HC Deb 31 January 1996 vol 270 cc993-4
10. Mr. Gallie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what proportion of reported crimes of violence have been committed by re-offenders in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [10796]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Information is not available in the form requested, as not all reported crimes of violence result in a conviction. In 1994, 17 per cent. of persons convicted of a crime of violence—which category includes serious assault, sexual assault, robbery and possession of offensive weapons—had been convicted of a similar offence in the previous five years.

Mr. Gallie

What steps will my hon. Friend take in respect of crimes of violence committed by youngsters? There still seems to be a problem with the carrying of knives. Will my hon. Friend consider introducing legislation to prevent the sale of knives to young persons under the age of 18? Will he also consider introducing legislation to prevent the consumption of alcohol in public places by youngsters under 18?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

It is illegal to sell alcohol to under-18s, and a large number of councils have adopted byelaws approved by the Secretary of State to prevent the consumption of alcohol in public places. We will consider, in co-operation with the Home Office, any proposals that my hon. Friend has—but we must be certain that proposals are enforceable by the police. We believe that the Health Education Board for Scotland should spearhead health enhancement among the young.

As to the carrying of knives, there have been a number of successful campaigns, such as Operation Combat. The number of attempted murders involving the use of knives fell by half as a result, which every police force should bear in mind.

Mr. McFall

Does not the Minister's answer reveal the total failure of the Government's criminal justice policies? With friends such as the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), who needs enemies? The present policy clearly does not work. At Glasgow district court a few months ago, 7,000 criminal cases were dropped because of lack of resources. Apart from that being a kick in the teeth for the victims of crime, is not it the case that the several thousand villains who are out and about in Scotland regard the Government as their friends?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The dropping of that large number of cases was the responsibility of Glasgow district council, which refused to make available the necessary facilities. The hon. Gentleman should direct the strength of his criticism to that council. I am proud to be associated with my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), who introduced a necessary provision to allow prosecutors a right of appeal against sentences that are too lenient. That right has been used successfully, and such offenders have been subjected to heavier sentences as a result of the measure for which my hon. Friend fought. He was right to fight for it, and that measure is greatly to his credit.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend recall previous law and order Bills and the Opposition opposing measures that the Government wanted to introduce? Does my hon. Friend remember the speeches made about stop and search, which has produced remarkable results? Does not that measure show that Conservatives are tough on crime, whereas Labour supports not the victims of crime but the persons who practise it?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My hon. Friend is right to remind the House that, originally, Labour Members opposed the right of police officers to search persons whom they suspected of carrying weapons. Despite that opposition, the law was changed. As a result, the number of persons who commit crimes involving knives is considerably lower than it would have been.

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