§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, of the different ways in which this subject of crime and its various problems can be approached, from the point of view of penal measures, court procedure, even the moral texture of contemporary life, I propose to deal only with the question of the detection of crime and the apprehension of the criminal. For, of all the factors, the deterring factors, in crime, the certainty of detection seems the strongest. There are, alas! no figures for the number of crimes actually committed. The best statistics that we have are probably those for indictable offences known to the police, and I think it is those that the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, although he did not specifically say so, must have been quoting in his speech. There is a certain weakness in those figures in that the number of crimes they describe is probably only a fairly small percentage of those actually committed.
The last time we debated this subject in this House the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, was quoted as having himself, on an earlier occasion, endorsed a professional estimate that only some 15 per cent. of crime committed was actually known to the police. 127 But if one ignores this factor and various other implications of it, and if one assumes that the statistics of crime known to the police do, more or less, reflect the number of crimes committed, then one finds that there has been a steep and consistent annual increase in crime since 1955—and I should prefer to take this date rather than the date the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, took of 1937. In each of the four years previous to 1955 there was an actual decline in the number of crimes committed, but since 1955 the picture has been very much the same.
For the last two years—that is to say, the two years since we last debated this subject—there has been a slight reduction in the rate of increase of crimes known to the police, but the significance of this is, I think, difficult to estimate, since the decrease is actually smaller than the decrease in 1959, which was a very short-lived one and did not go beyond the end of that year. Of the indictable offences known to the police in 1965, a smaller percentage was cleared up by the police than in 1964. In 1966 a very slightly larger percentage, 0.6 per cent. larger, was cleared up than in 1964, but this was still a 6 per cent. smaller percentage than that cleared up in 1950. So at around something like 40 per cent, for all indictable offences the detection rate is still depressingly low and showing little or no improvement. I will come in a moment to the question of regional variations.
The necessary preconditions for improvement have, for a long time, been discussed here and elsewhere—higher recruitment, civilian substitution in clerical work, in garage work and in traffic work, better use of technology, better inter-regional co-ordination, even rather despairing general appeals to the trusting British public to be rather less trusting. I suspect that even if these are successful, they are likely to be successful only on a short-lived basis. The crime rate is very high and annually rising, and the public does not seem to take the notice some people expect of it in terms of self-protection. It has not done so already, and it is unlikely to do so. I wonder whether there is room for some sort of local advisory service to be offered by the police to the public, to encourage people to go to the police station and declare what their worries are 128 and to be told what they should be doing for the protection of their own property. This might be a good idea; I do not know. In any case, on the whole picture we shall certainly be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has to say.
Two years ago the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, spoke rather enthusiastically about the measures then being taken. He was able to report in July, 1965, in this House that the 1964 Police Act was just implemented and that there was a new, co-ordinated set of regulations for the police; and since then we have had amalgamations selected for the further efficiency they are likely to bring about. The noble Lord said on that occasion:Vigorous measures are being taken … to improve efficiency, particularly in the field of crime detection."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14/7/65, col. 171.]He was also able to report (a fact that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, referred to) the formation of regional crime squads, and he then referred to what he described as the impressive record they were already chalking up. He referred to the introduction of traffic wardens, the number of which had been doubled within the last two years. He referred also to how the Police Research and Planning Branch were urgently considering, in his words, the use of computers, and how also, out of an impatience that was too great to wait for the development of a pocket-sized radio, 1,000 standard radios had been ordered. The speech of the noble Lord was therefore not a depressing one at all. It reflected an energetic and promising picture of police activity in the field of crime detection. But that was two years ago. Since then we have had two of the best years of the decade in police recruitment, although in this context I should like to ask the noble Lord what, in his view, is responsible for the signally large number of resignations from the police force last year, 1966. This was some 30 per cent. more than the figure in 1964, which was also a bad year.
But overall what can we expect? Can we, on the one hand, expect a consistent rate of increase in crimes committed, with improvements in police metnods being sufficient to prevent this rate from rising? This is what the figures for the last 11 years would tend to suggest. Or 129 is there some good reason for expecting a delay between the introduction of new methods and their effect on the detection figures? Or is it the case that perhaps the improvement measures have not largely been introduced as yet? Or, again, perhaps they have in some areas been introduced but are not sufficiently widely spread. Or is it that possibly the right methods have not even yet been found? On all these points we shall, I think, look forward to hearing something from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham.
Certainly there are wide local variations in the success of the police in detecting crime. Few comparative figures, in percentage terms, seem to be available—at any rate, they are difficult to get hold of. Again, perhaps we could hear some from the noble Lord. But what one would like to know is where there have been regional improvements on the national average rate, and, where there have been such better rates, what the Government think has been responsible in the cases where it has been recorded. Does it tend to be, as one might assume from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, the effect of a smaller deficiency in the forces in those regions? Or is it the better use of the manpower they have available? Or is it better use of technologies? Whatever it may be, if indeed they have succeeded in isolating them what are the factors which seem to produce a better detection rate?
In this context I should like to refer to the highly impressive experience of the Lancashire Constabulary with regard to two new schemes that they have introduced. The first is a mobile policing scheme, and the other is what is called unit-beat policing; that is to say, a system, principally, where one constable lives on a beat for which he is responsible for 24 hours of the day. In the case of unit-beat policing the decrease in crimes of breaking, according to the 1966 Report of the Chief Constable of Lancashire, has been as high as 32 per cent., and at the same time the detection rate has risen by as much as 23 per cent. These are remarkable figures. I understand that the Home Office have recommended that this system should be introduced as widely as possible throughout the country, but that it requires cars and radios in 130 numbers that are possibly not in the possession of local forces. I shall be interested to hear what progress there has been in introducing this scheme and what stands in the way of extending it.
I do not mean generally to be pessimistic, or to suggest that one should be, in the face of the general figures available. I simply do not know what to expect in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, may have convincing grounds for being more optimistic than this with regard to the future. He may be able to throw some light on the figures for 1967 which he may have in his hand. He may well be able to explain the slow effect of improvements on the actual figures. I should be most interested to hear how the Government have proceeded with the introduction of the improvements that he mentioned last time. Certainly we do not expect promises or predictions from the noble Lord, but the present position. I think, gives cause for considerable concern, and a great deal of attention must clearly he paid to it in general debate.
Perhaps I may refer briefly to organised crime. As experienced in the United Sates of America, organised crime does TEA seem to exist here. There you have enormous criminal cartels which have assets at their disposal equivalent in sum to those of the largest business corporations. Originally they derived those assets, and largely they still do, from untaxed profits on illegal activities namely, on gambling, on "loan sharking" (which is lending money at illegal rates of interest) and on narcotics—on those three above all. Once acquired, those assets are used to infiltrate and control ordinary business, to infiltrate and control labour unions, to intimidate witnesses, and so on, and also to corrupt innumerable local government officials.
The Report of the President's Commission, which is a most impressive document and to which the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, referred, says that all available data indicate that organised crime flourishes only where it has corrupted local officials. In England this tradition has never been established. In the United States, organised crime is not simply a big city problem. The Commission estimated that 50 per cent. of the total number of cities with a population of between 100,000 and 250,000 had organised criminal groups within them. All this I think differs considerably from the descriptions 131 given of the activities of planned crime in this country. Here, organised crimes seem to be more detectable, if not by their nature unconcealed, such as bank robberies, et cetera. The networks from which the criminals operate seem less complex, less diffuse and possibly less permanent. However, one would like to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, something about this, and in particular whether he feels that there are at the moment in prison a number of the important organisers of past crimes in this country, or whether the number in prison are an insignificant number of those who have planned, and do plan, large crimes in this country.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that this country does not have crime on the same scale as organised crime in the United States, even in this House we occasionally have alarming descriptions—for ex-example, Lord Willis's description, on the Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill, when he described the role of the "fixer", who, he said, was a chap who lent money for criminal activities on a sort of profit-sharing basis. This is quite an alarming picture. I do not know whether the Government have a view of the extent of this. I should also like to ask the Government about the protection racket. Do protection rackets still operate widely in this country; or is this not known?
There is one general point worth making. Organised crime seems to depend for its success on the illegality of a commodity which is still nevertheless in substantial demand by the publc—bootlegging where alcohol is illegal; gambling where gambling is illegal, and traffic in narcotics where narcotics are illegal. I do not think we are so stupid or so puritanical at present as to be in danger of bringing prohibition into this country. But so far as gambling and narcotics are concerned, I think we need to be careful. So far, the market price of hard drugs in this country has never risen high enough to attract the large international distributors—with their dangerous entourages, methods and consequences. But some people were worried that one consequence of the Dangerous Drugs Act might be that because supplies were denied to some addicts, who would be prepared to pay high illegal prices, the mar- 132 ket price might rise. If this happens, and organised importers and distributors of narcotics appear here, I hope we shall hear about it in good time to do something about it.
In regard to gambling, we hear periodically of foreigners, generally from the United States of America, often Italian Americans, who are expelled from this country or refused entry here, because of their gambling associations, or their apparent intentions. I must say that I am a little confused about the connection between gambling and criminals. I certainly take it for granted that criminals feel at home in a gambling atmosphere, but I assume that there is something more commercial in it than that. Is it the case that at present profits in the operation of casinos are so high that the criminals are attracted into this country from overseas? If that is the case, are these legal profits, or is the Betting and Gaming Act 1964 being contravened or evaded?
I should welcome some illumination from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, on this twilight subject of the connections between gambling and organised or unorganised international crime. Certainly, the Government, in the legislation which is promised us, will have a difficult time, and their particularly difficult task will be on the one hand so to limit profits as not to attract criminals from abroad, and on the other hand not so to restrict them as to encourage casinos to be established underground where criminals would be a necessity. I think that there is a serious possibility of that, and I very much hope it will not happen.
That is all I wanted to say. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, for enabling us to debate this subject after quite a long period of time. I look forward to hearing the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and that of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, on this rather disturbing problem of the annually increasing number of unsolved crimes.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Rowley for providing this opportunity to debate one of the most serious issues affecting us as a civilised community. His questions and constructive suggestions are based obviously upon a detailed and 133 thoughtful analysis of the problem and have been very helpful to all of us. I do not want to pursue my noble friend in the social implications of these problems. I have often reflected how extraordinary it is that in the 1930s, when there was great poverty and nearly 3 million unemployed, we had only 11,000 people in Her Majesty's prisons. To-day, when we have something approaching a Welfare State, we have some 35,000 in prison. I can only conclude that there was a different morality in the 1930s, and that people then would sooner starve than steal. It is not my purpose to-day to consider that question. I always feel that we in the Home Office are at the receiving end of the mistakes of society, in our prisons and in the problems besetting the police forces.
My noble friend Lord Rowley quoted accurately a large number of figures. I do not propose to follow him in that, except to mention one figure where he was very substantially inaccurate. He mentioned that he thought the total of our police forces in post in England, Wales and Scotland, was some 70,000. The actual figure in England and Wales alone—the Home Office are not responsible in this respect for Scotland—at the beginning of this year was 85,589. I am not arguing that we have enough, but I take the earliest opportunity to put that mistake right.
§ LORD ROWLEY
My Lords, my noble friend will realise that I was quoting the figure in comparison with the 140,000 in France.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, when my noble friend looks at what he said in Hansard, he will find that he said 130,000 in France. They are going up, and we are going down. But whatever the numbers of police in England and Wales, and the numbers in France, the police force here is every bit as good as any force in the world.
My noble friend quite rightly drew attention to the remarkable increase in indictable crimes between 1937 and 1966. He gave the figures, again quite correctly, of 266,000 in 1937, and almost 1,200,000 in 1966. A similar increase took place within those figures for the figures of robbery and assault, and violence with intent to rob. I want to use those figures to illustrate that these 134 crimes of gross violence—the kind to which he referred and which shocked the whole community—are only one in every 250 of the total number of indictable crimes. They are very serious, but that is the proportion.
Before leaving the figures, I wish to refer to something which was said by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, about detection rates. The use of percentages is one of the politicians' arts, and they are so often used to conceal rather than to reveal the truth. I shall use the figures actually quoted by my noble friend. In 1937, out of the 209 crimes of violence, 105 were detected and solved by the police—that was 50.2 per cent. In 1966, out of the 4,000-odd crimes, some 1,600-odd were solved by the police. That was only 37 per cent., but it was a figure of 1,600 compared to 100, sixteen times as much successful work by the police. Indeed, this is a measure of the great increase in the work of the police and in their problems.
My noble friend has taken as his theme "organised crime", and not crime in general. I know that he will agree with me that this very much narrows the field, because by far the largest volume of crime in this country is simple larceny carried out by opportunist individuals—petty thieves who not only are not organised but are not even organised in their method of operation. In fact, of all indictable offences known to the police over 75 per cent. are offences against property involving less than £100, property which might not be stolen if the owners took even reasonable care to look after it.
Fortunately, we are basically a law-a biding people; and we have a dedicated Police Service. These two assets prevent the creation of a climate in which organised crime of the gangster variety can flourish, in defiance and in contempt of the police. I have heard talk of the Mafia infiltrating here. This is complete nonsense. In my view, there never was, and with our police forces there never will be, any serious threat of this kind in this country.
There are of course some organised gangs, to which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, referred. Your Lordships will not have forgotten the recent trial, which the Press described as the "Torture Trial". 135 This brought to light the magnificent work of the police in exposing, and bringing to justice, criminals who thought that they could run a brutal and menacing "protection" organisation in defiance of the law. But despite the ramifications of this gang, the threats of violence if they informed on one another, despite the bribery, the allegations against the police, and the attempts to intimidate jurors, that gang was finally brought to account, and the ringleaders punished in a way that I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has given other aspiring thugs the strongest reasons for mending their ways. This case provided an admirable example of police dedication, since success depended upon information gained from petty criminals. It involved months of hard work, long hours and meticulous attention to detail—in fact determination. And it succeeded.
There is no question that a determined body of policemen is the most important single factor in dealing with organised crime, and the certainty of detection the most effective deterrent to criminals. But policemen need the right facilities, the right organisation, the right equipment, and indeed the right backing from both the Government and the public, if they are to carry out their job as efficiently as they must. And I am privileged to claim that in the past three years or so the police service in this country has undergone a revolution. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, initiated this revolution by introducing the Police Act 1964. That was the start and I know that he will agree with me that tremendous strides have been made since then, though, frankly, I am surprised that the strides which have been made do not yet appear to be sufficiently realised.
I want to deal with the points which have relevance to the questions asked by the three noble Lords who have spoken so far. First, there are the measures taken to improve the organisation of the Police Service itself to increase operational efficiency, both within the traditional local force framework and as an integrated body. To achieve both these objects is not easy, and for this very reason the Home Office Police Research and Planning Branch, which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, initiated, 136 recommended that regional crime squads should be set up to provide teams of experienced detectives whose activities, like those of the criminals they were pursuing, would not be confined to the boundaries of local police forces.
Eight teams were set up in 1965 to cover the whole of England and Wales, with a ninth team for the Metropolitan area. That is a total of some 600 detectives in all. Their job—and this is the direct answer to my noble friend—was to concentrate on the more important criminals committing the type of organised crime to which my noble friend has referred. I would emphasise that they concentrate on criminals—important criminals—rather than crimes. Detectives have always realised the value of this approach, but this was the first time that co-ordinated teams of police were specifically seconded and instructed to operate in this way.
I think the public has become familiar with the crime squad methods through the medium of the successful T.V. series "Softly, Softly". But in order not to mislead your Lordships, I have to record that, whereas the T.V. detectives never fail, there are occasions when the real ones do not succeed. But when he set up the regional crime squads, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said that they would be experimental in the first instance and would be reviewed after they had been in operation for two years. That review is now being carried out by the Research and Planning Branch, and I should not in any way wish to anticipate the result to-day. But there is no doubt that, with the co-operation of chief constables, these regional crime squads have achieved much success and valuable lessons have been learnt.
The second major point in connection with the reorganisation of the police is amalgamations. I do not want to dilate on this subject, because the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, covered it in his speech, but we are now over halfway through a programme of amalgamations which amounts to the biggest reorganisation of the Police Service for over a hundred years. Eighteen of the 32 schemes in the programme have been made, and 16 of the new forces are actually in operation. Five schemes are being made as compulsory amalgamations, and most of the remainder are nearly 137 ready by voluntary agreement. When the programme is completed—and it will be completed soon after next April—there will be (the noble Lord was not quite right in his figures) only 41 different police forces, instead of 117 as there were last year.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I think I said "under 50". I knew that it was somewhere between 40 and 50.
§ LORD STONHAM
Of course, my Lords, 41 is well under 50, as I should realise if I were 41. I am sure the noble Lord will agree that the fact that in this very sensitive field so much has been done so quickly and effectively is a tribute alike to the inspiration, the drive and the persuasive powers of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and to the public spirit and co-operation of senior police officers and police authorities in the areas concerned.
We have made it abundantly clear that in carrying out these mergers we are not in any way questioning the efficiency of the smaller forces within the limitations imposed by their size and boundaries. Many of them, of course, have been examples in one way or another to the rest of the Service. But, as my noble friend said, in this day of highly mobile and organised criminals those who fight them must not be restricted by out-of-date boundaries and insufficient reserves and resources.
The commander of a large force is in a position to assess the general situation throughout his area, and to deploy his manpower and equipment to the best advantage for the whole area. He can employ whole-time specialists over a wide range. He can have detectives concentrating on certain types of offences, such as drug-trafficking, gaming and the like, and a bigger force also provides better training opportunities and a better careers structure. I have no doubt that, just as the trend in post-war industry has been for increased effectiveness by regrouping into larger units, so society will benefit from what we have been doing in the police force. Certainly, the 16 new combined forces set up this year have already begun to make their impact.
The third major aspect of reorganisation is unit beat policing. Much of the equipment newly installed and coming 138 along, about which I shall say a word in a moment, is very costly. It can be justified only if it is used scientifically and if its full potential is exploited by modern operational methods. This is particularly important at a time when our manpower resources are so stretched. We started to study this method some years ago—and not only in Lancashire—experimenting with more flexible systems than the old foot patrolling. As a result of our operational research, we have developed the system of beat patrolling known as unit beat policing. This is specifically designed to exploit the full potential of rapid mobility and immediate radio communications, so as to give a much more effective service to the public, while at the same time—and this is very important—maintaining and in many cases restoring the close link with the public which has always been the most valuable feature of policing in this country.
A constable has his area. He is linked by radio with a small car in the charge of another officer, so that there is constant communication. Experience has already shown how advantageous this system is. It provides better service and a better, swifter flow of information about criminals which is being systematically collated. It has been received with great enthusiasm by the public and the police wherever it has been tried, and it has been a great boost to police morale. In effect, with the unit system we are combining all the advantages possessed by that paternal and majestic figure of fifty years ago—the village constable—with the modern scientific advantages of mobility, communications and organisation.
To ensure the rapid development of these new/old methods of policing, the Home Secretary has authorised the expenditure of about £2 million on additional small cars alone during this present year, and these are being matched by a supply of personal radios. As a result, about two-thirds of the entire population of this country will be served by unit beat policing methods early next year, and by the end of next year the figure will have risen to 80 per cent. The greater part of the entire country will be covered by this method, and the Commissioner tells me that by the end of next year he plans to introduce these new methods into nearly 90 per cent. of the area of the Metropolitan Police District. 139 It is very quick, and a very rapid and beneficial revolution.
