Submission from National Churchwatch
The advice that I give to Places of Worship
is that no-one has a right to enter except when entering for a
public service in a Church of England church. At all other times
people are given a licence to enter by the doors being open which
can be withdrawn at any time by someone acting on authority of
the Minister or those who are responsible for the church. If the
person refuses to leave when asked (thus becoming a trespasser)
then the police can be called to supervise the person removing
the trespasser using reasonable force if necessary. (The police
are there to ensure there is not a breach of the peace.)
The ECJA is extremely useful when dealing with
"indecent" (or in other words "inappropriate")
behaviour such as eating or smoking, men going bare-chested or
wearing a hat, or skateboarders in churchyards. Some churches
and cathedrals have printed leaflets with the text of S 2 and
an explanation of the meaning of the word "indecent",
and if someone persists in this sort of conduct, they give them
a copy of the leaflet and advise them that they might be committing
a criminal offence. This is often enough to get them to desist.
I do acknowledge that the same result might be achieved by having
printed copies of S 4A of the Public Order Act. However the fact
that there is a specific act relating to Ecclesiastical places
often gives more weight to the threat. Although irritating, these
minor breaches of good taste and decency have to be seen in the
context of a general deterioration in respect for places of worship
and ministers of religion, and the growth of crimes against persons
and property belonging to the churches.
With regard to "desecration" offences
not involving criminal damage such as the hypothetical case of
someone purloining a chalice and using it for satanic rituals
or satanic/pagan rituals being conducted in churchyards which
have occurred on occasion in Somerset/Devon. It is my opinion,
if there was no damage, these incidents are probably best ignored,
as indeed they were. It would be extremely difficult to prosecute
those who indulged in this type of conduct because there would
be no witnesses.
Statistics in relation to Recorded Church Crime
in England and Wales in 2002
The total recorded crime against places of worship
from April to April 2002 was 6,829 crimes in a sample 12 police
This is an average of 569 crimes per force area
every 12 months.
This compares with an average 431 crimes per
force in 1998 and an average of 429 crimes per force in 1999.
There are 42 police forces in England and Wales
therefore the possible recorded church crime is around 23,898
per year. This compares with 17,671 every 12 months in 1998 and
18,018 in 1999.
This represents 65 offences against Places of
Worship every day.
This is a rise of 33 per cent in four years,
above the general rate of crime.
The total number of violent crimes that resulted
in injury that occurred in our places of worship in the 12 forces
was 186. This is an average of 16 attacks per force, or a total
of 651 per 12 months around the country. This compares with an
average nine attacks per force in 1998 and 11 attacks per force
Two of these violent attacks resulted in murder.
The total number of thefts and burglaries from
our churches in 2002 was 3,595 in 12 forces, an average of 300
per force giving a national total of around 12,600 per year or
35 thefts/burglaries per day. In 1998 the average was 284 per
force or 11,644 per year. In 1999 it was 236 per force of 9,912
The total number of offences of criminal damage
against our churches in 2002 was 2,866 in 12 forces or an average
of 239 per force. The national total is therefore 10,038 or 28
crimes per day against places of worship. This compares with an
average of 17 per day in 1998 and 20 incidents per day in 1999.
The previous statistics are the crime figures
that are recorded by the police around the country. It is, of
course, difficult to assess how much actual crime occurs. To try
and assess this I am using the statistics quoted in "The
Home Office British Crime Survey 2002." In that publication
it is stated,
"It is estimated that only 44 per cent of
crimes are ever reported to the Police. Of these reports, only
50 per cent are ever recorded".
So the total number of crimes in 2002 is probably
nearer 110,000 per year or 300 crimes against places of worship
Comparison between 1998-99 crime figures
for those Police Forces that could provide both sets
||Violence 1999||Violence 2002
|Avon and Somerset||37
|Force||Theft Burglary 1998
||Theft Burglary 1999||Theft Burglary 2002
|Avon and Somerset||613
|Force||Criminal Damage 1998
||Criminal Damage 1999||Criminal Damage 2002
|Avon and Somerset||219
What is interesting to note with these figures is that Avon
and Somerset bucks the trend of 30 per cent rise in figures, by
having a much lower rise and a reduction in burglaries. Could
this be because the Bath and Wells Churchwatch is in operation
raising awareness of places of worship to crime?
Without doubt Churchwatch raises awareness of crime issues
and reduces the fear of crime which is not covered by these figures.
The amount of actual crime in our churches is difficult to
estimate. The minimum it could be are the recorded crime figures
from our police forces. However, I believe this is a gross underestimate.
As you can see in the section on actual crime there could be an
incredible amount of crime that goes unreported. I suspect that
the true figure falls somewhere in between.
Whatever the truth of the matter it is time for the church
to take positive action to prevent people in the church being
attacked and the loss of our heritage through theft and damage.
|Avon and Somerset||17||416