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15 Nov 2004 : Column 1106W—continued


John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in what percentage of cases where individuals were fined following a criminal conviction in England and Wales a means inquiry was commissioned in (a) 2002–03 and (b) 2003–04. [192728]

Paul Goggins [holding answer 25 October 2004]: Information on the number of means inquiries commissioned in England and Wales is not recorded centrally.

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to link the ability to pay to the size of fine imposed following a criminal conviction in England and Wales. [192729]

Paul Goggins [holding answer 25 October 2004]: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 7 June 2004, Official Report, column 178W.


Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure the police service enforces the new regulations on fireworks. [196344]

Ms Blears: We have a comprehensive and robust package in place to tackle the misuse of fireworks. The Fireworks Regulations 2004 came into force in August and in October we extended the Penalty Notices for Disorder Scheme (PND) to include three new firework offences. The new PNDs allow police to punish offenders immediately by issuing on-the-spot fines and offer an additional disposal that has been widely welcomed by police forces across the country.

I was keen to ensure all relevant agencies were aware of the new arrangements. In early October I wrote to all chief constables to provide guidance ahead of the fireworks season and to ensure the new arrangements were made an integral part of their fireworks strategies. We have published a TOGETHER factsheet on the misuse of fireworks and this has been widely distributed to practitioners. DTI are also in regular contact with individual police forces and other enforcement agencies, such as Trading Standards, to provide advice on the Fireworks Regulations 2004. They expect to publish comprehensive guidance shortly.
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Early indications show that the new powers are being used effectively to tackle the misuse of fireworks.

Gang Rapes

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what discussions he has had with the police and community groups over changes in the incidence of gang rapes; and if he will make a statement; [186385]

(2) what representations he has received on reported cases of gang rapes involving minors which have not resulted in convictions; and if he will make a statement; [186386]

(3) what discussions he has had on reported incidents of gang rapes involving minors where the case has not been brought to trial; and if he will make a statement; [186387]

(4) (a) what representations he has received and (b) what discussions he has had regarding suspected incidents of gang rapes involving minors where no official report has been made; and if he will make a statement. [186388]

Paul Goggins: Rape is a dreadful crime that deeply affects the lives of victims and their families, and which inspires fear in our communities. We are working to reduce the number of sexual offences occurring, to improve services to victims, and to increase confidence in the Criminal Justice System.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not received formal representations on this issue. However, officials have met with representatives from the Metropolitan Police Service to discuss group rape, and are considering how to take forward action in this area in the context of wider work on rape and sexual assault.

Recorded crime statistics do not include data on group rape. A self-completion questionnaire included in the 2001 British Crime Survey revealed that in six per cent. of serious sexual assaults suffered by women since the age of 16, more than one perpetrator was involved. Research to be published in the near future is expected to throw more light on the prevalence and nature of group rape.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) does not have statistics on the number of reported cases of group rape involving minors that resulted in acquittals, or the number of cases that have not been brought to trial.

Since 2002 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC)/Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) inspection into the investigation and prosecution of cases involving allegations of rape, a great deal of work has been done to increase the number of cases both brought to trial and ending in conviction. On 30 June this year the CPS launched its public policy statement on rape which sets out what the CPS is doing to improve the way all rape cases are handled, including specialist rape prosecutors in all areas.

Furthermore, the Sexual Offences Act, which came into force in May this year, puts in place a number of
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measures to increase confidence in the prosecution of all rapes and sexual offences, including group rape. These include:

The Government take all sexual crime extremely seriously and are committed to tackling all types of sexual assault and improving services to victims. Over this current and the next financial year, the Government will provide £4 million of proceeds of crime money for services to victims of sex offending.

Gun Crime

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the operations which have been introduced in areas with high levels of gun crime. [197175]

Caroline Flint: The Government supports the work of dedicated, intelligence-led gun crime operations in police forces around the country: Operations Trident and Trafalgar (Metropolitan police), Operation Ventara (West Midlands), Operation Stealth (Nottinghamshire) and Operation Xcalibre (Greater Manchester). These operations are producing excellent results:

Operation Trident

Trident was set up in 1999 to investigate shootings and murders in the black community in London, and also carries out pro-active, intelligence-led operations. From April to end October 2004, the number of Trident gun crime incidents is reported to be down 21 per cent.

Trafalgar was set up in January 2004 to investigate non-fatal shootings in London's other communities (mainly Asian and Turkish) following concerns expressed by those communities and also by the Metropolitan Police Authority. From April, Trafalgar-related gun crime incidents are reported to be down 18 per cent.

Operation Ventara

Ventara has been running in its current form for three years with a strategic focus of community intelligence, enforcement and partnership working. From April to September 2004, gang-related shootings have been reduced by 50 per cent., compared to the same period in 2003.

Operation Stealth

Operation Stealth was launched in 2002 by Nottinghamshire police to tackle drug-fuelled gun crime. Similar to Operation Trident, it has an Independent Advisory Group that monitors and observes the activity of this police operation. Since it was set up there have been over 900 arrests and the seizure of almost 300 firearms.

Operation Xcalibre

Xcalibre was launched in July this year and is a centralised investigative, focused approach to GMP's attack on the criminal use of firearms. It responds to intelligence of firearms-related incidents by actively
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targeting known offenders by disrupting their daily lives and investigating all confirmed incidents. As a result, in the year to date from April, the number of recorded crimes where a firearm has been discharged has fallen by one third compared to the same period last year.

These operations have helped to contribute to the reduction in the number of fatal shootings which, according to figures published on 21 October, fell from 82 in the 12 months to June 2003, to 70 in the same period to June 2004.

HMP Littlehey

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria were used to determine whether HMP Littlehey should be granted a local pay allowance. [195856]

Paul Goggins [holding answer 4 November 2004]: Local pay is determined following consideration of applications received from the establishment. The primary consideration is whether cost of living factors (predominantly housing and travel) provide an obstacle to the establishment being able to recruit and retain staff. It was determined by the Prison Service that Littlehay did not require the benefit of local pay to attract and retain staff at this particular time.

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