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20 Jan 2004 : Column 1228W—continued


Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for the reform of laws relating to prostitution; and if he will make a statement. [147074]

Caroline Flint: The Sex Offences Act, due to be implemented in May 2004, introduces a range of new offences specifically dealing with the exploitation of children and adults through prostitution.

We are currently examining what further changes to the criminal law are needed in respect of prostitution, as well as some of the wider associated issues—including the links with serious drug abuse, violent and other crime, and damage to local communities. We hope to publish a paper for public consultation later this year.

Criminal Convictions

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the change in (a) criminal convictions and (b) the custodial population between 1980 and 2000. [141794]

Paul Goggins: I refer the hon. Member to my letter of 18 December 2003.


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the (a) age of victim, (b) type of offence, (c) age of complainant and (d) relationship of accused to complainant was for each of the deniers who applied for parole, referred to on page 17 of the latest Parole Board report. [146287]

Paul Goggins: The information requested is not held centrally and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the offence categories were for the prisoners who were denied parole on the basis of their continuing denial of guilt in April 2003. [146288]

Paul Goggins: There were no prisoners refused parole in April 2003 on the grounds of their continued denial of guilt. It would be unlawful for the Parole Board to refuse parole on the basis of denial of guilt or any factors that may stem from it.

The Prison Service does not maintain a central record of prisoners who deny their guilt. However, since January 2003, the Parole Board has kept a record of all such cases referred for their consideration. Its records show that in April 2003 the following categories of prisoners who denied guilt had a parole review.

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Sexual offenders18
Violent offenders4
Property offenders2
Drug offenders4

Somerset Drugs Service

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the reasons why the Somerset Drugs Service has stopped providing drug rehabilitation support for drug addicts in the Yeovil constituency other than for pregnant women and suicide risks; and what assessment he has made of the effects of this decision on levels of crime. [147416]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 14 January 2004]: The Government have provided the Somerset Drug Action Team (DAT) with substantially increased funds in order to reduce waiting times for admission to treatment in the county. This year Somerset Drugs Service (SDS), one of the service providers, had their budget increased by £200,950 to £1,763,214. Following the consequent increase in availability of treatment there has been a substantial increase in those seeking treatment. In quarter 2 of 2002 SDS had 287 active clients of whom 74 were in Yeovil; in quarter 2 of 2003 SDS had 426 active clients of whom 146 were in Yeovil representing almost a 100 per cent. increase in demand in the town in the space of a year. Such dramatic increases have put some short-term pressure on budgets, which has temporarily prevented waiting times being reduced as quickly as originally anticipated. However no one who needs it will be denied treatment. All those presenting for treatment continue to be to prioritised according to assessed need and the risk of harm to self and to the community.

In order to continue to expand the service to drug users and provide the most effective treatment in the face of increasing demand the DAT commissioned a strategic review from Oxford Brookes University of the whole of its adult drug treatment system. The results of this review are being considered at a meeting on 13 January. In addition to £35,000 allocated this financial year, from April, the DAT has been allocated an extra £284,462 from the Governments Criminal Justice Intervention Programme Throughcare and Aftercare Budget. These increases will ensure that treatment provision continues to improve by assisting the DAT and implement the recommendations of its strategic review.

As a result of targeting prolific offenders and making rapid treatment available to them, where necessary, the county has seen significant falls in rates of burglary over the first three quarters of this financial year when compared to the same period last year.

Street Crime

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on street crime in towns and cities, with particular reference to Romford. [148489]

Ms Blears: The Street Crime Initiative was launched on 17 March 2002 to reduce levels of robbery in England. It covers the 10 police force areas which together account

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for the great majority of recorded robbery: Avon and Somerset, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, the Metropolitan Police, Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Thames Valley, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire.

The Initiative involves a wide range of agencies working in partnership and delivering a programme of practical measures. Through this work, the Government has reduced street crime in the 10 police force areas by 17 per cent. in 2002–03, which means 17,000 fewer offences, and by 21 per cent. in the Metropolitan Police area. Havering, which includes Romford, saw a 13 per cent. reduction in robbery in 2002–03, with 479 offences, down from 549 in 2001–02.

