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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 17 January 2005


Postal Voting

26. Bob Spink: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what recent assessment the commission has made of the security of postal voting. [208475]

Mr. Viggers: The Commission's most recent assessment of the security of postal voting was published in its report on postal voting—Delivering democracy—in August 2004. The Government published their response to the recommendations in that report in December 2004 in Cm 6436.


Invoice Payments

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Advocate-General what the average length of time was between the date of invoices issued to her Department from a supplier and payment by the Department of the invoice in the last 12 months for which figures are available; what percentage of those invoices were paid within 30 days of the date of issue of the invoice; what percentage of those invoices remained unpaid after 90 days; and if she will make a statement on the Department's policy on the payment of invoices issued to the Department. [201007]

The Advocate-General: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. The information for the Office of the Advocate-General is not held separately from that of the Scotland Office.


European Court of Justice

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Solicitor-General what the cost was of UK participation in the Commission case against the Hellenic Republic in Court of Justice Cases C-475/01 as detailed in OJ C300 volume 47 of 4 December; and what form such participation took. [207258]

The Solicitor-General: The UK's participation in Case C-475/01 was limited to applying to the European Court of Justice for leave to intervene, which was granted. After reviewing the pleadings, the UK decided not to pursue the intervention because it had nothing to add to the Commission's case. The UK did not therefore submit a statement of intervention or attend the hearing.
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In accordance with the Court's Rules of Procedure (Article 69(4)), an intervening member state bears its own costs of intervention. Aside from the time spent by departmental officials in considering the pleadings and applying for leave to intervene, the only costs incurred were the costs of translating the pleadings from Greek to English, which were approximately £2,150.

CPS Direct

Vera Baird: To ask the Solicitor-General in how many Crown Prosecution Service areas Crown Prosecution Service Direct is fully operational. [207494]

The Solicitor-General: There are currently 14 Local Criminal Justice Board Areas who have become subject to the statutory charging scheme and are therefore delivering out of hours legal advice and charging decisions to the police through CPS Direct. These are:

Vera Baird: To ask the Solicitor-General what her assessment is of the impact of Crown Prosecution Service Direct on (a) the level of convictions, (b) the numbers of guilty pleas and (c) the numbers of cracked trials in 2004. [207495]

The Solicitor-General: CPS Direct is currently operating in the 14 Criminal Justice Areas that have implemented statutory charging.

The following table records the conviction and guilty plea rate of cases finalised in November 2004 that have been subject to statutory charging arrangements ("All") and those that have involved CPS Direct prosecutors ("CPS Direct").

Guilty plea rate
Conviction rate
CPS Direct73.177.779.084.8

The data available on cracked trials does not distinguish between all cases and those receiving advice through CPS Direct.

Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. Amess: To ask the Solicitor General what criteria the Crown Prosecution Service uses to decide whether to prosecute in a case referred to it. [206932]

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The Solicitor-General: All cases received by the Crown Prosecution Service are individually reviewed against the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The Code is a publicly available document issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions to give guidance on general principles to be applied in determining whether cases should be prosecuted and the choice of charge.

A prosecutor must first decide whether there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each defendant on each charge. If there is sufficient evidence the prosecutor will consider whether the public interest requires the case to be prosecuted. A prosecution will usually take place unless there are public interest factors tending against a prosecution which clearly outweigh those tending in favour, or it appears more appropriate in all the circumstances of the case to divert the person from prosecution.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Solicitor-General what documents the Crown Prosecution Service requires to receive before making a decision to prosecute. [206933]

The Solicitor-General: Under the new early advice and charging arrangements, the police may seek the opinion of a Crown Prosecution Service duty prosecutor at any stage in the proceedings. No formal documentation is required for the early stages of an investigation, though the police are encouraged to provide copies of any documentation they have. For the formal decision to commence proceedings, usually by the preferment of a charge, the police are required to provide jointly agreed documentation set out in a Manual of Guidance and in Guidance issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecutors making charging decisions.

The documents which accompany a police officer's report will include key witness statements and other relevant material such as video recordings, an account of the defendant's interview, a record of the defendant's previous convictions, if any, and any material that would undermine the prosecution's case or assist the defence.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the pilot scheme for joint working between the Crown Prosecution Service and the police in Southend. [207631]

The Solicitor-General: The joint Crown Prosecution Service/police criminal justice unit was opened in Southend Police Station in November 2000. Charging Prosecutors at the Station now provide advice to the police both pre-charge and at the charging stage. When required they also provide advice to police officers during their investigation into allegations of crime.

The police and CPS also work together on effective trial management and supporting witnesses to give their evidence through No Witness No Justice.
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Sex Abuse (Evidential Tests)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor General how the Crown Prosecution Service tests the evidence in historical sex abuse cases. [207507]

The Solicitor-General: In all cases it prosecutes, the Crown Prosecution Service applies the evidential test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and only those cases that pass this test and where it is in the public interest to prosecute, are put before the court. A new edition of the Code was issued in November 2004, and is publicly available.

The Attorney General announced, in a written statement to Parliament on 20 December 2004, a proposal that will enable prosecutors to interview and assess the evidence and credibility of a witness before trial. This will include sensitive cases, such as those involving historical sexual abuse.

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