HC Deb 13 January 1994 vol 235 cc324-6
10. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people aged over 70 years have been attacked in their own homes in 1993.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Maclean)

I regret that the information requested on people aged over 70 is not available from statistics of recorded crime. However, data from recent British crime surveys suggest that those aged 60 and over are less likely to suffer incidences of violent crime in and around the home than those in younger age groups.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware of the circumstantial link between drug addiction and the growing number of cases of elderly women in their own homes who are being badly battered, raped or, in one case, locked in a cupboard, thrown face down and left to die? Does he not think it is time that the House had a full day's debate on drug addiction and the growing number of innocent people made victims because we are trying to prevent silly people taking drugs and destroying themselves?

Mr. Maclean

Elderly people are vulnerable and they fear crime more than younger people. Many of them are afraid to go out at night for fear of burglary or mugging. There have been despicable and cowardly attacks on old people, which we all condemn and deplore, but statistics clearly show that people under 24 are about 20 times more likely to be victims of crime than those aged over 60. It might seem—although we cannot go only by anecdote—that junkies and others are targeting their own age group rather than the elderly. I assure my hon. Friend that we are doing more research, but whether a debate is held is not a matter for me.

Mr. Allen

As the Minister has had a couple of days to think about the answer, will he tell elderly people, hon. Members and people watching on television whether the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill will cut crime? It is a very simple question. Will the Minister answer today since he could not do so the other day?

Mr. Maclean

I will tell the Labour party what the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, on which Labour abstained, will do. It will make our criminal justice system the most effective possible, and of course we shall see results. We want cautioning to fall and, following the issuing of new guidelines by my right hon. and learned Friend, it is starting to do so. We want to see fewer police officers behind desks and more on the streets, and with cuts in their paperwork and less middle management that is exactly what we shall see. We want to see persistent juvenile offenders off the streets and in custody and, with our new secure training centres, that is what we shall see, yet that is what the Labour party abstained on. Above all, we want a criminal justice system in which everyone—the public, the police and the courts—can have confidence, and that is the yardstick by which I shall judge the Bill.

Mr. Allason

Is my hon. Friend aware that many elderly people fall prey to young violent criminals, including those under the age of 15 who are now subject to the Children Act 1989? Will he confirm that the secure training orders envisaged in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill will put such young thugs behind secure bars and locks for the first time, which will give some reassurance to the elderly, who fall prey to them?

Mr. Maclean

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, which was given a Second Reading on Tuesday and about which the Labour party could not make up its mind, gives courts for the first time the power to send directly to secure accommodation youngsters aged under 15 who have a history of persistent offending. That will give some peace of mind not only to elderly people but to many in villages, towns and housing estates throughout the length and breadth of this country and in Labour constituencies. I am not sure how Labour Members will be able to face their constituency executives tomorrow night and tell them that on this major measure, which affects their constituents, they did not know what to do.