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Police (Out-of-court Settlements)

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the out-of-court settlements agreed to by police forces in the UK since 1 January 1998, broken down by police force, indicating in each case the recipient, the amount agreed and the reason for the settlement; what process exists for police forces to make a decision to settle out-of-court; how the public are informed of such decisions; and if he will make a statement. [128516]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Information is available centrally only on the number and total amount of settlements agreed in 1998-99 before proceedings were initiated or after court proceedings were commenced but before final judgment, including payments "without accepting

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liability". The available information has been placed in the Library for each force in England and Wales by type of action. 1998-99 was only the second year in which forces were requested to supply this information and the information provided is not complete.

The process by which a force agrees to settle a case out of court is one for the force and its insurers (where it has employer and public liability cover). This will be based on an assessment of the cost and likelihood of successfully defending an action. Forces are accountable to their police authority for their handling of these cases. The Government's response to the Home Affairs Select Committee's report in 1998 on the Confidentiality of Police Settlements of Civil Claims supported the view that forces should publish information about civil actions in their annual reports.