Speed Cameras

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to ensure that speed cameras do not take pictures of a vehicle's reflection rather than the vehicle itself to calculate speed; and how many drivers he estimates have been wrongly penalised by reason of such errors. [149006]

Caroline Flint: The rigorous type approval process operated by the Home Office Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB) is designed to ensure that speed camera evidence can be fully relied on

As a further precaution, however, all automatic static camera devices provide for a secondary check. This enables the officer viewing an apparent offence to make a judgment as to the vehicle's speed independent of the speed measured by the device. To enable this check, the device takes two photographs 0.5 seconds apart. The secondary check is performed by measuring the distance travelled along white lines painted on the road between the taking of the two photographs and calculating the vehicle's speed from these.

While it is technically possible for a camera to record a vehicle's reflection, rather than the vehicle itself, this is extremely rare in practice. Where it does occur, the difference revealed by proper application of the secondary check will make it obvious that there has been an error.

Traffic Wardens

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many traffic wardens there were in Lancashire in each of the last three years. [148368]

Ms Blears: The number of full-time equivalent traffic wardens in Lancashire police force in each of the last three years were as follows:

Traffic wardens
31 March 200187
31 March 200284
31 March 200350

Visas (School Children)

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to overcome

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administrative problems over visas required by children at school in the UK who are resident abroad to travel home for holidays. [144933]

Beverley Hughes: The Immigration and Nationality Directorate gives priority attention to applications for children who need to travel urgently. Extra staff have been allocated to resolving payment issues and process timelags that can delay these applications from being decided. Resources have been prioritised to ensure every effort is made so that schoolchildren and other customers who wish to travel urgently have their applications completed or a short period of leave granted to enable them to travel.

Young Offenders

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his plans to provide drug treatment for young offenders addicted to hard drugs. [148602]

Caroline Flint: To ensure that effective treatment is available when it is needed, we have made significant investments in the youth justice system and drug treatment sector.

An arrest referral scheme for young people is currently being piloted, to get young offenders into treatment or other appropriate interventions as early as possible. £6 million is being invested to pilot arrest referral for young people in 10 high crime areas across England. Trained staff in the police custody suites identify if young people have a substance misuse issue and refer them to appropriate treatment or intervention.

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has provided £8.5 million funding each year for all 155 youth offending teams across England and Wales to have access to an allocated named drugs worker. The drugs worker is able to assess the needs of young people and ensure that they receive appropriate treatment or other interventions.

80 per cent of drug action teams areas now have access to community-based young people focused treatment services. DATs across the country are

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continuing to improve and build on existing provision so that the number of different modalities of treatment for young people are increased.

The Youth Justice Board is investing £10 million this year and for the next two years. This will establish integrated substance misuse services through out all juvenile custodial institutions that will ensure that young people are able to access similar levels of service provision within the juvenile secure estate as in the community. The Youth Justice Board will ensure that custodial institutions are able to provide: identification, assessment and planning services; prevention and education work; support and appropriate programmes; detoxification and clinical management; and on release throughcare and resettlement.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the decision to re-introduce young offenders into Gloucester Prison; and whether the decision was affected by the closure of Ashfield Young Offenders Institution. [146729]

Paul Goggins: The allocation of young adult offenders (YAOs), aged 18- 20, into Gloucester prison forms part of the ongoing programme to adjust the population mix of adult and young prisoners at a number of establishments. This is in response to the requirements of the Youth Justice Board for juvenile places and to increasing demand for spaces for adult male prisoners. This will be achieved through careful monitoring of population changes and the allocation of prisoners to establishments appropriate to their needs. It will also ensure maximum use of all available spaces in the prison estate, while minimising the distance of remand prisoners from the courts. This will enable the Prison Service to maintain its service to the courts despite the population pressures.

Ashfield prison is not being closed, but will instead only hold young prisoners, aged 15–17. Gloucester and other prisons in the area will hold remand and sentenced YAOs. Sentenced YAOs returning from court will be held at Gloucester for the minimum time possible before being transferred on to other establishments with YAO regimes.