Previous Section Index Home Page

22 Nov 2005 : Column 1933W—continued

Prisons

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his policy on the early release of prisoners. [19054]

Fiona Mactaggart: Determinate sentence prisoners sentenced on or after 1 October 1992 to a term of imprisonment of four years or more in respect of offences committed prior to 4 April 2005 are entitled to be considered for early release on parole at any point after the half way point of their sentence. They will be on licence from the point at which they are released until the two thirds point of their sentence, and are then subject to recall for the remainder of their sentence if they commit a further offence. Prisoners sentenced to one year but under four years are released automatically at the half way point; on licence to the two thirds point
 
22 Nov 2005 : Column 1934W
 
and subject to recall if they commit a further offence for the remainder of their sentence. Prisoners sentenced to under 12 months are released automatically at the half way point and subject to recall if they commit a further offence during the remainder of their sentence.

Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 sexual or violent offenders who present a significant risk will receive an extended sentence, under which the entire custodial period set by the court may be spent in prison; or, depending on the offence, an indeterminate sentence, under which the offender must spend a minimum period of time in prison, and can be kept in prison indefinitely. Other offenders, who receive a standard determinate sentence, are released automatically at the half way point and remain on licence until the end of sentence.

The Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme enables suitable prisoners, primarily those serving sentences of between three months and under four years, to return to the community up to 135 days earlier than their normal release date (half-way point of the sentence). They are subject to an electronically monitored curfew, normally for 12 hours a day. If they breach the licence conditions they are liable to be returned to prison to serve the remaining custodial portion of their sentence in custody.

Certain categories of prisoners are statutorily excluded from HDC.

The Early Removal Scheme broadly mirrors the HDC scheme and provides for determinate sentence prisoners (who are due to be released under either the Criminal Justice Act 1991 or the Criminal Justice Act 2003) and who are liable to be removed or deported from the United Kingdom, to be removed up to 135 days before their release date.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what (a) assessment he has made of and (b) guidance he has issued on the need to adhere to the reception criteria of an institution when deciding to place a prisoner; [25848]

(2) what assessment he has made of the impact of overcrowding within the prison system on the placing of prisoners in suitable institutions; [25850]

(3) what assessment he has made of the criteria governing the suitability of prisoners for open conditions. [25859]

Fiona Mactaggart: Each prison has its own acceptance criteria, which are agreed between the governor and Prison Service operational manager (or director and operational manager for contracted prisons) and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). These protocols are reviewed regularly by NOMS.

The use of crowded conditions within the prison estate is kept under review. Prisoners are moved to suitable establishments as part of their sentence plan, following re-categorisation or where there is an operational need to do so. They can only move to those prisons with vacancies. There is no question of prisons being required to take unsuitable prisoners.

Guidance on prisoner security categorisation has been issued and is kept under ongoing review. Existing guidance allows for the re-categorisation of prisoners unsuitable for open conditions and their return to a
 
22 Nov 2005 : Column 1935W
 
closed establishment. Work is under way to review and revise initial categorisation procedures, including the criteria for categorisation and allocation to open conditions.

Rape Cases

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what monitoring is being undertaken of the impact of the provisions in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 on the conviction rate in rape cases. [29441]

Paul Goggins: We are currently undertaking a stock take of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to ensure that it is working as intended and providing a framework that reflects the nature of sexual offending as it currently is committed and is capable of convicting and punishing the guilty. That stock take will be completed by the end of the year.

We have also sought to improve the investigation and prosecution of rape cases through the Rape Action Plan, which was published by the government in 2002. The plan followed a thorough inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI). It sets out a series of measures to improve the investigation of rape cases by the police; the quality of advice, decision making, case preparation and presentation at court by prosecutors; and the treatment of victims and witnesses in cases involving allegations of rape and sexual assault.

We have undertaken a stock take of the Rape Action Plan to find out how well these measures have been implemented, and what remains to be done. The results of the stock take will feed into a follow-up inspection by the HMIC and HMCPSI to take place early next year.

Safety/Speed Cameras

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many covert speed cameras there were in England in 2004; and how many covert speed cameras he expects to be installed in England in the next five years. [29897]

Paul Goggins: This information is not collected centrally.

Police forces have the operational discretion to undertake speed enforcement by visible or covert means anywhere within their force area. Covert enforcement is not supported by the national safety camera programme and it is likely to be only in exceptional circumstances that the police judge that covert enforcement is the most appropriate means of dealing with a situation.

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what tests were carried out to investigate the accuracy of the LTI20/20 light-weight handheld speed camera before it was approved for use by police forces. [29288]

Paul Goggins: The detailed testing requirements are set out in The Speed Meter Handbook published by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch and available on the Home Office website at www.scienceandresearch.homeoffice.gov.uk/hosdb/publications.
 
22 Nov 2005 : Column 1936W
 

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the reliability of evidence produced by the LTI20/20 light-weight hand held speed camera. [29289]

Paul Goggins: The LTI 20.20 is self-calibrating with an internal fault-reporting system, but as with all devices, it is in addition required to undergo regular calibration checks. I am satisfied that evidence obtained from the LTI 20.20 is reliable.

Sexual Assaults

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the percentage of sexual assaults that are unreported; and what steps the Government are taking to encourage the reporting of sexual assaults. [26444]

Paul Goggins: According to the British Crime Survey Interpersonal Violence Module (2001), only 15 per cent. of rapes came to the attention of the police. Estimations of the proportion of sexual assaults that are unreported are unavailable.

The Government have undertaken a range of work to improve confidence in the police and criminal justice system, and to enhance the care of victims in the aftermath of a sexual assault, which we believe will encourage more victims to come forward.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduced a modern framework for prosecuting sex offences, giving the criminal justice agencies the tools to bring more offenders to justice, and better manage sex offenders.

The Rape Action Plan, published in 2002, sets out a series of measures to improve the investigation and prosecution of rape cases and the treatment of victims and witnesses. These include the introduction of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) rape policy, specialist rape prosecutors, guidance for police, and better provision of information to the victim. The Home Office has been working closely with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the CPS to implement the plan.

In order to improve the standard of victim care, the Government have supported the expansion of the network of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs), where victims can receive medical care, counselling and a forensic examination. There are currently 13 SARCs in England and Wales with further SARCs under development supported by funding from the £4 million Victims Fund (2004–06), set aside to fund services for victims of sexual offending.


Next Section Index Home Page