Before leaving the question of the reorganisation of the Police Service, I want to deal with my noble friend's question on the fundamental matter of manpower. It is true that during the five years from 1962, recruitment has risen from a level of 6,000 a year to 8,500 a year, which is an increase of over 40 per cent. But the wastage, particularly through premature retirement, is considerable. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, asked about last year when there was the exceptional figure of 36 per cent. I am glad to say that it has fallen this year, but the figure for premature wastage is still 30 per cent. The recruiting position is encouraging, but acceptance standards appear to be uneven and the percentage of people accepted varies greatly between force and force. We are looking into the reasons for this, to see whether we can have standardised entrance tests which can then be adopted by all forces throughout the country. But premature retirement remains our chief staffing problem, not the rate of recruitment; and whilst it is probably true to say that premature retirement, expressed as a percentage, is no higher in the police force than it is in other comparable walks of life, the high quality demanded of entrants and the elaborate and expensive training which a police officer receives makes it imperative that we reduce this wastage. We are at present conducting, through the Research and Planning Branch, an investigation in depth into the causes of this problem, and we hope that when the results of this study are ready early next year we shall then be able to take steps to restore the situation.
My Lords, I mentioned civilian aides. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Reay, quote what I said in 1965 about the vigorous methods we were then starting, and I hope the report I am now going to give him will show that they have been successful. Traffic wardens, for example, were only 456 in number in October, 1962. They were 3,834 at the end of September this year. The number of other civilians performing administrative duties comparable to those formerly carried out by the police has increased from 9,707 in 1962 to 15,890 in September of this year, and it is safe 140 to say that, if they were not in post, a substantial part of the work that they do would have to be done by police officers, to the detriment of their operational task. So, in effect, this represents an increase in the operational strength of the police.
I have outlined the revolution taking place in the organisation of the police. A similar revolution is taking place in equipment. In 1959 we spent only £3 million on equipment and vehicles together. This year it is a threefold increase—nearly £10 million. In 1959, again, we spent only £1 million on new vehicles. This year it is quadrupled at £4 million. But the increase in modern radio equipment for the police is even more striking. These small personal pocket radios are of great advantage in keeping a police officer in constant touch. On January 1 last year the police of England and Wales had fewer than 600 of these sets. At the end of this year they will have nearly 10,000—that is within two years—and by the end of next year there will be between 16,000 and 20,000 sets in operation, which will mean that virtually every officer actually on duty will then be equipped with one of these sets.
We are also making intensive studies of a very wide range of other sophisticated equipment for police purposes. For six months, during the summer, our Research and Planning Branch, in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence and a number of police forces in the South of England, conducted a full-scale experiment with helicopters. This is continuing for a further six months under varied conditions, including adverse weather conditions, and as part of the experiment three Army helicopters are at present being used to support the Metropolitan Police. All these developments are being closely watched, as are many others, including work on crime intelligence; regional crime squads, as I have said; the deployment of policemen in traffic patrolling; the most economic utilisation of manpower, and a wide range of research into new items of equipment including the use of closed-circuit television for police purposes. Contacts with industry and the universities have been strengthened through the Home Office Scientific Advisory Council, whose members are distinguished scientists drawn from many fields We now have 141 an Advisory Committee on Communications, which my right honourable friend appointed about a year ago.
One category of equipment which I think was referred to by either the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, or the noble Lord, Lord Reay, was computers, which are now very much to the fore in our planning. A large number of forces are using local authority computers for payroll and other administrative work, and for statistics, and in some cases they are processing statistics for the operational deployment of manpower. The Home Office and the Metropolitan Police already own two computers, and a third is on order to deal particularly with "traffic tickets". But, my Lords, the really exciting project that we are planning is a national computer to process operational police records for the whole country, so that every force, and divisions within the forces, will have direct and immediate access to the information stored. This will make it possible for an ordinary constable who stops, say, a car with two suspects in it to use his personal radio to the information room, and a private teleprinter network from there to the computer, to find out within about 60 seconds whether the car is stolen, whether the occupants are wanted by the police, whether they have been disqualified from driving or whether any distinctive property in the car has been notified as stolen. We have talked about breathalysers, my Lords: it will take anybody's breath away if they are as swift as that!
I need hardly point out to your Lordships how valuable a successful project of this kind will be in combating crime. This computer, which will be nationally available, will also store information about the "m.o."—the modes operandi—of criminals, the names and previous convictions of criminals and the main fingerprint collection. It is an immense concept, and will entail storing far more information than any other comparable project in the world. Although planning has reached an advanced stage it is still too soon for a final decision to be made, but if all goes as well as we hope these plans will become a reality within the next year or so.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, the House will be very grateful indeed to the noble Lord for this information. Can he tell us whether it has yet 142 been found possible to store fingerprints successfully on a computer? I know we were struggling with that problem when I was at the Home Office.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I believe the noble Lord is thinking of a single print. We have made progress with that one. I think it will be incorporated in the project that I am now mentioning.
I do not want to keep your Lordships too long, but there are a few more things I should like to say, particularly in answer to questions. First of all, there is the problem of drugs. This, again, is a great source of crime, and your Lordships will be aware that it contributes increasingly to organised crime. As the noble Lord, Lord Reay, put it, crime feeds on illegality. This is one of the areas of illegality on which crime feeds. Your Lordships are aware of the Dangerous Drugs Act which passed through this House just before the Recess, in which we increased to a maximum of ten years' imprisonment the penalties for drug smuggling and greatly strengthened the powers of the police to search, enabling them to pick up the pedlars and the "pushers" the more easily; and soon we shall have notification by a central authority of any person whom a general practitioner considers or suspects to be addicted. These changes, when they become fully operative, will, we believe, give the police a great deal more help in catching criminals and, indeed, in dealing with the serious crime about which we are mainly concerned.
Another field of serious crime is the gaming field, which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, mentioned. Indeed, the unforeseen growth in commercial gaming since the passage of the Betting and Gaming Act 1960—unforeseen, I think, by anybody certainly unforeseen by those who approved the Bill at the time—has increased the percentage of crime in the larger cities, both because gaming by its nature tends to attract criminal elements and because the very unexpected nature of the development means that insufficient safeguards were put in the Bill against the cruder forms of exploitation.
The great attraction for crooks is getting money without working. What more attractive way can they have than filching a living somehow out of gaming—even if only living on the backs of honest gamblers? That is the attraction. Then, of 143 course, gambling debts have at times been recovered by dubious methods. A great many of the clubs are perfectly honestly conducted and with perfectly respectable people in them—but some are not. Gaming sometimes provides another means of changing dubious money; and this is extremely attractive to the crooks. Therefore we shall be introducing a gaming, Bill this Session to control the situation—not by putting a stop to commercial gaming altogether, for that is quite impracticable, but by making the conduct of these places the subject of close oversight and regular safeguard. A noble Lord asked, "What about the foreigners?" The police are aware of the foreigners who are connected with gaming and who have criminal records or associations; and in recent months my right honourable friend has refused entry to some 21 of these people. We shall help to "keep the party clean" in that way.
We are discussing organised crime; but organised crime can best be countered by an organised community. The police are not engaged in an isolated fight against the criminal. They are a part of the community and they rely, and are entitled to rely, on the rest of the community to assist them. I am grateful to my noble friend for what he had to say in that respect. A policeman is a member of the community who holds the ancient and honourable office of constable. He is ready on the instant to stake his life for the protection of the community, and I have been disturbed that there have been cases where the police have received less than the degree of support and approval they are entitled to expect from the public when they discharge their often difficult tasks of maintaining law and order.
Even if we have not been present, we have seen on television the police being attacked by people who, whilst properly insisting on their right of peaceful assembly in the name of liberty, freedom and democracy, have no scruples at "swinging a haymaker" at a police officer who is striving under orders to preserve that same freedom and democracy for the community at large. We all recall recent incidents: shots at the American Embassy; a peaceful procession in Grosvenor Square which developed into a savage riot; disturbances 144 outside the Chinese Embassy; organised militancy at the Barbican and at other sites; the incidents at Cambridge during the recent visit by the Prime Minister. All these, to say nothing of what has happened at football grounds, involve large numbers, perhaps thousands, of policemen in necessary but wasteful and unpleasant work and not infrequently, after being subjected to physical attack, the police get, not support, but allegations of police brutality.
What is indisputable, however, is that it is a prime duty of any police force to ensure the preservation of law and order; to act at all times without fear or favour—certainly without favour—to prevent breaches of the peace. And experience shows that in many of these public demonstrations, passions and tempers tend at times to run high, so creating for the police a distinctly unwelcome and difficult situation. In their role of keeping the peace the police are not fulfilling a personal or narrowly official duty, but a responsibility on behalf of the community as a whole; equally, every member of the community has the duty to support the police in this task in the interests of the community at large. The police act in the interests of ensuring the freedom of individuals, singly or in groups, lawfully to express a point of view in which they sincerely and honestly believe. But equally, it is abundantly clear and desirable that this very freedom itself must always depend on its being exercised in conditions of law and order. Those wishing to give vent to their views by way of processions or demonstrations must accept that freedom to do so entails certain obligations, including the obligation to respect the law and the freedom and rights of other people.
My noble friend spoke about "having a go". I do not want to follow him in that. I tried, by intervention, to answer his questions, but I think that what most of us neglect to do sufficiently—apart from "having a go", in which there are certain difficulties—is to give public moral support to the police on all occasions in the performance of their duties. At least we could by our opinions—even if we do not back those opinions by the use of our fists—support what is being done in the name of freedom, liberty and democracy for the whole of our people.
145 We also have an obligation to assist the police in taking the appropriate steps to deal with ordinary crime. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, asked me what was happening about the courses he started at Stafford. The Crime Prevention courses there are continuing. They are a success—so much so that they have permeated all the police forces and all police forces send officers to Stafford to be trained. No force is without such officers now. I have just been handed an answer to the question posed about finger prints. I understand that we have reached the point where, by feeding into the computer a certain code we can select the nearest sets or ten prints to the one required: so that we are getting there.
My Lords, during the last two years the Home Secretary has arranged national crime prevention campaigns to bring home to the public the need to take adequate precautions to prevent crime or, at least, to make the task of the criminal considerably more difficult. To prevent crime in this way is manifestly in our own interests. A good deal of crime could be avoided if the persons concerned would take preventive action. When we do not take preventive action, we are encouraging, if not creating, criminals; we are undermining the type of society which the police, with our assistance and on our behalf, are protecting. What can be done is illustrated by the experience of Sheffield where there has been a 17 per cent. drop in indictable crimes. The effects may wear off, but it is supremely important for the public as a whole not only to co-operate but to accept police advice in protecting their own property, whether it be houses or motor cars, and by taking sensible precautions.
Indeed, this applies to industry as well. The Home Secretary has in the last year set up machinery through which representatives of industry can come together to discuss crime prevention. The Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention at which these talks take place is, I think, a great success and it is, among other things, giving urgent consideration to the problem of bringing home to the top level of management the urgent necessity for crime prevention. It is necessary that industry accepts its responsibility not to encourage crime. If 146 goods are displayed in such a way that they seduce or encourage the shoplifter, or if industrial materials are not properly protected, the concern involved is guilty of encouraging crime. Each loss in itself may be small; but the ease with which the theft takes place means that more losses will occur.
My Lords, I have to-day attempted to describe to you some, but by no means all, of the measures that have been taken by the Government, with the assistance and the co-operation of police authorities, to enable the police to deal more effectively with the high rate of crime which faces us to-day and to which my noble friend has drawn attention. I have little doubt, and I hope I have convinced your Lordships, that the work which has already been done in equipping the police to meet the challenge of crime, combined with the intensive research which is still proceeding, is providing this country with a force equipped to a standard which it would be difficult to match anywhere else in the world. We are not alone in facing an unprecedented increase in crime, and the steps we have taken show that we are prepared to match the sophisticated criminal. We shall meet organised crime with an even better organised police force. The problem is enormous, but the police, or rather society as a whole, has met with some success. The recent figures for crime in the Metropolis show a 4 per cent. drop, and throughout the country the increase has levelled off to 1½ per cent. There has also been a small but welcome increase in the detection rate and, my Lords (I hope that the noble Lord will quote me in two years' time), this detection rate improvement will increase.
Most welcome of all to me is that the morale of the police is high, higher, in my view, than it has been for a long time. None of us know what the future will bring, but there will be no lack of determination by the police to deal with crime, organised or casual. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is firmly determined to provide them with all the tools and all the organisation they require for success in their supremely important job.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, finishes his speech, may I say that I entirely agree with him about the 147 police, and I am entirely in their favour. But we must support the police. Does not the noble Lord think, now that the present Home Secretary has gone to another sphere—where I hope he will be more successful than he was in the Home Office—that a reasonable degree of flogging, followed, where police murder shooting takes place, by a little capital punishment, would be an admirable deterrent?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, justice to the police is very much up to date, but on this subject the noble Viscount is very much out of date; and the opinions he expresses are quite unlikely to be shared by anyone who has studied the subject.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, I had the Scottish Office to deal with, and a certain number of people in my time had to suffer capital punishment; and I still maintain the view that it is a deterrent in cases of deliberate murder.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD HAYTER
My Lords, the only confidence with which I approach my maiden speech is the knowledge of your Lordships' generosity in these circumstances. Then I must be frank in declaring my interest, in both senses of the word, in the subject under discussion to-day. This can best be expressed by saying that as the fifth generation of a company which has been making locks and safes for 149 years, I have to admit that if there had not been a little increase in crime since the early 19th century, my firm would not be quite the size that it is to-day. But it is of the security industry as a whole that I want to speak, partly because it is sometimes misunderstood and partly because, properly orientated, it has such a useful part to play in combating crime.
My Lords, the security industry can be divided into two main sections, physical security, by which I mean locks, safes and strongrooms, and the security services provided by burglar alarms, cash-carrying and guards. The combined turnover of this industry in this country is about £40 million, and without wishing to bore your Lordships with detailed statistics I have satisfied myself 148 that that is, roughly speaking, the same figure that remains to the criminals, after recoveries by police from them. That is what we should call, in business, "available for distribution and ploughing back into their own affairs".
Turning then to the physical security, locks vary from the shilling padlock to the time lock which can be fitted on the postmaster's safe, to prevent anybody opening it, and which would cost some £120. I know of one firm which makes 15 million locks a year. The vast majority of these go into households and into cars; and, emphasising the point which has already been made to your Lordships to-day, if we could look after these minor matters of security, the police would be better able to look after the major items.
There are a multitude of special locks for hotels, asylums, museums and prisons—for in our industry we make locks to keep people out and we also make locks to keep people in; and those at the top of the security field are the high-security locks which guard Government secrets, not only in this country but also in several other countries. On the safe side, you "pay your money and take your choice". My own definition of a safe is that it is a receptacle so constructed that, while protecting its contents against fire, it prevents access by force—assuming certain, known methods of attack and the time required for them to be employed. It follows therefore, that the honest safe manufacturer—of which there are several in this country—sells time. It also follows that the real value of a safe is known only on the last day of its use.
I would refer to the Press reports in connection with our industry because (I suppose it is natural) it is always the failures that get reported and not the successes. Even when reporting the failures they do not get their facts right. The "two-foot door" which was talked about the other day was three-and-a-half inches thick. Then, as has been said before, on television the police always get their man, but generally speaking, so far as the safe manufacturer is concerned, his safe always gets cracked. I would just give your Lordships one rough statistic: that of all the serious attacks on branch banks in this country since 1957, three-quarters of those attacks 149 were unsuccessful. That is, I think, a tribute to the manufacturers concerned.
May I make one point about standards? Anybody can advocate standards for a variety of industries, with great effect and with great common sense. But when one is dealing with a subject like this, if your Lordships accept my definition of a safe, I think you may think that I am right in maintaining that you cannot simulate these attacks; you do not know what methods are going to be used, and you do not know for how long. But even supposing I were presumptuous enough to think that I could simulate those attacks, how wrong I should be five or ten years later! The enemy of our industry is a moving target, and we have to keep up research with the times to see that our standards are constantly improving.
On the security services side, the part of the burglar alarm is rather like that of the minefields around a fortress. There has to be a fortress and the time element is enhanced by the "minefield" provided by the burglar alarm around the safe or strong room. Nothing is more easy to invent than a burglar alarm, and nothing is more difficult to perfect. There is a very high incidence of false alarms on the burglar alarm systems going to the police of this country, and the police have been, and are, very patient about them. These false alarms are due to a variety of causes, not least of which is customer indiscipline. Probably in this country, as in the United States of America, the future lies in central call stations. But there is one type of alarm which I think that the police would be unwilling to drop and that is where secret signals are sent back to the police station if a house is broken into, or a safe is attacked. I can give your Lordships the most cheerful statistic that you have had to-day: the number of arrests last year of people caught red-handed by this means was 1,926.
Regarding the cash-carrying side, mention has been made already in the debate of this point. I would make the obvious one that anyone who sends amateurs to collect cash, using the same routine and the same route, really accepts criminal responsibility. These are the basic elements of the security industry, and I would relate them briefly to three sections of the community. So far as the police 150 are concerned, we have had the happiest of relationships. About the crime prevention efforts of the police I can truthfully say that I do not know of them being matched anywhere in the world. There is this emphasis on simple precautions and allowing them to tackle the major crimes.
So far as insurance is concerned, the insurance companies have vast experience but great difficulties, partly because of competition. The premiums they allow on their comprehensive policies are very low and leave no margin for discounts if protection is put in by a householder. I give one simple suggestion on this problem: that the insured should have to accept 10 per cent. of the claims they make. That might have quite an effect on the efforts they make to secure their own property.
Lastly, with regard to the Government, 11 have been told that I must not be controversial, and I shall not be—indeed, there is no need for me to be so. Things have happened just recently. One is that the industry, which was itself thinking of forming an association, was encouraged by the Home Office, so that we have now a British Security Industry Association, knitting together these elements about which I have been telling your Lordships. The great object is to defeat crime and to maintain high standards of workmanship and service. But, more important than that, we are represented on the Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention. Our representation is rather small—one out of eighteen—and perhaps I could press the Government to make a bit more use of our expertise—I was going to use the word "technology", but that is a word more happily used in another place. In making our contribution to the problem as it is seen by the Home Office Standing Committee there will be a lot of talk, but out of talk comes action.
