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The Boston experience is often mentioned here, but I do not think it has been mentioned yet this evening. It is worth reminding the House that there was a significant increase in the number of young homicides in Boston, on the east coast of the United States, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The community united under the leadership
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of the local governor and mayor and put together the Boston gun project, which had a remarkable impact in reducing the number of young homicides. I believe that the number of such violent deaths fell by more than 60 per cent. as a result of that operation and the sentencing changes that were introduced, and that the reduction was sustained for several years. It is a great shame that part 8 of the Bill, which deals with the introduction of violent offender orders, does so little to seek to get to grips with the problem.

I want to touch on two other parts of the Bill. Part 4, which covers young offenders and prisons, is, I fear, another missed opportunity. Last month, Stoke Heath young offenders institution near Market Drayton—in the constituency north of mine—erupted into the second major disturbance in 12 months. I visited it in the summer and saw for myself the overcrowding, which has led directly, in my view, to that problem. Over 30 per cent. more young people are incarcerated in Stoke Heath than it was built for. A building programme is under way to provide more places, but that is woefully late. The problem that that causes for the inmates there is that they are unable to spend the amount of time that they are expected to spend, which should be provided, going through the basic education and basic rehabilitation that will make them better equipped when they are released to fit into society and to minimise their prospects of reoffending.

There is a major challenge for all those involved in seeking to rehabilitate our young offenders and, again, that is not addressed in the Bill. The youth community sentencing that is set out in part 1 does not go anywhere near addressing the major challenges. It is a sticking-plaster to try to assist with soft, low-level crime. It does not deal with the harder issues that are caused by increasing drug-related crime.

Drug offences have risen 43 per cent. to almost 195,000 in 2006-07. Of those who enter into custody, some 55 per cent. are established problem drug users. In some prisons, that is up to 80 per cent., but the drug treatment and testing orders have failed to help those individuals to get off drugs and to kick their habit. Eighty per cent. of those who are issued with DTTOs reoffend within two years. What is needed, and what is missing from the Bill, is a serious proposition for this country to provide facilities to rehabilitate drug offenders. That would have far more impact on reducing crime and reoffending than the youth community sentencing in part 1.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): I totally concur with what my hon. Friend says, but does he share my concern about the ready availability of drugs within the prison system? Does he think that the Government have done enough over the past decade to deal with what is an epidemic?

Mr. Dunne: I am grateful for that perceptive point. I agree that drugs are readily available within the prison population, and the Government seem to have nothing in the Bill to seek to address that problem.

There are rehabilitation formats that work. I have an excellent one in my constituency in Willowdene Farm, which has an exemplary track record in getting people off drugs. Many of them have offended and gone to that place following a prison term. However, the Home
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Office budget for the drugs intervention programme has been cut 13 per cent. this year. It is currently £149 million. It was over £170 million last year. That is another example of the Government saying that they are going to try to do something and the controller of the purse strings, our new Prime Minister, cutting resources to the Home Office. Consequently, the Home Office is having to make cuts in those programmes. [Interruption.] Does the Minister wish to intervene?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker) indicated dissent.

Mr. Dunne: Clause 114 is a seemingly innocuous clause about the inspection of police authorities and grants the Audit Commission wide-ranging powers to inspect the performance of police authorities. The present powers are limited to compliance with best value.

That raises a few suspicions in my mind. It was the police authorities, along with a number of hon. Members and a small number of courageous chief constables that led the resistance to the outrageous proposals to regionalise our police forces last year. I have a nasty feeling that this is the Government's way of getting back at police authorities. It is a classic example of the centralising tendency of this Government to seek to impose from the centre their will on bodies over which they do not at present have complete control. That is another missed opportunity. Instead of seeking to control police authorities in the same way that policing priorities are controlled from Whitehall, the Bill should be looking at a much bolder option—providing genuine local accountability to our police forces by introducing, for example, elected police commissioners. That would give local people a real opportunity to direct police priorities to reflect the problems in their areas.

One of the issues that I have noticed during my parliamentary service has been the degree to which our police are directed by the prevailing urban preoccupations of Whitehall to seek criminals for crimes that do not exist in many rural areas. Local accountability through an elected police commissioner would deal with that centralising problem. That is another opportunity that the Bill has missed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I say to the House that time is running out and a large number of Members are seeking to catch my eye? If hon. Members could take less than their allotted 10 minutes, it would be helpful to me and to their colleagues.

8.50 pm

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): I rise to support the Bill, which contains many measures that we welcome in my constituency. I particularly welcome the commitment that we had from the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), to introduce a new crime outlawing homophobic hate crimes, which will be welcomed by many in the Christian community and across all other faiths.

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The Bill will bring in violent offender orders, of which we have heard much today, and will extend the existing crackhouse closure powers. That is particularly appropriate in Reading, because Reading borough council and the local police authority were the first to use the crackhouse closure powers with good effect. We have banged down many doors in Reading and shut down establishments that were making life a misery for law-abiding citizens who lived nearby.

