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Sandra Gidley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs when Lord Justice Wall is expected to report on his investigation into five cases in which the family courts were involved and children were subsequently killed during contact visits. 
Bridget Prentice: Lord Justice Wall has been conducting an internal review, from the judicial perspective, for the President of the Family Division. This is in the light of broad concerns expressed rather than a response to individual complaints. This is a judicial matter.
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 November 2005, Official Report, column 1339W on what date the Privy Council meeting
21 Nov 2005 : Column 1657W
was held at Balmoral; which Ministers attended; whether each (a) departed from and (b) returned to London; and what business was conducted. 
Ms Harman: The Privy Council meeting at Balmoral Castle was held on 13 September 2004, and was attended by Baroness Amos, Alan Milburn and Alan Johnson. All the Ministers departed from and returned to London. The business of the meeting was to swear in Alan Johnson as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Following the Privy Council meeting, in a separate audience with the Queen, Alan Milburn made affirmation as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether the panel for interviewing and recommending appointments to the role of Queen's counsel will be subject to the proposed duty on public authorities to promote gender equality. 
Ms Harman: Queen's counsel remains a public appointment for the time being. The Secretary of State has already included improvements in fairness and diversity in the goals for the QC scheme agreed by the professions. The Equality Bill is currently before Parliament. As currently drafted, I expect that both the QC selection panel in making recommendations to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State in advising Her Majesty, will be subject to the duty. In any event, the Secretary of State expects equal treatment to be an essential part of the panel's consideration of applications.
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many Queen's counsel appointed in each of the last five years (a) in England and (b) on the north eastern circuit were women. 
Ms Harman: No Queen's counsel have been appointed since Easter 2003; we expect the first new recommendations to come from the independent selection panel in April or May 2006. The numbers of female appointees for the whole of England and Wales in the last five years were:
|Number of female appointees|
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs in how many rape trials at a Crown court (a) a female and (b) a male judge sat in each of the last five years; and how many cases resulted in (i) conviction and (ii) acquittal in each case. 
Ms Harman: We do not hold centrally information on the gender of the judge who sits on trials including rape trials. Departmental records however show that there were a total of 6,237 rape trials for the period starting 2001 up to now. 2,059 trials resulted in a conviction and 3,615 in an acquittal. 563 resulted in 'other' disposal such as the jury being unable to agree on a verdict.
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many rape trials were listed as floating cases in the first half of 2005 in (a) the central criminal court and (b) Teesside Crown court. 
Ms Harman: Departmental records show that during the first half of 2005, there were no rape trials listed as floaters at the central criminal court. There were two cases listed as floaters at Teesside Crown court but this should be placed in the context of 21 cases listed for trial where there was at least one count of rape.
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many rape trials in which all proceedings are complete have been conducted in Teesside Crown Court under the revised definition of that offence in the Sexual Offences Act 2003; and what verdicts have been returned in each case. 
Ms Harman: Departmental records show that there have been 12 completed rape trials under the revised definition of that offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 at Teesside Crown Court. Three resulted in a conviction and nine in an acquittal.
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what facilities for video-linked examination in chief and cross examinations are in use in (a) Teesside Crown Court and (b) Middlesbrough and Guisborough magistrates courts; and what further facilities are proposed in each of the next two years. 
Ms Harman: Teesside Crown court has six videolink facilities, Middlesbrough magistrates court has four videolink facilities, and Guisbrough magistrates court has one videolink installed that can be used for giving evidence in chief and cross examination.
There are no current plans to install additional videolinks in the magistrates courts. However, the Department is putting together a business case for additional equipment in Crown court centres for 2006.
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what proportion of Crown court recorders (a) in England and (b) sitting regularly in Teesside Crown court are women. 
Vera Baird: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will include trials concerning special measures among those where special measures for the protection of witnesses are automatically approved. 
Because of the nature of sexual offences and the sensitivity of the evidence that is given, complainants in sexual offences are automatically eligible for special measures unless they advise the court that they do not want such assistance. Witnesses aged under 17 years are also automatically eligible for special measures assistance. A victim of domestic violence who falls into one of these categories will be eligible automatically for special measures.
Other complainants and witnesses, including those who are victims of domestic violence but who do not fall into these automatic categories, whose quality of evidence may be diminished by reason of incapacity or because of fear or distress about testifying can apply to the court for a special measures direction.
The Government believe that allowing courts to apply these principles strikes the right balance enabling measures to be taken which are appropriate to the particular circumstances of a case taking account of the needs and wishes of individual complainants and witnesses. We have no plans to amend the legislation to make special measures automatic in cases of domestic violence.
In addition to the practical measures available in cases of domestic violence, the specialist domestic violence courts programme we are taking forward is about situating the court and the criminal justice system as part of a community wide response to domestic violence which places the victim at the heart of the process. We have a programme in place to expand the existing network of specialist courts across the country and propose to develop courts in 25 areas by April 2006. Additional funding of £1 million was announced in October 2005 to expand the programme further in 200607.
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