Criminals (Public Castigation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11 March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight 12:00, 11 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce provisions for the public castigation of criminals in their own communities.

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

It is already the case that the judge or magistrate passing sentence in open court is giving public expression to society's condemnation of the criminal behaviour that has led to the conviction.

Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight

In view of the dastardly attack on an 81-year-old widow by three 10-year-old girls on Monday this week, has my hon. Friend had time to read the ten-minute Bill that I introduced in 1988 which imposed penalties on the parents of young criminals? Is not it time that the names and addresses of young thugs were exhibited in their community so that their families shared in their actions and the penalties that they have incurred?

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

I recall my hon. Friend's ten-minute Bill. It was an important contribution to the debate on truancy, vandalism and young offenders. Of course, it was entirely unsurprising that so many Opposition Members voted against it. I do not agree with my hon. Friend that it would be right to label children publicly as criminals. It would tend to glamorise what they had done in many cases. However, he will be aware that the Criminal Justice Act 1991 involves parents more closely in the misdemeanours of their children and in paying fines for under-16s.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith

In the context of general wrongdoing, is not there a great deal of evidence to suggest that, rather than castigating people in the community, offenders should be made to compensate the community? That is better for both the offender and the community. For example, if people had their pond cleared out and wrongly benefited from that, or built an extension on their house wrongly, they could be made to dig out the village duck pond or build an extension on the community hall. Would not that be a good moral example to set the country?

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

That depends largely on the crime, but, as the hon. Gentleman will know, community penalties under the 1991 Act are tougher than they previously were and, more importantly, are subject to national standards of enforcement and control.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Does my hon. Friend agree that humiliation is an important element in deterring the commission of crime and that if all that happens to delinquent children is that they are privately cautioned time and again, that element of humiliation will never deter them from further crime?

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

As my hon. and learned Friend knows, 87 per cent. of juvenile offenders who are cautioned are not reconvicted within the next two years. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State is addressing the more fundamental problem of persistent juvenile offenders which no doubt will be considered in legislation that will come before the House in this Parliament.