§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his analysis of the reasons for the threefold increase in the number of offences involving air weapons where the age of the principal suspect is not known; and if he will take steps to ensure that the age of suspects is recorded.
§ Mr. Brittan
The police are asked to record whenever possible the age of the principal suspect in offences involving firearms. When this cannot be done, a frequent reason is that no suspect has been identified. The increase between 1974 and 1978 in the number of offences in which air weapons were reported to have been used for which the age of the principal suspect was not known was mainly in offences of criminal damage. This increase largely reflected the overall rise in the number of offences of criminal damage involving air weapons; but the percentage of such offences when the age of the principal suspect was not known increased by only 4 per cent. over this period from 83 per cent. in 1974 to 87 per cent. in 1978.