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Burglaries: Prosecutions And Convictions

Volume 416: debated on Monday 2 February 1981

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2.38 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many burglaries and housebreakings were reported in the Greater London area during the most recent 12 months for which figures are available; how many of these have resulted in convictions of one or more of the people concerned; and in how many cases are prosecutions pending.

My Lords, the latest year for which all the relevant information is available is 1979. In that year in the Metropolitan Police District about 118,000 offences of burglary were recorded by the police; it is not known how many of these offences resulted in convictions but in the same year the number of persons found guilty of burglary in the Metropolitan Police District was about 8,700. Information is not collected centrally on the number of cases in which a prosecution is pending. There is no separate offence of housebreaking.

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the enormous disparity between the number of these offences and the number of convictions for them over the same period indicates that perhaps more police effort needs to be concentrated on the protection of the home and property of the citizen than is done at present?

My Lords, if I may say so, I think that there is a double responsibility. There is—this is a matter for the chief officer of police of the area—the question of the police responsibility, and in this connection I know that the Commissioner is anxious to take steps, and is taking steps, that will result in more officers being released from administrative duties. This policy, combined with the increase in the strength of the Metropolitan Police that has taken place, means that there will be more policemen on the streets preventing crime. The other responsibility is a responsibility of members of the general public to make houses more difficult to break into.

My Lords, why are the Government surprised that there is more robbery on the streets when so many people are unemployed?

My Lords, I am not aware that there is a direct connection between the two. Perhaps the noble Baroness would like to draw the connection to my attention.

My Lords, is not the suggestion made by the noble Baroness a very grave slander on the unemployed?

My Lords, at the present time I do not think that we should pursue this.

My Lords, are any figures available for the detection rate in respect of these crimes? Of course, such figures would not, unhappily, always coincide with the conviction rate, which is rather a different matter. But if information is available about the detection rate, am I right in thinking that, broadly speaking, the percentage of detection has kept pretty well in line with the percentage increase in crime? If that is so, we may be reasonably reassured about the efforts of the police.

My Lords, I did not give the clear-up rate, as we call it, to my noble friend in reply because my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked about the number of convictions and, as the noble and learned Lord says, the clear-up rate does not, of course, always equate with that. But, broadly speaking, what has happened is that, taking the 10 years 1969 to 1979, the number of offences committed has increased enormously, from 77,000 to some 118,000. Therefore, the clear-up rate has declined from some 18 per cent. in 1969 to some 12 per cent. in 1979. However, I would just add that over the last five years, 1975 to 1979 inclusive, the number of convictions secured has averaged about 8,900, which is very much in line with the figure which I gave to my noble friend in my first reply.

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister in a position to say how many crimes are committed by persons who are already on bail awaiting trial?

My Lords, not without notice. However, if the noble Lord would care to have a word with me about this, I shall see whether I can help him.

My Lords, can the noble Lord say how many of these offences were committed by children?

My Lords, can my noble friend explain what is meant by the "clear-up rate"?

My Lords, the clear-up rate indicates to what extent offences are finally cleared up. That does not always mean securing a conviction.