HC Deb 06 July 1983 vol 45 cc89-91W
Dr. Mawhinney

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he proposes to take with regard to Lord Scarman's recommendations concerning lay visitors to police stations.

Mr. Brittan

My predecessor welcomed Lord Scarman's recommendation that there should be random checks by independent persons on the detention of suspects at police stations as a constructive and positive suggestion for bringing the police and the community closer together, and set in hand consultations with the local authority associations and police representative bodies. These consultations revealed broad agreement about both the benefits which lay visiting schemes might confer and the practical basis on which they could operate. The police made it clear that they would be willing to co-operate in arrangements which, while not hampering their work, might help to dispel suspicions about their treatment of suspects held in their custody.

Agreement has now been reached with the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metropolitan

supplementary tables to "Criminal Statistics, 1981" volume 2—and equivalent tables for earlier years. The available information on numbers sentenced is summarised in the following table:

Offenders sentenced for offences of robbery
Sentenced to immediate imprisonment
Year Total number sentenced Numbers sentenced Average length of sentence (months)
1979 3,200 1,600 42.6
1980 3,500 1,600 37.1
1981 4,100 2,000 37.1

Mr. Bruinvels

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons have been released from prison in the last three years who had been convicted of armed robbery; how long each had served in prison; and what was the sentence imposed on each.

Mr. Hurd

The information available relates to all offences of robbery and is given in the following table; corresponding information is not available separately for those convicted of armed robbery.

Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers that pilot schemes should be established in six police force areas; and with their agreement and co-operation the Home Office is issuing guidelines for the establishment and conduct of lay visiting arrangements. The police forces in whose areas lay visiting has either already or will be introduced are: Greater Manchester, West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Humberside, Cheshire and Leicestershire. I am placing a copy of the guidelines in the Library.

In addition, I have, after local consultation, authorised the establishment, also on a pilot basis, of a lay visiting scheme in L district of the Metropolitan police force. I am placing a copy of the scheme in the Library. It will be brought into effect as soon as I have appointed a panel of lay visitors, and I shall be considering the names of persons suggested by the community —police police consultative group for Lambeth and others. I also propose, with the full support of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, to establish similar pilot schemes in other districts of the force.

I shall, of course, keep the progress of these arrangements under review, and shall consider their possible development or modification accordingly.