My Lords, I feel some difficulty in knowing how to sum up. The problem of crime is so vast, and its manifestations so many, that it was difficult to forecast how your Lordships' debate would turn out, but I would hazard a guess—indeed, the certainty—that the security industry is going to be involved. It was for that reason that I thought it might be helpful to your Lordships if I gave a brief outline and explanation of its relationship with 151 the various sections of the community. For if we are going to find or to found a comprehensive social defence policy, surely that security industry has a major part to play.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, it is my happy and easy task to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, upon his maiden speech. Your Lordships have been charmed not only by the expertise which he has placed at your disposal but by the light and whimsical way in which he made the speech so easy to listen to. It is often said about your Lordships' House that upon almost every subject which is debated some unexpected expert will be able to offer his guidance and help, and we have certainly enjoyed that in the case of the maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. There is a further ground for what might turn out to be congratulation. I understand that the noble Lord's father, when he died, was the oldest living Peer. I have even been told that his grandfather, when he died, was the oldest living Peer. I very much hope that the noble Lord will emulate his predecessors and that we shall have the pleasure of listening to speeches such as we have heard this afternoon for an indefinite time to come.
We have had a most interesting debate dealing with the police force. I think that it is accepted (it certainly was by Mr. Roy Jenkins) that in combating organised crime the development, strengthening and improvement of the police force is the first priority. On that I am sure we are all agreed. But there are other things that have to be taken into account. It has been emphasised that the police suffer from a great sense of frustration when, as often happens, they know who a criminal is but are unable to launch a successful prosecution because of the rules of evidence.
Two years ago, I think it was, the noble and learned Lord who is now the Lord Chancellor inaugurated a debate in this House on penal reform. Much about the same time, he either contributed an article or gave an interview to the Sunday Times in which he drew attention with the utmost clarity to what was then the rapidly deteriorating position with regard to crime. He said, for 152 example, that before the war more than 50 per cent. of the known indictable offences resulted in a successful prosecution. In London in the year before he spoke, the number of robberies in which there had been a successful prosecution had fallen to 23 per cent. The noble and learned Lord indicated a number of steps that he thought should be taken for dealing with this problem. I should like to ask the Government how far they think they have gone so far.
Last summer, there was a series of remarkable discussions on television about various aspects of the wave of crime. My noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, found themselves in most remarkable agreement about certain changes which they thought ought to be made in what is admissible as evidence in criminal cases. I am going to put to your Lordships four points upon which they were in agreement; and where they were not in complete agreement what I am asking for is the lowest common denominator. The first is this. As the law is at present, if an accused person does not go into the witness box neither the judge nor the prosecuting counsel is allowed to comment upon the fact that he has chosen not to do so. Both noble and learned Lords considered that it should be proper for them to comment.
Secondly, they suggested that we should go back to the old Common Law rule that a voluntary statement made by an accused person should be admissible in evidence. Thirdly, at the present time the defence of an alibi can be concealed to the last moment and then suddenly sprung upon the court. The noble and learned Lords proposed that any accused person who chose to plead an alibi should be required to give previous notice that he was going to do so. Fourthly, they asked that when a man is charged with a crime, recent convictions for similar crimes should be admissible in evidence.
Many of these points have been supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Devlin. I should like to quote quite briefly some of the things that were said. Mr. Robin Day asked:Is it the case that we fall over backwards to protect the guilty?Lord Shawcross replied:Yes; I think there is no doubt about that.153 What is perhaps even more important is the expression of opinion by the former Home Secretary, Mr. Jenkins. Robin Day quoted from something he had said, which was, apparently:We ought not to defeat ourselves by archaic, elaborate, highly formalised rules which may give an undue advantage to the enemy. For it is enemies we are fighting.Mr. Robin Day asked:Is that the spirit of your approach?",to which the former Home Secretary replied:Very much so.I think that by now the Government might have invited one of the several Committees and Commissions which are considering every aspect of law reform to go into these matters. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid, speaking some time ago in your Lordships' House, said that there was no doubt that the law was in danger of bringing itself into discredit because so many people realise that persons who were obviously guilty were in fact able to obtain acquittals owing to these technical rules of evidence.
I pass to the next point. I do not think at the present time that the sentences are long enough and severe enough in many cases for dealing with what I call incorrigible rogues. I am not discussing the case of somebody who has been tempted and fallen; I am not discussing the case of those people who are guilty of first offences—although it does not in the least follow that because it is a first offence there is any reason why they should not be severely punished. I am talking of these incorrigible rogues, members of organised gangs, who even discuss the felonious little projects which they intend to indulge in when they come out of gaol while they are still in gaol.
Any of your Lordships who are not aware of the careful organisation of some of these gangs might do well to read The Robbers' Tale, which gives an extraordinary account of the way in which the great train robbery was organised, by men who made crime their regular way of life and went from one crime to another. The gang which carried out that robbery even indented on another gang for a person with the necessary expertise which they lacked: he was seconded from one unit of the criminal world to another.
154 The abolition of the death penalty presents us with an unsolved problem of the length of sentences. There is, in the first place, a need to protect society against criminals like the train robbers; and protection involves keeping them in prison until they are not likely to resume their normal activities. Secondly, there is the importance of ensuring that the robber does not enjoy his booty. In the case of a robbery of that kind, involving more than £2 million, if after some 10 or 15 years these relatively young men are able to come out and live a life of ease, pleasure and comfort for the rest of their lives, then the crime will appear to them to have been worth while.
Here I should like to say, with all respect, that I hope there will be a departure from what has been described as a principle by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice in the case of Regina v. Kroger, Kroger, Houghton. Gee and Lonsdale, that gang of skilful spies who did so much harm to the security of this country. In giving a shorter period of imprisonment to an older man, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice said:It is against all our principles that a sentence should be given which might involve your dying in prison.In the case of these enemies of society, as the former Home Secretary described them, it is, I should have thought, extremely desirable that they should die in prison before they emerge and resume their dangerous, harmful and often brutal activities.
In the third place, there is need for long sentences to break up organised gangs. The Minister of State for the Home Office referred to the torture conspiracy, and rightly paid tribute to the skill and patience with which the police uncovered that conspiracy. But society requires some assurance that no sentiment will result in those persons being released after 10 years if there is any chance that they will resume carrying on the organised conspiracy of torture and exploitation.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, would my noble friend forgive me, just to say this. While I agree with him about severe sentences, it always seems to me to be rather unkind to give a sentence to ensure that a prisoner dies in gaol. Is it not really, in a sense, almost more humane to put him out of his 155 agony, instead of sending him to gaol, by a little degree of capital punishment.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, my noble friend is returning to the argument that he put forward, that he would prefer capital punishment. I not only spoke, but voted on every occasion in your Lordships' House against the abolition of capital punishment, and I am inclined to think that it would perhaps be kinder for there to be capital punishment rather than confinement of that kind. But I have to recognise that there is no great likelihood of a return to capital punishment in this country, and what I am trying to put to your Lordships, and to the Government, is this really unsolved problem: that when murder is punished only by life sentence, which in practice is only about 14 years, it creates an anomaly, because there is need of sentences for the protection of the public which may be a good deal longer than 14 years in the case of these conspirators.
My Lords, I referred to 10 years because the view, I know, is taken (I believe it is taken by the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill) that after 10 years a man's personality in gaol deteriorates. But I would say that the first consideration must surely be the protection of the community; and protection against rackets and conspirators, and those who set out to intimidate jurors, may very well involve a longer period of imprisonment than 10 years. I am alarmed at the kind of leniency which is now shown in some courts.
If your Lordships will bear with me for a moment, I should just like to read this extract from a newspaper cutting:William Featherstone, 55, who is due to be released from a sentence of 14 years' preventive detention on May 30, was placed on probation for two years when he appeared for sentence at Inner London Sessions yesterday. He had admitted stealing jewellery worth £1,136… The theft occurred while Featherstone was at liberty from Stafford Prison under the hostel scheme. A probation officer said that Featherstone has spent most of his life in prison.Now here is a man who has spent most of his life in prison, has not yet completed a period of 14 years' preventive detention, and, while he is out on what I suppose in future will be called something analogous to "parole", he carries out another theft and the court only put him on probation for another two years.
156 Far more reasonable, far more acceptable, to me is the warning that was given last month by Mr. Justice Lawton, who presided at the "torture" trial at the Central Criminal Court. At Exeter he gave warning in the case of two young men, aged 19, who had both pleaded guilty to robbery with violence, that he had every intention of giving sentences which would act as a deterrent. He said that, encouraged by Parliament, Judges had tended to be lenient with youths, but this had not improved behaviour. There was more evidence now than ten years ago, and he wondered whether the lenience extended in recent years was not perhaps a contributory cause.
Finally, I would say that we have gone to the point where life in prison is far too agreeable. Again I am not talking about young people guilty of a first offence where there is some real hope of reform. But I beg the Government to realise, I beg the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal, whose kind and humanitarian outlook on these things is well known to your Lordships, to realise, that there are people who have really no intention of being reformed. It has been said that punishment consists in being deprived of liberty in gaol and that it is wrong that prison should be so unpleasant as to constitute a punishment in addition. I do not know whether that is the noble Earl's view; perhaps we shall hear when he comes to wind up.
We are discussing this afternoon planned crime, the people who make this their way of life, who devote their lives to it and have chosen to make their living by crime. To them, my Lords, prison is an occupational hazard, one to which they are accustomed and one they are perfectly willing to put up with. One finds they are neither ashamed of being sent to prison; nor do they suffer when they go there.
I thought that one of the wisest acts of the late Home Secretary was to allow the train robbers in Durham Gaol to be interviewed by the Press and to say what their grievances were. It may have had an unforeseen effect, or perhaps the Home Secretary foresaw what the effect would be. I know that a large part of public opinion was shocked to find that men of this kind, in a high security gaol, who were known to be conspiring, if they could, to escape, as two of their colleagues 157 had already successfully done, could even ask for the kind of pleasures and entertainments the lack of which seemed to them to be an intolerable hardship. I quote from The Times of February 1:They objected to being accompanied by a prison officer even if they had to walk only a few feet.Well, in view of the escapes that had been made, that does not seem unreasonable.They objected to the lack of entertainment. They spoke of the absence of radios, film shows and concerts. With regard to visiting facilities, they considered that Durham was too far to travel for visiting, especially by the relatives of prisoners whose homes were in the South.And, although they had a yard in which they could take exercise, they did not think it was large enough and therefore they refused to take any exercise at all. My Lords, really I do not see how, when almost all forms of penal punishment in gaol have been abolished, it is possible to regard imprisonment as being an adequate punishment for these enemies of society when they can expect to be granted amenities of this kind.
To conclude, I would say that, in dealing with the wave of crime which is now putting fear into the hearts of so many people in all parts of the country, and perhaps most of all here in London, there are four steps to be taken. The first is what has so far been discussed: to strengthen and to help the police in their skilled and courageous war against what Mr. Roy Jenkins calls these "enemies of society". The second is to amend the law of evidence in order that we no longer lean over backwards in order to enable the guilty to obtain acquittal. Thirdly, sentences should be longer, not in any spirit of vengeance, but in order to secure adequate protection of society from its enemies. Fourthly, imprisonment for those who belong to the class of hardened professional criminals should be very much less pleasant than it is at the present time.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ BARONESS BIRK
My Lords, I most respectfully ask for the indulgence of the House which I know is always accorded to a maiden speaker. And may I, as one "maiden" to another, offer my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. Although he seemed more of an iron maiden, he was extremely articu- 158 late and, I thought, very charming in his speech.
Planned or organised crime, which we are debating to-day, cannot be kept in a separate compartment from other crime, because there are junctures where it interlocks with free-lance criminality and one of these junctures is in the line of recruitment. I feel here that one of the most vulnerable groups are young people between, probably, 17 and 21, who are very much at risk. I should like to restrict myself this afternoon to the young offender. I think we must get this in perspective, since it often appears As though millions of them are in trouble, or about to get into trouble, and as has been mentioned this afternoon, a great deal of publicity is sometimes given to a small number of exploits. In 1966, out of just over 3,036,000 young people aged between 17 and 21, 50,014 were found guilty of indictable offences; and this is a percentage of 3 per cent.
There are elements in society on which organised crime lives, and mention has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Lord, Lord Reay, about the relationship between the illegality of the activity and the growth of organised crime. One of these elements in our society at the present time is the alienation of youth. Because of this a demand is created, for instance, for drugs (which have also been mentioned), and that enables the petty professionals and organised criminals to supply the drugs. This cold war between young and old is disturbing, and I understand that in this context to-day over 35 is considered to be "old". This is a very debilitating and depressing thought. The alienation of young people, the feeling of "separateness" that so many of them have, is expressed through frustration and loneliness: it is not only old people who are lonely. Non-communication, anti-social behaviour and delinquency are very closely connected (there is often only a hair's breadth between them) and many of the young people retreat into drug-taking.
Nowadays, this is not a question of education, income or class. It cuts straight across the structure of our society, but I feel that some of the young people who leave school at 15 and who have fallen through the parental, educational and social nets which should have supported them are extremely vulnerable. In 159 the court where I sit as a magistrate we often have youngsters appearing before us who have had as many jobs as the number of their years of age. They are aimless, bored and they get their "kicks" from drugs, hooliganism and violence—a completely aimless violence which has no end product in finance or any economic sense of gain.
Part of this hooliganism may be due to the fear of many of them that they will not be able to "keep up with the young Joneses" sexually in our more permissive society. Very often their earnings are good, but many live in a social and personal vacuum. And it is these who are potential candidates for the professional criminals, both small and large, who pick them up in local cafés and bars, and give them the feeling, as has already been mentioned, that they are going to get something for nothing—something easy, without working and without discipline.
One of the factors of drug-taking which is alarming is that it brings young people into other criminal activities if they mix with criminals when they get involved in the world of drug-taking. I think we are still looking at this problem of drugs with a certain amount of hysteria, combined with insufficient knowledge of its social and psychological causes. If drugs are to be prevented from turning into big business, as in America, action must be taken quickly. I am worried about the drug centres which are being set up, because unless they can get adequate staff and facilities, which seems difficult in the short run, they will merely be "handing-out bureaux"—taken over from the doctors—and unless the centres are readily accessible we shall develop a bigger black market in drugs than we have now.
So far as treatment is concerned, the Ministry Circular dated November 15 talked of treatment consisting of establishing a relationship with a view to persuading the addict to accept withdrawal treatment, and it then goes on to refer to the social aspects. This is very good, but the trouble is that it refers only to heroin and even then I doubt whether they will be able to draw in all the heroin addicts. It does not refer to pep pills, which form part of the major drug-taking of young people, the psychedelic drugs (LSD) and also the escalation from cannabis to hard drugs. One of the by-products of the drug 160 trouble, and the onus put on the police to search young people, is that it increases hostility to the police because many youngsters who do not happen to be drug-takers and who are searched feel that it is just an excuse, as they say, "for the coppers to do us over".
I do not think we can find any blanket cause for delinquency. The White Paper on The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, published in 1965 overstressed breakdown in the family. This is often the cause, but it is by no means the sole cause. There are other factors—social, environmental, personal and even biological, but it is impossible to delay your Lordships in order to deal with these. When dealing with existing young delinquents, sitting on the Bench I often feel a tremendous sense of frustration and anger because of the lack of range of alternatives. I notice that the Home Secretary has set up a Committee to look into the question of detention centres. I hope that Committee will recommend their abolition. From the last figures available, in 1962, in the three years at risk, 43.9 per cent. of first offenders discharged from senior detention centres were reconvicted and 57.8 per cent. of second or more offenders. This is hardly a success story, and I think it proves that equality of treatment is not the answer to our problems.
What I should like to see, and I know a great many other people agree with this, are more probation hostels structured for the needs of different types of people, both young and also older, and where psychiatric care is available. I should also like to see a bigger probation service better paid, because the probation officer is sometimes the only person with whom the young person can create a stable relationship, which is absolutely essential. But how can they do their job when two of the probation officers attached to my court have caseloads of 70? When people sneer at the idea of putting people on probation, or say that probation has failed, it is often because it has not been given the chance to work. I doubt whether the Government will achieve the target of 3,500 by 1970, because at the moment the yearly targets are not being met, and this does not take account of the high wastage by dropout, which I think is due not only to the maximum salary scale, which is extremely low, even in this era of wage restraint, 161 but also to the impotence that many of them feel because they cannot do their job properly.
Although I understand that it is the policy of the country to keep young people under 21 out of prison, the fact is that in 1966, out of 45,243 males between the ages of 17 and 21 convicted of indictable offences, 2,062 were sent to prison. That is a figure of 4½ per cent., and I feel it is too high. If we had more hostels and more facilities for probation many of these youngsters would not have gone to prison, and many need not even have gone to borstal. What we need to do is to concentrate on research, including spotting potential delinquents at the earliest possible age rather than just drawing inferences from statistics. I wonder whether anyone has done any deep research into the origins of the recruitment of major criminals, not to reform them but to prevent others from following their example? In the preventive field I should like to see a comprehensive family service but not family councils allied with family courts. However, I will not take up time by discussing these now.
I hope that the recommendations of the Latey Committee on the age of majority are implemented, not just because of the majority of responsible young people, but because I believe that by expecting responsibility from people, even some of the so-called irresponsible minority might feel that their acceptance into the adult world gives them more courage and security, and more status. But also I should like to see it because I think that by bringing down the age we shall shock society's conscience so that it will get an imaginative move on to help young people to achieve maturity.
I know that there are many rival financial claims on our economy, and that at this moment we are cutting down expenditure rather than increasing it; but it seems to me that to spend £15 a week on keeping somebody in prison—and I am sure (though I have not got the exact figure) that it costs a lot more in borstal—is extremely uneconomic. With a decrease in youthful delinquency, police would be released from hooligan and drug-tracking down activities, which mean that the time they spend on Saturday afternoons they have to take off during 162 the week when they could be involved in bringing down the crime rate we want to combat. I think youngsters would be healthier socially and happier personally if we could follow out some of these reforms. Some are under way, some are in cold storage, and some are hopeful intentions. If youngsters are healthier socially and happier personally, that surely is worth aiming for in itself. I apologise for taking up so much of your Lordships' time and if I have gone beyond the customary limit for a maiden speech. But this is a subject in which I am passionately interested, and I am a woman of many words.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH
My Lords, I think I am a very lucky woman in being allowed and in having the privilege of thanking such a maiden speaker, not because it sounded like a maiden speech but because it sounded so perfectly understandable to everybody concerned that I would not just say we look forward to hearing her again; I would say something which for me means very much more: I look forward to working with her. In what she has said and the way in which she has said it she has convinced us of her deep belief in a subject which to all of us is of paramount importance.
And as a Cross-Bencher, I should like to say I am delighted in the delicacy of the "touch of the Chubb". A Chubb by any other name is just as sound, and I look forward to seeing whether I can "crack" it some day, but I fear my touch is not delicate enough. But I am doubly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, because he has given me an entry card into what I want to speak about. He has talked about keeping people in, and I should like to talk about keeping people out. I would go back to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and say how much I agree with her that we have to recreate the law-abiding society that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, mentioned, in the way of trying to exclude from prison those people who are not dangerous criminals, instead of cluttering up the prisons with too many people.
The ineffectiveness of sending a certain type of offender to prison is well established, and the courts are increasingly aware of the importance of what the 163 noble Baroness has just said: the need for suitable places to send people to who come before the magistrates, instead of sending them to prison. This is something which is an accepted fact, and this is the type of help that should be available to all magistrates, and especially to probation officers. The variety of persons with varying troubles or difficulties demands a suitable variety of hostels; and these must be of a kind which will treat offenders and stop the recurrence of their crimes. I think the recommendations that have been made over a series of years have begun to come into effect; and the need for hostels to be in the right place is accepted.
