HL Deb 15 February 1973 vol 338 cc1685-7

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many known cases of "mugging" there have been in London during the past year.


My Lords, there is no agreed definition of "mugging". The most relevant figures are those for offences of robbery or assault with intent to rob. The number of such offences known to the City of London and Metropolitan Police Forces in 1971 (the latest calendar year for which figures are available) was 2,785. The figure for the first nine months of 1972 was 2,466.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for that Answer, may I ask her whether Her Majesty's Government have in hand any plans to combat this apparently growing evil? Further, is she aware that I feel very strongly on this matter, as only a few days ago a great friend of mine was very badly "mugged" at Marble Arch? May I further ask whether it would not be possible for police patrols, both foot and motorised, to be increased, particularly in the West End of London where so many of these cases occur, and also after the hours of darkness?


Yes, my Lords. The Government take this matter very seriously, and in the Metropolitan Police District special squads have been deployed to deal with this problem; and some squads have already been increased. In one division where there have been more "muggings" than anywhere else the special squad has been more than doubled.


My Lords, may I ask whether the Government will pay special attention to the Underground, where several bad cases of "mugging" have occurred lately?


My Lords, the fact is that the responsibility for policing the Underground rests with the British Transport Police, but the Metropolitan police do maintain close liaison with this force in view of the considerable number of offences that have taken place there.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness how many convictions there have been with regard to the robberies which she mentioned earlier?


My Lords, I am afraid that I have not the answer to that question but I can write to the noble Lord.


My Lords, as the noble Baroness is in some difficulty in finding a definition for "mugging", would she mind if I helped her? Would she not agree that the perfect example of "mugging" was when Mr. Heath persuaded the electorate that he could cure prices "at a stroke"?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she realises that what are regarded as heavy sentences imposed on those convicted of "mugging" do not receive sufficient publicity? Does it not happen that when a "mugging" case occurs it is highlighted in the Press, but that the sentence imposed on the person convicted of "mugging" receives only an obscure paragraph? Will the Government try to communicate with those responsible for the Press, and even television and broadcasting, in order that more emphasis may be given to the sentences that are imposed for this crime?


My Lords, the sentences passed by courts in a number of recent and publicised cases show, I think, that they are determined to take a strong line towards "mugging", and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, when speaking recently to the Magistrates' Association drew a distinction between serious offences of violence which merit severe punishment and other lesser offences.


My Lords, as the unintelligent youth of the country watch television nearly every day, and perhaps almost every day see an incident of violence which could be regarded as the equivalent to "mugging", is there not something to be said for removing the example, which I believe has a tremendous influence on the youth of this country?


My Lords, I think the control of television programmes is a rather different matter, and I am afraid that I cannot answer that point now.


My Lords, in view of the statement made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that the policing of the Underground is the responsibility of the British Transport Police, can she explain why those of us who use the Underground service cannot recollect ever having seen a British Transport policeman on duty?


My Lords, it may well be that there is some advantage in not always being able to identify the policeman on duty. I can only state the facts as they are, and the Metropolitan Police do maintain a close liaison in regard to this matter.


My Lords, may I, with respect, ask the noble Baroness to look into the matter of the cleanliness of our trains, because they are perfectly filthy; indeed worse than any other country.


My Lords, I think that that question really is rather wide of the original Question.

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