HC Deb 19 January 1984 vol 52 cc429-30
1. Mr. Parry

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Thames Valley police as to how many persons have been arrested at Greenham common to the latest available date.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Leon Brittan)

The chief constable tells us that up to 18 January there had been 1,175 arrests at Greenham common or in relation to actions there.

Mr. Parry

Of those who have been arrested, how many have been prosecuted and how many convicted? In view of the growing opposition of the general public to the deployment of missiles, as shown by opinion polls, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the imposition of punitive fines on those people and intimidation through arrests make a mockery of British justice and democracy?

Mr. Brittan

The answer to the last part of the question is no, Sir. There is no question of intimidation or punitive fines.

The latest date for which I have figures is 9 January. By then, 623 cases had been dealt with, 608 people had been convicted and 15 had been acquitted. The most common penalty was a fine of about £20.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that what would make a mockery of British justice would be the notion that people who broke the law could get away with it simply by declaring themselves to be peace people?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of some of the disgusting—I use the word advisedly—practices to which police officers are subjected by some of the heroines of Greenham common? Should not those practices also be condemned, and should not the police be complimented on their extraordinary patience and restraint in the face of that provocation?

Mr. Brittan

I have every sympathy with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend. The police have had an enormous amount to put up with and, like many others in the area, are becoming thoroughly fed up, although they are doing their duty manfully and successfully.

Mr. Flannery

We all know how many policemen have been injured doing their duty, but is there any method of finding out how many of the women have been injured and hospitalised?

Mr. Brittan

I do not have that information.

Mr. Flannery

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman get it?

Mr. John Page

Is it not time that stronger measures were used against the campers, who are disrupting the life of local people, causing injury to the police in the execution of their duty and bringing about a great increase in costs to ratepayers and taxpayers?

Mr. Brittan

There is no doubt that the so-called peace camp at Greenham has become a consistent nuisance to the residents of the area, and a great expense. Even when those involved are not in breach of the criminal law, they are trespassing or are in breach of byelaws, or both. I wish to consider further the strong feelings understandably expressed by my hon. Friend.