The Home Office has, through its various committees and through NACRO, established the fact that the regional siting of hostels is of paramount importance. I hope that in future, in the registration of a hostel, before it can claim allowances from the Home Office this siting will not only be insisted upon but will be watched very carefully indeed. If the hostels are properly located, properly controlled and properly run, they will help combat recidivism. This is my excuse for rising to address your Lordships to-day. Recidivism is just as much trouble from the prison point of view as any other form of crime. If we can prevent a man from going back again and again to prison it will help very considerably. If we could have hostels available, so that men and women could be sent to them, it would prevent the stigma of conviction and stop people having to go to prison. I had a man came to see me who told me that he had been inside 19 times and had decided that there was no future in it, so he thought he would reform and not go back again. He stayed out three years—which I think was quite good. Recidivism needs a great deal of help.
I should declare an interest in that I have been working for two years in a Working Party set up by the Home Office in connection with the after-care of the ex-offender. There are a great many things I should like to ask the Government either to tell us or to look into. One of these is that to meet the demand of siting at regional level, and to meet the request the noble Baroness has just made, it is necessary that rapid strides 164 should be taken, instead of a slow forward movement; because, as this is a question of human beings, I think slow procedures should be outruled. At present we are told that there are regions, but localities do not even know in which region they are sited; they do not know which county, which county borough, belongs where. So far as I can discover, none of the new regions is coterminous with any other region already in existence. This could easily confuse local thinking and local outlook. The first urgent need I would press on the Government is the one which the Working Party has put forward very strongly, and that is that the public must be informed; it must have a great deal of information through all the media that exist—and I would hope especially that it would not be only the usual media that are employed. I feel very strongly that the churches could do much in making their parishioners understand the need for work within their own areas.
Too many people seem to think that anything in the nature of a hostel in their locality would be excellent anywhere else. During the last two years I have met so much opposition from respectable citizens, from magistrates even, and from church people that I hope that, if the Home Secretary does institute the form of information we hope for the public, he will get everyone concerned to work hard, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, suggested, have a continuous campaign. During the years we have been trying to get specimen hostels set up we have found over and over again that as soon as one goes to the local authority for planning permission there is immediately a "not here" attitude taken by local residents. If the hostel is to apply for a grant to the Government, which means either £2 a head a week or £2 a place a week for an ordinary hostel, which must obviously abide by standards, and be right from the regional siting angle, if planning permission is withheld, life is impossible, because one has to start all over again.
So I would ask that propaganda of every sort and kind be the first thing. But alongside that I would beg that levels of maintenance grant towards running expenses be agreed. These have been discussed for some time, and those of us—and there are a great number—who are trying to set up hostels want to know what 165 the grants will be, whether per capita or per place, whether varying with the various groups that are doing the work, and how much the grant is likely to be where high therapeutic costs are involved, as against where it is merely a question of caring for somebody who needs a home. An early pronouncement on this will help take up the slack that has already been mentioned by several people. Whether it is the old man who puts a brick through a window, or whether it is a young person who need never get a conviction because he is sent to a hostel instead of going to prison, the formidable background of finance and housing have, in the first provision, to be available.
There are other things to be asked for with great emphasis, the first being advice in regard to the training of staff, and also some sort of assistance towards the simplest system of record keeping for research purposes, which will obviously be needed if the Government are going financially to back the undertakings that are under consideration. A great deal of trouble and thought must obviously be spent on the integration of voluntary work into statutory aid.
But that is not something that I want to put before your Lordships this afternoon. The point I want to put before your Lordships is that since we first started debating these subjects all aftercare has come within the field of the probation officer. The Probation and Aftercare Service, as it is to-day, is carrying the whole statutory responsibility. I am no orator and I am a poor debater; but I am a worker, and I have learned a great many things on the ground in connection with this whole problem of the alternative to prison; and what I have learned may, I think, be of use to those who are doing the work alongside me. The first lesson is that basic support must always be available for those hostels which are set up.
I was associated with a group which with the generous aid of the Carnegie Trust set up an alcoholic unit. This provided so many problems in its setting up, in regard to its shape, whether it should be registered as a charity or as a company, whether it should be run one way or the other, how to get its "background" funds, and whether in fact it should treat this type of drunkard or that type of alcoholic, that if there 166 had not been a great deal of determination among the people backing the venture the whole thing would have fallen down. Eventually, because of the excellent people who were working it, men and women who have a dedication far beyond anything one could expect, "skid-row" alcoholics who had not worked for six years have been working continuously for 26 weeks. I will not say that they did not have a bit of a "binge" then, but they came back to work, and are continuing to work on the same basis for 26 weeks before they take a week-end off. I think this is the beginning of something. Undoubtedly, it means that those who are working in hostels must have sufficient latitude to experiment. Had it not been for the generosity of the Carnegie Trustees this undertaking could never have been handled, and it is through this original experiment that others are now being undertaken.
The running of a multi-purpose hostel, again with the backing of the Carnegie Trustees, has taught that what the principal probation officers asked for in the way of a long-term clearing house is of infinite value. We have learned from it that the residents need to be siphoned off to a variety of different hostels. So this again comes round to the fact that hostels must be linked together within the make-up of the region, so that persons need not go to the wrong place with the wrong association, boys with older people, and men, when they are only rather weak characters, with hardened criminals. Equally, we have learned—I am ashamed to say that I had never realised it before—that it is just as important to learn what is not possible and to register a failure as it is to register a success.
Some of us are thrilled to think that we may have begun to find the secret of keeping aged recidivists in a comfortable enough home for them not to wish to return to the comfort, or at any rate the known background, of prison. But what is of great importance to anybody doing this work is that one discovers the tremendous amount of support required by any undertaking which is just beginning. In this regard all of us who have been working for a long time in the field ore extremely delighted to see that the 167 Home Office have registered, or have caused to be registered, a housing association which will be able to provide the background services of houses in which people can work in this way without having to raise the money for the purchase of a house or such alterations as are necessary. To my mind, this is the epitome of to-day as against yesterday. Today, whether they be voluntary workers or established bodies, or whatever they may be, people are working instead of just collecting money to pay somebody else to work. To my mind, this is the beginning of the involvement of the community, and what must be the community's responsibility to rehabilitate its own citizens.
In order to expedite work, to clear channels and to move forward, the Working Party that I am quoting have recommended a "pentad". The idea was that five really interested and serious-minded people with a zest could support and help and back those people who were undertaking schemes at every level all over the country. By carrying out the functions that we suggest in our Report, they could save several years of waiting; they would save much frustration for many workers, and they could help the statutory bodies to integrate with voluntary effort. Above all, they could advance measures that many of us believe to be essential for the good of the country itself. This "pentad" that we recommend, and which has not as yet been accepted, would be not for a long term but for an interim of three years, until the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders could assume the role of backing, supporting and helping. In this interim of three years a great area of country could be covered with a string of hostels. Much has been said in this House so often and in so many speeches. As one reads through the speeches made on this particular subject since 1961, one can see a slow, slow progress forward. But I have a deep belief that if in fact we are dealing with human beings we have no right to take a lengthy time to do a job which should be expedited. I would beg for the informing of the public, the decision of the level of maintenance and the setting up of a specific body that will expedite the work centrally until such 168 time as it no longer is needed, in order that the community may begin to realise that it must welcome back into its own area the people who belong to it.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ LORD MAIS
My Lords, I would crave your Lordships' indulgence on this, the first occasion that I rise to address your Lordships' House. I appreciate that in return I am expected to be non-controversial. This is quite foreign to my nature, but I will endeavour not to offend against tradition. May I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on their maiden speeches. I hope that I shall do half as well. I doubt whether I shall.
The noble Lord, Lord Rowley, and a number of other noble Lords have spoken most eloquently on the problems created by crime. Before I proceed further, I will make my own position clear. I am not one who believes that those who offend against the laws should be pampered or excused in any way at all. There are, in fact, many crimes which I feel are sometimes quite inadequately punished, in particular those involving violence and those involving the distribution of drugs. For those committed for such offences, I do not feel that any punishment could be too severe. But can crime, punishment and prison conditions be treated in isolation? I believe they cannot.
What is the effect on the potential thief of the chance of detection? Does it deter or merely encourage cunning? The spur of the moment villain gives little or no thought to it. The practised thief out for rich rewards regards the risk, whatever it is, as well worth while, and judging by the figure of 1½ million we have had given us to-day I should think that this is perfectly true. But the chance of detection undoubtedly deters the petty thief and the borderline case. It is almost certainly more economic to stop a man committing an offence than it is to gaol him after he has done it. Therefore, if we cannot recruit an adequate police force under the present terms and conditions then those conditions should be improved so that we can.
It is regrettable but perhaps fortunate that we do not catch all those who commit an offence, for that would put too 169 great a strain upon the prisons and upon all the other institutions and services.
Things are bad enough as they are. The prisons are, in many cases, overcrowded, and they are degrading both mentally and physically to those who are incarcerated in them. These conditions can in no way be blamed on the governors and the prison staff who serve therein. But let us think for a moment of the criminal once he has been caught and convicted. What are you going to do with him, and why? The aim is always thought to be so to treat him as, firstly, to deter others from following his example; secondly, to deter him from repetition; thirdly, to restore him to a sense of communal sanity; fourthly, to soothe the sense of public outrage; and, fifthly, to safeguard the public if only for a time. Capital punishment may soothe the sense of public outrage and may deter others from following the same path, but it most certainly does not restore the criminal to a sense of communal sanity.
What alternatives are there? This is a matter which perhaps every criminologist and sociologist should be considering at this moment as a matter of urgency, because a prison sentence would not appear to stop an offender from offending again. The percentage of men who are reconvicted within two or three years of release from prison is very high indeed. The records of convicted men at the Old Bailey prove this conclusively. The public must be safeguarded from certain types of men and their actions, but there must be some other way than prison in its present form for the first offender or his equivalent convicted of a minor offence which does not degrade him or worsen him, and which gives him a chance to regain his self-respect. It is this category of offender with whom I am mainly concerned this evening.
I am afraid that with deep regret I cannot agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for I am a believer in detention centres. At present these detention centres are in two classes, junior and senior offenders, up to a maximum age of 20, for sentences of not less than three months nor longer than nine months, and certainly those which I have inspected are good places and are well run. There are no such things as cells; there are dormitory blocks, plenty of good physical 170 exercise and interesting work. The young offender is put through a training course which leads at the end of a three-months period to his being given some authority. But let us be under no illusion: the discipline in those detention centres is tough, as it should be. The conditions under which the offenders are confined are no worse, and perhaps better, than any recruit experiences when he enters the Services during the first two or three months. It does no one any harm, and certainly not the young offender. There is only one slight difference, which is that leave passes are not issued.
May we now consider an offender who is 21, or over 20, and has been convicted and sent to prison for the first time for a period of six months or less? He does not go to a detention centre; he is over age. I do not know what happens in other parts of the country, but I know what happens to him in London. He goes to Brixton. Every effort will be made to segregate him from the hardened criminal, but the fact remains that this prison, and many like it, are obsolescent. It is, above all, a holding prison for the more serious offenders, where they are remanded in custody awaiting trial, or while they are on trial. Within those prison walls are some of the very worst type of criminal. Into this atmosphere goes the first offender.
What do they do with him? They do the best they can. What does he do for work? He sews mailbags—work which could be done at a tenth of the cost, and ten times as quickly, by a machine. It is the most soul-destroying job one could be employed upon. What does he do for exercise? He goes twice a day round the exercise yard for half an hour. He has plenty of time to think, plenty of time to talk and, I regret to say, plenty of time to plan, sometimes under expert instruction, on how not to get caught and how to do it better next time. My Lords, these conditions are comparable with putting a sheep, maybe a black sheep, though I prefer to say a grey one, into a pen with wolves. If this is done, the sheep will not emerge unscathed.
Therefore, my Lords, let me make a plea, first, for more detention centres for the existing age groups. At present it is frequently very difficult to find a vacancy in a centre. Secondly, may I plead for 171 an extension of the existing detention system to cover higher age groups in which first or similar offenders, committed for the less serious offences, can serve out their sentences in reasonable conditions and not in association with hardened criminals. For it is among the first offenders that we have the best chance of rehabilitation and may avoid the risk of their reappearing, year after year, before one court or another until finally they spend two-thirds of their lives in Her Majesty's prisons. If this can be achieved even to a small extent then we shall reduce petty crime and release our police for more important work.
Lastly, my Lords, I should like to refer to the Probation Service, since none of these measures will be of any use unless that Service is expanded. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, reported to this House a week or two ago that the recruitment into this Service was satisfactory. I was delighted to learn this, but I was very surprised because I find it difficult to understand why anybody enters the Service. The hours of work and the rates of pay are such that, if one takes the salary and divides it by the hours worked, it must be one of the most lowly-paid professions in this country. The reason why we maintain recruitment at a reasonable level, in my opinion, is only because there are still dedicated men and women in this country prepared to undertake this very arduous task. If we are to provide an adequate probationary service to the courts—and I, for one, as a magistrate would not wish to continue to serve without the advice I receive from the probation officers—then we must see that these magnificent men and women who are in this Service are suitably rewarded. Your Lordships have been over-patient with me, and I also believe that I have nearly overrun the allotted span of time. I thank you for the tolerance which you have shown me.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, it falls to me—quite inadequately, as I feel—to congratulate the noble Lord who has just sat down, on a most interesting and able speech on the problems of crime in the community and what to do with the criminal in this day and age. While on the subject of maiden speeches, I should 172 also like to say how much pleasure we had in hearing the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. The only thing I regret to-night is that there have been no maiden speeches from this side of the House, and that they have all come from the opposite side. I hope to see that position rectified.
In the last two or three speeches tonight, there has been greater emphasis on the social side of preventing crime to-day, and what I want to do now is to get back to the criminal situation in 1967, as I see it, where we are dealing with a criminal who is more intelligent, better organised than he has ever been, and where offences with serious consequences to the State or person are often directed by a first-class organisation.
Last week-end, when I knew that this debate was going to take place, I went down to see the police force—the Somerset County Constabulary—in the area in which I live. I wanted to carry out my own investigations into the situation which I felt was prevalent to-day, and to form my own conclusions. It was reassuring to find in Somerset that many of the problems mentioned in Cmnd. 2296, which was laid before Parliament in April, 1964—I think by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor—are now to a great extent being mastered.
I was most interested to see that the recommendations which my noble friend then made have been put into effect. In particular, I found from the police officers with whom I had conversation last week-end that the morale of the force was especially high. They were particularly pleased with the new vehicles for police duties which were recently received, and with the new system of wireless communication allowing quick contact with all members of the force, which was mentioned in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. Recruitment down there was satisfactory, and it was reported that a good relationship existed between the police and the public.
Let us, therefore, give credit where credit is due, particularly at a time when there is so much adverse criticism of those in authority. My noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who was then Home Secretary, saw the problems which were affecting the police in 1964 and gave effect to the right policies which were initiated to surmount them. The present 173 Home Secretary carried out those policies, probably with additional orders which he saw fit to enforce; and also, somewhere down the line, the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, came into it. So if I now make some criticism I have no desire to be other than constructive.
I was a little disappointed at one part of the speech of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor. He saw the solution to our present high crime rate in better recruitment at a higher intelligence level. But with the high crime rate facing us to-day, is it possible to wait for the problem to be surmounted by better recruitment of higher intelligence? This is a situation which we should endeavour to surmount now.
I want particularly to refer to the drug problem in this country and to call on my previous experience. At one time I was actively connected with the Preventive Service of the Customs and Excise in Malaya, and one of our duties was to prevent the smuggling of drugs into that country. Some of the situations which faced us there must obviously apply in regard to drugs in this country. We received information from all sources at various times. I shall not weary your Lordships with all the details, but quite often we received information from other countries, internationally. For example, the Indian Customs would inform us in a matter of hours that a certain ship had left port with suspected contraband for the ports where we lived, and quite often they mentioned that there were suspected persons on board. That enabled us to meet the ships at sea and to send search parties on board, so that we were often able to seize a very large quantity of contraband. It was not uncommon in certain circumstances for a consignment to be thrown overboard and to float under the surface of the sea marked by a small buoy. The smugglers' contacts ashore would then come out and take their illegal gains back to the land. Various methods were then used to escape detection.
I want to draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that the smuggling of drugs can be, and is, a highly profitable business, and I am deeply concerned to-day, as are many of your Lordships, about the prevalence of drug addiction in this country. It is significant that drugs come from the Near East and the 174 Far East, and that drug addiction has been prevalent at a time when many coloured immigrants have been coming to Britain, some of them from the areas which I have just mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was good enough yesterday, during the discussion on a Question which I raised in your Lordships' House, to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the nationality of those convicted for the illegal importation of drugs would now be recorded for future reference. I hope most sincerely that this will now be done, because it will be of the utmost importance if further serious action is contemplated against those persons who break the law in future.
My Lords, we have another problem, too. In the summer certain immigrants were caught landing illegally along our coasts. Are we organised to deal with this situation? Now that our influence is less, in the sense that countries we formerly administered are on their own, do we in this country still get information similar to that which I have already told your Lordships we used to receive when I was in Customs and Excise in Malaya? Do we get that information now? Have we a preventive fleet meeting ships at sea to stop drug smuggling and to stop illegal immigrants landing on the vast coastline which we have around our shores? And do the public know anything about this? Nobody knows anything at all.
May I respectfully ask the noble Earl who is to reply to this debate to let me know what we are doing to combat this situation? It has always been a shock to me to know of the vast amount of money which people make by smuggling. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, when he spoke, seemed to think that this did not amount to a very great deal at the present time, but my experience is that these people do not enter into this kind of activity for nothing—and the more it goes on the more the price goes up.
My Lords, these people are making their money at the expense of the sufferings of our people, and when we secure convictions we should deport such people in addition to the punishment they suffer by conviction. This means that we must keep records of convicted people and of the countries of their birth. Are 175 we really on top of the situation in the general sense? I do not know, and neither do the public, as I have said. I think that, through Parliament, the public are entitled to know what is going on; but at the present time there is a great deal of silence about the situation.
When, for the purposes of this debate, I searched to find out how many offences had been detected under the Customs and Excise Act 1952, Section 304, which deals with the fraudulent evasion of duty, I found that in the year 1966, for the whole of England and Wales, only 23 offences had been detected. I am quite astonished, if I am correct. I hope I am wrong. I refer to Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, 1966, Appendix IV, item 99, page lix. Perhaps the noble Earl who is to reply in due course will correct me if I am wrong. If, however, I am right, this situation is surely a serious matter, and brings into question whether we are really tackling the problems that face us. It is equally serious that 28 persons were convicted in 1966 for the illegal importation of cannabis. We do not seem to know a great deal about this situation.
