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Green Minister

Sue Doughty: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office who his Department's green minister is; when they (a) have attended and (b) plan to attend meetings of the Green Ministers' Committee; what the outcomes of meetings were for his Department's activities; and if he will make a statement. [65986]

Mr. Alexander: The Cabinet Office's Green Minister is Douglas Alexander who was appointed to the ENV (G) Committee in June 2002. Having only recently been appointed he has yet to attend any of the Committee's meetings, but intends to do so in the future.

It is the established practice under exemption two of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information not to disclose information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committees.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Mr. Tom Harris: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will publish a revised list of ministerial responsibilities. [68177]

Mr. Alexander: The Cabinet Office has today published a revised List of Ministerial Responsibilities. Copiers have been placed in the Libraries of both House and in the Vote Office. The list is also available on the Cabinet Office website:

Female Staff

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what percentage of the staff of his Department are women; and what the percentage was in June 1997. [66918]

Mr. Alexander: Data on staffing levels is not available for June 1997 as it is only collected twice a year, as at 1 April and 1 October. We are currently in the process of collecting the data for 1 April 2002.

For current figures I would refer the hon. Member to the document on staffing that was released on 21 February 2002. For figures as at 1 April 1997 I would refer the hon. Member to Table 1D of Civil Service Statistics 1997, which was published on 29 January 1998. Copies of both the documents were placed in the Libraries of the House at the time of publication.

The Civil Service Reform programme is aiming to achieve a dramatic increase in diversity, whereby all individuals are valued and encouraged to maximise their potential. As part of this, targets have been set for 2005 to tackle under-representation in the Senior Civil Service, and departments have set targets across all grades. The Head of the Civil Service reports to the Prime Minister annually on diversity.

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Judge-directed Acquittals

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General what action has been taken to reduce the number of (a) judge-ordered and (b) judge-directed acquittals since 1999. [60203]

The Solicitor-General: In 1999, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) introduced an adverse outcome analysis system. This provided CPS areas with a consistent means to identify reasons for adverse outcomes and also to allocate responsibility of any failure. This information is collated centrally.

For the last seven years, many areas of the CPS have had in place, with the police, a system of joint performance management that involves an appraisal of Crown Court acquittals, including those ordered and directed by the judge. This process has provided areas with information showing particular trends and a means by which improvements can be made.

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The Crown Prosecution Service produces quarterly summaries of unsuccessful case outcomes from information drawn from its various case tracking systems. This year the CPS and the police have begun to develop a joint case outcome analysis which builds on these two processes and will focus on avoidable case failure. Under this system, the reasons for judge-ordered and judge-directed acquittals in individual cases will be jointly assessed for individual training needs and other joint strategies for performance improvement.

The process will be supported by more sophisticated management information following the introduction of the CPS' Compass Case Management System due to roll out between April and December 2003.

The figures in the following table show a fall in judge-directed acquittals from 1,777 in 1999 to 1,471 last year, a reduction of 17.2 per cent. Over the same period judge-ordered acquittals rose from 9,616 to 11,825, an increase of 23 per cent. Much of this increase can be attributed to recent changes in procedures. Since January 2001, the prosecution, unlike before, have been able to discontinue cases in the Crown Court. Although this is a prosecution decision, the current system records these as judge-ordered acquittals.

Judge-ordered and judge-directed acquittals, 1999–2002

1999–2000 as % of completed cases2000–01 as % of completed cases2001–02 as % of completed cases
Judge-ordered acquittals9,61611.110,14512.311,82514.0
Judge-directed acquittals1,7772.01,7552.11,4711.7

Abandoned Prosecutions

Dr. Ladyman: To ask the Solicitor-General how many prosecutions were abandoned before trial in the last year for which figures are available. [64433]

The Solicitor-General: During the year ending March 2002, the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued proceedings in respect of 171,381 defendants in the magistrates courts, and 26,418 were bound over without trial. Proceedings were written off in respect of 73,084 defendants, usually because the police could not trace the defendant.

In the Crown Court, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to offer no evidence in cases involving 11,825 defendants, while a further 1,461 were bound over without trial. In addition, proceedings were written off in respect of 1,590 defendants.

Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Solicitor-General what plans she has (a) to give the CPS a greater role in the investigatory stage of cases and (b) to encourage it to assess the evidence earlier. [64436]

The Solicitor-General: The reforms of the CPS since this Government came into office in 1997 mean that the CPS now works more closely with the police. But there is more to do. Since February this year, pilot studies have been conducted to assess the practicability of Lord Justice Auld's recommendation that the Crown Prosecution Service should determine the charge in all but minor, routine offences or where, because of circumstances, there is a need for a holding charge.

The pilots are due to be completed next month, but preliminary results reinforce our belief in the need to involve the CPS form the outset I cases to ensure that they are in the best state that they can be before a trial begins. We will provide details of our response to the Lord Justice Auld's recommendation when the white paper on reform of the criminal justice system is published shortly.

Crime Victims

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made in granting access by the victims of crime to prosecution barristers. [64432]

The Solicitor-General: In England and Wales victims will not normally have any contact with prosecuting counsel until the case is listed for trial.

The exception to this rule is cases involving vulnerable or intimidated victims, where a meeting should take place between the Crown Prosecutor and the victim at some time prior to the trial. Prosecuting counsel should wherever possible attend that meeting.

The practice is different in Northern Ireland. There, there is no restriction on the prosecution, or on counsel, from meeting with prosecution witnesses and talking to

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them about their evidence. The purpose of this is to help the prosecution assess the weight of the evidence available to them.

Rape Trials

Ms Drown: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps she is taking to ensure CPS lawyers have the skills to prosecute successfully in rape trials. [64434]

The Solicitor-General: Rape cases are acknowledged to be among the most difficult to prosecute to conviction, and the expertise of prosecutors and prosecuting counsel is especially important. The recent joint inspection into the investigation and prosecution of cases involving allegations of rape found that prosecution decision-making is generally sound and handled by experienced prosecutors. But it made a number of recommendations to spread best practice across the CPS, including the need for specialist prosecutors. The CPS is currently working out how best to implement these recommendations to improve the chances that those guilty of rape will be convicted.

An inter-departmental working group expects to respond to the recommendations in the Report as a whole later this month.

Information Technology

Dr. Cable: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the use of IT in the Crown Prosecution Service. [64435]

The Solicitor-General: The first stage of the CPS IT modernisation programme (the Connect 42 project) was completed successfully at the end of 2001, and has provided all Crown Prosecution Service staff with computers and e-mail. This enables prosecutors and caseworkers to access the Internet for legal reference material as well as providing secure e-mail to police forces and other Government Departments.

The second stage of the modernisation programme (the Compass project) is a PFI project and was awarded to Logica, on time and budget, in December 2001. Logica, in partnership with the CPS, are providing maintenance, support and replacement of the IT infrastructure over 10 years. In addition, Logica have been contracted to provide a case management system compatible and linked with other IT systems in the CJS to replace the four case tracking systems currently used by CPS.

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