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28 Nov 2002 : Column 425W—continued

Mr. Robert Brown

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what advice and other assistance has been made available to Mr. Robert Brown following the recent quashing of his conviction; and if he will make a statement. [82227]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 21 November 2002]: The Home Office-funded advice service being piloted by the Citizens Advice Bureau at the Royal Courts of Justice for individuals released on appeal against conviction was established earlier this year. The project staff were made aware of Mr. Brown's case prior to his release and have sought to contact him twice by telephone to offer assistance. They have not yet been able to establish contact. An application for compensation for wrongful conviction has been lodged at the Home Office and is being treated as a priority.

Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements; and if he will make a statement. [82670]

Hilary Benn: The multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA), which the police and probation services were required by statute to establish in each of the 42 areas of England and Wales from April 2001, have already strengthened the effectiveness of the assessment and management of the risks posed by sexual and violent offenders. An assessment of the new arrangements was set out in the central annual report on the MAPPA, which I published on 22 July 2002, a copy of which was placed in the Library.

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Paedophiles (Internet)

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take further measures to prevent advances to children for sexual purposes (a) on the internet and (b) elsewhere. [82675]

Hilary Benn: This Government's Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet set up in May 2001 has developed proposals for a criminal offence to tackle the Xgrooming" of children by paedophiles online or offline. This is intended to allow prosecution at an early stage when children are being groomed, before an existing sexual offence has been committed. In addition, the proposals include the creation of a new civil protection order relating to behaviour towards a child for an illegal or harmful sexual purpose. These proposals were announced in the Government's command paper on Sex Offence Reform, XProtecting the Public" on 19 November 2002.

In addition, the task force has developed, run and now evaluated a successful national awareness campaign targeted at both children and parents about internet safety. Independent evaluation of the campaigns shows significantly improved awareness of the key messages in both target audiences. The task force is now considering that evaluation and how to build on the momentum created.

Practical online child protection measures have included draft models of good practice for service providers in respect of chat, instant messaging and web services. These encourage, among other things, clear and accessible safety messages and advice and user-friendly mechanisms for reporting abuse. The drafts are being considered by the wider industry through the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) and the London Internet Exchange (LINX).

The task force will next be looking at: consideration of the extent to which the criminal law currently covers unsuitable material being sent to children and all forms of indecent representations of children; an assessment of the new challenges posed by development of 3G mobile phones; and developing basic training materials for child protection staff on children's internet use.

In parallel with the task force, the UK has played a leading role in the development of a G8 strategy for protecting children from sexual exploitation on the internet. The strategy, which is not yet finalised, will cover issues such as: victim identification; intelligence gathering and sharing; location of suspects; enforcement tools and training: awareness building and prevention; and police working with industry and non-governmental organisation's (NGOs). The task force will take forward the UK's domestic actions where it can to support the leading role played by the UK so far in this field.

The XProtecting the Public" command paper, published on 19 November 2002 also included details of proposed sex offence reform that will further protect children from sexual activity. New or expanded offences of adult sexual activity with a child, familial sexual abuse of a child, commercial sexual exploitation of a child, sexual activity between minors and abuse of trust are designed to protect children from those who seek to exploit or abuse them sexually.

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Police (Pensions and Staffing)

Mr. Brian Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many former police officers are on retirement pensions; and how many police there are in service; [82171]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 27 November 2002]: Specific information relating to all forces in England and Wales about the number of former police officers with pensions, their average retirement age and the average level of their pensions is not held centrally.

We estimate that about 125,000 former officers and dependents are receiving pensions and that about three quarters of these will be former officers. As at 31 March 2002, there were 129,603 police officers in England and Wales.

Although national information is not available, figures provided by the Staffordshire Police for the average age of retirement of police officers from that force either with an ordinary or ill-health pension are in given in the table.

Based on data from 11 forces we estimate that the average amount received by a former officer retiring with an ordinary pension or ill-health pension, not including the lump sum, is about £11,800 per annum. After 30 years of service and contributions to the Police Pension Scheme, a police officer is entitled to 40/60ths of his or her average pensionable pay for the final year of service, or one half average pensionable pay if he or she elects to commute a quarter of his or her pension for a lump sum.

YearAverage age

Policing Priorities

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent guidance he has sent to police authorities on policing priorities. [82448]

Mr. Denham: On 20 November I laid the National Policing Plan before Parliament as required by section 1 of the Police Reform Act 2002. As I explained in my letter to hon. Members that day, the plan sets out for the first time in one document, the priorities for the police service in England and Wales for the next three years

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together with the performance targets and indicators against which delivery will be measured. The strategic priorities for the police service in 2003–06 are as follows:

The plan contains a planning framework as a tool to aid implementation. I shall shortly be issuing guidance on local three-year strategies.


Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prison places there are in England and Wales; what the prison population is; and what plans he has to increase the number of prison places over the next three years. [82090]

Hilary Benn: As at 21 November 2002, the prison population of England and Wales stood at 72,477. On the same date, useable operational capacity was 72,882.

£60 million has been made available to provide 740 additional places by March 2004. This is in addition to funding from the 2002 Budget that will provide 2,320 places by March 2003, together with 400 places at Birmingham prison, which are funded by the 2000 spending review and are scheduled to open in April 2004.

Prison Service plans to build two new private prisons at Ashford (near Heathrow) and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire have recently been approved. These two new prisons will together provide around 1,300 places by 2004–05.

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of prisoners in UK prisons under 35-years-old have served time in young offenders institutions. [82825]

Hilary Benn: No information is collected centrally on which establishments prisoners have served previous sentences in. Information relating to prisoners in Scotland and Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive (Helen Liddell) and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. John Reid) respectively.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what differences there are in securing (a) town visits, (b) home leave and (c) early release under the tagging system between Scottish and English domicile prisoners held in prisons in England; [83578]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 26 November 2002]: All convicted prisoners located in prisons in England and Wales, irrespective of where they are domiciled, have the same status and rights under the Prison Act 1952. The Prison Service does not separately define prisoners domiciled in Scotland.

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Prisoners detained in England and Wales who have close family ties with Scotland may apply to serve their sentences there, in accordance with the provisions of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. Foreign national prisoners may apply to serve their sentences in their country of nationality, providing there is an international agreement in force between the United Kingdom and the country concerned.

There are a number of forms of temporary release available to prisoners at different stages of the sentence. The rules do not differentiate between prisoners domiciled in Scotland and those domiciled in England. However, some forms of temporary release are for the purpose of allowing prisoners to visit their homes during the day in order to begin their resettlement. It may not be practical, therefore, for prisoners domiciled some distance away from their prison to benefit from this type of release. Other forms of temporary release, which include an overnight stay, can be taken in Scotland.

Prisoners sentenced in England and Wales cannot be given Home Detention Curfew (tagging) to an address in Scotland.

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