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Durham Prison

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) male and (b) female prisoners have died (i) in each of the last five years and (ii) in December 1997 at HMP Durham. [26225]

Ms Quin: The table shows how many male and female prisoners have died in each of the last five years at Durham prison. In December 1997 one death occurred.

Deaths of prisoners at HMP Durham

YearMale prisoners (Number of deaths)Female prisoners (Number of deaths)
19931--
1994----
19952--
19962--
19973--

Persistent Young Offenders

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to measure the effectiveness of his Department's measures to reduce the time from arrest to sentencing for persistent young offenders; and if he will collect regular and prompt statistics on the interval between arrest and sentencing. [26149]

Mr. Michael: Since coming to office, the Government have carried out a survey of persistent young offenders dealt with by the youth justice system in 1996. That survey indicated that in 1996 the average time between arrest and sentence for persistent young offenders was 142 days. The Government are committed to halving that figure to 71 days. To monitor progress towards that pledge, we are ensuring that systems are put in place to

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produce regular data on the time between arrest and sentence for persistent young offenders. In March of this year, we will also be contacting all Youth Courts to find out what progress has been made locally to tackle delays and to establish fast tracking arrangements for persistent young offenders. It is intended that the monitoring of a clearly identified group of persistent offenders will ensure that it is clear whether our objectives are being met. However, it is intended that the youth justice system will also fast-track those who would be regarded as persistent on common-sense judgment but who fall outside the monitoring definition of "persistent offenders"--for instance "spree" offenders. We will ensure that the youth justice system hits the real targets.

Altcourse Prison

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners have been transferred into Altcourse Prison, Fazakerley since 1 December 1997; [26072]

Ms Quin: At 28 January 1998, 14 prisoners had been transferred to Altcourse prison since 1 December 1997 directly from another prison; all were transferred at their own request.

At 28 January 1998, 3 prisoners had been transferred out of Altcourse to another prison since 1 December 1997, of whom 2 had requested their transfer.

Right to Silence

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact of the reform of the right to silence as implemented by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994; and if he will assess the advantages of returning the law to the previous position on the right to silence. [26297]

Mr. Michael: The Home Office Research and Statistics Directorate has been monitoring the effects of the 1994 right to silence legislation since its introduction. The findings of the first part of the research, published last December, covered the changes in the frequency of the suspect's use of the right to silence in police interviews. The key findings were a significant reduction in the use of right to silence in police interviews. This reduction applied to both the number of suspects giving complete "no comment" interviews and those who refused to answer questions on a selective basis. The research also shows that those accused of serious offences still exercise their right of silence more frequently than other criminals. The second part of the research is due to be published in the spring and will look at the wider impact of the provisions on the criminal justice system. I shall take a close interest in the findings of this research.

Bail Support and Enforcement Programmes

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he has (a) introduced and (b) planned since 1 May 1997 to extend bail support and enforcement programmes. [26300]

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Ms Quin: Clause 29 of the Crime and Disorder Bill places a duty on local authorities, acting in co-operation with other local agencies, to ensure that bail support for juvenile defendants is available in their area. The youth offending teams established by local authorities under clause 30 will be able to provide the support themselves or oversee the placement of the bailee with an appropriate community programme or voluntary sector provider.

Asylum Seekers

Kali Mountford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list those countries from which he considers people need not claim political asylum. [26347]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: In accordance with our international obligations, we consider all applications for asylum in the United Kingdom on their merits and against the criteria for recognition as a refugee contained in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Anyone who satisfies those criteria will be granted asylum.

Mr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to accommodate asylum and immigration detainees in Scotland in premises other than HM Prisons; and if he will make a statement; [25218]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Due to the relatively low numbers of persons held in Scottish prisons under sole immigration powers, it would be difficult to justify a custom built facility solely for Immigration Act detainees. However, further discussions are being held with the Scottish Prison Service to explore any possible alternatives.

A number of letters has been received from members of the public and interested groups urging support for Early Day Motion 253, which contains an amendment seeking the construction of an immigration detention centre at Glasgow airport.

Mr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will list the privately-owned detention centres used for the accommodation of asylum and immigration detainees in terms of (a) size and (b) ownership and location; and if he will make a statement; [25215]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Tinsley House Detention Centre at Gatwick Airport, Sussex, is leased by the Immigration Service from Lynton PLC and has 150 detention spaces.

Campsfield House Detention Centre at Kidlington, Oxfordshire, and Harmondsworth Detention Centre near Heathrow Airport are both owned by the Home Office and have current capacity for 110 and 91 detainees respectively.

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Firearms (Compensation)

Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many outstanding unpaid claims there were for compensation under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 on 21 January. [26218]

Mr. Michael [holding answer 29 January 1998]: On 21 January 1998, there were 18,482 claims awaiting processing under Options A and B and 10,411 claims awaiting processing under Option C, the great majority of which are mixed claims on which the Options A and B elements have been paid.

The total number of claims received as of 21 January under Options A, B and C was 40,078.

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many applicants under the terms of the 1997 Firearms Amendment Acts for compensation for pistols, revolvers and accessories have (a) served notice on the Home Office stating intention to sue for payment and (b) issued proceedings in the county courts, listing in each case (i) the number of guns involved, (ii) the name of each court and (iii) the current state of the action; [26553]

Mr. Michael [holding answers 30 January 1998]: The number of claimants indicating an intention to sue for early payment of firearms compensation is not recorded. County Court proceedings have been issued in four such cases, as follows:

CourtNumber of guns involvedCurrent position
Ilford2Case struck out as disclosing no reasonable cause of action
Cheltenham3Awaiting hearing
Norwich8Awaiting hearing
West London2Subject to Appeal

The Appeal in the fourth case above is by the Home Office against a District Judge's refusal to strike out the case as disclosing no reasonable cause of action. A further case, before a Sheriff Court in Scotland, has been struck out. Under Order 38, Rule 1(3) of the County Court Rules and Order 62 Rule 3(3) of the Rules of the Supreme Courts, the normal practice in interlocutory applications is that costs are borne by the unsuccessful party. Standard correspondence from the Treasury Solicitor warns Plaintiffs of this, especially where a case involves a litigant in person who may be unaware of the rules relating to costs.


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