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22 Jan 2004 : Column 1444W—continued


Departmental Minutes

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs in what circumstances decision-making meetings between civil servants and ministers are not minuted; and if he will make a statement. [148400]

Mr. Leslie: Detailed policies and procedures for the creation and management of all records relating to government business are the responsibility of the department concerned. However, the National Archives has a supervisory role in ensuring the safe-keeping of historical value. In this connection the National Archives has issued 'guidance on the management of private office papers', which is available on those records which, once created, are likely to be of enduring its website at:

Sentencing Decisions

Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary Department of Constitutional Affairs what the Appeal Court must conclude for a sentence to be reduced. [145969]

Mr. Leslie: Section 11(3) of the Criminal Appeals Act 1968 provides that an appeal may be allowed against sentence if the appellant may be sentenced "differently'' from the way in which he was sentenced in the Crown Court. The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) will always interfere and quash a sentence if it considers it "manifestly excessive". In addition there are a number of other reasons why an appeal against sentence may succeed. Circumstances between the date of sentence and the hearing of the appeal may change. For example, the CACD may be provided with information about help given by the individual defendant to the prosecuting or prison authorities, which justifies a reduction in sentence. The CACD itself often seeks and is provided with reports from prison, which may give grounds for concluding that although the sentence imposed at the Crown Court is not open to criticism, the sentence has had the necessary impact, and is no longer appropriate. This is of particular importance where the offender is young and his rehabilitation may progress more rapidly if, having served some time in custody, a community sentence was now imposed on him. Changes in relation to sentencing policy may also affect the result of a sentence appeal, where, for example, new "guidelines" have been provided after the sentence was imposed. Other circumstances which may affect the decision of the CACD include sentences imposed following procedural errors, or those which may create a justifiable sense of grievance because of sentences passed on other defendants.

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Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) how many appeals (a) against sentence and (b) against conviction have been (i) successful and (ii) allowed in each of the last five years as a percentage of the total number of committals for trial for (A) the crown court and (B) magistrates court; [146017]

Mr. Leslie: We do not have this information in the form requested. We do not measure how many sentencing decisions individual judges make, and this will vary according to the types of case they deal with and the complexity and length of cases they hear. There are currently 604 Circuit Judges, Senior Circuit Judges and equivalents, and 1,326 Recorders; not all of whom sit in criminal cases.

In the five years to 2002, the Crown Court dealt with the following committals for trial or sentence:

Committals for trial


Committals for sentence


In the same period the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) heard the following full appeals, excluding applications for leave to appeal which were dismissed. It should be tooted that cases heard in the Court of Appeal in a given year may well not have been heard by the Crown Court in the same year.


In the same period criminal proceedings were commenced in the magistrates' courts against the following numbers of defendants. These figures include all criminal prosecutions commenced, whether or not they were contested or proceeded to a full trial.

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In the same period the Crown Court heard the following numbers of appeals. These did not necessarily relate to prosecutions in magistrates' courts in the same year. These figures do not include appeals from the magistrates; courts to the High Court by way of case stated.




Mr. Allen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs when he expects to write to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North to fulfil the undertaking given by his hon. Friend, 13 January 2004, Official Report, column 666. [149582]

Mr. Lammy: My letter of 15 January informed my hon. Friend that this is a matter for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths), who has agreed to write in response to the points raised on 13 January.

Mr. Burns: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for West Chelmsford of 21 October 2003 concerning Ms B. Quinn of Chelmsford. [149827]

Mr. Leslie: Lord Filkin wrote on 16 January 2004 to the hon. Member for West Chelmsford in response to his letter of 21 October 2003. I apologise for the delay, unfortunately administrative errors prevented an earlier reply.


Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs if he will take steps to standardise divorce court proceedings in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. [149616]

Mr. Leslie: Northern Ireland is a separate jurisdiction from England and Wales for the purposes of divorce proceedings. Provisions are in place for the mutual recognition of orders and the provision of financial relief as between the jurisdictions. Under the provisions of section 44 of the Family Law Act 1986 orders for divorce, nullity or judicial separation granted in one jurisdiction are recognised in the other. Under the provisions of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 and the Family Proceedings (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 applications for financial relief can

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be made in either jurisdiction in respect of divorces panted in the other. There is also provision for the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders.

There are no plans to standardise divorce law in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

Expert Witnesses

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what proportion of criminal cases were overturned on appeal in each of the last five years; and what proportion involved evidence from expert witnesses. [147186]

Mr. Leslie: Figures showing (a) the number of defendants convicted in the lower courts, (b) those that appealed to the higher courts either against conviction and/or sentence and (c) the number of appeals allowed or varied are provided in the following tables. Information relating to the involvement of expert witnesses in criminal cases is not collected centrally and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Court of Appeal

Convicted in the Crown courtLodged appealConviction quashed or sentence variedAppeal allowed as percentage of those convictedAppeal allowed as percentage of appeals lodged

Crown court

Convictedin the magistrates courtLodged appealConviction quashed or sentence variedAppeal allowed as percentage of those convictedAppeal allowed as percentage of appeals lodged

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