Racist Attacks

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West 12:00 am, 20th April 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the level of racist attacks. [18356]

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

The Government are determined to tackle racial violence wherever it occurs. I am aware of recent deplorable incidents in the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency. I know that the police give the highest priority to investigating those crimes.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

I thank the Minister for his statement of intent, but the number of racial attacks has doubled since 1988. The Government have failed to carry out the recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee that they should introduce a separate offence with higher penalties, and the Government have done nothing to tackle the attacks in my constituency and elsewhere. If they are not prepared to accept the Select Committee's report, what are they prepared to do?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

The hon. and learned Gentleman, who is usually a fair man, knows in his heart of hearts that what he has just said to the House is not the case at all. The Government have taken action. We have introduced a power of arrest for those who distribute racially offensive material and, in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, we introduced a specific offence of intentional harassment.

The hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that it would not be sensible to create a separate specific racial attack offence. It would create yet another hurdle for the Crown Prosecution Service to have to prove that there was racial motivation.

We have referred many of the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee to the new racial attacks group which has been reinstituted.

Photo of Mr Michael Stephen Mr Michael Stephen , Shoreham

Is my hon. Friend aware that Her Majesty's judges already have the power to regard racial motivation as an aggravating factor, and that they can and do impose greater penalties in cases involving that?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that valid argument. There have been several recent successful convictions for violence involving racial motivation. In one such case, the Lord Chief Justice himself emphasised that racial motivation was a severely aggravating factor. Therefore, in those cases, the courts can impose very severe sentences indeed.