I am pleased with, and will note with interest, the development of the youth rehabilitation orders. I agreed with some of the response to my intervention on the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies) in terms of the quite scandalous rates of reoffending in our young offenders institutions. It was my privilege at the Labour party conference to share a platform with the Minister of State on that subject. I commend to all hon. Members the excellent work of the national grid scheme, which is providing apprenticeships for young offenders to learn a trade and to be able to compete in the employment market once they have completed their sentences. I accept that prisoners are cherry-picked to go on the scheme—it started life in Reading prison, which is why I am highlighting it—reoffending rates have been cut from 70 per cent to 7 per cent. Give them a future, training and the chance of a job and there is a very good chance we might see those concerned not walking back through the doors of a prison or young offenders institution in the future. That is the way forward.

I really want to talk about part 6 of the Bill, which is the culmination of a three-year campaign to try to bring justice for Jane Longhurst, who was brutally murdered by Graham Coutts, a self-confessed addict of violent internet pornography. We do not want justice for Jane through the criminal justice system, because Coutts is doing a very long time in prison and both of his appeals, I am delighted to say, have been rejected. We want justice for Jane through the parliamentary system because, frankly, the internet has changed everything.

The extreme material that will be outlawed by the Bill covers acts and imagery that are already illegal under the Obscene Publications Act—legislation that was introduced in an age before computers and the internet, to deal with newsagents and publishers. We cannot go after the publisher of material if it is from an internet site whose server may be based in Guatemala and contains, produces or puts into cyberspace images of young women being captured, raped live on camera and sometimes killed to feed this evil trade and to promote private profit and sexual gratification. We have to go after the imagery itself. We must build on the successful legislation that has outlawed images of child pornography. If we cut that end of the market, we start to deal with the trade, and that is exactly what part 6 of the Bill—a part that is well crafted, sensible and well thought through—seeks to do.

I have received opposition, as have my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (David Lepper) and others, from groups claiming to represent the bondage, domination and sado-masochistic communities. I have learned that they organise themselves into munch clubs—I do not want to go any further into that. Let me make it clear to them that nobody is seeking to
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introduce a new level of censorship; we are talking about imagery that is already illegal. If people want to do weird things to each other they still can, but I say, “Don’t put it on the internet.” I do not need to see it and nor do my constituents—and, more importantly and seriously, those of an unbalanced mind who could be tipped over the edge by violent and extreme imagery do not need to see it, and we do not need to live with the consequences of their actions if they were to see it.

Those of us who have been involved in the issue and this three-year campaign on it are aware of the background, but it might be useful if we were to set out some of the steps that have led to our being, I hope, able to celebrate the start of the passage of these measures into legislation. The House has not had an opportunity to debate this issue in full since the Adjournment debates secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion in May 2004.

On March 14 2003, Brighton schoolteacher Jane Longhurst was horrifically murdered by a self-confessed addict of violent internet pornography. The murderer, Graham Coutts, admitted watching sites featuring necrophilia and violence against women only hours before he killed Jane. He was jailed for life and his appeals against the convictions were rejected. Anyone who saw the CCTV images broadcast on regional television of Coutts revisiting the storage unit where he kept Jane Longhurst’s body can be left with no other impression than that dark and evil forces were at work in the mind of that individual. Jane’s mother, Liz, comes from Reading, which is why I am involved. She is convinced that had it not been for the corrupting effect of extreme internet sites her daughter would still be alive today.

Outside Lewes Crown court on the day that Graham Coutts was first convicted of Jane’s murder, Liz Longhurst appealed to the public and politicians to begin a campaign to protect vulnerable people from extreme images of the rape, torture and murder of women for sexual gratification and private profit. On March 8 2004, there was an event in Reading to mark international women’s day, at which the Jane Longhurst campaign against violent internet pornography was launched. It attracted the support of 180 Members of all parties for early-day motion 583, and 50,000 people signed a national petition which it was our privilege to present to Parliament as part of the consultation that was launched by previous Home Secretaries. We attracted the support of Amnesty International; that support was crucial in building a high profile for this campaign. Much more needs to be done, but this is a good start.

Ideally, we would like blocking measures that prevent access—they now exist—to be brought in. We would like all PCs to be fitted with a blocking mechanism before they are sold on the open market—as cars are automatically fitted with seat belts. An obvious measure would be to go after the banks and credit card companies whose processing of payments lubricates this evil trade.

It will be fitting if I end by quoting from a letter that Liz Longhurst sent today to me—in fact, she really sent it not to me, but to all Members.

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and that of my colleagues—for

I would like all Members to reflect on her concluding words:

I urge all Members to support this Bill and to help not only to protect vulnerable people from the consequences of extreme pornographic imagery, but to truly achieve justice for Jane once and for all.

