§ 1. Mr. David Martin
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what priority he attaches to crime prevention in Portsmouth; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Maclean)
I regard crime prevention as a matter of the highest priority. I am delighted that Portsmouth, with its excellent record of encouraging crime prevention initiatives through partnership, is to have one of the new safer cities projects to help tackle crime and the fear of crime in the area.
§ Mr. Martin
May I make my hon. Friend aware of the concern of many people in Portsmouth who are particularly sensitive about crimes of drunken, late-night violence and vandalism associated with clubs similar to the one in Aldershot? This week, four men in Winchester were given grossly inadequate sentences for a serious and mindless assault. Does that not sum up the lack of confidence in law and order enforcement that many people feel? They are worried about the failure of the courts to back up the efforts of the police and the clubs themselves to stamp out this behaviour. Will my hon. Friend support my asking our right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to refer this case to the Court of Appeal for a proper sentence?
§ Mr. Maclean
That case is not in the referrable category, but I congratulate Hampshire police on their excellent crime prevention initiatives. Last year, crime fell in Hampshire by 7 per cent.; burglaries were down by 14 per cent.; and robberies were down by 14 per cent. I accept my hon. Friend's point, however, that the criminal justice system is a seamless robe and that all parts of it must work in harmony if the public and our constituents are to be assured that there is justice.
440 The House has given the courts powers to impose sentences of up to 14 years for burglary, 10 years for killing someone while drink-driving, five years for inflicting bodily injury and life imprisonment for unlawful wounding. I suggest that any public indignation at a perceived failure to use the extensive powers that the House has granted should be directed at those responsible for sentencing.