Retail Crime — [Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn 1:30 pm, 11th April 2019

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I will talk about the four or five solutions in a moment, but the outcome of this should not necessarily be putting more people in prison. It might actually be trying to deal with the causes of people committing offences in the first place. That scheme in Manchester is a good example of how that could be integrated, and maybe, with good practice, developed still further.

That brings me on to the question of drug and alcohol treatment orders. If, as the ACS says, 50% of repeat offenders are motivated by drug or alcohol addiction, the key is to stop the drug or alcohol addiction. The figures for community order starts for people who have been caught, convicted and given a community order show that, in 2014, which was well into the Government’s term of office, 8,734 drug treatment orders and 5,547 alcohol treatment orders were given. However, the figures last year were only 4,889 drug treatment orders—halved—and only 3,315 alcohol treatment orders, which were down by at least a third.

If I go back—dare I say it, it is a long time now, but it is still worth going back to—to the last years of the last Labour Government, in 2007-08, we gave 16,607 drug treatment orders, which is double what we had in 2014 and four times more than now. I simply say that one way we can support people is by identifying why they steal alcohol or other products for their own use. They are doing it to sell them quickly, or to satisfy their cravings. We have to have alternatives, such as that in Manchester, and drug and alcohol treatment orders, which also help.

Finally on the picture of where we are is the threshold for low-level shoplifting. As shadow Minister, I dealt with this issue in Parliament five years ago when the Government introduced a £200 threshold for low-level shoplifting under section 22A of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980, which means that people do not go to court for thefts of goods valued at up to £200. That in itself is fine, because if they are caught that might be dealt with by post.

However, this is five years on. The concern expressed to me from both outside and inside Parliament is that that has been seen as decriminalising shop thefts of under £200. That leads to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton made about police not attending, which leads to magistrates not taking cases in front of court, which leads to offenders thinking that they can get away with it. I simply say that we should look at that in detail and review this, now that we are five years on.