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26 Jan 2004 : Column 214W—continued

Identity Theft

Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to counter identity theft. [148596]

Beverley Hughes: Following the conclusion of the consultation on Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud in July 2003, the Home Office is taking work forward on the introduction of identity cards, including examining the role identity cards could have in countering identity theft and fraud.

In addition to this work, the Passport Service is piloting a system to conduct more background checks on passport applications. DVLA is working with the Passport Service and other Government Departments to raise the quality of its identity checks using good practice already identified elsewhere.

We have also looked at legislative changes to make identity theft or fraud easier to prosecute or to ensure that the penalties associated with fraudulent use of documents take account of their use in creating false, or stealing genuine, identities. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 changed the law to align the penalty associated with fraudulently obtaining a driving licence with that for fraudulently obtaining a passport and to make these offences arrestable. This will ensure consistency of approach during prosecution so that fraudulently obtaining either document will incur a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment, serving as a more effective deterrent and ensuring that neither document is considered a weak link.

We also announced in 2003 our intention to create a new offence relating to being in possession or control of false identity documents, without reasonable cause. This offence will provide the police with the means to disrupt the activities of organised criminals and terrorists at an earlier stage of their activities.

The Home Office has recently established a cross public-private sector work programme to tackle identity theft and identity fraud. This programme is specifically examining:

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Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance he has issued to the public on the protection of their personal details. [148599]

Beverley Hughes: It is not currently a criminal offence for a person simply to use another identity. However, false identities are often used to facilitate other offences such as deception and money laundering. Crimes such as theft and robberies are carried out sometimes to obtain personal documents, which are subsequently used to create false identities.

The general guidance we have issued on being safe, secure and how to avoid being a victim of crime, will help prevent personal documents from being stolen and misused. This includes caution on sending financial details in emails and ordering goods over the internet and being mindful of carrying valuables on the person.

Police forces offer advice to the public on how to avoid being a victim of identity theft as part of their crime prevention activity.

Passports and driving licences are the two main official documents that are used currently to help prove identity. The UK Passport Service has produced guidance on keeping passports safe and what to do if they are lost or stolen. It highlights that

The booklet also explains how to keep your passport secure when abroad.

DVLA is considering the advice that it currently provides and is looking into what guidance it can offer to drivers on looking after their licences, including the fact that their identity could be open to misuse if their licence is lost or stolen.

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We have encouraged financial organisations and utilities to provide regular guidance to their customers on how to safely dispose of statements and bills, which are often used to help prove identity. We hope that private sector organisations will play their part in raising public awareness on how to handle and safely dispose of these and other types of personal documents.

International Criminal Conduct

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers the Secretary of State has to intervene in matters of international criminal conduct, in relation to imprisonment in the UK of those found guilty of crimes. [147122]

Paul Goggins [holding answer 13 January 1003]: The investigation and prosecution of those suspected of criminal conduct are matters for the competent police and judicial authorities and the Secretary of State cannot intervene in the decisions taken. As a general rule, the courts here can only deal with crimes committed in this country. There are some exceptions to the general territorial rule including murder, terrorism, sexual offences against a child and torture. Decisions on whether to seek a person's extradition for the purposes of prosecution are also a matter for the competent authorities.

Under the terms of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984, and international agreements to which the United Kingdom is a party, the Secretary of State can request the repatriation to the United Kingdom of British nationals imprisoned overseas and authorise the repatriation of foreign nationals imprisoned here. Under the International Criminal Court Act 2001, the United Kingdom can also reach agreement with the Court so that persons convicted by the Court can serve their prison sentences in this country.

Juvenile Prisoners

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many incidents of self-injury have been recorded at each of the prisons in the juvenile estate since 1 December 2001. [144357]

Paul Goggins: The information requested is provided in the table. As the establishments hold both juveniles (aged 15–17 years) and young offenders (YOs, aged 18–20 years), a breakdown of self-harm incidents by age range is also provided.

AshfieldHollesley BayHuntercombeWerringtonWetherbyTotal
December 200113001115
Total juveniles338642424414
December 2001400004
Total YOs1530900162
Total incidents491651424576

(56) Up to 30 November 2003.


The figures provided are number of incidents, not number of individuals. Some individuals will repeatedly self-harm. In December 2002, a new form for reporting self-injury (the F213SH) was introduced across the prisons estate, which seeks to address the problem of under-reporting of self-injury.

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A number of intervention strategies have been introduced into prisons, young offender and juvenile establishments for people who self-harm. These include counselling, support groups, and specialised psychological interventions.

Intercept Evidence

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to review the admissibility of intercept evidence in criminal trials. [144579]

Paul Goggins: A review is currently under way.

Magistrates Courts

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Government intends to introduce the extension of magistrates courts' sentencing powers under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (a) before and (b) after the planned implementation of the custody plus scheme. [143295]

Paul Goggins: No final decisions have been made about the timing of implementation of these two provisions.

Merseyside Crime Initiative Unit

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many swift justice cases there have been due to the Street Crime Initiative Unit in Merseyside. [146238]

Paul Goggins: Under the Street Crime Initiative, courts are ensuring that street crime cases move through the criminal justice system without unnecessary delay and that trials are given hearing dates as early as practicable.

Merseyside aim to provide a good quality of prosecution, using the Premium Service approach. The Crown Prosecution Service are co-located and work closely with the police from an early stage of investigation to progress cases through the courts. In one case last year a defendant was charged and convicted in the Liverpool Crown court in 30 hours.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many and what percentage of witnesses on Merseyside applied for special measures in giving evidence in the last year for which figures are available; and how many and what percentage had their request granted; [146240]

Paul Goggins: In 2003 the Crown court at Liverpool received 497 applications for Special Measures. Information on the number of applications received by magistrates courts and youth courts is not held centrally.

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The number and percentage of successful requests in the Crown court is also not held centrally. These figures could be produced only at disproportionate cost.

Surveys of witnesses' views towards special measures were conducted before and after the first phase of implementation of the special measures. The findings of the pre-implementation survey were published in 2001 (Home Office Research Findings 147, The post-implementation survey was conducted in 2003 and is currently being written-up.

The Witness Satisfaction Surveys of 2000 and 2002 measured general witness satisfaction with various agencies, including the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).,,

Witnesses interviewed for these surveys were drawn from courts throughout England and Wales and analysis was done on that basis. Apart from the disproportionate cost of gathering the information requested, the number of interviews carried out in Merseyside would probably be too small to allow statistically meaningful analysis.

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