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26 Jan 2004 : Column 206W—continued

Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to allow the Crown Prosecution Service to have early access to police files to assist case preparation. [144016]

Paul Goggins: Following successful pilots of the Auld recommendation to increase the role of crown prosecutors in charging decisions, measures to put this on a statutory footing have been enacted in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The relevant provisions will be brought into effect in April 2004, and the new arrangements will then be implemented on an area-by-area basis.

In preparation for that implementation, Crown Prosecution Service areas and their police partners are establishing shadow charging arrangements in each area. This will provide an infrastructure of duty prosecutors working in police operational units to provide on-the-spot advice to investigators, to be available for early consultation in investigations, and to make charging decisions in a wide range of cases.

Early guidance will focus on the lines of enquiry to be pursued in individual cases, the likely charges to be preferred and the evidential requirements to support these. Guidance will also be given on the case preparation requirements in each individual case.

Charging decisions will be made by crown prosecutors following a review of all the available evidence in each case. Where the evidence presented by an officer is insufficient for the charging decision to be made at that time, further guidance will be given on continuing case preparation and evidential requirements.

Curfew Orders

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average length was of (a) an electronically monitored curfew order and (b) a home detention curfew in financial year 2002–03. [143411]

Paul Goggins: In the financial year 2002–03 the average length of an electronically monitored curfew order was 95 days, and the average length of a home detention curfew was 52 days.

Departmental Leaflets

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria his Department uses when deciding whether a leaflet which it publishes is to be made available only on its website. [149559]

Fiona Mactaggart: The decision process to make information available only on the Home Office website is as follows:

The target audience for every publication is ascertained at the initial planning stage of each project.

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If, after investigation, it is the case that the most cost-effective and efficient method of disseminating the information is by way of the website then that method would be employed. The approved information will also be sent for Legal Deposit in compliance with the Legal Deposit Act 2003 extension covering non-printed materials.

Informability aspects are also considered at this initial stage, therefore the document may appear in additional formats such as the Welsh or ethnic minority languages or in formats for people with disabilities.

Departmental Press Releases

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many press releases were issued by his Department in 2003. [148508]

Fiona Mactaggart [holding answer 19 January 2004]: The number of press releases issued by the Home Office in 2003 was as follows:

Number of press releases
Home Office374
Prison Service43
Criminal Justice Service13
Prisons Inspectorate68
Probation Inspectorate11
Police Inspectorate3
Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs1
Animal Procedures Committee2
Assets Recovery Agency1
Compact Working Group1
UK Passport Service3

Detention and Training Orders

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the early release scheme for detention and training orders issued since 2001. [145648]

Paul Goggins: The Youth Justice Board (YJB) commissioned an internal study from PA Consulting on the factors inhibiting or assisting the take up of early release.

PA's report, in September 2003, found that establishments generally saw early release as a useful incentive to influence the behaviour of trainees serving terms of eight months or more. Where early release was not granted, the main reasons were decisions by review meetings that trainees were unsuitable; lack of appropriate accommodation for them to go to; and young people's refusal of early release. PA recommended monitoring the reasons for decisions not to agree early release; investigating ways of improving the availability of suitable accommodation; and developing a system to record centrally the outcomes of early release decisions. The YJB are pursuing these recommendations.

Discharged Cases

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many defendants in (a) 2003 and (b) each of the last four years have been

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discharged due to delays in gathering evidence, pressure of work and errors on the part of the (i) police and (ii) Crown Prosecution Service; and if he will make a statement. [143964]

Paul Goggins: The Home Office does not keep any data on the reasons for discharges and the Crown Prosecution Service holds no central records of reasons for the outcome of proceedings. The Crown Prosecution keeps data on the number of unsuccessful outcomes (finalisations other than a conviction) for magistrates and crown courts, and the stage at which the outcome was unsuccessful.

The proportion of total magistrates court outcomes that were unsuccessful as a result of being-discontinued or bound over; write off; discharged committals; dismissal no case; or dismissals after trial was 22.0 per cent. for 2003 (to September). The corresponding figure was 23.4 per cent. in 2002, 23.5 per cent. in 2001, 23.5 per cent. in 2000, and 23.1 per cent. in 1999.

