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Criminal Damage (Compensation)

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2008

6. What the timetable is for the implementation of the proposed compensation schemes relating to criminal damage in Northern Ireland. (204421)

I intend to issue a consultation document in June on proposed changes to the criminal damage legislation as it applies to community halls. Subject to that consultation, I intend to lay a draft order in the autumn.

I thank the Minister for the series of meetings that have taken place between my DUP colleagues and the Orange Institution on this serious matter, and also for the positive outcomes that have been achieved thus far. Can he confirm that he would expedite the process, should there be a continuation of this despicable campaign to destroy Orange halls?

I welcome the constructive engagement of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues and of the leadership of the Orange Order. The most important thing was to ensure that we minimised the attacks on Orange halls, and I am pleased to say that, to date this year, there have been only eight attacks, compared with 58 last year. That is an improvement. We will bring forward the proposals for proper consultation and bring them into effect in due course.

Does the Secretary of State agree that it is long past time for meaningful change to be made to facilitate the claims of victims, who up to now have had to prove often impossible parameters in regard to their claims? Does he agree that, where there is clear evidence of a co-ordinated attack on an Orange hall or on Gaelic Athletic Association premises, for example, a statement from a senior policeman to the effect that there has been a co-ordinated, syndicated conspiracy should be enough to prove entitlement?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. One of my prime objectives over recent months has been to ensure that the existing compensation scheme works more effectively so that where there is evidence of an illegal organisation’s involvement, a Chief Constable’s certificate should be issued, and where three or more people are conspiring to create damage, compensation should be paid. I am trying to make the present system work more effectively, as well as to extend the provisions as I have outlined.