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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 2 November 2001

HOME DEPARTMENT

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the average cost to the police of applying for an antisocial behaviour order. [9480]

Mr. Denham: Based on a survey of 21 cases conducted in April this year, the average cost of an antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) was calculated to be £4,800. This is the cost to either the police or the local authority and includes the staff costs associated with evidence gathering, preparing the case and attending court. It does not include dealing with appeals and breaches. Fuller details will be included in the review of ASBOs which we are aiming to publish by the end of the year.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) for what reason no statement was made at Home Office questions on 22 October in respect of the under-reporting of antisocial behaviour orders; and when he plans to make a statement; [11794]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 1 November 2001]: In response to a written question on 22 October 2001, Official Report, column 71W, I did in fact state that there had been some under-reporting of antisocial behaviour orders, and that we would be undertaking a one-off reconciliation exercise to establish its extent. I intend to announce its results in due course.

Police

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on plans to change the status of plain-clothed police officers to uniformed officers; and if he will make a statement. [5786]

Mr. Denham: We want to enhance the visibility of the police in a common-sense way as part of our programme for police reform. This means that, on some occasions, officers will be in plain clothes and, on others, in uniform. The decision on how this should be applied rests with local management.

Officers in uniform and in plain clothes are equally important and valued in their different roles: uniformed duties should not be regarded as of lesser status.

Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers have (a) retired and (b) joined since 1997 in (i) east Sussex and (ii) the Senlac division. [9864]

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Mr. Denham: The Sussex police are unable to provide information on either recruitment or retirement at divisional level since 1997. East Sussex is an integral part of the Sussex police. Information on recruitment and retirements is therefore for the force area as a whole for the four years to March 2001.

The table sets out recruitment and retirement figures for the Sussex police. Information on retirement and recruitment for the first six months of 2001–02 will be available in December.

YearRecruitmentRetirements
1997–98135128
1998–99109127
1999–2000101107
2000–01206106

Islamic Fundamentalists

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to review the criminal law relating to common purpose with reference to the issues of (a) terrorism and (b) the activities of Islamic fundamentalist extremists; and if he will make a statement. [10084]

Mr. Denham: I have no such plans at present. I outlined the legislative steps necessary to counter the threat from terrorism in my statement to the House on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 923. However, the Law Commission is conducting a major review of the whole area of inchoate offences and secondary liability, which will include this area.

Speed Cameras

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will outline the type approval process for speed cameras and publish the operational guidance he has given to the police to avoid motorists being punished for errors caused by camera malfunction. [11217]

Mr. Denham: Any manufacturer wishing to seek type approval for a new speed camera device may approach either the Home Office or the Association of Chief Police Officers. The device in question will need to meet an operational need and either represent a technical advance or introduce greater competition into the market.

The Association of Chief Police Officers' Road Policing Enforcement Technology Committee considers representations from manufacturers seeking type approval. Where the Committee is satisfied that basic requirements are met, field tests are carried out and the Home Office, working with independent laboratories, conducts rigorous technical tests to ensure that the device is robust and reliable and that it can produce accurate readings or images under a variety of extreme conditions. The Home office has published handbooks for manufacturers about the procedures for type approval, outlining the requirements and specifications.

The Home Office provides a type approval order for any device which fully meets the specifications, and the device is approved for police use from the date of the order.

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Operational guidance to the police concerning all road enforcement issues, including malfunctioning devices, is provided by the Road Policing Enforcement Technology Committee, and I am placing a copy in the Library. The Committee is reviewing the current guidance and will publish new Codes of Practice for forces towards the end of this year. Advice to police forces is that they should abandon any prosecution where there is doubt about the reliability of the device involved in providing the evidence.

CCTV (Northamptonshire)

Mr. Tony Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of the impact of CCTV on the level of crime in Northampton. [11279]

Mr. Denham: Police operational experience and various research studies show that Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) has considerable crime reduction and detection potential, particularly when used as part of a wider strategy.

The Home Office has made no formal evaluation of the effectiveness of CCTV in Northampton. However, the Northampton Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership consider that CCTV has contributed to the 5.9 per cent. overall fall in recorded crime in Northampton last year.

Northampton's existing CCTV system was recently expanded, with £155,000 funding from the Crime Reduction Programme CCTV Initiative, to include Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology. According to figures provided by the Partnership, since the introduction of ANPR, vehicle-related crime in Northampton has decreased by 21.6 per cent. against the same period last year. The scheme has led to 346 arrests as well as the recovery of 31 stolen vehicles and property worth £150,000.

In the first six months of the introduction of CCTV at Sixfields Leisure Park car park, Northampton, last year, there was a 40 per cent. reduction in theft of cars and a 50 per cent. reduction in theft from cars.

Further funding of £148,000 to expand the Northampton CCTV system to cover three residential areas has recently been approved under Round 2 of the CCTV Initiative, to target burglary, vehicle crime, antisocial behaviour, drugs offences and youth crime.

Car Phones

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance has been issued to police who stop people who are using a hand-held mobile phone when driving. [11787]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 1 November 2001]: There is no specific offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, and accordingly no guidance has been issued. Existing legislation places the responsibility on drivers to have proper control of their vehicles at all times. Any motorist who fails to do so, for whatever reason, is liable to be prosecuted by the police. Drivers may be charged with failing to exercise proper control of a vehicle, careless and inconsiderate driving, or even dangerous driving, if using a mobile phone causes them to drive in such a manner.

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In line with the commitment given in the Road Safety Strategy we are keeping under review the case for specific legislation. At present, however, we share the view of the Association of Chief Police Officers what existing legislation provides sufficient powers to prosecute successfully any driving offences that may arise from the use of mobile phones. Our focus is therefore on raising awareness of road safety risks.

Crime Targets

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason the goal to increase by 100,000 the number of recorded crimes for which an offender is brought to justice has not been met; if he has plans to revise this target; and if he will make a statement. [11796]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 1 November 2001]: As the White Paper "Criminal Justice: The Way Ahead" made clear, the criminal justice system-wide target to increase by 100,000 the number of recorded crimes ending in an offender being brought to justice has been set to be met by 2004.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to make changes to the definition of "brought to justice" for the purposes of departmental targets; and what factors will be taken into account in his decision. [11795]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 1 November 2001]: I have no plans at present to change the definition of "brought to justice" used in the attrition target.


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