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Circus Animals

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 with respect to circus animals; and if he will make a statement. [107731]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We have made no formal assessment of the effectiveness of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 with regard to circus animals. In 1998, there were 1,107 prosecutions made under the Act, but these figures do not show details of the animals involved or the profession of the defendants. The figures do, however, confirm that the Act--which covers all domestic and captive animals--is frequently used, and we have been given no reason to doubt its general effectiveness.

Circus animals, when being trained and performing, have additional protection against cruelty under the provisions of the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925.

Anti-Irish Discrimination

Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action his Department is taking to tackle anti-Irish discrimination. [107588]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I should make it clear that Irish people already receive the protection that current legislation provides. The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful for anyone to discriminate against another on ethnic grounds. Successful complaints in relation to discrimination against the Irish have been brought by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) resulting in compensation payments and agreements by organisations to change their practices. A Bill currently before Parliament will amend the 1976 Act by extending it to the functions of public authorities not currently covered by the Act. The Bill will also put a statutory duty on public authorities to promote racial equality.

It is also an offence to incite ethnic hatred against the Irish community by virtue of part III of the Public Order Act 1986. Racist violence and harassment towards members of the Irish community falls under the new racially aggravated offences in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

The Government are also addressing the specific issues of discrimination and disadvantage faced by some sections of the Irish community. These were highlighted in the CRE's Report, "Discrimination and the Irish Community in Britain" which has been the subject of a number of discussions which I and my colleagues across Whitehall have been having with the Irish Ambassador and representatives from Irish organisations.

One of the major issues was a recommendation that there should be a separate Irish category in the ethnic origin question in the next Census in 2001. The Draft Census Order for England and Wales was laid before Parliament on Monday 10 January. It includes an ethnicity question with a category for "Irish" cultural background in the "White" section.

We will continue to look carefully at other concerns to ensure that the Irish community has full access to the rights and opportunities.

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WRVS (Prisons)

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list those prisons in which the WRVS deliver services, and the nature of the services. [107580]

Mr. Boateng: The invaluable support which the Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) offers to the Prison Service covers a large part of the prison estate with around a hundred prisons benefiting from the work of WRVS volunteers. The services provided by the WRVS include the provision of supervision for children's visits to parents in prisons; the running of prison visitors' centres and their tea bars; and the development of toy libraries for visiting children. In view of the differing needs of prisons, the development of partnerships with the WRVS is undertaken by individual establishments. Detailed information about the use of volunteers in prisons is not available centrally, however, a survey of all prisons is being undertaken with a view to establishing more specific information about their use of volunteers.

Prison Visits

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to use a computerised booking system for visits to prisoners. [107581]

Mr. Boateng: The use of a computerised booking system will be looked at during the course of a review of visits policy. Its feasibility will also be examined as part of the Prison Service public/private sector partnership project, Quantam, which aims to deliver improved services through the effective use of information technology.

Prisoners (Money)

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the permitted methods for families to send money to prisoners; and if he will make a statement. [107579]

Mr. Boateng: Families can send money to prisoners by cheque, postal order or cash. Under Prison Rule 43(3), prisoners' money must be held in an account under the control of the governor. Postal orders and cheques therefore, should be made payable to the governor of the prison and the sender of the money must always be identified.

Child Pornography

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many individuals were prosecuted for offences in connection with child pornography on the internet in each year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [107574]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Offences involving child pornography on the internet would be prosecuted under either section 1 and section 6 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 as amended or section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 as amended.

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However, court proceedings data received centrally under this legislation do not specify the type of medium used.

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The table shows the number of persons prosecuted under the above legislation.

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Number of persons prosecuted at magistrates courts for child pornography offences, England and Wales, 1994-98

Take, or make indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children(2)405380111116
Possession of an indecent photograph, or pseudo-photograph, of a child(3)5360125124167

(2) Protection of Children Act 1978 section 1, section 6 as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 section 84

(3) Criminal Justice Act 1988 section 160 as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 sections 84(4) and 86(1)

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Fox Hunting

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what considerations lay behind his decision to include in the membership of the inquiry into the economic impact of fox hunting individuals with a record of support for fox hunting. [107618]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I refer to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend, the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) on 1 February 2000, Official Report, columns 504-06W. The members of the inquiry team were recommended on the basis of their knowledge and expertise. They have been appointed to provide a view on the issues before the Committee. These extend beyond the economic impact of hunting with dogs.

Home Detention Curfew Scheme

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were tagged in the latest 12-month period for which figures are available; and what number and percentage broke the terms of their tagging order. [107617]

Mr. Boateng: In the period from 28 January 1999 to 26 January 2000, a total of 19,164 persons were subject to a curfew with electronic monitoring. Of these, 16,242 were released from prison on Home Detention Curfew under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The remaining 2,922 were monitored under a range of other provisions.

As of 26 January, of the 16,242 offenders placed on the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme, 766 have had their licences revoked by the Secretary of State and a further 41 have been referred to the courts either by the Probation Service or the police for breach action (807 in total, amounting to 5 per cent. of all offenders placed on HDC).

Of the 766 offenders whose licences have been revoked, in 517 cases the offender had been in breach of the curfew conditions, in 226 cases it was no longer possible to monitor the offender's whereabouts electronically, in seven cases the offender was deemed to present a risk of serious harm and in 16 cases the licence was revoked under section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 following a breach of the non-curfew conditions of the licence.

Of the 2,922 persons monitored under the other provisions, a total of 353 (12 per cent.) have had their curfew order or curfew condition revoked by the courts. Information on the reason for the revocation is not centrally available.

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Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what offences were committed by prisoners released under the Home Detention Curfew scheme who re-offended while on the scheme; and if he will make a statement. [108098]

Mr. Boateng: As of 31 January 2000, the Prison Service had received notification of 174 curfewees who had been charged with an offence committed while subject to the Home Detention Curfew scheme. A breakdown of the offences committed by these curfewees is shown in the table.

This breakdown has been prepared from information supplied by police forces and drawn from the police national computer. Further analysis of re-offending by those subject to home detention curfew is currently underway as part of a long term evaluation of the scheme, including the procedures for notification of further charges to the Prison Service by the police.

Overall, the Home Detention Curfew scheme has been a success, with 95 per cent. of curfewees completing their period of curfew licence. However, we are not complacent about any re-offending on curfew and the scheme is strictly enforced. Where a prisoner does commit a further offence while subject to curfew, he or she is in breach of their licence conditions, and may be recalled to prison, in addition to the possibility of additional sentence for the new offence.

Offences curfewees charged with while on home detention curfew

Offence typeNumber
Burglary, theft and shoplifting (including Taking without consent and taking and driving away)62
Driving and traffic offences15
Breach of the peace (including drunk and disorderly)14
Drug offences13
Handling stolen goods/deception10
Criminal damage10
Threatening behaviour8
Breach of a court injunction or restraining order3
Possession of an offensive weapon3
Going equipped1
False imprisonment1
Indecent exposure1


Where a curfewee was charged with more than one offence, they appear in the table next to the most serious offence. The table excludes cases where, following initial notification, the Prison Service was informed that charges had been withdrawn.

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