Finally, may I make one suggestion which breaks away from our old ideas about these matters? I should like to see the Home Secretary of the day, whoever he is, give a far-reaching statement to Parliament of the situation regarding crime generally. This should be an annual affair, and it should contain a statement of the activities of the police and of the Customs and Excise. I believe that this could be done without disclosing too much information. It would enable the situation to be debated in both Houses of Parliament; but what I think would be even more valuable is the publicity that would be obtained by such a procedure. We could get the public interested in what was going on throughout the country; and if the public became interested in the police and its problems, and if the situation were explained to everybody by the Minister or member of the Government responsible for these affairs, I am quite sure that this would result in greater information being received. My Lords, I have nothing more to add, and time is getting late. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, for initiating this debate, which 176 I think has been of great use to your Lordships.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I too should like to thank my noble friend Lord Rowley for initiating this debate, and it gives me the greater pleasure as I happen to know that this was no academic exercise on his part. He and I are associates in some measures which we believe can be effective in making a difference to a situation that we deplore; and it may be of some interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, that in this organisation of which we are both members we have already acquired, with the help of the housing association, two large sets of premises and are already embarking upon second-stage alcoholic redevelopment.
I say this because, with some diffidence, I intend to take up your Lordships' time for a little while in talking about the religious aspect of this matter. I noticed that earlier in the debate, when reference was made by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal to what he described (I thought a little inaccurately) as the breakdown of religious truth—I think he must have meant "faith"—there were certain murmurs of dissent, as if this was an irrelevancy. I find myself in complete contradistinction to any such heresy. I do not believe it is a matter of irrelevancy at all to examine the aperçut that the Christian faith can bring to bear upon the subject; and if, indeed, the Motion is:To call attention to the problems created by crime, and particularly planned crime",and, as we say, "to move for Papers", then surely one of the requisite Papers, if we are to arrive at a correct decision about this matter, must be one based upon the religious attitude to this particular problem.
I am a little surprised that no other members of my—or, rather, not of "my", but of the Prelatorial Bench, are here. But were they here I am sure they might well with me agree that though we may not be experts on some of the matters that are raised from time to time, such as the Transport Users' Consultative Committee, and we may not be experts about devaluation, my word! when it comes to sin, that is "up our street". It is in that field that we are 177 experts. Therefore, if it can be shown that the problem with which we are engaged to-day is a problem that has a relationship to sin, then what I have to say is completely relevant. Let me try to establish that point straight away.
I would regard crime as that sin which has acquired such social content as to make it of public importance. If you like, a sinner becomes a criminal when there are more than 80 milligrams of social content in the 100 millilitres of his delinquency. A man is a sinner—that is one of the established facts—and crime is one extension of this problem, which is essentially a moral problem; and therefore to talk about it merely in terms of social, psychological or economic importance is to me to leave out that which is of prime significance: that it is a matter of moral judgment; that it involves blame; that it involves rehabilitation; that it involves penitence; that it involves a great many of those attitudes of mind and heart to which very scant reference has been made to-day.
Your Lordships will not accuse me, I hope, of any evangelical fervour at this moment, but I should be quite untrue to the cloth I wear if I did not make my witness to the fact that we are discussing what is essentially a moral problem, and the Christian attitude to it brings light to what is otherwise a very gloomy and perhaps an impenetrable problem. I regard sin as about the second strongest thing in the universe. It does not surprise me. I am rather sardonically amused at the way in which it is the secularists whose mouths are agape when they come across sin, as if they cannot understand it. My comfort and assurance is that I find so much goodness about. Therefore, when I think of the increase of crime, if it is an increase (and I shall come to that in a moment), what first I must accept is that—and, as Rabelais said, the only problem with him was that he was not afraid of anything except danger—this world has nothing to be afraid of except sin. If we could get rid of that, whatever the conditions and the circumstances that prevailed, we should be on the high road to a much more delectable existence.
What has clearly been marked in this debate, I think, is that to a Christian conscience there are two types of sin, two types of crime. One is the hot- 178 blooded crime, the crime which is committed under the influence of alcohol or almost irresistible sexual impulse; that crime which is committed post-experience, the consequence of remorse—however little that remorse develops into penitence. There is another kind of crime, that to which this particular debate is dedicated, and that is the planned crime; and it seems to me that the planned crime falls into a different category. It is not done in the hot blood of a particular temptation; it is done in cold calculation—which is amoral rather than immoral—and totally rejects those principles of morality which still are residual in the minds and hearts of those people who commit the hot-blooded crimes.
One of the most disturbing factors about the present situation is what is, theologically, the sin against the Holy Ghost: the taking of an entirely amoral attitude to the world, in which to cosh the man who interferes with your predatory habits is a perfectly legitimate affair (if you get away with it) and the accumulation of vast sums of money (if you can get at them) is perfectly intelligible and the right way to go about it—if, indeed, the word "right" has any place in this particular category, which I think it does not. To distinguish between these two sorts of crimes is, I think, a very necessary part of an intelligent debate, and I am very glad that it is found in the actual terms of this Motion.
Then again, my Lords, it would surely be a matter of Christian theology that sinfulness—that is, the disposition to crime—remains fairly constant; it remains about as constant as human nature. The wages of sin have not varied very much over the ages. Although there are temporary, and perhaps perceptible, improvements from time to time, I think it would be a very rash calculation that the world was inevitably getting better. The difference is not so much in the total, in any given generation, of what is called original sin. The difference comes about in the circumstances which promote or retard the exercise of that basic sinfulness and make it either more dangerous or less dangerous.
If it be argued that there is much more violent crime, it may well be that innate criminality has not vastly increased but 179 that the opportunity of exercising it—and, particularly, exercising it in a much more dangerous fashion—has alarmingly increased. Once upon a time a man with a knuckle-duster could do damage at arm's length; then he could do damage at pistol range. Now he can do damage very much more widely. Therefore, it would be a little careless, I think, to assume that what we are dealing with is an essential increase in the wickedness or criminality of the human race. I think we are very probably dealing with manifestations of wickedness and criminality which are peculiar to the present situation.
Although it may not appear to be particularly orthodox, the first thing I would venture to say is that to me the essence of the Christian evaluation is that, normally speaking, people will respond to their environment, be it either good or bad. This is not to give too many hostages to the Marxist argument; but it is generally true that in a congenial environment people are likely to be congenial; people in a favourable environment are likely to be good, or more good, or less bad; and in a bad environment they are equally likely to respond badly to that environment. Therefore, if there is any constructive kind of contribution that can be made to this debate from the Christian angle, let me very briefly try to say what it is. First of all, it should not alarm us, although it should disturb us, that we are confronted with these manifestations of what appear to be an increase in crime; for that increase in crime may not necessarily be a basic increase in the moral squalor of people who live to-day. In fact, when I think of OXFAM and of "Shelter", and when I think of many of the constructive and philanthropic efforts that are now being made by young people, I am immensely encouraged. In the second place, I am sure that we have to make this distinction between the calculated crime of those who have lost a moral dimension and the criminality of those who have given way to temptation. And I think the kind of retribution in both cases must be very clearly distinguished.
But most of all, my Lords, what we are confronted by, surely, is an opportunity in this debate to distinguish some of the characteristics of the present 180 situation which tend to provoke the criminality from which we suffer. For only by careful understanding of what they are shall we be in a position to make the correct reactions to them. I want, therefore, to say a word first of all about gambling. Only a few hours ago I had the very sad and devastating experience of talking to a young man who is on the edge of what appears to him to be total disaster. The story is a very familiar one; it is the story of a young man who begins by gambling and ends by thieving, and now will go to prison. I feel pretty bad about this, because I think that gambling is a national curse. I think it is entirely unjustifiable—and to hell with it! To hell with it! because it is one of the predisposing characteristics of this particular environment in which we live and on which I think, as certain other noble Lords have already said to-day, it has a marked influence.
The facts about this influence are unaccessible and there are no statistics to prove it, but I have a strong inward conviction—and I am pretty sure, if I may say so without arrogance, that I am right—that the acquisition of readily-available funds for gambling is a predisposition to all kinds of criminality; that the whole attitude to gambling, which is the utter reverse of any responsibility that one feels to the society in which one lives, is a mark of the increasing criminality, the amoral criminality, of the second class of criminal, the one who acts as if moral law does not exist. And when I read of vast projected extensions of the opportunities of gambling in Central London, I am frankly horrified. I do not speak now from a narrow puritanical view. At long last, in my own lifetime, I have come to think that gambling is a far greater curse even than alcohol—and I am responsible for running an alcoholics' hostel; and therefore know a bit about that.
The second, and perhaps the more general fact, is that the secularisation of the society in which we live is one in which it needs to be constantly remembered that we are now face to face with the first age which has no recollections, nostalgias, memories and associations of Christianity. It seems to me that if this particular dimension is lost what is going to be lost with it—and has been lost with it—is the very thing which would 181 retard or restrain many of our youngsters from embarking on a programme of violence and of predatory habits which they accept, in a violent and secular society, as natural, for which they seem to have no remorse, and for which they seem to have no revulsion.
It would I think be inept, and an intrusion in this debate, to go too deeply into the characteristics of the kind of system under which we live. But the secular system is atomic in the sense that it is divisive and individualistic. The affluence of the society tends more and more to eliminate the sense of social responsibility; and if I may return in this last point to a both particular and general matter—which I think may, if your Lordships please, give substance to this general statement—I believe most heartily in the general programme of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the custodial treatment of offenders. I admire it, look forward to it, and I have some very small part in its progress.
I believe in the marriage of voluntary effort to Government responsibility. I believe there is a wide and increasing place—as the noble Lady so eloquently put it—for the combination of the vocational with the administrative; those who, from a Christian or Church standpoint, or from some voluntary and vocational standpoint believe that they have a responsibility to the community which they can discharge in this way by offering, as we offer in the mission for which I work, such custodial treatment as falls short of prison and all its fallacies and idiocies and gives people, young and old, a reasonable chance of rehabilitation. Perhaps for many of these youngsters and older people as well, "rehabilitation" is not the right word. After all, the prodigal, when he came back from the far country, had a house to go back to. It is more or less true that he had a father to welcome him. It was not such a welcome from the elder brother or the fatted calf, but the father welcomed him. For many of the delinquents of to-day there is no house to which they can go back, and therefore one has to be created for them; or the conditions of that house or home have to be created for them.
This is where (as I am sure the noble Baroness will agree) the Church has such a unique opportunity to bring to bear upon this insurgent problem of how to 182 recapture in these young people—and in older people, for that matter—the sense of moral responsibility. The way to make them integrated, to bring them back into the community, is to show them people who are in the community, and to set them within the framework of a new relationship. So I end, my Lords, where I began. I am sure that this is fundamentally a moral problem. We are not good enough to become the society which we dream about and earnestly hope for. We are not good enough because, as yet, we have not created a correct environment so thatwayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.I do not expect that we shall have a perfect system, but the better we make the system, the more charitable and the more loving and the more responsive we make it, the better—with the other and various suggestions which have been made so eloquently to-day—shall we face the future with hope and confidence.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I would start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, for bringing this subject forward again. It seems a long time since we discussed it. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, for his maiden speech and to welcome another noble Lord from a security company to join the four who are already here. I hope that from his interesting and amusing speech lots of big and little Chubbs may be called into the world which will last as long as my noble friend Lord Molson prophesied for the noble Lord. I regret that I did not hear the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mais, on his maiden speech, which I very much enjoyed.
My Lords, as I am following the noble Lord, Lord Soper, I hope that he will not think my speech very unspiritual if I do not refer to the religious side. I hope he will not think that I do not give complete regard to the importance of spiritual matters. I should not like my confessor to be my police constable at the same time, and I am directing my remarks purely to the temporal side, assuming that the Bishops and the clergy are doing all they can, as the noble Lord himself does so nobly.
183 I should like to go back to 1751 when Henry Fielding was a magistrate at Bow Street. He wrote a Treatise called An Inquiry into the Cause of the Late Increase in Robbers, in which he concluded that the growth of crime was a by-product of growing public wealth. In his experience, he said, "most thieves stole luxuries rather than necessities"; and how right he was! To-day, when few people in Britain are in real necessity, which is a thing for which we are all very thankful, it is a frightening fact that still there is so much crime committed with such success.
In 1966 alone, if I may mention a couple of boring statistics, some 55,000 people were found guilty of offences against property with violence. What terrifies me about this figure is that of these 55,000, some 32,000 were under 21 years of age. Of crimes against property without violence some 154,000 people were found guilty, of whom some 68,000 were under 21. Again, of the 200,000-odd indictable offences of which people were found guilty we find that some 45,000 of the offenders were in the 17 to 20 age group. That is very nearly 3 in every 100. When one considers that Dr. Leonard Radzinowicz, the Professor of Criminology at Cambridge, seriously thinks that the crimes which are known about and get published are only some 15 per cent. of all those which are actually committed, these figures become even more frightening, because at that rate we should have to consider that nearly 18 per cent. of this age group of 17 to 20 are involved in crime. So, my Lords, we are forced back again to the eternal question, "Why do they do it?"
Yesterday the Daily Mail published an opinion poll which was part of their inquiry into teenage activities, a questionnaire which was put to the 15 to 20 age group. They were asked why they thought that teenagers committed crimes. Sixty per cent. of those teenagers gave the Daily Mail the answer that it was because of boredom. I remember two-and-a-quarter years ago when speaking in a debate similar to this I said that the lack of respect of youth for authority was a constant danger to our society. I remember that the noble Earl 184 the Leader of the House said at the end of the debate that he regarded it as important at this time to combine our new-found liberties, which we all applaud as a sign of progress, with the maintenance of other adequate respect for authority which has always proved throughout the centuries to be essential to good society—a sentiment with which we all heartily concur.
But, my Lords, where is that respect for authority to-day? In the Observer last Sunday there was a little column which no doubt many of your Lordships read. It stated:… about sixty youths marched along shouting, screaming and chanting. They ignored policemen who were standing by and then started window-smashing. A paint tin went through the window of a crowded cafe. Seconds later, a brick smashed into a hairdresser's salon only yards away. Further down the road, a dozen youths charged into a sweet shop which was only sixty yards from High-bury Vale police station. This gang swept goods from the counter on to the floor and poured bottles of lemonade into an ice-cream fridge.After all this, only one youth was arrested—just one person.
On the same day we read about football fans causing damage on a train bringing 300 Manchester United supporters to London for the Chelsea match. The toll of the damage done when the train reached Euston was terrifying. Three lavatory pans, one lavatory door, one outside door, four fire extinguishers and one wash basin were all torn out and thrown from the train. Three coathooks, eight windows, 73 light shades and 80 light bulbs were all smashed. The train, which was on a scheduled service, was boarded by the police at Stoke-on-Trent where there was a 40-minute delay. And again the police came on the train at Euston.
What was the end product of all this? No arrests were made. My Lords, it is incidents such as these which, when they are allowed to go unchecked, excite the young hooligans and give them a taste for further blood. Boredom was their trouble. They had excitement. The police were there and watching and going on the train, but they did not do anything. These hooligans had a taste for blood and so said, "Let's go". It is obviously therefore important that the railways and other authorities should either use their own police or ask for the loan of police from 185 other forces to guard against such well-known occurrences which always seem to happen on these days of great excitement at the great football matches.
My Lords, this brings us to the crux of the matter, as my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor has said: the shortage of police. As has been said, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary has said that although we have a police force nearly up to strength we are still somewhere between 15,000 and 18,000 police short, as between the estimated needs and the actual police strength. In these circumstances we want to be certain that all is being done to recruit more men of the right type to the police force and that, having got them there, we keep them there happy, so that they will remain for as long as possible.
We all know that the Home Office has been doing everything possible to encourage a better type of recruit to the police force, and the police are to give further education. In the debate in July, 1965, I mentioned that of the then strength of 78,000 police, only 28 had attended university, and not all those were graduates. I should be grateful if the noble Earl could tell us when he winds up the debate what the position is today with regard to people from universities in the police force. I was very glad to see that this summer at University College, London, a sergeant who had been granted three years' leave on full pay and allowances got a very distinguished first-class honours degree in law, and that two other policemen on the same course got two very good second-class honours degrees. This is a very happy state of affairs, and we are all pleased to see this happen. Against this, I was unhappy to read earlier this week that a constable in Oxford, a graduate from a university, had asked to resign because he felt that he was doing too much feet-bashing on his beat. That is not to say that I do not appreciate that everyone has to learn how to patrol a beat, because without knowing how that is done no policeman, however clever and brilliant, will be able to command effectively.
I was going to draw your Lordships' attention to the Lancashire Chief Constable's report on his new beat system, but the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has "wiped my eye" with that one. I was 186 happy to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said about the extension of this system—that nearly two-thirds of our forces would have this scheme in action by the end of this year. But to rub this point home I would mention the experience of the Kent County Police, who had been having great trouble because of the increase in population, the increase in crime and the increase in the number of motor vehicles, with the resulting traffic congestion, et cetera. They put the beat scheme into action early in August this year at Folkestone and Gravesend, after various other experiments at other places. The result was, in their own words. "outstanding in its success".
This system has been adopted by the Birmingham police, and the deputy chief constable has been quoted as saying publicly that the morale of the force has never been higher. The men, he says, have a new interest and faith in themselves. Your Lordships may like to know that Mr. Whitrod, Commissioner of the Australian Commonwealth Police Force, mentioned in an essay which he published last year that the Metropolitan police tried out an experiment by bringing one of their twenty divisions up to full strength by borrowing 100 men from other forces. During the experimental period indictable offences fell and breaking-in offences fell by 32 per cent., when the other 19 divisions showed an average increase of 9 per cent. I think that these figures speak for themselves.
Although that success must be very gratifying to all concerned, the experiment shows that we must get more police. That leads me to the question: are we recruiting and treating the C.I.D. forces correctly? Is it necessary for the C.I.D. to conform to the national height rule of the police? Why should a man who is not 5 ft. 8 in. not make a first-class detective? I think that this must mean that many otherwise suitable people are excluded from giving useful service in this branch of the police. Would it not be possible for a separate C.I.D. force to be recruited? Is there any reason why this should not be done, provided that uniformed constables and N.C.O.s who show aptitude could still be transferred to that branch, so that it would not be a closed service?
I should like to mention what criminals may be getting away with. From 187 all the offences reported, it has been estimated that during 1966 very nearly £47 million was stolen in the United Kingdom. This is an increase of just over £4 million or 10 per cent. on the estimated figure of 1965. Of this £47 million only £91 million was recovered. This means that the receivers have ended up with a very nice haul of some £37,250,000 net, free of all taxes.
It might be interesting to compare our figures with those of the United States. Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, who is the director of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, reckons that they had some £428 million stolen. That is in the pre-devaluation value of the pound, and of course he gave the figure as 1.2 billion dollars. I have not done the arithmetic, but I take it from the report which I read. This £428 million represents just over nine times the amount stolen in the United Kingdom, but of course the United States has four times as many people to do and suffer the stealing and has about eight times our wealth. Mr. Hoover reported that some 55 per cent. of the loot was recovered, as compared with the recovery of only 20 per cent. in Britain.