The implementation of the compass case management system will enable a full record of the reason for all unsuccessful outcomes in magistrates courts and in the crown court to be provided.

Drug or Alcohol Treatment

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time was between the referral by courts of individuals with criminal convictions for drug or alcohol treatment and the commencement of their treatment programmes in each of the last five years. [146539]

Paul Goggins: Information relating to the national average waiting time to access drug or alcohol treatment by offenders in the community in each of the last five years is not available. However, since October 2000 drug treatment can only be imposed by the courts as a provision of a drug treatment and testing order (DTTO). The DTTO National Standard requires that appointments are arranged to take place with the Probation Service within one working day and with the treatment provider within two working days of the order being made and this is being achieved in over 75 per cent. of cases. From 2004–05 areas have been set a target to increase this performance to 90 per cent.

Forensic Medical Examiner Training

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the toxicology awareness module for forensic medical examiner training will be in use; and when details of it will be available. [146768]

Paul Goggins: Training on collecting evidence for toxicology is already in place for Forensic Medical Examiners (FMEs). It is incorporated in the Association of Forensic Physicians (AFP) introductory and development training courses. More specialised teaching also occurs at regional training courses and at conferences. The courses include training on toxicology issues relating to complainants of sexual assault and drug facilitated sexual assault.

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Gun Crime

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what meetings his Department has had with community organisations working to combat gun crime. [149785]

Caroline Flint: We have held three round-table meetings on gun crime, the most recent on 25 November 2003. These have included representatives from community groups and organisations. The meetings have provided opportunities to take stock of existing action to tackle gun crime and gun culture and have helped to inform our forward approach.

In addition, the Home Office hosted a major gun crime/community involvement event in Birmingham on 19 and 20 January this year. The event brought together individuals from communities, local groups, voluntary organisations, young people, the police and policy makers to explore the nature of gun crime and gun culture and to help identify what more can be done to tackle these issues.

Home Detention Curfew

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which offences are assessed as being unsuitable for release on home detention curfew. [149088]

Paul Goggins: Prisoners currently serving sentences for the following offences are statutorily excluded from release under the Home Detention Curfew scheme:

Prisoners who are liable to the registration requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 are also excluded from the scheme.

In addition, with effect from 14 July 2003, prisoners serving sentences for the following categories of offences are presumed unsuitable for release under the Home Detention Curfew scheme unless there are exceptional reasons to grant release:

The presumption against suitability also applies to prisoners with any history of sexual offending.

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what evaluation he has made of the effectiveness of the Home Detention Curfew Scheme. [149089]

Paul Goggins: The operation of the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme is monitored on a weekly basis. Between January 1999, when the scheme was

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introduced, and 9 January 2004, over 86,000 prisoners have been released under the Home Detention Curfew scheme. At any one time about 3,600 low risk prisoners, who would otherwise be filling prison places, are serving the last part of the custodial portion of their sentence on HDC. Since the scheme began 90 per cent. of those granted HDC have completed their curfew period without any problems at all and 2 per cent. are reported as having been convicted, cautioned or are awaiting prosecution for an offence committed while subject to HDC.

In addition, the Home Office published an evaluation of the operation of the first 16 months of the scheme in June 2001 (Home Office Research Study 222: "Electronic Monitoring of released prisoners: an evaluation of the Home Detention Curfew scheme").

I am satisfied that the scheme continues successfully to provide suitable prisoners with a smoother and more effective re-integration back into the community by enabling them to be released from prison early while still subject to restrictions placed on their liberty.

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the confidence of the public in the Home Detention Curfew Scheme. [149090]

Paul Goggins: The Home Office has not carried out a survey specifically addressing public attitudes to the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme but the scheme has been running successfully for over four years and public confidence in the Prison Service over this period has remained good. Ministers regularly receive correspondence about the scheme. Most of this concerns individual cases; only a small proportion expresses any concerns about the principles that underpin HDC.

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