Incitement to Racial Hatred

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd May 1995.

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Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 12:00 am, 22nd May 1995

To ask the Attorney-General what assessment he has made of the operation of the law of incitement to racial hatred with particular reference to section 18 of the Public Order Act 1986. [23910]

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

The offences created by part III of the Public Order Act 1986, of which section 18 is but one, provide very full powers for investigation, prosecution and punishment of incitement to racial hatred.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Will the Attorney-General confirm that he is looking at the additional information that I have sent to him about Mr. Bernard Manning and his comments to the police in Manchester? Will he also confirm that the House passed the amendment, as it was then, to the 1986 Act, as it is now, with the precise intention that the Attorney-General should intervene in cases of racial incitement? Will he also confirm that, in such a case, the Attorney-General has the important duty to intervene and help the police in order to take the necessary prosecution, otherwise we would have passed the Act for no purpose?

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

I am very surprised at the hon. Gentleman's comment in view of the fact that on 3 May my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, in a written reply, invited the hon. Gentleman to send any evidence he had about a criminal offence to the chief officer of police involved. When I inquired this morning whether any such letter had been received, I was notified that none had. In case the hon. Gentleman does not appreciate it, the Attorney-General's role in the Public Order Act is to give consent in appropriate cases; it is the function of the police to investigate.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier , Harborough

Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that 16 out of 21 applications put to his chambers by the prosecuting authorities under section 18 have been accepted? Will he also confirm that his Department and all prosecuting authorities will do their best to ensure that, if the evidence exists, those who are guilty of offences are prosecuted?

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that there is no lack of will to prosecute. The up-to-date figures in respect of applications under part III of the Public Order Act are as follows: There have been 21 applications, 16 have been granted, four were declined and one is under consideration. The House will be aware that in the everyday experience of the courts, most racially-motivated crime falls into the category of criminal damage, assaults or offences under part I of the Act. Offences under part III of the Act are only a small proportion of the whole.