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19 Jan 2004 : Column 989W—continued


Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many offences of shoplifting were recorded in each criminal justice area in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available. [144580]

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Paul Goggins: There were 309,397 recorded offences of thefts from shops in England and Wales in the year ending March 2003.

Victim/Witness Support

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what support his Department gives to (a) victim support and (b) witness support in (i) England and Wales and (ii) Gloucestershire. [144018]

Paul Goggins: Between 1996–97 and 2002–03 the Home Office's funding of the organisation Victim Support, which provides support to both victims and witnesses, more than doubled, from £11.7 million to £29.3 million. This year our grant in aid to Victim

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Support has been increased to £30 million, which represents an increase of 2.4 per cent. Of this, over £26 million will be passed on to local Victim Support schemes, with the balance being used by the Victim Support National Office to provide, amongst other things, a range of central services to its member groups.

The Victim Support Area of Gloucestershire has been allocated a total of £265,498 by Victim Support National Office under their new Funding Formula for the year 2003–04. As well as providing funding to Victim

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Support, the Home Office also provides £572,000 to other organisations supporting victims and witnesses of crime.

Young Offenders

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions members of Independent Monitoring Boards have refused to sign off a child being held in a segregation unit in each young offender institution. [144365]

Paul Goggins: This information is not held centrally.

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Assembly Elections

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of levels of voter turnout at the recent Assembly elections; what research he intends to commission to study the reasons for this; and what measures he is considering adopting to improve turnout. [147532]

Mr. Spellar: The turnout for the 2003 Assembly election was 63.1 per cent., which compares to a figure of 68.8 per cent. for the previous Assembly election in 1998.

The Electoral Commission, which has responsibility for promoting public awareness of electoral matters, held a one-day seminar on the 7 January to hear views from stakeholders about the administration of the Assembly election. The public have also been invited to contact the Commission with their views on the election.

I understand that the Commission intends to publish a report on the election before the end of April 2004. The report will cover all aspects of the recent election including voter turnout. The Government will study the report carefully when it is received.

Criminal Justice Act

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the minimum sentence for the murder of (a) a prison officer and (b) a police officer on duty in Northern Ireland is; and if he will make a statement on the relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. [147574]

Mr. Spellar: The mandatory sentence for murder is life imprisonment. Under the provisions of the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001, the determination of the appropriate minimum period or tariff, which any life sentence prisoner in Northern Ireland must serve in custody before consideration can be given to release, is a matter for judicial discretion. The sentencing judge can set a tariff for a fixed period of years or determine that a whole life tariff would be more appropriate in individual cases.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced in England and Wales a new statutory framework providing for four different starting-points for the judicial determination of minimum terms in mandatory life sentence cases. That framework provides for an initial starting point of 30 years for a person convicted of the murder of a police or prison officer in the course of their duty in England and Wales. Those statutory starting-points may be adjusted upwards or downwards by the sentencing judge, having regard to any relevant

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aggravating or mitigating factors in the case, to arrive at the minimum term which must be served by the prisoner. On 8 January, I published a consultation paper seeking views on the appropriateness of adopting a similar framework for mandatory life sentences in Northern Ireland. The consultation period extends to 31 March, after which responses will be carefully evaluated and the outcome of the consultation published.


Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what reports he has received regarding the treatment of General John de Chastelain during the decommissioning act in Northern Ireland on 20 October 2003; and if he will make a statement. [148469]

Jane Kennedy: The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has received no reports regarding the treatment of General de Chastelain during the decommissioning act in October 2003.

Dementia Services

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his plans to review dementia services in Northern Ireland. [148775]

Angela Smith: My Department recognises the need to review the policy in relation to people with dementia. Dementia services will therefore be included in the on-going review of mental health and learning disability. Inclusion in the review will mean that dementia will be covered in a comprehensive evaluation of policy and services spanning issues such as health promotion, prevention and early detection of dementia, effectiveness of interventions and broader issues such as human rights and social inclusion.

An Expert Working Committee on Issues in Old Age has been established and dementia will also be included in its remit, although it is of course recognised that some younger people also have dementia. The working committee has been asked to ensure that it reflects a broad representation of views. The review of mental health and learning disability is not expected to complete its work until mid-2005 but work is in hand to consider how the review recommendations might be phased as sections of the review work are completed.

High Hedges

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what plans he has to extend Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 to Northern Ireland; [148673]

Angela Smith: The Government have no plans for high hedges legislation in Northern Ireland at present.

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Hospital Trolley Waits

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to his answer of 7 January 2004, Official Report, column 406W, on hospital trolley waits, whether the December statistics represent (a) an estimate for the full month and (b) a total number collected on weekdays only. [148860]

Angela Smith: The December trolley wait statistics represent the number of trolley waits recorded in Accident and Emergency departments in Northern Ireland at 9.00am on weekday mornings. These figures show the total number of trolley waits reported by Accident & Emergency Departments at a point in time (9.00am) on week days during December.

Leak Inquiries

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what inquiries his Department has conducted into alleged leaks from members of staff since 1997; and on what occasions the names of those persons accused of leaking information from his Department have been made public (a) by the Government and (b) by way of another source. [147009]

Mr. Paul Murphy: Since 1997, my Department has investigated three suspected leaks. In line with Exemptions l(a) and 7(b) set out in Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, it has been the practice of successive governments not to comment on the outcome of such inquiries in order to safeguard security and investigative arrangements.

This reply relates only to inquiries specifically within the Northern Ireland Office and does not cover the 11 Departments of the Northern Ireland Administration.

Neurosurgery Waiting Lists

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many patients were awaiting neurosurgery (a) inpatient admission and (b) outpatient assessment in Northern Ireland on the most recent date for which figures are available. [148845]

Angela Smith: The latest available waiting list figures show the position at 30 September 2003, when:

This information is published in the "Northern Ireland Waiting List Quarterly Information Release" on the first Thursday in March, July, September and December. A copy of this publication is placed in the House of Commons Library or can be obtained from the DHSSPS website, internet address: www.

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