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14 Feb 2006 : Column 1979W—continued

European Commission (Anti-crime Measures)

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is on the European Commission's proposals for harmonisation of the methodology used in the compilation of crime statistics. [36322]

Hazel Blears [holding answer 12 December 2005]: My officials are members of the taskforce set up by EUROSTAT to take forward these proposals which were included as part of the five-year Hague Programme agreed by the European Council in November 2004. So far, no proposals have been put forward by EUROSTAT.

Forensic Science

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the training for scene of crime officers, with particular reference to the involvement of the (a) Forensic Science Service and (b) Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory. [49167]

Hazel Blears: The training of scenes of crime officers (SOCOs) is controlled by the Central Police Training and Development Authority (Centrex) at the National Training Centre for Scientific Support to Crime Investigation's (NTC). Initial SOCO training is carried out through two routes. The first is a nine-week residential initial crime-scene investigator training course which covers photography, combined trace evidence theory and practice. The second is a three-week volume crime-scene investigator (VCSI) course covering disciplines required to examine burglary and vehicle crime with the principal focus being on DNA and fingerprint evidence. This course is then followed by the conversion VCSI course which will enhance the existing skills of the VCSI to bring them up to the level of a substantive SOCO. SOCO trainees may then join the development crime-scene investigator course which enhances skills used in specialised areas including the investigation of suspicious fires and also firearms and/or explosives incidents.

On successful completion of this training, SOCOs are usually posted to a police force on a one to two year development programme. Following this on-the-job training period SOCOs may then attend a further two week course, which covers more detailed skills and techniques. The NIC also offer specialist short courses for SOCOs, including fire investigation, forensic archaeology, facial identification techniques and
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management training. Once fully qualified, SOCOs are usually required to attend a two week NIC refresher course every five years. This aims to review and refresh knowledge and skills, and keep up to date with new developments in scene of crime analysis.

The Forensic Science Service (FSS), which incorporated the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory from 1 April 1996, is the main supplier of forensic science services to police forces in England and Wales. The FSS employ SOCOs, but it is expected that all SOCOs will be fully qualified before joining the organisation.

Home Detention Curfew Scheme

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much has been spent on the home detention curfew schemes in each of the past five years, broken down by (a) equipment development and maintenance and (b) personnel. [45869]

Fiona Mactaggart: Since the start of the scheme in 1999 over 120,000 prisoners have been released on home detention curfew (HDC). At any one time there are around 3,200 prisoners on HDC, which represents the capacity of around five or six medium-sized prisons.

Expenditure on the home detention curfew scheme under the electronic monitoring contracts in the last five completed financial years is shown in the table. The amount payable under the contracts for delivering the service is not broken down by equipment and staff costs.
Financial yearExpenditure on HOC (£)

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many electronic tags used in the Home Detention Curfew Scheme have been (a) found to be faulty and (b) vandalised and had to be replaced in each of the last five years. [45870]

Fiona Mactaggart: Since new electronic monitoring contracts began on 1 April 2005, the contractors have reported nearly 700 cases of offenders on Home Detention Curfew who had damaged their electronic monitoring equipment. Any offender who is found to have deliberately caused such damage will be in breach of his or her licence conditions and recalled to prison.

Information is not available broken down in the way requested, or for the period before 1 April 2005, and cannot be provided except at a disproportionate cost.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to ensure that those agencies contracted to monitor tagged criminals are properly scrutinised and held to account for their performance. [48686]

Fiona Mactaggart: The two contractors must comply with Home Office requirements for delivering the electronic monitoring service and must meet a range of specified performance levels. The Home Office audits
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their performance every month. Any under-performance results in financial deductions from the amount paid to them for delivering the service. In the current financial year, a total of £100,000 has been deducted.


Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) under what powers police may question individuals about their stated views on homosexuality; and what guidance he provides to police forces on this issue; [45044]

(2) what assessment he has made of the effect on free speech of police questioning of individuals about their stated views on homosexuality. [45045]

Hazel Blears: The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and accompanying codes of practice sets out police powers in respect of the questioning of a person suspected of involvement in an offence. The Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers jointly produced good practice and tactical guidance in March 2005 entitled: Hate Crime: Delivering a Quality Service". The guidance is available on the ACPO website.

Hunting Act

Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what (a) guidance and (b) training has been provided to police forces in England and Wales with regard to the Hunting Act 2004. [49456]

Hazel Blears: I understand that the Association of Chief Police Officers has issued guidance and a training package to police forces in England and Wales on the practical aspects of enforcing the Hunting Act.

Immigration Control Staff

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many whole-time equivalent immigration control staff were employed in control and surveillance of ports and airports in each year since 1999–2000. [49752]

Mr. McNulty: Overall, numbers of border control staff have risen. In 2001 the figure for full-time equivalent immigration control staff was 1,830.2, in 2002 the figure was 2,194, in 2003 the figure was 2,322.7, in 2004 the figure was 2,474.7, in 2005 the figure was 2,501.4 and in 2006 the figure is 3,453.6.


Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total budget for the introduction of the IMPACT system is. [48166]

Hazel Blears: A total of £52 million was made available to the IMPACT programme for the financial year 2005–06.
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Menezes Report

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission into (a) the death of Mr. Menezes and (b) the conduct of the Metropolitan police to be published. [47946]

Hazel Blears: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report on the death of Mr. de Menezes, including the conduct of the Metropolitan police, will be published when any relevant legal or disciplinary proceedings have concluded. It is too soon to say when this will be.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent guidance has been issued to (a) health staff, (b) social services staff and (c) court personnel on dealing with cases of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. [48070]

Maria Eagle: I have been asked to reply.

In 2002, the Department of Health, Home Office, Department for Education and Skills and the Welsh Assembly published Safeguarding Children in whom Illness is Fabricated or Induced", as supplementary guidance to the Government's child protection guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children" (1999). It is intended to provide a national framework within which agencies and professionals at local level—individually and jointly—draw up and agree upon their own more detailed ways of working together in cases of fabricated or induced illness. It is addressed to those who work in the health and education services, the police, social services departments, the probation service, and others whose work brings them into contact with children and families.

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