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20 Jun 2005 : Column 866W—continued

Racist Attacks

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many racist attacks have occurred in each parliamentary constituency in Northern Ireland over the last three years; and what steps have been taken by the agencies to combat such attacks. [4069]

Mr. Woodward: The statistics are not available in the format requested as the Police Service of Northern Ireland record statistics by District Command Unit rather than by parliamentary constituency. These statistics are set out in the following table:
Number of racial incidents(63)—2002–03 and 2003–04

District command unit2002–032003–042004–05(64)
Urban region
North Belfast162776
South Belfast58147159
East Belfast113254
West Belfast01113
North Down171819
Total for Region141289445
Rural region
Newry and Mourne21115
Dungannon and South Tyrone72169
Total for Region85164368
Overall Total226453813

(63)Racial incidents include murder, physical assault, verbal abuse/threat, attack on home, attack on property, graffiti and written material.
(64)Not directly comparable with earlier years.

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A new method of recording these figures was introduced in 2004–05. The statistics issued by the Chief Constable are now aligned with Home Office practice and as a result the figures for 2004–05 are not directly comparable with the figures for 2002–03 and 2003–04.

PSNI believe the rise in figures to be due to an increase in racially motivated offences, improved confidence in the PSNI amongst minority ethnic communities and improved recording systems.

The Government are currently taking steps to tackle the issue of racially motivated incidents. The Criminal Justice (No2) (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 has already been introduced. This directs the courts to take account during sentencing of any offence where there is evidence of hostility based on, among other things, race, and it increases the maximum sentences available for certain specified, mainly violent offences including where racial aggravation is proven.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is investing considerable time and effort in addressing race crime. Recent initiatives include the introduction of an on-line reporting system on the PSNI website as part of the Hate Crime is Wrong" campaign. minority liaison officers have been appointed in each District Command Unit. Their role is to record and monitor racially motivated and other types of hate crime in their area, advise and support victims of such crime, and work in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies to address these issues. The PSNI has also introduced targeted patrolling in areas where people are deemed to be at greatest risk of attack and are working in partnership with other agencies to develop solution to the problem.
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The PSNI is determined to investigate fully all hate related incidents and where possible to secure sufficient evidence to prosecute offenders.

Rates Reform

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether the proposals for domestic rates reform will be revenue-neutral. [4328]

Angela E. Smith: Yes. The level of annual rates increases will be considered in the course of the Budget process.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the timetable is for reform of domestic rates. [4329]

Angela E. Smith: The reforms of the domestic rating system in Northern Ireland will be introduced in April 2007.

Recorded Crime (North Belfast)

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many crimes have been recorded in (a) North Belfast and (b) Northern Ireland in each year since 1997; in how many cases there was a detection; in how many cases proceedings were commenced; and in how many cases convictions were secured. [4390]

Mr. Woodward: The Police Service of Northern Ireland has provided the following statistics in relation to the number of crimes recorded and cleared by the police since 2000: Unfortunately PSNI Statistics Branch does not hold information prior to this date.
(a) North Belfast District Command Unit
Crimes recorded10,02912,60512,1379,6988,637
Crimes cleared by method of clearance:
Adult caution/informed warning192771298368
Taken into consideration by the court2616111
Juvenile restorative caution/informed warning108551135541
Offender under age208101811
Complainant declined to prosecute628378557796573
DCU Commander/DPP/PPS direct no prosecution12058312920
Otherwise disposed of1821212113
Total crimes cleared2,2451,2651,8991,9421,769
(b) Northern Ireland
Crimes recorded119,912139,786142,496127,953118,124
Crimes cleared by method of clearance:
Adult caution/informed warning2,7952,0792,3932,2272,206
Taken into consideration by the court1,151439612534457
Juvenile restorative caution/informed warning1,9271,4271,5541,4271,421
Offender under age245219177169211
Complainant declined to prosecute10,87410,14012,05114,36112,230
DCU Commander /DPP/PPS direct no prosecution2,2321,6521,4381,5421,788
Otherwise disposed of246378685458400
Total crimes cleared32,52228,14232,80635,09333,344

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Statistics relating to prosecution and convictions are provided in the following table:
Northern IrelandNorth BelfastNorthern IrelandNorth Belfast

1.The figures above are based on the principal offence rule so only the most serious offence for which a person is proceeded against is included.
2.From 2000, prosecutions data are drawn from the PSNI Integrated Crime Information System, which only records the District Command Unit to which an offender's address relates. Figures are not therefore available for proceedings stemming from crimes reported to North Belfast after 1999.
3.Information is not yet available for prosecutions and convictions made after 2003.

Roads and Street Works Legislation

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will subject the roads and water services, along with private developers and utility companies, to an independent regulator to ensure full compliance with the terms of roads and street works legislation in Northern Ireland. [3604]

Mr. Woodward: The Street Works (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 is the Northern Ireland equivalent of GB legislation, designed to regulate the opening and reinstatement of public roads by utilities. Also, any private developer placing or retaining apparatus in the street must have a street works licence and comply with the requirements of the Street Works Order. This regime is regulated and enforced by Roads Service. I believe this regulation is effective, and there is no need for an additional regulator. Water Service aims to comply fully with the terms of the order; however, as it is an agency of the Crown it cannot currently be prosecuted as other utilities. This will change when Water Service becomes a Government owned company. In the interim, any offences by Water Service, which would be prosecutable under the legislation, will be recorded in a register along with the remedial actions agreed with Roads Service.

Works for roads purposes, on the other hand, is specifically excluded from the Street Works Order. This is the same as the position in the rest of the UK, where in no instance is the work of highway authorities covered by the street works legislation, nor is it subject to independent regulation.

The safety of the work operations themselves is subject to the Health and Safety legislation, which is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive. This would apply to promote safe working practices, such as avoiding underground pipes or cables being damaged. All of the parties you mention are treated equally under this legislation.
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Roads Service is ultimately responsible for the maintenance of the road infrastructure to keep it safe, effective and reliable and to preserve the value of the asset. With utilities making over 45,000 openings each year I am sure that you will appreciate it is important that Roads Service retains enforcement responsibilities for Street Works in respect of the various agencies working there.

I can confirm there are no plans for Roads Service to relinquish this authority by introducing an independent regulator.

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