Inside Parliament: Lady Olga begins fearless pursuit of the Sutton posse: - Juvenile delinquents' crime spree detailed - Nadir makes an inevitable appearance

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Indy Politics
Asil Nadir was briefly eclipsed as Fugitive Number One in the eyes of the Commons by the Sutton Burglary Posse, a gang of youngsters who, MPs were told, are terrorising the prosperous south-west London suburb and remain free because of the 'soft liberal attitude' of social workers.

In the last 18 months, the gang of 12 to 14-year-olds had stolen goods worth pounds 1.5m and done damage costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, said Lady Olga Maitland, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam.

'So confident are they that they stole a printing press and ran off calling cards they leave at the addresses they rob. It says 'Sutton Burglary Posse was here, phone 999'.'

Lady Olga was introducing a Bill under the Ten Minute Rule procedure to enable magistrates to lock up young offenders below the age of 14 without having to refer the decision back to the local social services department. It will not become law.

One of the more incidental benefits she gave for their incarceration was unavoidable education. The Sutton boys might even learn that a posse was traditionally the body of pursuers, not the pursued, its definition on the streets of the Nineties. Burglary, domestic and commercial, drug dealing, car theft and ram raiding, are all in the repertoire of the dozen-strong Sutton posse.

Lady Olga said: 'If caught, they stand hands in pockets, boasting of their successes and telling the police, 'There is nothing you can do to me'. And at present they are right. More than that, they know their rights; telephoning solicitors before their parents, or calling social services in the middle of the night to get them out of the police cells.'

One Sutton ringleader had been arrested 40 times with 200 charges against him and had admitted double that number. 'On one occasion he appeared to face 21 charges - burglary, receiving, stealing cars, and so on - and all the frustrated magistrates could give him, accepting that the social workers would not put him into a secure unit, was a one-year supervision order.

'Worse, afterwards he was congratulated by his fellow posse members and his social worker for getting off so lightly. His mother was furious. She had pleaded, 'Lock him up for his own good'.'

Lady Olga said 'social workers and their political masters' should be more responsive to society's needs. She claimed that crime had been halved in Sunderland when an 11- year old with 200 offences against him was locked up.

Founder of the pro-bomb Families for Defence, Lady Olga's mere presence is sufficient to antagonise Bob Cryer, the unilateralist MP for Bradford South. Heckling, he blamed Lady Olga's tale of woe from 'quiet leafy, prosperous' suburbia on 14 years of Tory rule. The boy whose mother wanted him locked up was 'as bad as Asil Nadir', Mr Cryer shouted, while his partner Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover, suggested: 'Send him to northern Cyprus.'

The absent bankrupt and Conservative Party donor had inevitably figured in trade and industry questions. Robin Cook, the shadow secretary, demanded to know why, in the two years since Polly Peck administrators had discovered seven undeclared contributions to the Conservative Party, no charges had been brought for such an obvious breach of the Companies Act.

But Neil Hamilton, the corporate affairs minister, said such a move would have prejudiced the possibility of bringing Nadir to justice on the criminal charges against him which carried 'more draconian penalties'. He agreed with John Marshall, Conservative MP for Hendon South, that it was high time Nadir came back to 'face the music'.

Another Tory, Phillip Oppenheim, MP for Amber Valley, used a point of order to attack Clive Soley, Labour MP for Hammersmith, who on Tuesday named Michael Heseltine as the minister involved in an alleged funding deal between Saudi Arabia and the Conservative Party - denied by the Saudi royal family.

'Is it not stooping low first of all to raise an unsubstantiated allegation and secondly to raise it when the President of the Board of Trade was in no position to deny the allegation?' Mr Heseltine is in hospital in Venice recovering from a heart attack. Mr Soley listened to the point of order but did not intervene.

John Major, the Prime Minister, had virtually a Nadir-free run when he reported to the Commons on the European Community summit. Only Mr Skinner raised the issue, saying that he had not realised the summit had been about Europe because every press conference was dominated by journalists asking if Michael Mates, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, was going to be sacked. 'So I will ask him now: are you going to sack him or are you going to keep him?'

Mr Major replied: 'He may be surprised to know it was not discussed in Copenhagen.' It had been 'a practical council' concentrating on unemployment and competitiveness, and on Bosnia. He said 12 more RAF Jaguar fighters were to be sent to Bosnia shortly, but sending further ground troops was not immediately in mind.

John Smith, the Labour leader, said the Government wanted to 'turn the clock back' by opposing social progress in Europe. 'This Government ought to have as its objective the creation of a high productivity, high skill, high-wage economy, instead of seeking to compete on the basis of low costs and low skills with all the adverse consequences that would have for the people of this country.' But Mr Major said the argument that the EC had to keep down costs was widely supported at Copenhagen. 'I understand the attractiveness of improving terms and conditions of people in work. But I would have thought that people would also be very concerned to ensure the 17 million out of work (in the EC) got back into work.'

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