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Vandalism

Volume 12: debated on Wednesday 11 November 1981

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41.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how many prosecutions the Crown Office has initiated on charges of vandalism.

The precise number of cases where proceedings have been instituted by procurators fiscal under section 78 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 are not recorded separately and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. But I am able to say that during the period from the beginning of April to the end of September this year over 400 cases of vandalism were subject to compensation orders in which the compensation ranged from £5 to £400, and that the total amount of those orders exceeded £25,000.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that full answer, but will he examine the present campaign of civil disobedience being conducted by the Scottish National Party? Does he agree that it resembles less the conduct of Mahatma Gandhi than the behaviour of teenage hooligans chucking bricks at greenhouses only to defy authority?

I deplore the concept of civil disobedience, whoever uses it. I am glad to say that those who attempted to get into what is about to be my office were arrested.

Does the Solicitor-General for Scotland recall that an undertaking was given in Committee on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act that the statistics for those new offences would be monitored? Therefore, is it not shameful that he now says that no statistics are being kept? Does he know of any offence prosecuted under vandalism that would not have been prosecuted under the old categories of breach of the peace or malicious mischief? Does he agree that this is all cosmetic window dressing with no real meaning?

I am confused by the references to window dressing, window breaking, and cosmetics. However, it has concentrated the minds of the public and the judiciary and has been a useful reform. The naming of crimes is important. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall take steps to see that during the monitoring process we collect figures that will be helpful to him.

In view of the widespread concern about the extent of vandalism in Scotland, it is surprising that the hon. and learned Gentleman has not adhered to his promise about statistics. Is he aware that he will have the support of the whole House in ensuring that from now on such statistics are kept and made available?

The Act has been in force for only a short time. The annual statistics that are collected and published are not yet available, but I will ensure that these trends are contained in the figures and that the House has full information about the great benefit of the introduction of this offence.