Oral Answers to Questions — Robberies with Violence, London Streets.

– in the House of Commons on 16th July 1942.

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Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

asked the Home Secretary how many cases in the Metropolitan Police area there have been per week this year of footpads in London causing grievous bodily harm to citizens; how many persons have been taken to hospital as a consequence; and what steps he is taking to combat this growing menace?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

In the first six months of this year the total number of cases of robbery or of assaults with intent to rob in all parts of the extensive Metropolitan Police District was 85, as compared with 75 in the corresponding period of last year, and these figures include minor assaults which do not involve grievous bodily harm. Figures of the number of persons taken to hospital are not at the moment available, but they shall be communicated to my hon. Friend as soon as possible. The Commissioner of Police, with whom I have been in consultation, is satisfied that there is no ground for the apprehension that there is a growing menace. There is no evidence of organised activities involving robbery with violence and no ground for thinking that the streets of the Metropolis are less safe than they were before the war.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

In view of the fact that there are cases known to me personally—in one case the victim was in hospital three weeks—will the right hon. Gentleman take powers to ensure that very severe punishment is inflicted on these highway robbers? [HON. MEMBERS: "And shoot them."] Yes, and shoot them.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

Could not they perform useful service in fighting the Germans?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

That question is hardly one for my Department. On the point raised by the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Sir W. Smithers), while I am speaking from memory my impression is that the possible punishments are fairly severe. It is, of course, a matter for the courts. I cannot continually bring in new penalties and new punishments; otherwise I should be doing the work of the courts of law.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Is it not a fact that in spite of the black-out and in spite of the fact that we are at war, London compares very favourably with peace-time conditions in its respect for law and order?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

As a matter of fact, my own opinion is that the figures which I have given are a remarkable tribute to the character of the people of London. It is only an increase from 75 to 85, which may be temporary. In view of all the circumstances to which the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has drawn attention, I do not think there is anything about which to get panicky.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

May it not be that Chislehurst is a bad spot?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland , Canterbury

Would it not be better if the Home Secretary were to suggest to magistrates that they gave a flogging sentence? I think it would be far better.