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Will the Solicitor-General accept that there will be some dismay among the many people who see the new offence of vandalism surviving as clause 75 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill that was published today? Many feel that it is a totally redundant piece of cosmetic window-dressing. Any offence that could be envisaged could be covered by existing offences such as malicious mischief and breach of the peace. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is a nasty example of the Conservative Government trying to give the impression that they are doing something about crime when they are merely putting on the statute book a piece of useless lumber?
That is one of the many matters in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill that will be greatly welcomed. I wish that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) would not continue to purvey dismay. Resentment at all attempts to prevent the hideousness of crime is anything but desirable.
As it is now estimated that vandalism is costing the country about £200 million a year, and as it inspires terror and misery, especially among the elderly, will my hon. and learned Friend accept that anything that the new Bill does to reduce vandalism will be widely welcomed throughout Scotland.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Vandalism is one of the most pernicious sores in our society, because it is so unlikely to be detected. Anything that can contribute to its eradication will, I am sure, be welcomed, even by those who vote Labour.
Probably the worst vandalism to occur for some time was the encouragement given by Labour Members to think that we were entitled to live beyond our means with money that we did not have.
If the Solicitor-General is so concerned about detecting crimes of vandalism—we all have that concern—will he indicate how many acts of vandalism will be detected in future merely because the offence is called vandalism, as distinct from malicious mischief?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is more to crime than the mere detection of it. There is also the deterrence of it. If people are made conscious in public of the opprobrium that attaches to vandalism and the penalties that attach to it, they are infinitely less likely to commit it.