Article: Parliament crime figures

I wrote this article based on two FOI requests made to the House of Commons and Lords security service. The detailed incident logs and correspondence will be posted shortly.

Commons thieves walk off with MPs’ valuables – and a sandwich
The Sunday Times, March 27, 2005
By Heather Brooke

The Houses of Parliament have been revealed as rich pickings for thieves, with more than £150,000 worth of valuables stolen in the past four years, including MPs’ computers, solar panels and jewellery.

Newly released documents show thieves strike on average at least once a week. There have also been a number of outbreaks of vandalism, including £100 worth of damage to a bust of John Smith, the late Labour party leader.

The crime figures are compiled by SO17, the branch of the Metropolitan police that guards the Palace of Westminster. One of the most serious problems is the number of knives and gas canisters that have been found on people entering parliament.

The figures released under new freedom of information laws reveal that in 2003-04, 333 knives were seized by police at the entrances to parliament, compared with 64 in 2001-02. Police seized 52 gas canisters, two batons and a knuckle-duster last year.

The number of crimes is coming down, however, though their prevalence will still raise concerns about the effectiveness of security. There have already been well publicised breaches of systems.

Last year hunt protesters were able to walk onto the Commons floor, and Tony Blair was hit by a bag of purple flour thrown by campaigners calling for more rights for fathers.

A bullet-proof barrier now separates the public from MPs and searches have become more vigorous. The statistics show theft is the most prevalent offence, although there have been falls in the past two years.

There were 60 recorded crimes in the Palace of Westminster in 2003-2004, compared to 100 in the previous year. The most recent ones included two bomb threats and one threat to kill.

Theft made up the majority (36), followed by malicious communication (13). The largest loss in 2004 was an alleged £31,000 deception in March, which is believed to have involved a catering contract.

The items stolen include an emerald brooch worth £500, silver trinkets valued at £235, solar panels worth £2,000, chocolate bars worth £240 and a £2 sandwich.

In 2003-04 there were eight arrests for criminal offences, including one for threatening to kill an MP.

The report said a “remarkable tally” of offensive weapons had been seized but this may be due to improved searches and an increase in visitors.

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