of the family for these matters? That would be a good idea for discussion by the Cabinet's family policy group.

Mr. Mayhew

I agree with my hon. Friend about the worrying nature of the problem of the very young offender. Naturally, it is extremely important that the clear-up rate should be improved. Perhaps at the forefront of the steps that could be taken to improve the problem is for parents to take more responsibility for the actions of their children, and certainly more responsibility for the standards according to which they are brought up.

Mr. Heddle

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that many young people who are convicted for offences of criminal damage are in fact persistent truants? Does he further agree that there is scope here for our right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Education and Science to initiate a thorough review to establish whether there is a link between persistent truancy and teenage crime?

Mr. Mayhew

I quite understand my hon. Friend's point. It is generally accepted that the conditions that give rise to truancy also give rise to the likelihood that a child will commit offences of this type. In other words, there is a link in that regard. It has yet to be established whether there is a link in other respects.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Will the Minister institute an inquiry to find out how many of these young people have had two or more sentences, and will he take into account their family life, especially if they are out of work? Does he agree that young people often end up in prison because they have too much time on their hands? Will the Government do something about finding them jobs, which would remove that aspect in the creation of young criminals?

Mr. Mayhew

I have already agreed about family circumstances. It is important that we should take note of recent research prepared by Professor Stern, who is professor of economics at the University of Warwick. Using data for England and Wales between 1970 and 1981, he found no evidence that increases in unemployment have resulted in increased levels of recorded crime. The author has some trenchant criticism of those who have reported otherwise.