To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to address a reported increase in the number of robberies and assaults perpetrated by gangs on scooters or mopeds; and whether they intend to review restrictions on police pursuing suspects who are not wearing helmets.
My Lords, the Government are working with a wide range of partners to understand better the drivers of these crimes and what more can be done to prevent them. This sits alongside a review that the Government have announced of the law, guidance and practice surrounding police pursuits and response driving. In that context, I can confirm that there is no national ban on the police pursuing suspects who are not wearing helmets.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but is she aware that in the last two years approximately 30,000 motorcycles and scooters have been stolen in and around London alone, and that many of those have been used to perpetrate crimes? Does she have the statistics for two-wheel-enabled crime? What can be done to increase the arrests and prosecutions of the perpetrators, many of whom are aged between 12 and 20?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that question. We cannot be sure of the actual number of lost or stolen motorcycles being used across London to commit these crimes, but the Metropolitan Police Service reported a sharp increase in motorcycle-related offences in the year to June 2017. Recently, it has reported a fall in such crimes but it is too early to say whether that is the start of a sustained downward trend or a seasonal fall. I understand that the various partners and the Home Office had a meeting and will continue to work together to produce an action plan. As for the action that we are taking, we are working with the National Police Chiefs Council’s lead on vehicle crime, and we will be taking that forward as part of a high-level action plan to understand the drivers for such crimes.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that, quite often, crime is driven by fashion and trends? I give as an example the racially motivated crimes of decades ago, the recent acid attacks and many other types of crime that are usually gang-related. As robbery carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, is it not really the job—once the perpetrators are arrested, particularly the ringleaders—of the judiciary to exact sentences as an example to others?
The noble Lord is right that these crimes can become in themselves a fashion or a trend. With regard to the options open to the judiciary, clearly precedents can be set in respect of the types of crime committed in terms of future sentences meted out.
My Lords, I understand that the Metropolitan Police is having some success with police on scrambler bikes dealing with this type of crime, but its overall vehicle fleet is having to be cut because of budget cuts, to the extent that some criminals are being de-arrested because there is no prisoner transport available. I understand the Government will insist that they are maintaining police funding, but the Metropolitan Police says that it has suffered £600 million in cuts since 2010, with another £400 million in cuts in the pipeline. Who is right about police funding, the Government or the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis?
My Lords, as I said yesterday, police forces across the country have requested increases in funding and, as I outlined yesterday, that is what they have got, with the potential offered by some of the technologies available to them to release 11,000 police officers to do whatever jobs individual forces feel are appropriate. On the noble Lord’s point about scrambler bikes and in the context of the first part of my answer, I know that this is a particular problem in London and if police forces feel that that is the investment they should make then they should be free to do so.
My Lords, is it not terribly disturbing that the police have let it be known that quite a number of crimes are not investigated? Can we have an assurance that this crime always will be and that information will no longer be dripped out to us that burglaries and other crimes can be conducted with impunity because the police will not pursue the criminals?
One of the myths being put about was that police are not pursuing drivers of motorcycles who are not wearing helmets. In fact, that is not the case at all: there has been no ban on police pursuing people without helmets. It is an operational matter for the police what they prioritise at local level.
My Lords, in the light of that answer, perhaps the noble Baroness can explain why the young people concerned are taking off their helmets. More particularly, she talked about increased funding. Why is it, then, that the Home Office refuses to pay the full amount of compensation to the Metropolitan Police for its national and international functions, although it has agreed the sum of money which is due? Is that not reducing the Metropolitan Police’s ability to deal with crimes such as this?
My Lords, in answer to the question of why people are taking off their helmets, I assume that it is in order not to be pursued. That is why I made the point that police are absolutely at liberty, in pursuit of fighting crime, to chase people who are not wearing a helmet. On full compensation, if the noble Lord is amenable, I shall write to him on that point.
My Lords, I have spoken to police officers in London who have made it clear to me that they are very reluctant to chase suspects on scooters without helmets on, for fear of the suspect falling off and suffering injury or even death. What new measure are the Government going to bring into place to deal with this appalling crime? Also, can she assure the House that all intelligence, surveillance and investigative measures at the disposal of the authorities are being brought to bear to deal with this crime?
My Lords, in terms of the police saying that they will not chase people who are not wearing helmets, in every pursuit case, the police weigh up the various risks of chasing people. There may be an incident where the police are unwilling to chase somebody who is not wearing a helmet because of the safety of other people. In terms of using all the options, following the round table held last summer, the Home Office is drawing up an action plan to consider the various ways in which we can tackle this issue, because it is not a single-agency issue. The Home Office is also drawing up a review which is due to report shortly.