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10 Jan 2005 : Column 276W—continued

Belmarsh Detainees

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the cost is of enforcing the bail
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conditions imposed on detainee G, who was released on bail from HMP Belmarsh in April; and if he will make a statement. [206705]

Paul Goggins [holding answer 21 December 2004]: Premier Monitoring have been monitoring the detainee referred to as "G" since February 2004. The Electronic Monitoring element of his Bail Order cost £8,685.60 including VAT up to the end of December 2004.

Other costs incurred include legal challenges lodged by G, (for example, to amend the conditions attached to his bail) and regular visits to him by Immigration Officers and, where appropriate, the police. Were G to travel away from his home, under the terms of the order, he would need to travel with a police escort. These costs are not monitored centrally.


Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the use of facial recognition systems by police forces; and what assessment he has made of their impact in (a) securing convictions and (b) reducing crime. [203032]

Caroline Flint: The Facial Images National Database (FIND) project currently being undertaken by the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) is aiming to deliver a nationally available "mugshot" database of facial images, linked to the respective PNC records, in 2006. One key element of this project involves providing guidance to police forces on image capture standards in order to ensure that the database is populated with the best possible images.

Face recognition systems, with current technology, are most effective when used for "one to one" matching, for example to help verify that an individual is who they claim to be. Despite significant advances in the last few years, the technology still has some way to go before it is capable of reliably performing "face in the crowd" type searches against either a large database or a smaller "watch-list".

Post-event analysis is an example of a promising area for the use for facial recognition technology. The facial recognition element of the victim-focused work with regards to child abuse images being undertaken by the National Crime Squad is proving very successful in identifying victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse and in identifying links between cases.

A number of direct law enforcement applications have been implemented, including the London borough of Newham partnership with the Metropolitan Police to provide facial recognition as part of a town centre protection application.

PITO continues to maintain close links with both industry and academia regarding developments in this field, and are also undertaking a programme of work to evaluate the current potential for this technology in a variety of policing applications.

British Passports

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on his
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Department's policy on issuing British passports to South African nationals who are serving in the British Army and married to British citizens; [205442]

(2) whether South African nationals who are married to a British citizen are eligible to be issued with a British passport while continuing to serve in the British Army; [205443]

(3) what steps a South African national serving in the British Army and married to a British citizen should take to apply for a British passport. [205444]

Mr. Browne: Under Section 6(1) (section 6(2) if married to a British citizen) of the British Nationality Act 1981 applicants for naturalisation must meet, among other things, a number of residence requirements which are detailed in Schedule 1, paragraph 1 (2) of the Act.

The residence requirements include five years residence in the UK immediately prior to application (three if married to a British citizen) and a mandatory requirement to have been physically in the UK on the actual date five years (three if married to a British citizen) prior to the date of application. There is no discretion to waive the requirement to have been physically present in the UK at the start of the five year qualifying period (three years if married to a British citizen) where an application is being made on the basis of residence.

These requirements have not been amended and have been applied consistently since the Act came into force on 1 January 1983.

There is scope under the Act for Crown Service overseas, on the date of application for citizenship, to act as an alternative to the residence criteria outlined above, (Schedule 1 paragraph 1(3) of the Act). However the Home Office applies very strict criteria in such cases and very few applications are ever granted on this basis. Examples of cases we have approved include applicants who had more than 20 years Crown service with British embassies, at pro- and vice-consul level and their applications were supported by current and previous ambassadors.

In line with the recent review into the Home Office immigration and naturalisation policy for Gurkhas, the policy for naturalisation for all servicemen has been changed. We will, generally, no longer naturalise a member of the armed forces while they are still in service. Once discharged, ex-servicemen who have served four or more years in the armed forces will be eligible to apply for settled status. Once settled they will be free to live and work in the UK indefinitely and will be able to apply for naturalisation, subject to meeting the usual residence requirements. The new policy takes account of the potential high levels of absences that ex-servicemen may have and will enable these to be waived in most cases.

Our policy on applications made under the Crown Service arrangements has not changed as a result of the review; we will continue to apply the same strict criteria in these cases.
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Child Detention

Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to ensure that legislation concerning children's interests applies equally to children in prison and children in asylum detention centres, following the recent judgment in Regina (on behalf of the Howard League for Penal Reform) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department. [203014]

Paul Goggins: The judgment of the Administrative Court in R (on the application of the Howard League for Penal Reform) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department and Another clarified the law in relation to young people in custody. The court ruled that local authorities continue to have responsibilities towards children who are detained in young offender institutions, subject to the requirements of custody. The Home Office, the Youth Justice Board and the Department for Education and Skills have taken a range of measures to implement that ruling and also to strengthen child protection and safeguarding generally for young people in custody. Most notably, the board is funding the provision of 25 new social worker posts in Young Offender Institutions.

Although the judgment related specifically to children in young offender institutions, the Government accept that its general principles would apply in the context of children detained under Immigration Act powers. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate is meeting the broad principles set out in the judgment to the extent that it is possible for it to do so in the context of immigration detention and the removal of failed asylum seekers and others.

The Children Act 2004 places legal protections for young people in custody on a statutory footing. It places a duty on prison governors or directors, and governors or directors of secure training centres, to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Governors or directors of juvenile young offender institutions and secure training centres also become board partners in Local Safeguarding Children's Boards, which will be established to co-ordinate, and ensure the effectiveness of, safeguarding in their children's services authority area.

The children of asylum seekers and refugees are not excluded from the arrangements in the 2004 Act. The arrangements under sections 10 (co-operation to improve well-being), 11 (arrangements to safeguard and promote welfare) and 13–16 (Local Safeguarding Children Boards) of the Act are intended to cover all children. This includes those seeking asylum or refugees, when they come into contact with the agencies involved in the arrangements or, more generally, through the focus of the section 10 co-operation arrangements on all children.

Although the statutory duty to promote and safeguard the welfare of children was not placed on the Immigration Service, the IS takes its responsibilities towards children very seriously and fully appreciates the importance of identifying vulnerable children, including those who may be detained with their families. All
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removal centres that may hold families with children are required to have in place child protection policies and procedures based on a national template and to maintain close ties with local agencies involved in child protection and welfare matters. In addition, while the Immigration Service is not a core member under the duty to co-operate to improve well-being or the duty to establish Local Safeguarding Children Boards, where appropriate the Immigration Service will be involved in these arrangements. This would include those areas in which removal centres holding families with children are located.

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