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Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further action his Department is taking to prevent vandalism to mosques in (a) London and (b) the UK; and if he will make a statement. [112242]

The vandalism of any place of worship, particularly when this stems from racial/religious hatred, is a despicable crime. The Government are committed to tackling hate crime, whatever form it takes.The criminal law already contains a wide range of powers to deal with these types of offences. This includes, under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the ability for courts to issue higher sentences to perpetrators of crimes motivated by racial or religious hatred.

Under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, where the value of criminal damage is more than £5,000, the maximum penalty for those aged 18 and over is 10 years whilst for juveniles aged 12–17 it is a detention and training order of up to a 24 months.

These measures send a clear message that the Government will not tolerate these types of crimes.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), working with the Government, have also developed guidance for police forces on dealing with these types of crime. This guidance is entitled "Identifying and Combating Hate Crime" and was last updated in April 2002.

Additionally, ACPO has produced an operational guide for the anagement of inter ethnic conflict, which will ultimately aim to improve officers ability to understand, communicate and interact with many diverse communities.