HC Deb 15 April 1993 vol 222 cc938-9
7. Mr. Janner

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further steps he will take to counter juvenile crime.

Mr. Jack

The Government's measures to deal with juvenile crime will be further extended by the contents of my right hon. and learned Friend's statement to the House on 2 March, which commits us to developing new policies to deal with persistent juvenile offenders.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware that the problem is not so much the growth in the number of juvenile offenders as in the number of persistent offenders? In Leicestershire, for example, 28 persistent offenders have committed 2,057 offences—73 offences each—in the past 18 months. It is obvious, therefore, that the courts do not have the power to deal with juvenile crime as they should and that there is no way in which the Government are helping parents, governors of schools, teachers and others to cope with persistent juvenile offenders.

Mr. Jack

The hon. and learned Gentleman's enthusiasm to put his point to us is a ringing endorsement of the contents of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary's statement. That is the whole thrust of what the secure training order is all about. It deals with matters connected with education, offending behaviour and training for the outside world. Juvenile crime in the hon. and learned Gentleman's part of Leicestershire is also being combated by our safer cities initiative and by many of the diversion projects, such as the north Braunston motor project. That is helping to alleviate some of the problems caused by young people and to deal positively with their potential entry into criminality.

Mr. Thurnham

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are surplus places for juvenile delinquents in special residential schools? Will he amend the secure accommodation regulations and tell magistrates, town halls and parents to send more juvenile delinquents to those special schools?

Mr. Jack

With his usual astuteness, my hon. Friend has been studying the contents of my right hon. and learned Friend's statement. He will have seen reference in it to making various orders with a requirement for secure accommodation to be used. That is certainly something which we shall be considering.

Mr. Michael

Why does the Minister rely on the Home Secretary's statement which looks to the distant future when we need to speed up justice and to intervene earlier with young offenders in particular now if we are to be tough on crime and the causes of crime? As the Home Secretary has admitted that there is a relationship between unemployment and crime, will he persuade his Cabinet colleagues to restore hope to young people and to recognise the impact of other Government policies on them? Will they recognise especially that the way in which the Government are forcing cuts on the youth service will increase the number of idle hands for which the devil will find employment?

Mr. Jack

The reason I rely on the statement is because it is a darn good statement. It was made by my right hon. and learned Friend and I feel that it is important to rely on it. I wholly rebut the hon. Gentleman's allegation that my right hon. and learned Friend made the connection that his question begged. I recommend that the hon. Gentleman reads again the Home Office research by Simon Field in which he will not find a proven connection between individual wrongdoing and the level of economic activity. There is no split between us. I also point out that the hon. Gentleman's question did not acknowledge the work being undertaken by the Department for Education to deal with the relationship between crime, truancy and exclusion.

Mr. Hawksley

Has my hon. Friend had time today to read about the case of the 17-year-old who was before the courts yesterday in Birmingham and found guilty of attending the stealing of a car with a young girl who was killed? Does he realise that that youngster was already on bail for the offences of rape and kidnap? What are we going to do to ensure that such people are not allowed out to endanger lives in future?

Mr. Jack

We very much understand the strong feelings on the subject of bail. A great deal of work is being undertaken to reconsider not only our policies in that connection but the effectiveness of the working of the bail system. It is very important that, for example, our bail study information groups come up with recommendations to improve the quality of the bail decision-making process. I very much understand my hon. Friend's point.