HC Deb 18 December 1997 vol 303 cc261-2W
Fiona Mactaggart

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from(a) Thames Valley Police and (b) others about the attack on a Sikh boy in Slough on 24 November; what steps he is taking to combat racist attacks; and if he will make a statement. [21193]

Mr. Michael

I was extremely concerned to hear about this incident and I hope that the child and his family are recovering from what must have been an extremely frightening and distressing experience. I understand that an investigation by Thames Valley Police is under way and the family can be assured that the police are treating this matter very seriously.

I have so far received three letters from the Sikh community in the Slough area concerning this attack.

The Government condemn all acts of racial violence and harassment. This is why we announced in the Crime and Disorder Bill new measures to tackle racially motivated crime. The offences will correspond to the existing main offences which deal with violence against the person and offences of harassment. The Government believe that the introduction of specific racial offences will send out a strong message that racial violence and harassment are unacceptable, and will act as a forceful deterrent. Specific offences will also encourage the victims of crimes to report them to the police, and ensure that a higher priority is given to the identification of the racial element, both in the gathering of evidence and in the prosecution of the case.

The Racial Incidents Standing Committee (RISC) has been created to take forward work between various agencies concerned with racial incidents. The group comprises the Home Office and other Government Departments, agencies from the criminal justice system, the Commission for Racial Equality and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders. RISC will tackle issues such as the effectiveness of multi-agency panels in dealing with racial incidents; the implications of the new offences in the Crime and Disorder Bill; and how racial incidents are policed.

On 31 July, my right hon. Friend also announced an inquiry into the matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence in order to identify the lessons to be learnt for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes.