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Murder (Prosecutions)

Volume 22: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1982

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how many cases involving murder have been prosecuted in Scotland so far in 1982.

There have been 20 cases involving a charge of murder prosecuted this year during the period up to 31 March, involving 30 accused.

Will the Solicitor-General confirm that, while crimes of violence as a whole went up in 1981, the number of homicides went down, and that over the past two decades there has been no increasing trend in the number of homicides? Therefore, does he agree that the campaign now being waged by the Police Federation, while unjustified in the United Kingdom as a whole, is entirely inappropriate in Scotland?

I can confirm that the number of reported murders in Scotland last year fell from 200 to 190. In the House there are deeply held views on the reintroduction of capital punishment. I accept that if one looks at the crude statistics in Scotland, it is difficult to reach a firm decision one way or the other.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the reintroduction of the death penalty, particularly for the murder of policemen or prison officers, would be warmly welcomed in the country and might do a great deal to deter violent crime in Scotland?

I know that my hon. Friend has taken that view in the past. I accept that there is a widespread feeling in the country that if capital punishment were to be reintroduced for these specific offences, it might have a significant deterrent effect. However, I am not sure that this is an appropriate occasion on which to enter into discussion on this difficult and delicate subject.

Will the Minister confirm that he joined Labour Members in voting against the reintroduction of capital punishment when it was last considered by the House and would he do so again?

It was not a matter of my joining Labour Members. I took a decision on that vote at that time. There are delicate and difficult decisions to be reached on this matter. If the House reconsiders the matter on another occasion, I shall reconsider my position.