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Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
The Home Secretary will recall the case in Leicestershire, when he criticised the lack of speed with which the police dealt with a complaint of antisocial behaviour. Is he satisfied that once such matters are brought to the attention of the police, there is sufficient contact between them and the
local authority, at a high enough level, to ensure that they act swiftly to deal with any outstanding issues of that kind?
Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend raises the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington and her children. It is clear that in the two and half years since that happened, dramatic improvements have been made by Leicestershire police, but the coroner pointed out the failures at the time.
On the second point, I am not yet confident that all police forces in all police authority areas are giving the necessary priority to this issue. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and I have asked the crime reduction partnerships to ensure that by March we have a version of the policing pledge applicable to antisocial behaviour, so that people-wherever they live-can depend on a minimum standard of response and diligence on this issue. That is the right way to ensure that we have consistent standards across the country.
Although local authorities and youth offending teams have been able to issue parenting orders since 2004, they have not been used widely enough, despite their proven effectiveness. Under the proposals set out in this Bill, when the courts issue an antisocial behaviour order against a young person, they will be required to consider that child's parenting needs. If that antisocial behaviour order is breached, a parenting order will be automatically triggered. The requirements imposed on parents by the courts will vary, from requiring them to address their drug or alcohol problems, or attend intensive parenting classes, to supervising their child at certain times of the day or night.
In addition, this Bill will address gang violence among young people. Although the numbers involved in violent gangs are very small, the damage they do to their communities, not to mention their own lives, is immense. The Policing and Crime Act 2009 gives police and local authorities new powers to issue injunctions to prevent gang violence. In bringing forward that legislation, we considered carefully whether such injunctions should also be extended to under-18s. Our conclusion at the time was that we needed to explore in more detail, along with the Youth Justice Board and other key partners, how such legislation would address the issues that were specific to children and young people. In particular, we needed to ensure that as well as offering greater protection to communities, such injunctions would also divert young people from long-term involvement in crime.
The Crime and Security Bill will therefore set out how gang injunctions can be applied to 14 to 17-year-olds. As with such injunctions for over-18s, they can be used to prevent the young person from going to a particular place, from meeting with other gang members or from using dogs as weapons to intimidate their community. But critically, they will direct young people towards targeted support that will help to address any underlying issues-problems at home or school, drug or alcohol abuse-that may be contributing to their unacceptable behaviour.
One of the most important elements of this Bill is the greater protection it will give to victims of domestic violence. Although incidents of domestic violence have
fallen by 64 per cent. since 1997, and the conviction rate is rising, it still accounts for 14 per cent. of all violent crime and its impact continues to ruin the lives of women and children. Having been apprehended by the police, but released, a perpetrator of domestic violence has little to stop him returning to the family home. The victim then faces a stark choice between enduring further abuse or leaving their home altogether, which is why domestic violence remains a significant cause of homelessness among women. Domestic violence protection orders will give the police powers to ban the attacker from the home of their victim for up to 28 days, providing vital respite for victims to consider their options. Thus it will not be the victim who is forced to leave her home-as is too often the case at the moment-but the perpetrator.
Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): Obviously domestic violence protection orders are important, but I cannot see in the Bill what the penalty will be for breaching one. Can the Secretary of State help us on that?
Alan Johnson: Breaching a domestic violence protection order would be like breaching an injunction-we used to use injunctions for those purposes until a Court of Appeal ruling a few years ago-and we envisage that the punishments would be the same. The similarity with an injunction should guide the committee.
Mr. Llwyd: Can the Secretary of State please elaborate on what he is saying and tell the House why a domestic violence protection order is different from a non-molestation order under the Family Law Act 1996?
Alan Johnson: I am not equipped to go into the fine detail about that-unlike my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism, who will be equipped to do just that in Committee-but as hon. Members from both sides of the House will realise, we thought that there were effective tools to use in those cases, but they were found to be ineffective because of those Court of Appeal rulings. Since those rulings were made three or four years ago, we have been looking seriously at replacing those tools with domestic violence protection orders.
Over the past few years, we have made huge efforts to cut police bureaucracy. Thirty-six data collection requirements have been either removed or significantly reduced. Scrapping activity-based costing alone has saved around 260,000 hours of police time. The foot-long stop-and-account form has gone, saving another 690,000 hours. The Bill will advance that agenda by significantly reducing the length of the stop-and-search form. Under current legislation, when the police stop and search a suspect, they have to record the person's name-or a description, if the person refuses to give their name-the details of any vehicle stopped and whether any injury or damage to property has been caused, even though the question is not applicable in the vast majority of cases. Under the proposals outlined in the Bill, the police will still be required to record the date, time and place of the stop. Officers will also
continue to record the ethnicity of the person involved. It will still be possible to monitor the police's use of stop-and-search both locally and nationally, and to hold them to account accordingly, but without the added burden of the unnecessary and time-consuming requirements of the current form.