9 pm

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I am disappointed with the Bill before us this evening for three reasons. First, it does not deal with the problem of illegal immigrants going missing when they jump out of the back of a lorry. Secondly, there is not enough in it about making parents responsible for their children’s misbehaviour. Thirdly, nothing in it promotes, on the justice enforcement side of the equation, the status of persistent and prolific offenders, whom, on the Home Office side of the equation, the police are obliged to pursue. In no more than five minutes, I want to run through why those issues are of concern to people in Kettering.

In the middle of September, an incident occurred in Northamptonshire whereby 16 illegal immigrants jumped out of the back of a lorry. Three of them were apprehended by Northamptonshire police, who telephoned the Border and Immigration Agency, only to be told, “Let them go. Let them make their own way to the Border and Immigration Agency office in Croydon,” which they then did. The Northampton Chronicle and Echo rightly picked up on the outrage that this story caused in Northamptonshire. To think that illegal immigrants had been apprehended by the police, who were then effectively told by another agency to let them go. I was advised earlier in the debate that provision might be made in the UK Borders Bill for filling this loophole. I hope that in the winding-up remarks that guarantee will be given. If it is not, I hope to table an amendment to this Bill to ensure that this procedure does not happen in future.

There is some attempt in the Bill to address the problem of youth misbehaviour, but there is not nearly enough about making parents responsible for the criminal activity of their youngsters. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Dunne), I had the privilege of serving on the police parliamentary scheme, spending 22 days with the Northamptonshire force. One message that local police officers consistently sent to me was that there was very little in the way of sanction that they could impose on youths under 16 committing criminal offences. I said to them, “If the law were changed so that you could serve a fixed
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penalty notice not on them, but on their parents, for the offence that those youngsters had committed, would that make your job easier?” The universal response was, “Yes, it would.” At the moment, there is effectively a gap in the law whereby no one, neither the youngster nor their parents, is made responsible for their criminal activity.

The third issue is persistent and prolific offenders. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), has pursued it thoroughly, but I want to draw the House’s attention to it. The police are given targets for pursuing those known as persistent and prolific offenders—PPOs, to use the jargon. On the wall of Kettering police station, for example, are pictures of all the PPOs in the north Northamptonshire sector whom the police know about. They are pursuing them and they do catch them, but when they bring them before the courts, all too often they are released on bail to commit further offences. It seems to me that the definition that is applied by the police is not being used in the Courts Service. I want this Bill to address that issue, so that known troublemakers can effectively and quickly be locked up, and so that they do not commit crime again.

9.4 pm

Dr. Desmond Turner (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab): I will try to make my contribution brief, and it will also be uncharacteristically sycophantic. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor will not hear a word of criticism from me. He is going to receive pure, undiluted praise, because he promised in his opening speech that the Government would amend this legislation to include a new offence of incitement to hatred for reasons of sexual orientation. What had been intended to be an impassioned plea to the Government to take action will now be a message of absolute, undiluted gratitude.

The Government have already legislated to provide for an offence of incitement to racial hatred and to religious hatred, and that has paved the way for protection on the grounds of sexuality. In Northern Ireland of course, the offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexuality has already been instituted. That was done by the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) in his previous incarnation as a Northern Ireland Minister, and it has incurred virtually no controversy nor has it led to a rash of frivolous prosecutions. In other words, it has been accepted and understood, and we should extend that offence to the rest of the UK.

It is only right that the protection that we already afford to potential victims of hatred because of their race should be extended to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals who are as unable to choose their sexual identity as they are to choose their race. I note with sadness that the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who spoke on behalf of the Opposition, did not tell us what approach they will take to the provision. It would be nice to know whether they will support a measure that I hope will have universal agreement in this House.

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It is not intended that incitement legislation should lead to a rash of prosecutions in the rest of the UK. Rather it should set out the basic principle, which should deter all but the most ardently homophobic, that it is not socially acceptable to incite hatred against gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transsexuals. They have equal civil and human rights with anybody else. Indeed, incitement to hatred for whatever reason should be totally unacceptable in a civilised society.

This is a piece of legislation whose time has come. It will complete a raft of legislation on equalities that the Government have pursued over the past 10 years. I shall not recite the whole list, but outstanding examples include equalising the age of consent, rights to enter the forces, civil partnerships and the banning of discrimination in the provision of goods and services on grounds of sexuality. The pressure group Stonewall, which has provided invaluable support as well as putting pressure on the Government, has seen its agenda virtually completed. With incitement to hatred for reasons of sexuality, we have the final piece of the jigsaw on the table ready to be inserted.

If anyone still doubts the need for protective legislation, they need only look at what is happening around them. Look for instance at some of the allegedly Christian websites in the UK. Christian Voice speaks of

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