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Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, yes. Indeed, since 1980 we have increased the number of secure and medium-secure places by 3,500 and there will be an additional 550. Not a single bed of that nature existed in 1980. The whole development has taken place in the past 15 years.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that although this report, like so many others, was the function and responsibility of an individual health authority, there are very important national questions associated with it and the fact that the Mental Health Act Commission is the only national organisation which has some responsibility for mentally ill people? In the light of the report, will the Government take a different view about extending the remit of the Mental Health Act Commission so that it covers people like Jason Mitchell who may wander the countryside? There needs to be a central register and understanding of their needs and case histories to enable them to be fully monitored. That does not happen at present.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, this is a very interesting report. In its introduction, Louis Blom-Cooper says that among the plethora of inquiries following homicides he believes that the report is unusual in that no one individual is singled out for blame other than
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the reasons for public concern is that the Mitchell case is by no means an isolated example, as I indicated earlier? Is the Minister also aware that this man strangled an elderly couple and, thereafter, murdered his own father and dismembered his body? Finally, is the Minister aware that only this morning a further report was published on yet another case in this category--namely, a man called Mr. Nilesh Gadher--who murdered a woman in a west London car park? Surely the reason for public disquiet is fairly obvious. People expect government action on the matter.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I believe that I acknowledged to the noble Lord that there is disquiet. That is why we have put such a huge investment into providing both secure and medium-secure beds. However, I want to reiterate the fact that one cannot always prevent such things from happening. Indeed, in the most recent case of Nilesh Gadher, although the report identifies some failings in management it goes on to say that the team did not consider that a tragedy of this magnitude was predictable. The inquiry also concluded that no one person or agency is to blame for what occurred. I believe that it is unrealistic of the people of this country to think that we can always avoid such cases. Clearly we cannot; and, indeed, they are not even on the increase.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, this information is not collected centrally. Most town centre or high street CCTV systems, although not necessarily owned or operated by the police, have links with police control rooms and arrangements with the police to view or use images for evidential, investigative or operational purposes.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the statistics that we have so far are most encouraging. I shall quote some of them from certain places at random. In the first year, Bedford, Workington, Llanelli, Brentwood, Strathclyde and Swansea recorded figures respectively of 31 per cent., 57 per cent., 34 per cent., 39 per cent., 21 per cent and 51 per cent. reductions in crime over the previous year when they did not have CCTV. The scheme was so successful in Birmingham that it was used by the police in 458 incidents, with 173 arrests directly attributable to CCTV. Finally, in Newcastle there were 800 arrests, 600 of which came to court, where 99 per cent. pleaded guilty because the evidence was so overwhelming. The remaining six defendants who did not plead guilty were in fact found guilty in court. Therefore, the statistics are seriously encouraging.
As regards civil liberties, almost every survey that has been carried out has revealed overwhelming support for closed circuit television. Indeed, in one survey only 6 per cent. of the people questioned believed that it was an intrusion into their liberty.
Lord Gisborough: My Lords, in view of the dramatic success of the system, can my noble friend the Minister say whether grants for such cameras are available for those communities which are running and financing their own security schemes?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I can confirm that they are. There was a substantial scheme last year and, indeed, there is one running at present where an additional £15 million is being made available to community schemes. I believe that over 700 bids have so far been received in that respect. They are being considered by my honourable friend in another place.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, no government money is granted to any CCTV scheme unless a code of practice has been put in place. That code of practice covers the proper use of such material, whether it is used by the police or in the courts. There was one incident involving the release of a video about which, frankly, we take a dim view. The public outcry about the release of that film was such that we hope it will be an isolated incident. However, most of the closed circuit television schemes which are in place operate a code of practice and take the release of a film extremely seriously. Indeed, it just should not happen.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, does not the success that the Minister reported confirm the importance of collaboration between local authorities and the police? Does it not also confirm that we were right during the passage of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act to secure that local authorities had an increased role on police authorities? Further, were we not right--although
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, a central plank of government policy in the fight against crime is that there should be collaboration by the whole community with the police. That includes local authorities; indeed, many of the CCTV schemes are run by local authorities in conjunction with business and commerce in their areas and in collaboration with the police. We have never said that it was not a good thing to have collaboration. I believe that the outcome in both Houses of Parliament on that legislation was the right one.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the reasons why there was such a high proportion of guilty pleas as a result of the Newcastle scheme--a scheme at which I had the opportunity to look--was the fact that, when the police indicate they are prepared to make a video of the defendant's behaviour (when he is kicking someone lying on the ground) available to the court, that person is very keen indeed to plead guilty so as to avoid the video being shown to the judge and jury?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, whatever the views of the offender, I believe that we should applaud the fact that he has been caught and that CCTV has helped to catch him. It may well be that the defendant does not wish the film to be seen. However, the fact that such a film is there to be seen does, I believe, act as a great deterrent.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say whether the statistics to which she referred about the diminution in crime as a result of such measures have taken into account crime throughout the town or city concerned? I ask that question because there is some local belief that, although crime in the city centres has diminished, crime on the outskirts has increased.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that was indeed a commonly held perception. However, the research that has been carried out simply does not support that view. Indeed, none of the recent studies suggests that displacement of crime is a problem; for example, one of the main conclusions of the study in Airdrie is that there was no evidence that crimes were displaced from the town centre to areas without CCTV. One of the reasons for that is that it allows the police to target their men and equipment more effectively because they know that one part of the area is being watched by television.
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