The latest figures available for charges of vandalism are for 1981, when 2,619 persons were prosecuted. Of these, 2,379 were convicted. The only figures available for 1982 are for the number of compensation orders made following conviction. During the six-month period from 1 April to 30 September over 900 cases of vandalism were subject to compensation orders.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of the increasing anxiety and fear, particularly among the elderly, in constituencies such as mine about vandalism? Will his Department ensure that the invidious crime is dealt with by consistent and effective prosecution?
The figures are unacceptably high. It will be the Crown Office's policy to ensure that, where possible, people who have committed crimes of vandalism are caught, prosecuted and, we hope, convicted. An important feature of the new crime of vandalism is that about two-thirds of the cases have attracted compensation orders, which are of great benefit to the victims.
How many people convicted of the new crime of vandalism would have been convicted anyway under another part of Scottish legislation? Is this not purely a cosmetic exercise, as the offenders would have been charged anyway?
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the figures. I am surprised that, after two years, he still takes that attitude. Is he aware that SCOLAG believes that having the specific crime of vandalism brings the situation home to the offenders, the victims and the public at large?
Is not the Solicitor-General a little alarmed and annoyed by the fact that the Conservative Party chairman in Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), after four years of Conservative Government has anxiously to seek assurance that the Crown Office is doing its best to combat vandalism?
Not at all. When we introduced the crime the hon. Gentleman opposed it and said that it was purely a cosmetic exercise. It is recognised in Scotland as a useful addition to our armoury in the fight against crime, particularly when accompanied by a compensation order.
Mr. Ron Brown:
When will we deal with the vandals in the Government who are responsible for mass unemployment, cuts in our living standards and other ills? Should not the workers have the right to demonstrate, and will not demonstrations occur more frequently as the situation gets worse? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the Government will inevitably have to face a winter of discontent?