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4 Jun 2007 : Column 211W—continued

Dovegate Prison

John McDonnell: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice how many staff were deployed to HM Prison Dovegate from other establishments during the disturbance on 2 February; and from what establishments they were deployed. [139704]

Mr. Sutcliffe: There is no record of an incident occurring at Dovegate prison on 2 February. There is a record of a concerted indiscipline there on 29 January. The information requested from this incident is provided in the following table.

Sending establishment Amount of staff deployed





Stoke Heath


Lowdham Grange




Swinfen Hall












Elections: Internet

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice what assessment she has made of the merits of introducing internet voting for (a) general and (b) council elections. [139810]

Bridget Prentice: The Government are firmly committed to increasing participation in the electoral
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process. Since 2000 we have supported 23 internet voting pilot schemes at selected local authority elections, which have allowed us to consider the benefits of new voting channels.

The independent Electoral Commission is responsible for evaluating each scheme, and the Government have considered the Commission's findings in the development of their policy on electronic voting. We have not reached a firm decision on whether or not to roll out electronic voting beyond local election pilot schemes, but the evaluation of this year's pilot schemes will inform my Department's ongoing assessment.


Dr. Kumar: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice what assessment she has made of the merits of filming evidence given by witnesses (a) to the police and (b) during a trial for use in appeal cases. [139745]

Ms Harman: For some years video recorded statements have been admitted in court in the place of evidence-in-chief for children and vulnerable adult witnesses with the aim of assisting them to give their best evidence. Independent research commissioned by the Home Office and published in 2004 found that 91 per cent. of witnesses who gave evidence by means of a video recorded statement found this beneficial because: they did not have to appear in court, it made it easier to give their evidence, they were less scared, it helped them to remember information and it was given in a comfortable environment. (Hamlyn, Phelps, Turtle and Sattar: “Are Special Measures Working? Evidence from surveys of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses”—London: Home Office Research Study No. 283 (June 2004), available at

No separate assessment has been made of the merits of filming witnesses giving evidence during trial, including the resource implications, although a limited investigation has been undertaken into the technology required.

Family Courts: Sexual Offences

Annette Brooke: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice whether the Government plan to introduce independent advocacy for children in family court cases where sexual abuse allegations have been made. [140565]

Ms Harman: There are a number of provisions which allow a child to be separately represented in family proceedings.

Research published in 2003 noted that 15 per cent. of care applications had allegations that the child is likely to suffer ill treatment by way of sexual abuse.(1) 12 per cent. of care applications showed that the child was suffering ill treatment by way of sexual abuse.

Children involved in all public law proceedings, including care and supervision applications, are made a party to proceedings and are represented by an officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) and an independent solicitor.

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In private law proceedings where it appears to the court that a child ought to be separately represented, it can appoint a CAFCASS guardian, the official solicitor, or some other person. Section 37 of the Children Act 1989 provides for the court, in any family proceedings, to direct the local authority to investigate the child's circumstances where a question over the child's welfare has arisen, and the court feels a care or supervision order may be appropriate. This applies to any questions about the child's welfare.

Judiciary: Retirement

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice what the mandatory retirement age is for (a) judges and (b) Law Lords. [139492]

Ms Harman: For all judges first appointed to judicial office on or after 31 March 1995 the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993 provides that the normal retirement age is 70. The Act also contains transitional provisions for those judges first appointed to a judicial office before that date which provide for them to retain their pre-existing retirement age. That age depends upon the office held, generally being either age 70, the completed year of service after the 72nd birthday or age 75. For Law Lords, the retirement age under these transitional provisions is 75.

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice what procedures are in place for magistrates who wish to continue to work over the age of 70-years-old. [139493]

Ms Harman: There are no procedures for former magistrates to continue to serve beyond their statutory retirement at 70.

Juries: Welsh Language

Hywel Williams: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice which (a) persons and (b) institutions have been consulted on the consultation paper The Use of Bilingual (English and Welsh Speaking) Jurors in certain Criminal Trials in Wales. [140483]

Ms Harman: Copies of the consultation paper were sent to the following:

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The consultation paper was also placed on the Home Office website and comments invited from the general public.

The following individuals and organisations responded to the consultation:

Legal Advice and Assistance: Armed Forces

Mr. Gale: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice if she will bring forward proposals to improve the legal advice and service available to bereaved service families; and if she will make a statement. [139623]

Ms Harman: Funding for representation at most inquests is out of the usual scope of legal aid because of the inquisitorial nature and greater informality of the process in the coroner's courts. Legal help is, however, available subject to financial eligibility (and other usual tests set out in the Legal Services Commission’s funding code) and this would cover all preparatory work, which may include drafting written submissions to the coroner. I met my right hon. Friend the Minister for the armed forces on 18 April to discuss a range of ways in which bereaved military families could be supported. Details of the support to families will be set out in a written ministerial statement to be issued shortly.

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Magistrates: Recruitment

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice how many magistrates are expected to be recruited in 2007. [139281]

Ms Harman: For the financial year 2007-08, the cumulative total of magistrates Advisory Committees are planning to recruit is 1,603. This is based on predicted business need.

Magistrates: Retirement

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice whether she has any plans to review the statutory retirement age for magistrates. [139279]

Ms Harman: The Government have no plans to review the statutory retirement age of magistrates.

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Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice how many magistrates are expected to retire in 2007. [139282]

Ms Harman: 710 magistrates are expected to retire during the financial year 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008.

Offenders: Custodial Treatment

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice how many offenders on (a) parole and (b) licence were recalled to prison in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [137483]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Figures showing the numbers of offenders recalled from (a) licence in respect of a determinate sentence, including parole and (b) life licence to prison in the years between 1996-97 and 2005 can be found in the following table.

Recalls of determinate sentences( 1) , taken from table 10.8 in the Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2005 and from table 10.5 in Prison Statistics England and Wales 1999
Number of recalls/percentage











Parole cases 4 years or more












As percentage of number on parole











Non-parole cases 4 years or more










All cases 1 to 4 years(3)








All cases 1 year plus(3)







(1) Excluding home detention curfew recalls.
(2) From 2005 ACR and OCR no longer collated separately.
(3) Data supplied by Public Protection and Licensed Release Unit of the Home Office.

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