This brings me to something about which I feel fairly strongly. I do not think that the insurance companies give enough reward to people who take proper precautions. This has already been mentioned in to-day's debate. Professor Radzinowicz has written that criminologists are not able, and never will be able, to solve the problem of crime—that sounds a bit trite but I think it should be stated—and he thinks it should be accepted that crime, to a large extent, is inevitable, being an integral part of society. That seems fairly obvious. It is also patently obvious that the greatest deterrent in all these matters is detection. Many noble Lords are experts in what happens to people who are found guilty and imprisoned, and I must leave the after cure to those who know more about it, like the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Mais. But, on this matter of detection, which we know is the prime deterrent, there is no question that our police forces have to get more support from the public as well as from the Home Office. We have to get back to the happy days gone by when the policeman was regarded 188 as a friend of all, and not, as now, as some bogeyman.
I have read that in the first month or so when the breathalyser tests were allowed by law, one in every seven persons who were stopped and asked to take the test proved positive. What I should like to know, though I realise that it is something which we probably never shall know, is what percentage of those other six were involved in real traffic offences and what was the other proportion who were just stopped casually or at random. If this sort of element were to creep in, I cannot emphasise strongly enough that such practices would sour the good relations of the police with the public to a pitch that would be fatal to any chance of getting the crime rate down, which is the earnest wish of all of us in this House.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the "hat trick" of maidens we have had to-day, and also to my noble friend Lord Rowley for introducing this debate. Over this week-end, in preparing for to-day's debate, I spent some time in looking up and studying what various experts had to say about the cause of crime. I cannot pretend that I am very much wiser, and after listening to most of the debate this afternoon I still cannot pretend that I am much wiser. But, as the last speaker said, we are probably up against a problem that is going to be with us for a very long time. There seem to be as many theories about the causes of crime as there are skins on an onion, and I must say that the more I read them, the more my eyes watered.
I found a certain amusement in the views of some of the psychiatrists quoted in a book, The Roots of Evil, which I can recommend to your Lordships. One qualified psychiatrist raised the question of why a prostitute should steal money from her client. The answer from this qualified psychiatrist was as follows:A prostitute steals money from her client in addition to the fee she is paid because a prostitute is by the nature of her occupation a robber of men's strength. She steals their virility. Unconsciously, therefore, she seeks continuously to carry out this robbery of men in another form.And he gave this startlingly new discovery the imposing name of a "castration complex". Sir Leo Page, who quotes this 189 in the book that I have mentioned—and he is a magistrate and barrister of great experience—said:If the problem baffles the doctor, it does not baffle me. In my view, she steals money from her client for one simple reason: she likes money.Another example quoted in the same passage was of a young man who pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent assault on a young woman. The psychiatrist called for the defence said that the cause of the trouble was that the prisoner suffered from defective eyesight: this was the cause of the emotional disturbance which led to the crime. What the young man needed, said the psychiatrist, was not punishment, but a new pair of spectacles.
I quote these examples, not to pour scorn on psychiatric medicine and treatment (I have a high respect for people in this field, particularly men like William Sargent, who I think are doing great work) but simply to show that a great deal of rubbish can be talked, even by experts, in this field, and this helps neither the criminal nor the cause of penal reform.
There is, of course, no one cause of crime: this is a many-headed monster. But I have found a certain degree of unanimity on one aspect, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, in his remarks. If I can sum it up in a few words, I would put it like this. The attitude of mind of the criminal, "I see; I want; I take," is simply an extreme extension of a general attitude of mind which permeates the whole of society. I believe there is a great deal in this. You have only to look around to see that what we have built to-day, to a large extent, is not a compassionate society but an avid society, a greedy society, a grasping society, a success-ridden society. Individual success, measured in terms of material possessions and money, is the supreme achievement that you can get to-day. And "There's the rub".
In a country in which the basic philosophy is that a man must not only keep up with the Joneses, but emulate them, how does the man feel who has been left behind? What about the man who cannot be successful? Mr. Roy Jenkins (I was going to say "the Home Secretary") said in relation to this problem: 190Clearly the straightforward belief that crime was a function of poverty no longer holds good. The greater our affluence, the greater the volume of crime… To see affluence and opportunity around one and yet to be shut out from it may be a most potent cause of crime.This was the theme of a Conservative Party pamphlet on crime, which said:The price of living in a society which emphasises achievement is widespread disappointment at the experience of relative failure… It appears that this general situation and the response to it are part of the explanation of the increased rate of crime.I am bound to say that I think there is a great deal to be said for this view. If you add to that feeling of failure the natural aggressiveness and rebelliousness of young people, you have a truly deadly combination.
I have drawn attention in previous debates to the plight of the young people who are early school-leavers, the underprivileged majority: and this was touched on in her maiden speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. If a young man is lucky enough and has the brains to stay at school until he is 18, or to be one of the few who have the privilege of going up to university, he is given all the privileges that go with it: tremendous facilities, not only for education but for sport and leisure activities, with fine meeting halls, fine sports grounds, coaches, training and everything he needs in a tremendous range of sport. But what happens to the boy who leaves school at the age of 16? We slam the door in his face. From that moment onwards society seems to say to him: "Our responsibilities are ended."
This is not the time or the place to develop this line of argument, but I am convinced that it is this neglect in this area which opens the door to vandalism, loutish behaviour and crime. The youth clubs do what they can to help this underprivileged majority, but they cannot do enough. It is like trying to clean up a flood with a mop. We make some pale imitation token gesture with what we call the Youth Service, which is manned by devoted and overworked people who have to cope with inadequate facilities and not enough money. There is this great underprivileged majority on the streets, bored—and we have heard this afternoon what that boredom can lead to.
191 If we are really thinking about crime prevention and trying to get to the roots of crime, let us for heaven's sake! stop talking about this problem, as we have done for years, and do something about the early school-leavers—do something about sports grounds, facilities, trainers, and so on. Let us get the adults recruited to help them in a great voluntary campaign. This, and this alone, in my view, will help to wipe out some of the vandalism and growing violence among the young people that we see to-day. We cannot, on the one hand, condemn vandalism and violence, and, on the other, do nothing so far as our responsibilities for these young people are concerned. Before we rush in too fast, and before we get too "pie" about this, ought we not to take a look at the example of honesty, clean living and respect for others which we show to our young people? Let me give your Lordships a few facts that I have dug up.
The manageress of a seaside hotel catering for upper middle-class people said that she had lost over 10,000 coat-hangers in fifteen years. A lavatory attendant in a men's cloakroom in a very "swishy" West End restaurant catering entirely for middle and upper class people said: "The soap, the nail brushes and the hand towels here are all mine. I have to buy them myself and keep an eye on them. If I did not the whole lot would go." The warden of a college offering advanced courses in further education said that there was a steady rate of loss of toilet rolls from lavatories. We all know that British Railways lose thousands of pounds annually through theft: they lose thousands of mirrors, ashtrays, window-blinds, cups, spoons and almost anything portable. In one women's dress shop in the West End over 5,000 garments are stolen each year—16 a day for every day the shop is open.
Mr. Charles Clore, when giving evidence to the Jenkins Committee on Company Law, was asked about "insider trading". I am not an expert on this sort of thing, but I understand that this is the practice of using information received in confidence as a director to make yourself or your friends a profit on the side—like using inside knowledge of a possible takeover bid to buy or sell shares 192 in the companies concerned and make yourself a killing. When asked if such purchases of shares went on, Mr. Clore said: "They often do. That is my experience." And in the last few frenzied weeks we have all had the doubtful pleasure of watching the financial speculators at work, indulging in that peculiar form of financial pornography known as profit-taking.
My Lords, I could go on, but I have said enough to show that the philosophy of "I see; I want; I take" is not confined to the young generation. We ought sometimes to look at the beam in our eye as well as that mote in our brother's. I would not want your Lordships to think that in all this I am excusing the criminal, because I am not. I simply feel that we might take an occasional closer look at our own health and our own values. If we did this, if we asked ourselves why crime is flourishing in Britain to-day, we might not be quite so comfortable and quite so self-righteous.
Certainly crime is flourishing, as we have heard. There is no problem of growth or productivity here. The point of real concern, as we have heard several times to-day, is the sharp increase in violence. The criminal is growing more efficient, ruthless and ambitious. He is adapting himself to modern conditions and uses the most up-to-date machines. I am not going into figures, because they have been quoted often enough this afternoon. But the frightening figures of the increase tend on the surface to support those who call for stiffer punishment of criminals and say that we are getting soft. My Lords, I do not hold this view. There is a tremendous danger of too much emotion entering into this subject; of motives of revenge on the part of society.
The fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever based on experience to indicate that stiffer punishments act as a deterrent—no evidence whatsoever. On the other hand, I am not sure that the evidence has been established the other way. What I am saying is that we ought to look at this matter coolly and in a calm way, and make a decision on the basis of the facts and what is best for us, and not on the basis of some tremendous outcry of emotion, because a man has committed a vile crime and the immediate 193 human instinct is for revenge. I take the view in this of the former Home Secretary. I want to emphasise what has already been said in the debate: that the best deterrent is the certainty of arrest and conviction.
It is here that I want to say a few words about that body of men on whom we depend, often called "the thin blue line". I welcome the steps mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, which we all know have been taken in the past two years to modernise and re-equip the police, many of which were started by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and particularly, as he mentioned in his speech, the creation of regional crime squads, which are having a spectacular success in tackling crime. I think we ought from this House, since we are talking about planned crime, to congratulate the police force on their magnificent success in breaking the notorious Richardson gang. This was one of the worst gangs of thugs and rats ever to infest London, and it took courage and patience and months of work to break it down. I am told by an informant, who at least ought to know, that the conviction of the Richardson gang had the effect of breaking up one other notorious gang, because they got the wind up, and it had a salutary effect on other members of the underworld and put a temporary check on their activities.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in his speech, took a side-swipe at writers—in the nicest way, I hasten to add—when he spoke about writers dreaming up organised crime and organised gangs. Well, I do not know whether my information comes from a different source from his, but an informant (the same informant), who ought to know, tells me that there are five major gangs still operating in the Greater London area. Membership is not a fixed entity, as in the old American "movies". Experts and specialists in certain aspects of crime move freely from group to group and are recruited when the need arises. But they are organised gangs, and plan jobs for months ahead: and because the stakes are so high they are prepared to go to the utmost lengths of violence.
What has arisen, inevitably, since crime is now such big business, is the agent, the entrepreneur, the middleman, the 194 "fixer". He operates behind a respectable front. He puts up the money, often supplies the information, brings the various specialists and experts together, and takes a "cut". He has his strong-arm men ready to use violence on a large scale to protect his interests if he does not get his "cut". That is going on. The police are aware of it. The police have the utmost difficulty in getting at these people because they operate, many of them, under a respectable front—in certain circumstances Richardson himself did. Nevertheless, we should not "kid" ourselves that everything in the garden is lovely, and that in fact there are no more gangs left.
The irony of the situation, in my view, is that to a certain extent we have played into the hands of these hoodlums. I believe there is a direct relationship between the increase in violent crime and, a; the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said, the introduction of the Betting and Gaming Act 1963, which Parliament introduced with the best of intentions. It has in fact become the "gangsters' charter". Anyone who has been to any one of London's casinos will be hard put to it to square what he sees there with the notion that Britain is a hard-up nation, or even with the notion that our hgher executives need more financial incentives. Thousands of pounds change hands every night. As a result, the protection racket is one of the fastest growing industries in Britain. It is from the casinos—not all, but some—that the fresh impetus to violence and gang warfare has come. And remember, my Lords, the casinos, with this tremendous exchange of money, provide a wonderful opportunity for the criminal to get rid of his "hot" money; or they provide him with an alibi for keeping it. I am glad that the Home Office is to take action in this Session of Parliament to curb these excesses. This is the sort of problem with which our police are faced, if we are talking about planned crime.
In the course of fighting this problem the police, as we know, take grave risks. We know it. We get up in Parliament and say sweet things about them; we applaud their courage and their devotion. But do we really understand and appreciate what policemen do for us? Let me give your Lordships one example. On February 11, 1965, two policemen, George 195 Russell and Alex Archibald, of the Cumbria Constabulary, tackled an armed gunman. Constable George Russell was shot dead. Constable Alex Archibald was severely wounded. For his part in this incident Archibald was awarded the British Empire Medal—and "fired" from the police force.
My Lords, this is what happened. Archibald was in hospital for eight months, and he has been back since for further operations. He was told by a police surgeon that he would never recover sufficiently to be able to perform full active police duties. For a while he was given light duties in various departments, with which he grew increasingly fed up, and then he was finally sent for and "sacked". The chairman of the police authority, when questioned by the Press, said:The time comes when we cannot carry some people on the books.My Lords, I think that is about the most cynical phrase that I have heard. This was not "some people"; this was a constable who had tackled this gunman and risked his life. Yet he is described as "some people". and he is thrown off. It is not even as if he is a helpless cripple. He can walk, though he has constant pain in his right foot, and he can drive. It is hard for me to believe that there is not some reasonable job in a large police force on which he could be used.
The comment of the Police Federation Newsletter was this:Rightly or wrongly, this case has given the impression that the police will cast out their injured and their wounded.I agree with this comment. I think the treatment of Archibald has been shortsighted and shabby. This young man, with a wife and two small children, went into a railway waiting room to tackle a gunman who had just shot down two of his colleagues, and he was armed only with a truncheon. He did this to protect us; and we repay him by throwing him out of the Police Service, and paying him the magnificent pension of £149 7s. a year. What sort of encouragement is this to give the police? Could you blame a young officer with children if, after this, he had second thoughts about tackling an armed gunman? I do not say that this procedure would operate in the police forces all over the 196 country, but I think that this is a pretty scandalous example and something in the way of an inquiry into it ought to be made.
§ LORD MAELOR
My Lords, having heard what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has just said I should like to point out that we are more civilised in Wales, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, might endorse. We had a policeman there who was blinded. We collected thousands of pounds for him, provided him with a guide dog and guaranteed that for the rest of his life he should have a job that he could undertake, although he is blind. He is now in the police headquarters in North Wales, and all this was as a result of action taken by Colonel Jones-Williams.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am sure the House was pleased to hear the intervention of the noble Lord but I ought to point out that he was doing one of the few things that are out of Order in this House; namely, speaking from the Bishops' Benches.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Willis, whether this case was not put up through the official channels and an inquiry made into it?
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I believe that the Police Federation are taking the matter up now. But the fact that it could have occurred at all is wrong, and I think, too (although I appreciate what the noble—and reverend—Lord, Lord Maelor, has said about collections), it is wrong that we should depend on public collections in this way. I am all for public funds to help policemen who are injured in the course of their duty—indeed, I am connected with a new one that is being launched by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. But for a man who has made such a sacrifice in the course of his service, and who can drive and walk, it is a great shame that he should be pushed out in this way.
There is another way in which we handicap the police and make their job more difficult, and that is in the conduct of criminal trials, which too often are weighted almost wholly in favour of the accused. I know that the police feel strongly about this matter. One of the 197 big problems is that the prisoner has the right to remain silent while his counsel is free to attack the police and the other prosecution evidence. Many police feel—and I agree with them—that there should be a stage in a criminal trial where the accused has pleaded not guilty when the judge should be able to decide whether the prosecution has made out a prima facie case, and if he so decides he should be able to order the accused to make his explanation to the jury. A similar system works well on the Continent. It is time we got away from the idea that a trial is a sporting event, where rival counsel indulge in a jolly battle of wits. No one wants justice to be loaded against the accused man. But it is equally wrong that justice should be loaded against society and that a patently guilty man should be able to get away, after months of police work, by wriggling through the cracks in the law.
There is another side of organised crime in which we might give more assistance to the police. I refer to large-scale fraud, which seems to be on the increase. Often, as we all know, hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions, are involved. In these cases months of police work is involved, if not years, and there are mountains of documents to be checked. In one case that is still pending after three years, the police are wading through 14 tons of records. I believe that the Home Secretary should give special consideration to this growing problem to see what additional assistance can be given to the fraud squad.
Finally, my Lords, there is one other aspect which is important. If our police are to have the time to fight large-scale crime we must avoid loading them with trivial and often unnecessary duties. For example, in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which I believe is now in another place there is a clause which would require the police to inspect every smallholding in the country where extensive breeding processes are employed. If this clause goes through it will add an immense burden to some police forces, and it will make the police a sort of shuttlecock between animal lovers, on the one hand, and farmers, on the other. And this comes at a time when the whole trend in the police is to get rid of extraneous duties.
198 I believe that Parliament ought to give much more consideration to this aspect in any legislation. No businessman would think of launching a new product unless he was certain that his sales force and distributors could cope with it. We ought not to pass new legislation affecting police without consulting them, and without making sure that the demands we are making of them are not unreasonable. And I should like to see flat consultation extended beyond the chief constables and Commissioners, and to have some means of regular consultation with the Police Federation who, after all, represent 90,000 policemen, of all ranks, and have a great mass of experience at their fingertips.
I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to these points because, as some of your Lordships have said, this is a war which is being waged between professionals on both sides, and we have a clear duty to see that the police have something more than our sympathy, and something more than a handout when they are injured or killed. They are the only people who can break the crime wave, and the only way they can do it is with our support—and that means tangible support, and not just words of sympathy.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the maiden speakers, who have made some enchanting speeches. I was very much impressed with the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, because when very intelligent people talk to me as a rule they do so as though they were trying to make it very simple so that I would understand. But she—a very intelligent woman—talked to me, and others, as though we were equals in intelligence, which I take as a great compliment.
When the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was speaking he took me back to my childhood, to the days of rags and tatters and barefoot children and starvation, and to the terrible conditions and dirt of those days which was largely hidden just under the surface. I was thinking about the complacency then of the established middle class, and I remember part of a poem which was a miller's advice to his scn. I rather like it because it is typical 199 of the rich local miller. I will tell your Lordships what I can remember of it:It isn't the rich what 'as money what breaks into 'ouses and steals,Its the poor what 'asn't got a coat to their backsAnd don't knows where to look for their meals,You take my word for it, sonny,The poor, as a lump, is bad.I think that peculiar outlook was quite general. They thought—and we all thought—that the wretched people had to steal because they had no food.
The Welfare State has struggled, and the pioneers have struggled and they have brought us to the stage where I think everybody in this country (except the old-age pensioners, who seem to be left out, but in any case they do not steal, they are far too nice and respectable) can really get fat. Starvation point is over, yet crime has reached the top record that we have ever had in this country. It makes one think. It made me think for a moment that the Welfare State and all the struggles to get a better country had failed. I think what I am going to say will surprise your Lordships. However, I shall say it, because I believe it to be true. I believe that the capital gains of this welfare system are represented by the people of this country and particularly the young people—the people your Lordships have all been talking about, have said how dreadful they are, and how they take trains to bits very much like the Etonians after the Eton-Harrow match when I was a boy. I have met many of these young people and have talked to them. And when I spoke about their pop music I met a lot more—too many, perhaps! They can be divided roughly into two types. The first type represents the capital gains of this welfare system. They are splendid, they are well-educated, they are fit, strong, and full of ideas. The second type, on the other hand, are not half so good. They are the ones who have not made the grade—the ones we hear more about.
It is difficult to understand these people, the teenagers, because one gets these reflexes. I was brought up in some sort of code of behaviour, and they behave quite differently from the way I behave. One must not be shocked or surprised. It is very foolish to be, because I do not 200 even know whether my code is right; I was only told that it was.
