|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Keith Bradley: First of all I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy for the Taylor family who still have many questions left unanswered despite an intensive police investigation and a lengthy trial.
My right hon. and noble Friend the Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith) has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to look into the handling of the case, to consider whether there are implications for the conduct of future cases and to make recommendations. Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate will be involved in the review. In particular, the Director has been asked to
15 May 2002 : Column 701W
examine whether the time has come to introduce a system where, before trial, interviews of certain key witnesses are conducted by the prosecutor in a limited category of cases. The review will report by mid-summer.
In June 1998 the Government published "Speaking up for Justice", a report of an interdepartmental working group on the treatment of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses in the Criminal Justice system. It proposed a coherent and integrated scheme to provide appropriate support and assistance for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses. Key recommendations include a range of special measures available for use at the trial including:
clearing the court, in certain circumstances, so that evidence can be given in private;
removal of wigs and gowns;
video recorded statements to replace the evidence-in-chief;
video recorded pre-trial cross-examination;
live television links;
assistance with communication if necessary, including the use of an intermediary.
Implementation of the special measures is imminent and they will be an improvement on the current arrangements. In January I announced a phased implementation programme starting on 24 July this year. In the Crown court all the special measures will be implemented for vulnerable witnesses, with the exception of intermediaries and pre-trial cross-examination which will be subject to pilot projects. The same measures, with the added exception of video-recorded statements, will be implemented at the same time for intimidated witnesses.
In magistrates courts implementation of special measures in July 2002 will be restricted to television links and video recorded evidence for child witnesses in cases involving sexual offences, violence (including threats) and cruelty. This will provide protection for children in cases involving assaults, muggings and domestic violence. It will also bring the adult magistrates courts into line with the current provision in the Youth court. Most of the measures will be extended to magistrates courts by 200304 (after their evaluation in the Crown court) to bring them in line with the Crown court.
15 May 2002 : Column 702W
A practice guide on early special measures meeting between the police and Crown Prosecution Service and meetings between the Crown Prosecution Service and vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. From July, prosecutors will meet vulnerable witnesses to discuss special measures that can be taken in connection with their giving evidence.
On the wider front, Sir Robin Auld's Review of the Criminal Courts was published in October last year which resulted in a public consultation. The report contains 328 recommendations and makes wide proposals for reforming the courts and their proceedings. The Government is looking at the report and the results of the consultation carefully as well as other ideas for modernising the criminal justice system. We will publish a White Paper setting out our proposals for the way forward shortly.
Beverley Hughes: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave about the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights to my hon. Friend for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on 25 April 2002, Official Report, column 438W.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will announce his decision on the funding of policing costs which will be incurred by Greater Manchester police in connection with the Commonwealth Games. 
15 May 2002 : Column 703W
procedures to be followed in prisons, for inmates considered as possible suicide risks; and if he will make a statement. 
Beverley Hughes: A three-year strategy was launched in February 2001 following the Prison Service's review "Caring for the Suicidal in Custody", which recommended a radical move from awareness to prevention, including a commitment to reduce self-inflicted deaths in prison. The strategy embraces targeted, preventative measures within a holistic approach that seeks a supportive prison culture based on good prisoner/staff relationships; a physically safe environment with reduced opportunities for self-harm; and strong multi-disciplinary partnerships within prisons, with the courts, police and other criminal justice partners and with voluntary agencies particularly the Samaritans. Related work is tackling bullying and violence.
The strategy focuses additional resources where the risks are highest such as the busy local prisons. Included in the strategy is a "care of prisoners at risk" project which is reviewing procedures and processes for identifying and supporting prisoners at enhanced risk. New procedures are being developed and will be trailed later this year.
Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the range is of life sentence tariffs; and what the average tariff for (a) women and (b) male prisoners convicted of murder is. 
Beverley Hughes: Tariffs for murderers range in length from four years to whole life. Excluding whole life tariffs, the average length of tariffs set for women currently serving mandatory sentences for murder is 13 years one month, and for men 14 years two months.
Mr. Keith Bradley: Civil law governs questions of ownership of property, and that it is a matter for my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. The criminal courts consider questions of ownership on the facts of each case, in the light of the applicable law. The Government have no plans to review this area of the law.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|