HC Deb 20 March 1997 vol 292 cc1068-9
11. Mrs. Bridget Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the number of crimes committed by young people. [19792]

Mr. Maclean

The best indicator we have of youth crime is the number of young people known to have been involved in offending. In 1995, 179,000 persons aged under 18 were either cautioned by the police or convicted by the courts.

Mrs. Prentice

Does not the Minister realise that young offenders commit some 7 million crimes, yet only 1.3 per cent. of them are ever prosecuted, and that half of those who are prosecuted find that their criminal charges are dropped or that they get absolute or conditional discharges? Does he not realise that, by the time the young offenders reach court, the offence is a distant dream? Does he now accept that our policy of fast-track punishment for young offenders is the only way to solve the problem?

Mr. Maclean

If the hon. Lady is concerned about juvenile crime, she should welcome our Green Paper. All the Opposition have produced is a ragbag of incoherent soundbites and wish lists and no idea about how to make them work in practice. The Government have a carefully thought out strategic approach which goes to the root of juvenile offending. From what we have heard this afternoon, a party that thinks it can solve juvenile crime by abolishing the rule of doli incapax is not living in the real world. Perhaps the hon. Lady should take up the issue with the shadow spokesman who voted against curfew orders in 1990, voted to cut community sentences from 240 hours, voted to cut the sentence at attendance centres, and said that holding parents responsible for controlling their children's behaviour would only make matters worse. We cannot trust a word Labour says on crime.