Can the Minister say how many of these pensioners were ill when they were charged, how many of them committed suicide afterwards, and whether he really thinks that this is the right way to deal with this sort of offence? At the same time, will the hon. and learned Gentleman please warn Easter shoppers not merely of the evils of shoplifting but of the grave dangers of being wrongly charged with shoplifting if they are at all careless in any self-service store?
I am afraid that I cannot provide the information asked for by the hon. and learned Gentleman in the first part of his supplementary question. I acknowledge that the offence of shoplifting depends upon the proof of dishonest intent, and I understand the importance of a court knowing of any medical condition that may be relevant at the time. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has issued guidelines to prosecuting authorities, and among those is included the recommendation that the age and mental or physical health of the offender is to be taken into account.
Will my hon. and learned Friend ensure that these guidelines are brought to the attention of store operators, in view of the distress that can be caused to elderly people by a mere court appearance when very often there was no felonious intent?
If there is no criminal intent, the offence of stealing is not made out. But I take the point that my hon. Friend makes and I shall consider in what way it can be taken forward.