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Sentencing Policy

20. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Solicitor-General how many requests have been made in the past 12 months for the review of lenient sentences. [4735]

The Solicitor-General: For the period 1 June 2004 to 15 June 2005, 330 cases raising issues of unduly lenient sentences were submitted to the Law Offices for referral to the Court of Appeal. Requests came from the CPS, victims, their families, members of the public and Members of Parliament.

98 of the cases were referred to the Court of Appeal.

Witness Care Units

21. Ben Chapman: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement on witness care units in Merseyside. [4737]

The Solicitor-General: A pilot Witness Care Unit jointly staffed by the Crown Prosecution Service and police is currently dealing with North and South Sefton Magistrates Court cases and some Crown court work.

A Merseyside Witness Care Unit will be opened in October 2005. It will deal with all cases for the entire county. It will consist of 36 police and CPS staff; it will be based at Tithebarn House in Liverpool.

Ball-bearing Guns

22. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General how many prosecutions there were in England and Wales for illegal use of ball-bearing guns in the last year for which figures are available. [4738]

The Solicitor-General: Crown Prosecution Service records include a count of the number of prosecutions under particular Acts of Parliament, and under specific sections of each Act. However, the offences in question are not the subject of discrete legislation, and CPS records therefore provide no indication of the number of proceedings undertaken.

Domestic Violence

23. Barbara Follett: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to raise awareness of its measures to tackle domestic violence, with particular reference to Hertfordshire. [4739]

The Solicitor-General: After the passing of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act last year, the CPS published its revised public policy statement on domestic violence in February 2005. Its national network of domestic violence co-ordinators engage with
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specialists in other agencies and represent the CPS in local domestic violence forums. The CPS recognises that awareness raising and confidence building are important elements of its work against domestic violence. CPS Hertfordshire works constructively with its criminal justice partners and NGOs in the county to raise awareness of domestic violence as an issue and of strategies for dealing with it. For example, in March 2004 it was fully represented at the Hertfordshire Criminal Justice Board open day in Stevenage.

Criminal Trials (Special Measures)

Vera Baird: To ask the Solicitor General what monitoring he undertakes of the relationship between the granting of special measures in criminal trials and the outcome of trials. [4694]

The Solicitor-General: This type of monitoring is not undertaken. A correlation cannot be made between a special measures direction and a trial's outcome. The weight to be attached to a piece of evidence is a matter for the magistrates/jury. Where special measures are used, witnesses appear to appreciate them.

Ministers (Prosecutions)

David Howarth: To ask the Solicitor-General what criteria the Law Officers apply in deciding whether to enter a plea of nolle prosequi in the case of a Minister of the Crown prosecuted for a criminal offence. [4910]

The Solicitor-General: The Law Officers act as guardians of the public interest when considering whether to enter a plea of nolle prosequi. In such cases, they apply the principles set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Whether the defendant whose case is under consideration is a Minister of the Crown or not is irrelevant to their decision.

Proceeds of Crime Act

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Solicitor General what the success rate of prosecutors in securing orders in criminal cases under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been since their introduction. [4736]

The Solicitor-General: Prosecutors from the Crown Prosecution Service, the Serious Fraud Office, Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office and other prosecutors make applications for restraint and confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).

Since April 2004, the Joint Asset Recovery Database figures show that prosecutors have made 653 applications for restraint under POCA and earlier legislation, of which 650 have been successful. In the same period prosecutors have prepared 3,165 confiscation applications under POCA and earlier legislation, of which 2,007 POCA and 1,023 pre-POCA orders have been granted by the Crown Court.

Serious Fraud Office

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Solicitor General whether the Serious Fraud Office will investigate all cases of foreign bribery that pass through vetting stage. [3911]

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The Solicitor-General: Given the public interest in maintaining the reputation of British industry abroad and the sums involved in the contracts concerned, it is likely that any such allegation would be investigated by the Serious Fraud Office depending on the weight of the evidence and whether the public interest would be served.

The Serious Fraud Office has been nominated as the Department that will vet all foreign bribery cases and as such will take the decision whether or not it will retain cases or pass them to other authorities.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Solicitor General (1) if he will list the jurisdictions to which the Serious Fraud Office provides mutual legal assistance with regard to allegations of overseas corruption offences; [3912]

(2) how many requests for mutual legal assistance from foreign jurisdictions the Serious Fraud Office has received which relate to allegations of overseas corruption offences in the last 10 years; and if he will listthe jurisdictions from which these requests have come; [3913]

(3) how many requests for mutual legal assistance from foreign jurisdictions received by the Serious Fraud Office with regard to overseas corruption have resulted in domestic investigations being opened by the Serious Fraud Office in each of the last five years. [3915]

The Solicitor-General: To identify mutual legal assistance requests involving corruption over a 10 year period would incur disproportionate cost.

Since 1 January 2001, the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Unit of the Serious Fraud Office has received seven requests for assistance in cases involving corruption offences. These may relate to allegations of corruption by UK citizens or companies overseas, or to corruption by individuals or entities of the referring state.

The SFO does not disclose details of assistance provided to overseas investigations without consent from the referring jurisdiction or unless the referring jurisdiction has made public disclosures. The requests for assistance already in the public domain were from France and Norway.

In the last five years, there have been no requests for assistance involving corruption from overseas jurisdictions which have resulted in a domestic investigation being opened by the Serious Fraud Office. In 2003 a domestic investigation was opened following a request for assistance from Bosnia and Herzegovina concerning bribery offences as specified by the referring jurisdiction.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Solicitor General how many investigations into allegations of overseas corruption the Serious Fraud Office is conducting; and how many allegations are being vetted. [3916]

The Solicitor-General: The SFO is currently investigating four cases involving allegations of overseas corruption by British companies or individuals. In addition, there are 13 cases currently being vetted to decide if a full investigation should be instigated.
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Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Solicitor General what action he is taking to ensure that the Serious Fraud Office has appropriate funding to pursue foreign bribery investigations. [3917]

The Solicitor-General: : The budget allocated to the SFO will increase in 2005–06 to £35.4 million to allow the SFO to continue to accept referrals that meet the acceptance criteria of the Department. To date, the SFO has not declined any allegations of overseas bribery due to insufficient resources.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Solicitor General what action he is taking to implement the OECD's recommendation that the Serious Fraud Office's role in leading foreign bribery investigations be confirmed. [3918]

The Solicitor-General: : The Government is currently considering how best to take forward the recommendations outlined by the OECD in their phase 2 report and will report on progress to the OECD Bribery Working Group in December. Part of the work that is being considered by Departments in response to the issue of overseas corruption is a rationalisation of the law enforcement response.

Guidance which governs implementation of the revised version of the Memorandum of Understanding will be placed in the Library of the House of Commons.

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