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15 Nov 2004 : Column 1118W—continued

Non-custodial Sentences

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment has been made of the criteria used by magistrates and judges when deciding between a custodial or community penalty. [191684]

Paul Goggins: The current statute which bears on the use of custodial and community penalties by sentencers is the Powers of Criminal Courts Sentencing Act 2000. This states that any penalty must reflect the seriousness of the offence for which it is imposed and the personal circumstances of the offender.

To impose a custodial penalty, the offence must be so serious that only such a sentence can be justified; or where the offence is violent or sexual, that only such a sentence would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm.

Seriousness and risk will remain the basis of sentencing decisions under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provisions.

This legislation established the Sentencing Guidelines Council, which is responsible for issuing detailed sentencing guidelines to all courts. They have recently published draft guidelines on the assessment of seriousness. These are currently the subject of consultation and can be found at

Overseas Corruption Offences

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many meetings officials in his Department have recently held with (a) companies and (b) industry bodies to discuss (i) legislation and (ii) enforcement relating to overseas bribery; and if he will list the companies or industry bodies with which officials from his Department met. [194719]

Paul Goggins: The most recent meeting involving the Confederation of British Industry and Home Office officials at which legislation on overseas bribery was discussed was on 27 October 2004. Home Office officials have not recently discussed this issue with any individual company. Enforcement of the legislation is a matter for law enforcement agencies.

Paddy Dixon

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assistance he is giving to the Police Service of Northern Ireland in locating Paddy Dixon for interview. [192978]

Mr. Pearson: I have been asked to reply.
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I am advised that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has not sought assistance from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department with regard to this matter.


Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how he intends to distribute the £50 million Neighbourhood Policing Fund. [190306]

Ms Blears: The £50 million which launches the Neighbourhood Policing Fund will allow police forces in England and Wales to increase the number of Community Support Officers (CSOs) to 5,500 by the end of March, 2005 and will be available to forces from January 2005. Forces have made bids under the-fund and will be notified of their allocations shortly. In making distributions under the first round of funding we will consider a number of factors including current CSO numbers in each force.

Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers have been employed by Thames Valley Police in each of the last 10 years, broken down by (a) local authority and (b) basic command unit. [195608]

Ms Blears: A table of police personnel strength for the Thames Valley police since March 1994 is set out in the table.
(as at 31 March)
Number of police officersNumber of police (support) staff
2004 (31 August)4,139Not available

Information on strength at Basic Command Unit (BCU) level is collected annually and reflects the position at the end of March. Information on BCU strength is only available from 2002. BCU strength between March 2002 and March 2004 is set out in the table.
BCUMarch 2002March 2003March 2004
Aylesbury Vale177194196
Chiltern Vale298293321
Milton Keynes342346371
Northern Oxfordshire281301296
Reading and Wokingham369387434
Slough and District254264297
Southern Oxfordshire253255267
Thames Forest309307339
West Berkshire160159185
Total BCU Strength2,7592,8233,042

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It is not possible to provide police numbers at local authority level.

The deployment of officers to BCUs is a matter for the Chief Constable (Mr. Peter Neyroud QPM) and within the Thames Valley Police Basic Command Units deployment of officers is a matter for divisional commanders.

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will encourage police forces to have cheaper alternatives to alloy wheels fitted to police vehicles. [195770]

Ms Blears: Decisions regarding procurement are operational matters for the chief constable within policing plans set by the Police Authority.

Since 1992 the Police Information Technology Organisation, with the support of the National Association of Police Fleet Managers, has put in place a number of national frameworks for the purchase of vehicles by the police service, on which police authorities may draw. They deliver significant discounts on manufacturers prices.

Prison (Racial Incidents)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for The Home Department what improvements have been made in procedures for investigations of racial incidents and complaints in prison. [191898]

Paul Goggins: Following a review of the racist incidents reporting system, a dedicated form for registering racist incidents is now available across the whole of the prison estate. This form can be completed by anyone who is a victim or a witness to an incident within the prison. The purpose of the revised form is to improve: the recording of racist incidents; the response to individual reports, thereby increasing the confidence of victims; the monitoring of the information available so that prisons can make improvements in race.

The form has a tear-off slip, which must be given to the person reporting the incident (victim or witness) as proof that a report has been submitted. This is intended to increase confidence in the system and to form part of an audit trail. The form also requires that any decision by a complainant or witness to withdraw a complaint is thoroughly explored and any possibility of intimidation is explicitly examined and ruled out.

The responsibility of ensuring that investigations are carried out effectively rests with the Governing Governor of each establishment, or the Head of Group for Headquarters units. As part of their responsibilities the Race Relations Management Teams in each establishment are required to monitor the investigation of racist complaints and their outcomes.

The training course for those carrying out investigations was revised and improved at the beginning of 2004. The course includes specific training on dealing with race related complaints.

The joint Prison Service/Commission for Racial Equality Race Equality Action Plan recognises that further improvements need to be made with regard to the quality and thoroughness of the investigations of racial incidents. The Service has begun to develop a
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programme of work to assess the feasibility of having external bodies such as Race Equality Councils, review the adequacy of racist incident investigations.

Prison and Probation Funding

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how much of the increase in prison and probation funding announced on 29 September had not previously been announced; [194778]

(2) how much of the uplift for correctional services announced in September is funding which had not previously been announced. [194779]

Paul Goggins: Of the £312 million resource uplift for correctional services referred to by the Home Secretary on 29 September, £72 million had not been announced previously.

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