The other day I saw the results of a Gallup Poll. In my youth if a person wrote a story he wanted to sell, he wrote a story about boy meets girl. After a few adventures they would get married, and perhaps he had kissed her on the cheek before they were married. The girl referred to in the Poll was asked about sex, and she said, "Well, it is something to do when you go out; you don't have to talk". That is a very different attitude, and it is very difficult for my generation, my romantic generation, to understand.
When you have divided these people into two classes, the first, the go ahead, the intelligent, the capital gains of the welfare system, all want to clear out. They are fed up with this country, they think it is no good, it is rotten, they will never get anywhere, and they want to go to Australia or somewhere else. Being the best young people we have ever had in this country, the most intelligent and the biggest number we have ever had, they will go. They will leave us with the second type of young people, the people who are just born to become professional criminals. Therefore, when these other people have gone we shall be left with a criminal class, to use a Manx expression, "The like of which never came upon us". And the solution is what? The boys and girls of the generation before this had National Service, and they have said the solution to it all is to introduce National Service in some other form. I will not go into what other form it should be, because it is late and I have talked enough, and I have said what I wanted to say; that is, that the problem of the future is the teenagers, the no good teenagers who are left behind.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I should also like to congratulate the three maiden speakers and thank them for excellent speeches. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, for introducing this Motion. The noble Lord pointed out the very great increase in crime since before the war, and also during the last few years. He quoted the figures of indictable offences for 1966 as 1,199,807. The type of crime in which I am chiefly interested, as I have actually suffered 201 from it quite considerably, as have a great number of my friends, is larceny and burglary, and breaking and entering. If we break down these figures we find that for 1966 there were 1,050,000 offences of larceny, burglary, breaking and entering, and for burglary and breaking and entering the figure was 254,000.
We have had a very long debate, and of course a great number of things I was going to say have already been said. We have to combat crime. It can be tackled only in two ways: you have to eradicate the causes—but you cannot eradicate all the causes—and you have to ensure that crime does not pay. I was rather shocked to read that the Provost of King's, Cambridge, Dr. Leach, I think it is, was giving a Reith lecture the other day and he said crime had not increased at all: it was only the extra efficiency of the police in detecting crime. I quite agree that the police are extremely efficient, but the police certainly do not agree that crime has not increased. I can only presume that the Provost of King's has not been doing his homework. He said quite a few things that shocked me: for instance, that the break up of family life was of no concern, no consequence, and probably all right. I will not go on. Talking of young people, if they hear the Provost of King's talking like that you cannot very well blame the teenagers for some of their behaviour. It is a very bad example to them.
I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strange. He said that when he was a boy—of course, I am not quite as old as he is, so I cannot remember when he was a boy—people thought it was only the poor people who stole. Honestly, that is complete nonsense. I quite agree that the eighteenth century philosophers, Voltaire, Rousseau, and people like that, used to say that poverty was the cause of crime, but it has certainly been proved by events in the twentieth century that it has really no bearing on crime at all. As a boy I knew hundreds of extremely poor and humble people and they would starve rather than do anything dishonest. I really think the noble Lord is off the rails there.
We have heard a great deal to-day about the affluent society, and it may be that the increase in crime can be attributed to easy money. Quite a lot of people do get easy money from the State, and that may make them 202 lose their true sense of values. With the State providing so much free, perhaps it encourages some people to think that they should get a lot more free, and that may turn them to crime.
I was interested in what the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Soper, said. I think he was on the right tack regarding religion. I am not a great churchgoer myself, but I am quite sure that lack of Christianity is a cause of crime. If you take certain countries where the Church is very strong, Italy, Spain, the South of Ireland, you find very little crime there. I have been on an Irish racecourse, and two or three times I have heard over the loudspeaker, "Has anyone lost £5, or £1?" You would never hear that on an English racecourse. Why is that?
People say that perhaps the increase in crime is because of the crime portrayed on television, the very sensational programmes that we have, and also this tremendous flood of pornographic literature, some of it very sadistic. It has been said, and it still is said, that probably illiteracy has an indirect connection with crime, but I think in our modern society the reverse is the case. I think that when people of immature intellect who can read, read all this filth, it may put ideas into their heads to commit crime.
I breed a lot of animals and I know something about biology, albeit in an amateur sense. The first thing that we learn about animals is that if we overcrowd them they develop all sorts of unpleasant vices. That applies to animals or birds. I am quite sure that one of the basic causes of crime in this great industrial country is the vast conurbations that we have, sprawling across the countryside, which are a completely unnatural form of life for human beings. I am sure that that is one of the great causes of crime. This applies to other industrial nations too, but to a certain extent I think it applies more lo us. I will not go into that now.
I should like to see far more research into the causes of crime. I agree that we have the Institute of Criminology in Cambridge, but I should like to see far more research into the origins of crime, especially from the biological angle. We have learned quite a lot about environment. We are told that broken and unhappy homes are a fertile seedbed for crime. But I should like to find out 203 and know more about what part heredity plays in crime. I am quite sure it plays a part in crime, but it appears to be something that has been completely overlooked. I agree that it does not fall in with Fabian theory; but I know, from breeding animals, particularly horses that you can have certain lines which are rogue lines and you breed that strain out. I agree that it is not quite so easy with human beings. If it could be found out whether heredity has any bearing on crime, taking the instance of a particular person in a particular environment having an hereditary inclination to crime, I am sure it would be quite a break-through. Presumably, if one had a persistent criminal who was thought to be influenced by hereditary inclinations, one could do something about it biologically.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that there is no evidence whatsoever in this respect with regard to heredity? It may well be that someone whose father is a criminal may be brought up in a poor environment and have no chance in life. If the noble Viscount would reflect with regard to heredity, there are many distinguished Members of your Lordships' House whose ancestors committed quite serious crimes in the past; so, obviously, heredity does not count in that respect.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, when you breed animals you can choose from what you breed. I quite agree that with human beings breeding is not controlled. I agree that it is a difficult matter.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
No. I was suggesting that some animals can have extremely had streaks ill them. They can have roguish streaks in them, and they can be extremely dangerous. But we can breed that out.
Perhaps I might turn to prevention for a moment. Of course, prevention is far easier than delving into the causes and trying to eradicate the causes of crime, because you cannot ever eradicate all the causes of crime. But surely prevention is only a question of how earnest the Government are in preventing crime, 204 or how efficient a police force they have, and how much money they are prepared to spend on that police force.
I was most cheered to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, tell us all about the great improvement in the police force from the point of view of computers, pocket radio sets, and extra cars and scientific equipment. But I should like to try to raise the status of the police force. I should like to have the force looked up to as a really élite force. I quite agree with several noble Lords who have said that many more graduates from the universities ought to be attracted into the police force. I hope that that will come about, because in regard to crime it is, after all, just as honourable to fight one's enemies in one's own land as to fight them outside one's own land. I have never really understood why, socially, an officer in the Armed Forces—I was one myself; I suppose we all were—is always looked upon as of far higher social standing than an inspector or somebody high up in the police force. We ought to get away from that, and I hope we shall.
I shall not be much longer, but I should like to bring out one other point which I think was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor. It concerns helping the police to prevent larceny by locking up one's car, and that sort of thing. There is one point about this. If houses, especially those in isolated areas, could be made burglar proof, it would be of great help to the police. This is a quite expensive operation. It is perhaps not so expensive in a small house as in a large one. But I was wondering whether public funds, either from the rates or from some Government fund, could be made available to help householders to pay part of the expense of making their houses burglarproof. One would probably not have to give the same help to industrial premises because industry could probably afford to do this themselves, but I am sure that it would be a great help to householders.
The other point I would mention is the way in which wages are now paid. This point may have been already touched upon in the debate, but I feel that there ought to be a great drive to have wages paid by cheque. A long time ago I was stationed in Maryhill Barracks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. If one was 205 duty officer, one had the unenviable job of going along the streets, accompanied by an escort to collect the battalion's wages in cash. It was very unpleasant, because you were in the midst of people who knew that you were carrying probably a couple of thousand pounds in cash, and there could have been a nasty incident. Surely some scheme could be arranged for employers to pay their wages by cheque. No doubt there would have to be some arrangements with the banks, though I should have thought that the average factory worker and wage-earner could get his wage cheque cashed at the grocer's or with a publican. I feel that if this practice were followed it would prevent many of the wage snatches which now take place.
That is all I want to say, since many of the things I was going to mention have already been said. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, and I think also the noble Lord, Lord Willis, brought up the question of amending the law on evidence in the courts. I know that some of the police feel that the dice are so loaded against them that, although they may get a person into court, if they have not actually seen him take the goods in question and do not find them on him, they can hardly ever get a conviction. This is most disheartening for the police, and I hope that something will be done by way of legislation to remedy the situation.
I conclude by saying that when one is dealing with hardened criminals one needs a stiff deterrent. I agree that one has to be very careful and understanding when dealing with young people and first offenders, but if hardened criminals do not receive a stiff sentence, and if you are too kind to them, they take it as weakness and laugh at you, and they will commit the offence again. I am sure that any Government of this country, of whatever complexion, which set out to tackle the increase in crime and to protect the general public from its consequences would win many votes.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ LORD STOW HILL
My Lords, it is late, and I will try to confine my remarks to as brief a compass as possible. It is now almost a truism that the best antidote to organised crime is certainty of detection. The difficulty is how to achieve that certainty. The noble Lord, Lord Rowley, in his admirable opening 206 speech went over, as also did the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, the various steps which had been taken in recent years to put the police in a better position to combat crime. They explored the subject so thoroughly that I should be taking up your Lordships' time unnecessarily if I went beyond saying that I agree entirely with what both noble Lords said. I should like to add, particularly in addressing the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that I thought he showed the greatest prescience in advising his colleagues at the time the Police Act 1964 was being framed, because by that Act he took from Parliament powers which made possible many reforms which have been subsequently carried out in the organisation of the police.
Amalgamation, better equipment, a higher status and encouragement towards a higher morale—all these things are essential. But I sometimes think that perhaps the public might do a little more in their attitude to the police in making it apparent to the police that they are indeed deeply grateful to every police officer for carrying out, on behalf of his fellow citizens, the difficult, very often dangerous and sometimes wholly unrewarding work which he has to do, day in, day out. In this country we are not perhaps very good at, or accustomed to, paying fulsome compliments. In some countries when they use the word "Non" they make you feel they are paying you a compliment. It is only when you read the language the next morning that you find it is somewhat disagreeable in tone. But I hope that in this country we might think it advantageous now and again to say a kind word which will make it apparent that our fellow citizens and each of us feel that the police are admirable in the service which they undertake on behalf of the community. It would encourage them; it would make them feel that they are doing work which has in it a noble quality. I am sure that this would put them in a better position to fight organised crime to-day.
I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Rowley and Lord Brooke of Cumnor, when they say that they feel the tendency to magnify the numbers of commanding intellects at the head of organised crime is somewhat overdone. I have never thought that it requires the genius of an Einstein to bang an elderly lady on the 207 back of her head with a piece of iron—and that is what a lot of organised crime consists of at this time. Therefore I content myself with saying that I think the most immediately relevant topic in this debate is what has already been said about improving the position of the police in combating crime.
I want to confine my remarks to one small point and that is work in prisons. I feel very strongly about the subject of work in prisons, because I think that it will diminish the pool of persons from whom those who subsequently engage in large-scale organised crime can be recruited. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham also feels strongly on this. Unfortunately as I had a semi-public duty to discharge elsewhere I missed his speech. However, having been privileged for some time to share with him responsibility in these matters, and having had the great benefit of his guidance and extreme wisdom, I know that had I been here I should have agreed with every word he said. On the subject of work in prison I know that he has always felt particularly keen. I feel that it is a topic specially relevant to this debate, for the following reason.
Every Minister of the Home Office, I know, goes to prisons and spends hours in them, trying to find out what exactly these people with whom one has to deal, and who disturb their fellow-citizens by constantly inflicting a harm upon them, are like. I think that probably those who have done this, and also those noble Lords who have not had responsibility but have interested themselves in the inside of prisons, may have gained somewhat similar impressions. Mine, at any rate, and I know those of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, are these. These people are the irreconcilables. There are those criminals who have some twist of character, perhaps originally their fault, perhaps contributed to by circumstance, which makes it almost impossible to bring them back within the pale of society. They are what I would describe as the irreconcilables. I put them apart. I leave them out of account for the purpose of the observations that I want to make. Apart from that, I have always found in my contacts with prisoners, which are very, very many, in prison (I have seen them in the courts, 208 but you do not get to know them in the courts; you get to know them when you talk to them in prison and try to discover why they have embarked upon a course of conduct which has set them at odds with their fellow-citizens) that there are so many who are broadly described as of inadequate personality. If by that expression is meant of abnormally low intelligence, then I think it is not an apt expression.
They are inadequate sometimes, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, because of the circumstances in which they lived in earlier life; sometimes—very often, in my experience—because they came from disorganised homes. Very often, for no ascertainable reason, they have fallen into an evil course of life. They have lost control of themselves; they have had evil companions; they have become utterly disorganised. They have done things for which they know their fellow citizens will not forgive them, and they find it very difficult to get a grip on themselves. To talk to them is often a revelation.
I always remember talking to one who was a burglar. I asked him. "Why did you burgle?" and he said, "Because the neighbours were saying very nasty, unkind things about me." So I said, "You mean that you burgled the neighbour's house in order to avenge yourself?" But the answer was, "Oh no! I didn't burgle the neighbour's house. I burgled somebody else's house." With that I gave up. It is a logic which I found was too abstruse for my very limited understanding. It indicated a mental muddle in that man's mind. Therefore I think it is of the utmost importance, if one is really trying to tackle this problem of combating crime, to do something to enable these people once again to get a grip on themselves. And I believe that one of the most effective things is proper work in prisons.
If they simply stay in prison without being fully occupied, then as each week goes by and as each month goes by, and they become more and more accustomed to never having to exercise their will power or to take a decision on their own, since they are told everything they must do, I believe that it becomes more and more difficult to bring them back within the pale of society. If they are set to 209 work, and if they are paid wages equivalent to the wages they would earn if they were working outside in factories, that is a stimulus and an incentive to build themselves up again, and to make themselves what I would call sensible, cooperating citizens.
The difficulty about this, as I learned—and I know the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, would agree—is that it would cost a great deal to pay them the same sort of wages in prison as they would earn outside prison, because the work done by prisoners in a prison workshop is, of necessity, of very much less value to the community than the same work done outside in a properly organised factory, where there is an efficient system and all the appropriate equipment. Therefore, if one wanted to pay them the same wage, it would mean—so I was advised when I was at the Home Office—an annual payment of several million pounds.
Ministers sit around the Cabinet table and they put forward unanswerable cases for higher appropriations to their own Departments. They look appealingly and hopingly at the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he looks ruefully and reproachfully back at them, and has, over and over again, against his will, to give them a Molotov-like, "No!". Perhaps that is more the case at the moment than at some other period of our history. But I hope that this state of affairs will pass and that it will be possible to expend more on the rehabilitation of prisoners and on lessening the recruiting pool for the more dangerous prisoner of later on. At the moment it is not possible, but I know that the Home Office and the Prison Department are doing their level best to raise the standard of work and to approximate conditions more to the sort of conditions that I have been trying to describe.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, with whom I spoke earlier, has authorised me to say that, to his knowledge, in the last three years the value of prison work has increased from £3½ million to £5½ million, and that within the last 12 months in very many prison workshops the output has increased by 25 per cent. That is all to the good. If and when it becomes possible, and to the extent that it becomes possible, to pay prisoners the same payment that they would get outside, I 210 should like to see their will and self-respect, so far as it is possible to restore self-respect within the prison precinct, restored by some arrangement of the sort I shall now describe. They should out of their wage first contribute to the cost of their own keep in prison, then to the cost of the keep of their families outside prison, at present provided from public funds. They should have a small amount of pocket money, and something should be put by for them when they come out of prison, so that they could come out of prison not penniless. I believe they should make a payment—not a large payment—to a general compensation fund which would be available, together with the other funds now dispensed, for the purpose of compensating persons who are the victims of injury in consequence of the commission of crime.
To be realistic, of course, the payments would probably have to be somewhat compressed, but I believe that if a prisoner worked day in and day out, knowing that his work was remunerated on the same sort of basis as it would be outside; that it was valued accordingly upon the same footing; that he was contributing to the keep of his family and himself; that he was not, as it were, sponging in prison, and outside prison through his family, on his fellow-citizens: and that he was making some payment to make good the damage—I do not say necessarily to the full extent of 100 per cent.—that he has done to some innocent, harmless person by his wrongdoing, then I think it would go a long way to setting the foundation for the building up again of his will—his will to row with society, instead of rowing against society. It would also begin to teach him that life can be far pleasanter, far more satisfying, far richer, if he bends his effort to help and serve his fellow-citizens, than if, in order to gratify his own selfish desires, he inflicts harm upon persons who have never done him any wrong.
Those are the observations that I should like to make. I feel sure that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will agree with what I have said, and I am glad to see him nodding his head. We have had very many fruitful conversations in the past when we worked together, and I always look back on it with pleasure and feel grateful to him for the very great help he always gave me.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, who possessed every quality of a great Home Secretary, except any instinct for self-advertisement and of all the qualities which make a great Home Secretary, perhaps that is the least desirable. But he left a great record there, as we all know, and thanks to him and to the Lord Chancellor, more than to any other two men, capital punishment was abolished. The whole of our penal reform is likely to flow from the two famous White Papers that were issued during his time.
I come back, if I may, to one of his main themes. But first I should like to congratulate, as we have all been trying to do, the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, upon his extremely vigorous and constructive introduction of this subject. Some years ago there was a group of us in this House who became known as "the Crime Club". We got used to making the same speeches; we knew each others speeches fairly well; and the thing had become rather a closed circle; but it is delightful to see somebody coming from the field of world politics, such as my noble friend, Lord Rowley, and breaking into all this and widening our ideas. I extend, if I may say so without patronage, the same kind of welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who has not figured in so many of these discussions in the past. He comes before us, perhaps, as the devil's advocate: at any rate, as the exponent of an older point of view. If he will allow me just one comment, which I am sure he will not take amiss, we know he has an absolutely first-class mind, but when an absolutely first-class mind gets into a rut it is much harder to shift than a second-class mind, and I think we are going to have a lot of trouble with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, before we are finished. But I shall also come back to some of his arguments a little later.
My Lords, it has been a notable day for the Home Office. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary have changed places. They are both men of outstanding ability, and, above all, men blessed with the power of decision. I do not think anybody could deny that that particular quality, which is not very common in top politicians or in any other 212 walk of life, is one with which Mr. Callaghan and Mr. Jenkins are both richly endowed. We speed Mr. Jenkins on his way and we are grateful for what he has done, but we welcome Mr. Callaghan to the circle, so well aware that he has taken an enormous interest in the problems of the police and has helped the police a lot; and as perhaps the outstanding topic in this debate has been our desire to show our gratitude to the police and to encourage the police, his appearance on the scene is particularly appropriate just now. I would only add, in all seriousness, that if I had had my choice as to a Home Secretary I should not have had to look very far from my noble friend Lord Stonham beside me; but we realise that in these days a Peer cannot be Home Secretary, and in those circumstances I am sure Mr. Callaghan was much the best choice available.
