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19 Jan 2004 : Column 975W—continued

Cleveland Local Criminal Justice Board Website

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department by what date the Cleveland local criminal justice board website will contain some information. [146767]

Paul Goggins: The Cleveland Local Criminal Justice Boards website is currently under construction and will be populated with information by 23 January 2004.


Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will respond to the letter from the hon. Member for Totnes of 5 November 2003 about the Totnes European School, acknowledged by his Department on 19 November 2003 (ref: M7244/3). [147070]


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Crown Prosecution Service's Racially Aggravated and Religiously Aggravated Crime Policy. [146246]

The Solicitor-General: The question has been passed to me for reply as the Law Officers are responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The CPS policy on racist and religious crime was launched on 14 July 2003 and was developed with criminal justice partners and in consultation with over 120 local and national groups, including representatives of faith and black and minority ethnic communities.

The policy clearly sets out the CPS stance on prosecuting racist and religious crime and emphasises the need to prosecute cases firmly, fairly and robustly.

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The aim is to contribute to improving public confidence in the criminal justice system and, it is hoped, to bring more offenders to justice.

In delivering training to underpin the policy, the CPS has involved members of the community and the police to assist prosecutors in understanding the issues and underline the impact on communities of such crime.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Crown Prosecution Service Merseyside Community Engagement Programme. [146247]

The Solicitor-General: The question has been passed to me for reply as the Law Officers are responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

CPS Merseyside is heavily involved in a range of community engagement initiatives. These include talks to schools and colleges, mentoring students from the black and minority ethnic communities, and contributing to conferences arranged to obtain the views of a variety of community groups. Two conferences are scheduled in January. The Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Merseyside also arranges for representatives of relevant communities to address his staff during training courses so that they can describe the effects of crime on their lives and explain how the criminal justice agencies can better meet their needs.

The area is currently updating its community engagement strategy to draw together the initiatives in which it is involved.

Dangerous Offenders

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the number of sentences that (a) are poorly targeted and (b) do not bear down sufficiently on dangerous offenders. [147365]

Paul Goggins: Decisions on the targeting of sentences are for the courts, based on the full facts of individual cases. However, the Government is determined to ensure that sentences delivered are appropriate to offences committed. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduces a range of new sentences so that courts have a full range of options at their disposal in order to deal with offences and offenders appropriately.

These include the new Generic Community Sentence, which will allow judges and magistrates to choose specific elements (such as drug rehabilitation, unpaid work, curfew) that best suit the profiles of individual offenders and crimes.

The Act also enhances protection for the public from dangerous offenders. It introduces new indeterminate sentences for use where an offender is considered to pose a significant risk to the public. These sentences will ensure that an offender may be kept in custody for as long as he or she is considered to pose a threat to the public. If the risk posed decreases over time, the offender will become eligible for release once the period specified by the court as the minimum necessary for punitive purposes has been served.

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In addition, to promote consistency in sentencing between courts, the Act set up the Sentencing Guidelines Council, an independent body chaired by the Lord Chief Justice. The Council's role is to produce guidelines for the courts on the most appropriate and best-targeted sentence for different types of offence.

Human Trafficking

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cases of human trafficking were detected in 2002. [144611]

Beverley Hughes: Forming an accurate estimate of the levels of trafficking in people is problematic because of the secretive and hidden nature of the act. There are currently no accurate, reliable data in existence within the UK or the European Union. A Home Office research study "Stopping Traffic" (Police Research Series 125, published in 2000), indicated that there was intelligence to suggest that some women and children are trafficked into the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This was estimated at between 140 and 1,400 per year but it was not possible to say how accurate this estimate is. The report concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that this was on a large scale in the UK compared with other European countries.

However, due to the very serious nature of the crime, in 2000, the Government set up a multi-agency taskforce called Reflex to co-ordinate the operational response to tackling organised crime groups involved in human trafficking and the smuggling of people into the UK. Since April 2003, there have been 14 significant disruptions (26 in total) and from these 37 convictions for related offences.

The Government have also introduced specific criminal sanctions covering traffickers. We have acted quickly to deal with the worst forms of exploitation by creating an offence of trafficking for the purposes of controlling someone in prostitution within the Nationality, Immigration, and Asylum Act 2002. More comprehensive offences concerning trafficking into, out of and within the UK for all forms of sexual exploitation are included in the Sexual Offences Act which received Royal Assent in November 2003. A new offence covering trafficking for forced labour and removal of organs is included in the Asylum and Immigration Bill, currently before Parliament. All of these offences carry a maximum penalty of 14 years.

Immigrant Surcharge

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his plans to introduce a £500 surcharge on immigrants to the UK includes those entering to study at English language schools; and if he will make a statement. [145139]

Beverley Hughes: No decisions have yet been made about the level of the fees. The Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) is required to provide a range of fees for indicative purposes only. The upper limit of that range, £500, does not signify that the Government intends, as some newspapers suggested, to set fees at that level.

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The enabling power is the first stage of a two stage process. The second part of the process is to undertake a full Regulatory Impact Assessment and wider consultation with key stakeholders. Following this consultation, decisions regarding fee levels, scope and timing of introduction can then be made taking these views fully into account.

Immigration Appeals

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in what percentage of immigration and asylum appeals before adjudicators his Department was (a) represented by Home Office Presenting Officers, (b) represented by Counsel and (c) not represented in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [143360]

Beverley Hughes: For the 12 month period to August 2003 the level of representation for Presenting Officers and Counsel when taken together was 72 per cent. This relatively low level of representation was caused, in large part, by difficulties in recruiting Presenting Officers, particularly in the London area. The level of representation will increase early in 2004 as up to 65 newly recruited Presenting Officers complete their training and take up their posts.

Immigration Control (Vehicle Checks)

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of (a) lorries and (b) other vehicles passing through Dover from France were not checked in Dover for purposes of seeking to discover illegal immigrants in the last 12 months. [142167]

Beverley Hughes: Approximately 2,500 lorries arrive at Dover every day on board cross channel ferries. Port authorities and operators in both Calais and Dunkerque check all lorries entering their port and again using UK supplied New Detection Technology (NDT) before lorries board ferries for the UK.

As it is clearly more effective to have searched lorries before they embark on ferries to the UK than on arrival at Dover lorries are selected for search by Immigration Service search teams only on an intelligence-led basis employing known profiles of vehicles used in people smuggling. Other vehicles such as private cars and vans are systematically checked in France by agents acting for the ferry operator.

Again, targeted checks by Immigration Officers are carried out on arrival at Dover.

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