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Youth Custody

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many individuals under the age of 18 years are serving a custodial sentence in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [24549]

Fiona Mactaggart: On 30 September 2005 there were 2,284 persons aged under 18 serving a custodial sentence in England and Wales. This comprised 1,897 in prison establishments, 184 in Local Authority Secure Children's Homes and 203 in Secure Training Centres.


Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the progress of the intermediary scheme provided for in the special measures for vulnerable witnesses under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. [29341]

Fiona Mactaggart: Examination of a witness through an intermediary under section 29 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is currently available in six pathfinder areas: Merseyside; West Midlands; Thames Valley; South Wales; Norfolk; and Devon and Cornwall. Evaluation of the pathfinders will be completed by the end of March 2006 after which plans will be made for further roll out of the scheme in England and Wales.

The latest available information about the number of times that intermediaries have been used is given in the following table.

We have issued recently information packs entitled 'What's my story?' and 'Intermediaries: Giving a voice to vulnerable witnesses' copies of which have been
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placed in the Library. These materials are being used to promote awareness and understanding of the intermediary scheme in the pathfinder areas.


Intermediary scheme
start date
Number of witnesses assisted by an intermediary as at 15 November 2005(102)
Merseyside23 February 200411
West Midlands13 September 2004
(Wolverhampton area)
1 November 2004
(all courts in West Midlands)
Thames Valley2 October 200451
South Wales(103)1 February 20052
Norfolk1 February 20055
Devon and Cornwall(104)20 June 20059

(102) Data refer to the number of witnesses for whom the Office for Criminal Justice Reform has provided a registered intermediary where the intermediary has, or is expected to, carried out a communication needs analysis relating to the witness or has assisted them to understand questions or to make their answers understood during a criminal investigation or trial.
Data refer only to pathfinder areas where notification of availability of the intermediary special measure has been made in accordance with section 18(2) of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.
(103) In South Wales trials are restricted to Cardiff Crown court, Cardiff magistrates courts, the Vale of Glamorgan magistrates courts, Newcastle and Ogmore magistrates courts, Miskin magistrates courts.
(104) In Devon and Cornwall trials are restricted to Plymouth Crown court and Plymouth magistrates court.

Mr. Ian Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to improve support for witnesses who fear for their wellbeing if they give evidence in open court. [24583]

Fiona Mactaggart: Provisions in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 enable a court to order that a witness who suffers fear or distress receives assistance through one or more special measures. These include live videolink, screens and clearing the public gallery. The court may also prohibit publication of information that would lead to public identification of the witness.

Witnesses who are subject to serious intimidation may be provided with specific security measures as part of an on-going risk assessment by the relevant law enforcement agency and in some cases the witness may be relocated. At the end of its second year of operation in October 2005, the National Witness Mobility Service had handled over 300 witness relocation requests received through local police forces and social landlords.

The Serious Organised Crime and Policing Act 2005 provides clear statutory rules and procedures governing witness protection which will be implemented fully by April 2006.

Intimidation of a witness is an offence under section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in relation to criminal proceedings and section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 in relation to civil proceedings.
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Women's Prisons (Wales)

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will commission research into the effect on families of there being no prison for women in Wales. [28728]

Fiona Mactaggart: The Government are aware of the importance of family ties for all prisoners, especially women. A Home Office Resettlement Survey (Home Office Research Findings 248 2005) which included family ties issues for all prisoners was carried out in 2003. There are no current plans to commission specific research into the effect on families of there being no prisons for women in Wales.

There are no plans, at present, to build a women's prison in Wales but accommodation requirements will be kept under review.

Young Offenders

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the levels of reoffending by young offenders were in (a) 2001–02, (b) 2002–03, (c) 2003–04 and (d) 2004–05. [26645]

Hazel Blears: Re-offending rates are not available but reconviction rates are a commonly used proxy for re-offending rates and reconviction rates are published annually by the Home Office.

The most recent data are for those offenders who were discharged from prison, began a community sentence, or received a pre-court disposal in the first quarter of each of the years shown in the table.

Reconviction rates should be used with caution as a number of different factors can influence them. Actual reconviction rates can be adjusted to take account of such factors to provide a like for like comparison with the 2000 baseline year. Where the actual rate is less than the predicted rate, the figures show a relative reduction—like for like—with the 2000 baseline. The most recent data show a reduction in re-offending of 2.4 per cent. against the 2000 baseline.

The Home Office public service agreement target is to reduce re-offending by 5 per cent. by 2006.
Reconviction rates: Percentage of juvenile offenders reconvicted within one year

Actual reconviction ratePredicted reconviction rateDifference between predicted and actual rate

Youth Action and Engagement Framework

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the launch of the new national framework for youth action and engagement. [26665]

Hazel Blears: The Government believe that providing more young people with the opportunity to become involved in volunteering brings huge benefits, both to
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young people themselves and to the wider community. We are committed to implementing the national framework for youth action and engagement recommended by the Russell Commission and we have allocated up to £100 million over the next three years to do so.

A key element of the framework is the creation of a dedicated implementation body, which will work in partnership with the voluntary and community sector, the private sector and with young people themselves, to deliver a step change in the quality and quantity of volunteering opportunities. Officials within the Home Office are working with Ian Russell to create this body as an independent charity. This work includes the recruitment of the chair, chief executive officer and board of the charity. An announcement on these key appointments will be made in December 2005 and we expect that the charity will be formally launched in spring 2006.

Youth Justice Board

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the work of the Youth Justice Board to improve its custodial capacity modelling capability referred to on page 153 of the 2005 Departmental Report. [26671]

Fiona Mactaggart: The Home Office, the Office for Criminal Justice Reform and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system (CJS) have developed a model known as the 'CJS Model', overseen by the CJS Modelling Steering Group. The model mainly involves adult offenders with only a limited section relevant to 10–17 year olds. The Youth Justice Board is in discussion with the Steering Group about the possibility
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of either extending the current model to cover young offenders or developing a new model specifically for 10–17 year olds.

This work is only at the feasibility stage. It is a difficult area of work which requires extensive resources. The Board is beginning to establish a small data analysis section, and part of its role will be to do modelling work relating to custodial numbers.

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