Keith Vaz: I am most grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way a second time. Of course we welcome the proposals to reduce bureaucracy and the work that has been done by Jan Berry on behalf of the Home Office. However, I wonder whether he recalls that I wrote to both him and his predecessor about the Staffordshire example, whereby the local police force reduced the bureaucracy involved in the recording of information, and asked that that good practice be transmitted to other police authorities. We do not have to wait for legislation to make a move on that, do we?
Alan Johnson: So says an MP from Staffordshire. The Staffordshire example is a good example that is being rolled out across the country. However, my right hon. Friend will know that it sometimes takes an interminable amount of time to get best practice spread out among 43 different police forces. However, even despite the best practice in Staffordshire, I still think that we should use this opportunity to reduce bureaucracy through legislation, as we did with those two other over-long forms.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): Can the Home Secretary clarify one point? My understanding is that under the current rules if a vehicle with a number of occupants is stopped and searched, the police officer has to fill in a separate form for each occupant and a separate form for the motor vehicle. What will the situation be now?
Alan Johnson: If a motor vehicle is involved, a separate form for that vehicle will have to be filled out by the officer. The problem at the moment is that even if a vehicle is not involved, the police officer has to fill out a form that is applicable to one being involved. Whether we are talking about doing all four occupants in the car at one hit is another matter, but we must seek to reduce the bureaucracy to a bare minimum.
One major feature of the Bill is the proposed new framework for the retention of DNA records. No one in the House can doubt that the development of DNA profiling has had a profound impact on the police's ability to bring to justice the perpetrators of some of the most horrific crimes. That was underlined yet again when Paul Hutchinson was convicted just before Christmas of the 1983 murder of 16-year-old Colette Aram, the subject of the first ever appeal on the television programme "Crimewatch". Hutchinson was traced only because DNA had been taken from one of his relatives, who had been convicted of a minor offence in 2008.
Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab):
In my constituency, where a young woman was brutally murdered more than a decade ago, the DNA record allowed a person who probably would have gone free to be brought to
justice and put inside. I know that my right hon. Friend is only just beginning, but we have not heard any data in the House for the past two years about the number of crimes cleared up due to such records. The number for the first 10 years was well over 250,000. Does he have more up-to-date figures?
Alan Johnson: I do, and I will give my right hon. Friend exact figures. I believe that it is about 400,000 now, but I will update the House and ensure that- [ Interruption. ] The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) says from a sedentary position that it is going down. Crime is going down. The total number of detected crimes in which DNA match was available decreased by 11 per cent. between 2003-04 and 2008-09. Over the same five-year period, police-recorded crime fell by 17.1 per cent. That is why the number of DNA matches is going down.
Mr. Field: But is the number not also going down for an even more obvious reason? There was a stock of crime that was not cleared up. When the DNA of people who commit further crime is related back to the stock, it clears up those crimes. Under normal procedures, one would expect that, over time, the number of crimes cleared up due to the keeping of historical data in the data bank would decline. It seems obvious.
Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are now discussing something on which I thought all parties in the House agreed: the benefits of DNA. DNA was a British discovery, by the way. We have not even got to discussing how long information is kept, and already we are seeing signs of opposition from those on the Conservative Benches.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): No one in the House disputes the importance of keeping the DNA of guilty people; it is the indefinite keeping of innocent people's DNA that is at issue. However, I wanted to make a particular point. Much of the unhappiness about keeping the DNA of innocent people would be avoided if there were a clearer, consistent national system for the removal of innocent people's DNA from the database. At present, it varies from one police authority to another, and the unfairness breeds discontent.
Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, which is why the Bill contains provisions, which I will discuss in a moment, to deal with that. She is also right that the issue at the moment is the benefit of DNA to the police and other authorities in detecting and deterring crime.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): The Home Secretary knows that nobody disputes the value of DNA in solving cold cases as well as current crimes, but there is one figure that I would like him to confirm or deny. It relates to the holding of the DNA of innocent people-people who have not been found guilty and were released after arrest. Just over a year ago, the Prime Minister attributed the clearing up of 114 murders to such DNA. In other words, as a result of holding the DNA of previously innocent people, the police cleared up 114 murders. Is that correct, and if so, will the Home Secretary provide a list of them?