My Lords, we have listened to three outstanding maiden speeches. Baroness Birk has been compelled to leave. I persuaded her to speak, although she warned me that she would have to go, and she makes many apologies. But we have listened to three maiden speeches. I cannot remember when we have heard three maiden speeches on one day in this House before, but I am sure that we have never at any time in our long history listened to three such good maiden speeches on the same day. I feel that, between them, they could really make a complete team of penal reformers and crime preventers. There was the ardent, burning spirit of Baroness Birk, with which she gripped the House; the delightful inside knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Hayter; and then Lord Mais, with his hard, masculine common sense. All three were listened to with the greatest possible interest.
We have also listened to two former Home Secretaries, both very distinguished; and although the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, like the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has been answered very fully by my noble friend Lord Stonham, I want to say just a word about the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, at the end. But may I now deal, not at any length, not in any adequate fashion, but quite concretely, with one side of the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill? He gave figures, which I need not repeat, of the 213 great increase in production in prisons, and he asked about prisoners' earnings. He set out—and nobody knows it better, although my noble friend Lord Stonham knows it just as well—the difficulty of this problem of increasing prisoners' earnings. I will give him just one or two facts. At one prison, Kirkham, practically all the prisoners engaged in manufacturing industry, about 200 men, have been placed on incentive schemes, which enable them to earn up to £1 a week instead of the previous maximum of 11s. The sum of £1 a week is not very high, but it is not quite so ludicrous as the figure they used to receive, and it is nearly twice what they were receiving, so I think the efforts that he, my noble friend Lord Stonham and Mr. Jenkins have been making have borne fruit. Productivity at Kirkham has gone up by around 26 per cent. in less than a year, and the saving to the Exchequer is of the order of £14,000 in a full year at that prison alone. Similar schemes are being introduced progressively in other prisons; so we are making some progress, although I am sure we should all like to get on very much quicker.
I will not detain the House with very many statistics about crime, but I think that perhaps I should give one or two. We can, at any rate, draw a little comfort from the fact that the increase in crime has slowed down; an optimist might even begin to think that it is about to drop. From 1946 to 1955 the amount of recorded crime fluctuated, with movements both up and down. As to the position from 1956, curiously enough we began to debate crime and prisons in this House about 1956—actually in 1955—but I am afraid that from that moment onwards there was an increase in crime every year. I do not think there was any connection, but there was an increase for about ten years. Now, at last, this increase is very much less. The latest figure for the number of indictable offences known to the police shows an increase of less than 2 per cent. over the corresponding period of 1966. It is less than 2 per cent. up; while in the years since 1956 the annual increase has been between 6 per cent. and 14 per cent. So at last we see a few glimpses of light.
It is in fact difficult, as Home Office Ministers are aware, to single out the category of organised or planned crime. 214 It is not a category exactly known to the criminal statistics. But it is true that if you took crimes involving large sums of money and crimes of breaking and entering which involved large sums of money, the increase in those crimes has been faster than the increase generally; end robbery has gone up faster than other crimes. On the whole we can, as I say, draw some encouragement from these recent trends. I do not know how optimistic we ought to be. Nor do I now whether most of the House are aware that the birth-rate began to move upwards, quite unexpectedly, at just about the same time as the crime-rate began to move upwards—that is, about 1956–57. Rather more than a year ago the birthrate began dropping. The crime-rate is steadying; and, to be optimistic, we think that is beginning to drop, too. I leave it to noble Lords who are statistically minded to say whether this is a pure coincidence or whether they can detect the beginnings of a correlation. But it is a curious fact, all the more curious because in neither case was this increase foreseen and in neither case were the beginnings of a drop foreseen. However, I leave that for the House to brood on.
A number of speakers dealt with the police from certain points of view, and, of course, from this Bench my noble friend Lord Stonham has said all the most important things on that subject already. I am reluctant to do this, but I feel I must say a word in reply to my noble friend Lord Willis about Police Constable Archibald, the police constable who was injured in this heroic exploit. I feel I must say this because I imagine that the noble Lord's remarks will be widely publicised, and it would be wrong for a Minister to let that go without making any comment. I gather it was discussed fully during an Adjournment debate in the other place last week. So these facts, or most of them, may already be on record. But I must tell the House what the facts are.
Police Constable Archibald will in fact receive a pension of about £3 a week based on a scale determined by a medical assessment. If he does not take another job he will be eligible for additional social security benefits amounting to about £12 a week. He has already received more than £2,000 from the 215 Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and other funds. The police authority are prepared to give him a desk job; but he says he is a man of action and that a desk job would not interest him. He wished to set himself up in the licensing trade. I do not want to belittle in any way this man's heroic conduct or to play down the sympathy that we must all feel for him; but those are facts which must be stated from this Box in view of what my noble friend has said.
§ LORD WILLIS
I thank my noble friend for saying that. Surely, in a case of this description, here is a challenge to any police force, and particularly any personnel or welfare officer. My noble friend has just said that he is a man of action. I should have thought that any reasonable police force would have been able to find ways and means of using in some way this man who, as I said, can walk and drive and is mentally alert. I notice that my noble friend made no reference to the phrase, the unfortunate phrase, used by the Chief Constable when he said, "There comes a time when you cannot carry some people". I think that was a pretty poor reward for what Police Constable Archibald did.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am not going to pursue this matter further. The noble Lord is on record in two interventions on this subject, and I have stated the position of the Government. There was one remark of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, with which I agreed wholeheartedly. In some ways it was, to me at least, the most important remark made during the day. He said that we slammed the door in the face of the underprivileged majority of our young people. I think that is the key to many other things discussed to-day. He knows very well my interest (which I share with so many here) in youth and of the various studies that I might be or am now conducting. I am sure that this will be a headline in my mind for many a day.
The noble Lord, Lord Strange, felt that we were not neglecting the majority so much as the minority. But he agreed in a sense with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, about the failure of the community to do anything like what we ought to do for the younger people in 216 need of help, and he placed his own emphasis on that as lying at the root of crime. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Willis, was not unduly discouraged by his reading in the course of the weekend. It is now over twelve years since I wrote a book on the causes of crime. I must not say I am rather gratified—I do not know whether I ought to be disappointed—to know that not a lot of progress has been made in this matter in the meanwhile. I have kept an eye on the subject for a good many years. It is difficult to arrive at generalised conclusions but I would say I do not think these studies are wasted. I believe that if one has a general background of the kind of factors which produce a criminal then, when you have a particular criminal in front of you, young or old, you will be more likely to be able to help him than just to rely on some hunch or the traditional wisdoms. I hope neither of us has been wasting our studies.
My Lords, I come now to the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton. I see he has been promoted since he made his speech; or, at any rate, he has returned to the Front Bench. I know he was a Front Bench man before, but his position has been confirmed since he made that speech. He raised one point in particular; it was about the number of graduates recruited into the police service. There are various figures which I could give him in correspondence, but I think perhaps the most interesting thing for the House generally is to know of the existence of the Working Party under Mr. Taverne, an Under-Secretary of the Home Office, which was set up earlier this year to consider the recruitment of people with higher educational qualifications into the police service. It recommended a special scheme for attracting up to twenty specially selected graduates a year. Advertisements produced over 400 inquiries, and over 80 graduates have so far applied to join under this scheme. I do not know how many will be selected. At any rate, the Home Office and the noble Lord are thinking in this matter along the same lines.
The noble Lord, Lord Gridley, to whom I must apologise for having missed his speech, dealt among other things with drug-smuggling. As he is aware, all police forces have now one specific officer for dealing with problems relating 217 to drugs. The larger forces have drug squads, and in places where drug smuggling might occur close liaison has been established with interested bodies such as Customs and Excise, the Coastguard Service and similar connected bodies. Again, I hope that the noble Lord will feel that the Home Office is thinking in the same way.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, made various interesting points, but he made one rather novel suggestion—new, at least, to me. It would be rather hard to give effect to; but it was eminently wise. He asked why it was that police officers are regarded as socially inferior. I am not quite sure who decides or assesses these matters, but I think most of us will understand what he meant when he said that when one talks about "an officer and a gentleman" one does not mean a police officer but an Army officer. It is something which has to be eradicated. I do not know whether he can have any influence in these matters at some future date if his Government come into power. He may think I should do something about it, but I must say it had not occurred to me before. I do not think that any police officer of distinction has ever been ennobled. That is a very strange thing.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Yes, I agree; but I do not think Lord Trenchard was ennobled for service to the police. After all, he was the greatest airman of his generation—some people would say of all time. I think he might have been ennobled for that. However, I think there is a great deal in what the noble Viscount has said, and we ought to see whether something could not be done about it.
The noble Lord, Lord Hayter, dealt in such expert fashion and humorously, too, with the whole subject of security, that nothing I could add would be of value. He wanted to be sure that the Home Secretary will give due weight to the views of expert bodies such as the British Security Industry Association who have contributed so much towards crime prevention. I came down here on behalf of the recent Home Secretary to give him that assurance. I assume that I can give it still on behalf of the new one. 218 I think he can take it that this assurance can be given. In fact, after the speech of the noble Lord—and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, confirms this—he can be certain that the right kind of priority will be given.
Then there were the very wide-ranging subjects opened up by the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading. I will not try to comment. I am not in a position to comment fully or, indeed, at all adequately, on her recent Report. We discussed the earlier Report in an important debate at the beginning of the year, and her recent Report is being actively studied. I do not think she will expect anything; she knows the ways of Government Departments. She rightly insists that we should all move a great deal faster than we incline to in the official world, but I do not think she would expect a Government pronouncement on the second Report this evening. It came out only two months ago. Naturally we are most grateful to the noble Marchioness for her prodigious labours, and we certainly accept the full importance of voluntary work. I hope I have not got to say that again. She knows that at any rate I and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, are particularly interested in voluntary work in this field. I can assure her that the Government as a whole will reaffirm and reaffirm again their view of the immense significance of the contribution that voluntary effort can make. We are all very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, back. He is here at ten minutes to nine; but had he been here at ten minutes to three, I would have avoided a very awkward quarter of an hour.
As I was saying of the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading, she sees this subject in the biggest way. She sees hostels in particular (though there are other forms of voluntary action) as an alternative, a leading alternative to prison. I hope, if I may say so respectfully to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that he will ask himself anew whether perhaps there is something in this other alternative. He comes at it rather from the angle of saying that the prison system does not work now. Here is an alternative which could be very much more productive if properly used—much more fruitful than any form of incarceration. I will not say what we have said here so often in the 219 past, but we are all well aware that prison is a wrong solution. If you wanted to cure somebody's character you would not lock him up in prison with a lot of other men with characters as depraved as his own. That is not at all the way in which you would dream of curing someone in whose welfare you were interested. It is therefore adopted, as we all know, only because people have not been able to think of anything else; that is the historic truth of it. In the absence of execution, which was recommended by the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, at any rate in extreme cases; in the absence of mutilation, transportation, the stocks and one or two other things, prison is what we have settled for. But it is a very bad way out, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has told us before now. So I hope that all who are disturbed by our prison system will give very great attention to the alternative suggested by the noble Baroness.
The noble Lord, Lord Mais, raised points which really need fuller treatment than I can give them now. He wonders whether use could be made of the detention centres for first offenders over 21. It is not for me to say that there is nothing in such an idea. If the noble Lord, Lord Mais, thinks that that should be pressed, we must give the Home Office a chance to have a very good look at it but I am afraid that the first reactions are unfavourable. But that is often the way in Government Departments—the first reactions are unfavourable. It is felt that the suspended sentence provisions of the 1967 Criminal Justice Act are supposed to keep people out of detention, and therefore it is not suggested, at least not at the moment, that there is any great inclination to push them into some detention, even if it is a slightly more attractive form of life than incarceration in prison. I can assure the noble Lord that I am not trying to kill off a suggestion of that sort with a few rather hasty words. The noble Lord lays great stress on the Probation Service, and this, I know, is common to the whole House, and certainly to the noble Marchioness.
I was looking at some words used by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, during the Third Reading of the Criminal 220 Justice Bill, and almost the last point which he drove home when that Bill was going through your Lordships' House was the fact that whether it did much good or came to anything in the future depended to a large extent on whether we got the probation officers to operate it. That has been the emphasis in my own mind for many years. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, gave figures recently on this matter and I will not go into them tonight and repeat them again, or develop them, unless anybody asks me to do so. I have a lot of figures about the development of the Probation Service now, but I am certainly one of those who are not satisfied (and that is true of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham) at the speed at which we are developing the Probation Service. If anybody says we are not developing it fast enough, well, agreed; we are not. I can only say that it has been an encouraging year on the whole, and although we do not expect now to hit the target of 3,500 by 1970, we hope to hit it in 1971. However, let us all agree with the noble Marchioness that we ought to go faster and faster still.
That brings me towards my conclusion, although it will take me a few minutes to leave the Box altogether. The question has often been raised in this House of whether our national attitude to crime in the community is worthy of a Christian country; and when I talk here of Christianity I am thinking of a Christian ethic which I hope (and I am sure it would be) is subscribed to by leading Humanists. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, raised our minds to those heights to-day, and again and again we come back to this question. I feel myself—and this again is a point which came out in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor—that here the quantitative problem cannot be divorced from the qualitative.
With crime increasing so rapidly in these last ten years—at any rate until just recently—with so many of our prisons stuffed to overflowing and with the whole body of our social workers strained to breaking point, there has been a grave danger that the new enlightenment would not get a chance, and, indeed, that it might be written off as a failure before it had had an opportunity of proving itself. It has been equally clear that the resources required for a successful policy 221 will never be forthcoming, from this nation or, for that matter, from any other nation, until an approach on the intellectual and moral side has been worked out that will really satisfy the nation. So intellectual and moral progress must go forward together with material progress, or neither will take place at all.
I would claim that this is at last beginning to happen. The material side is improving, and our thoughts and understanding are growing steadily more civilised. But we are faced with someone who comes to us, like the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and begs leave to doubt the whole approach. Well, my Lords, it is a free country, and we have not reached the point where I have, or anybody else has, any right to demand acquiescence from a noble Lord who differs. But may I put this to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and to anyone who says that people should spend more years than ten in prison? I wonder whether the noble Lord knows any prisoners who have spent more than ten years in prison. I happen to, and there are others present who happen to. Does the noble Lord realise that that is destroying a man so that you get to a point where the noble Viscount beside him, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, says that it is better to close a man down, to liquidate him, because it is such an inhuman existence? I would never agree with that. I think that whatever penalties you inflict upon a man, you have no right to take away his life in cold blood. But I do agree with the argument that you are steadily degrading a man.
The noble Lord must agree that if he had a friend who was put in prison for ten years he would expect that friend to be a much worse man at the end of that period than when he went into prison. He might, by the grace of God and with exceptional good fortune, emerge unscathed. But prison, in the long run, is a force which is going to cause human deterioration. Without going too deeply into the theory of punishment—though on that subject as well I have written a small book—I would venture to submit to the House that, whatever one's theory of punishment, any punishment, if it is to be a just punishment, must include some effort to reform. I quite realise that we have to pay very great attention 222 to deterrence but there must be some effort made to reform; and if you keep a man in prison past a certain point, and it you stiffen the conditions as the noble Lord would have us do, I am afraid you are moving in the opposite direction.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I particularly addressed my argument to the need for protecting society against incorrigible rogues who have spent the whole of their lives in organised crime and have deliberately taken to it. I hope that I shall have an answer as to whether or not the Lord Privy Seal agrees that where there is some dangerous criminal who is still young enough to resume his life of crime, he will be kept in prison beyond ten years, even if it does result in some deterioration in his own nature.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am not going to give the noble Lord any such assurance. I know one gentleman who would probably qualify under the noble Lord's heading and who has been working outside prison for quite a long time. If the noble Lord is serious about this—and I know him to be a serious man—I should like him to meet this chap, and then give me his opinion afterwards.
My Lords, I should like to say one word to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, on the subject of a permissive society. Here, I need hardly say, my thoughts are my own, and I have no reason to think that they come into conflict with those of any of my colleagues. But when we talk about a permissive society, we mean one of three things, although we cannot always separate them. We may mean a society that distinguishes more sharply than before between crime and sin, that still condemns certain offences though, for some reason, they are no longer regarded as criminal—in other words, a society which approved the Wolfenden Report. That is one form of permissive society with which I go along, certainly in some cases, though not in all.
Secondly, we may mean (and this is how I think the noble Lord understood it) a society which actually restricts the area of sin: for instance, a society in which pre-marital fornication is no longer regarded as a sin and no longer to be condemned; a society which loosens or 223 relaxes the moral law. If the noble Lord is condemning that kind of society, I join with him in that condemnation.
But in the case we are considering here surely we are becoming a more permissive society, in the sense of a more compassionate society. That surely is something we must be proud of. To-day we are prepared to be more compassionate than ever before. But certainly blind compassion is not enough. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that there must be as much compassion for the victim or potential victim as for the delinquent. I will not describe in this House my activities on behalf of the victims, but I took an initiative in this matter not so many years ago. Again, when we are talking about the delinquent himself, blind compassion is not enough. To talk of the contrast between the soft and the severe régimes is to put it much too crudely.
Although our ideas improve, we must not think of giving a man an easier time in prison, though the relics of past brutality must be eliminated, or think of giving him a quick exit without much regard to the total effect on his character and on what happens to him after that. I would say that the only unforgivable sin is to forget the criminal; to try to banish him from our minds and concern; to forget him while his life is going wrong, before he takes to crime; to forget him while he is tucked away in prison, and to forget him when he comes out, until he commits another offence.
After this debate, the thought that more than any other remains in my mind is that our attitude is the opposite of that, and that there is a tremendous concern in this House—which on this occasion, at least (though I would not say it is always true), is, I believe, representative of the nation—for the delinquent and the citizen who may be his victim. I am sure that none of us is proud enough to claim to have the right answers, but I believe that we are moving towards them and that we shall all be most grateful to my noble friend Lord Rowley for starting this notable debate.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am afraid that the answers, 224 while precise, will not carry the noble Lord very much further forward this evening, though they will not necessarily disappoint him. One of the matters of which the noble Lord gave notice—namely, the advance disclosure of alibi defences—has already been attended to, but all the other points on criminal evidence are included in the Report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee review; namely, the admissibility of evidence of convictions, of previous misconduct, and the extent to which the accused should be required to give evidence and expose himself to cross-examination and the extent to which the judge or the prosecution should be entitled to comment if the accused does not give evidence. The Committee are not expected to report for some little time, and the Government must await their advice before deciding what further changes are needed in this important and difficult area of the law. I apologise to the noble Lord for keeping him waiting for that reply.
§ LORD ROWLEY
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will agree that the number of noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and the high quality of the speeches have made the debate well worth while. I hope that this view will be shared by my noble friend Lord Stonham, who is doing such conspicuous work as Minister of State for the Home Office. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.