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Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 23 June 2015

5. If he will take steps to increase the penalties available for people convicted of burglary offences. (900489)

Since 2010, crime has fallen across the country, and in my hon. Friend’s constituency by 19%. Burglary has a disproportionate effect on victims, which is why we are pleased that custodial cases for domestic burglary have increased from 22.6 months in 2010 to 26 months in 2014.

I am pleased that the Minister is taking this crime very seriously indeed. Police forces tell us that a very small number of people commit a very high percentage of burglaries. Is it not easier to take those people out of circulation for even longer so that, very simply, they will not be able to commit those crimes?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why this Parliament has decided that the maximum prison sentence for this offence should be 14 years. It is for the judiciary to decide what sentence burglars get, but I am sure that the judiciary listens to the will of Parliament.

Many burglaries are driven by major addiction issues, so what is being done to increase the range and variety of solutions? Is there not a place for innovative solutions?

A pilot project to get rid of cautions and defer prosecutions took place in three constituencies during the last Parliament, and it is doing really well at the moment. This is exactly the sort of thing that the hon. Gentleman is talking about. People will know how the offences they have committed affect the community. We can keep them out of prison for low-level offences, but put them in prison for high-level offences.

Mandatory sentencing with “two strikes and you’re out” has had its impact on burglary. When is the Minister going to get on and implement this mandatory “two strikes and you’re out” policy for knife crime? It was introduced in January, but now we need to ensure that we set a clear implementation date rather than have the latest “as soon as possible” response from the Department.

It is right and proper to pay tribute to Nick de Bois, whose work on knife crime from the Government Benches led to legislation being put on the statute book. My hon. Friend, who knows me well, will know that I intend to implement it as soon as I possibly can.

Is the Minister aware that in the last few weeks, the Northern Ireland Assembly has discussed the prospect of mandatory minimum sentences for those who attack elderly people within our society? Does he agree that it is time Parliament sent out a loud and clear message that attacking the most vulnerable members of our society will not be tolerated? Will he meet me to discuss the prospect of introducing mandatory minimums in that regard?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the issue of mandatory minimums is devolved to Northern Ireland, but we will continue to look into it very carefully. I am pleased to say that last Thursday I met David Ford, Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister, and the Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The matter was also discussed during the Anglo-Irish summit in Dublin.