Alan Johnson: The right hon. Gentleman says-this is the third time that I have heard it-that no one is disputing the advantage of DNA. I am stuck at this part of my speech because so many people have disputed it. We hear from a sedentary position that the numbers are coming down. The combination of the right hon. Gentleman's question and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) means that I should provide some statistics to the House, because the statistics are interesting. I do not happen to have in my speech the one for which the right hon. Gentleman asked, but I have some others that he will find of interest.
I mentioned Paul Hutchinson. We can also take the case of Matthew Fagan. In 2006, he was sacked from a London company. In January 2007, he returned to the offices at the weekend to steal computers and was disturbed by a former colleague, Cathy Marlow, whom he brutally murdered. A significant factor in Matthew Fagan's conviction was that DNA retrieved from under Cathy Marlow's fingernails matched his profile, which was on the database because he had previously been arrested but not convicted for a disorder offence.
There was also the case of Abdirahman Ali Gudaal, arrested in July 2006 for robbery, but not convicted. His DNA was sampled and his record retained. In June this year, he was found guilty of the brutal rape and kidnap of a woman in Coventry, his DNA having matched samples found at the crime scene. Those are two examples of people who had been arrested but not convicted, and who subsequently committed brutal crimes, who would not have been brought to book without the DNA database.
In a recent debate, the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats on this issue, described such cases, including the tragic case of Sally Anne Bowman, as "anecdotal". They are, of course, the personal tragedies that make this legislation necessary, and the response of the hon. Gentleman's party is woefully inadequate.
David Davis: I am afraid that the Home Secretary did not answer my question. Of course the individual cases that he mentions are incredibly important; indeed, I shall refer to some of them if I am lucky enough to catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker, and deal with them- [ Interruption. ] I shall do so despite the heckling from the Home Secretary's colleague. The simple fact is that the Home Secretary has not answered my question about the Prime Minister's assertion that 114 murders were solved as a result of previously innocent people's DNA being checked. Is that figure right or wrong? If it is right, may we have a list of those cases?
I told the right hon. Gentleman that I would provide the House with statistics, and I have given two examples. Actually, even if there were only one example of a vicious murderer or rapist being brought to book in this way, I know that many Conservative Members would believe that this was worth doing- [ Interruption. ] Hon. Members are asking me to give names. I will provide the information that the right hon.
Gentleman wants, but I have already given the House two very dramatic cases that would not have been solved under the policy being put forward by the Liberal Democrats, which we now know means that no one who is innocent and not convicted could remain on the DNA database.
"That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Crime and Security Bill because the retention of the DNA of innocent citizens, which is the centrepiece of the Bill, is unacceptable."
Yet their policy is to retain the DNA of innocent people. At least the Lib Dems, whose policy on this was overturned at their conference, say that we should not keep anyone's records. At least their policy is clear. The Conservatives' policy is actually contrary to their own amendment. They think that people who have been arrested for, but not convicted of, less serious charges should not remain on the DNA database, but that those who have been arrested for, but not convicted of, serious offences should remain on it. The most recent research shows that there is no difference between the two in regard to what is known as the hazard curve, and to the propensity of those people to be arrested again.
Alan Johnson: So far as I am aware, only one country is currently looking at that possibility: the United Arab Emirates. For reasons of sheer practicality, no Government of any persuasion in this country would introduce such a scheme. That does not in any way suggest that the Opposition are right to- [ Interruption. ] The hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) can chatter away on the Front Bench, but the simple fact is that their policy is to have innocent people on the DNA database, despite declaring that it is wrong to do so. Their problem is that there is absolutely no research to show that those people are more or less likely to be re-arrested than those who are arrested but not convicted on less serious charges.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): I am slightly mystified by the position that the Home Secretary has taken. He just told the House that he thought it was crucial for the clearing up of crimes that this innocent DNA should be held on the DNA database. Will he kindly explain to us, then, why he does not have a consistent policy-it probably would get through the ECHR-of having every single person in the country giving their DNA?
Alan Johnson: First, I do not think that that would be proportionate. Secondly, we do not have compulsory vaccinations in this country for similar reasons. The thought of having to hold someone down to take a swab from the inside of their cheek because they were reluctant to give one is something that no serious politician could suggest. However- [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Ashford says from a sedentary position that we do that all the time. I do not know which policies he has been looking at, but we do not hold anyone down to take human material from them. We would not do that, just as other countries would not propose having a compulsory system.
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