Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) cases have been brought and (b) convictions there have been in each police area for offences under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 in each of the last 12 months. 
Maria Eagle: Data showing the number of defendants proceeded against and found guilty of offences under Section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act broken down by police force area in 2006 are in the following table. Data for 2007 will be available in the autumn of 2008.
|Number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts for offences under Section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act, broken down by police force area, England and Wales, 2006( 1, 2, 3)
|Police force area
|(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.
(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.
(3) The found guilty column may exceed those proceeded against, as it may be the case that the proceedings in the magistrates court took place in the preceding year and they were found guilty at the Crown court in the following year, or the defendant was found guilty for a different offence to the original offence proceeded against.
Maria Eagle: An estimated 64,800 people were granted bail by the courts for offences included in the violence against the person group in England and Wales in 2006 (latest available). This includes those held in custody at some stage during proceedings. Data on bail is not sufficiently robust to permit a more detailed breakdown of the offences involved.
Maria Eagle: The legal aid system focuses resources on areas of greatest needparticularly the socially excluded and the types of problems they may face. Most civil legal aid is means tested, and those in receipt of certain passporting benefits are provided with legal aid without having to make any financial contribution. Under criminal legal aid, free advice and assistance is available to suspects at the police station. Whilst legal representation for defendants at the Crown court is not means tested, defendants at the magistrates court must be financially eligible, although a range of passporting provisions exempt certain vulnerable groups from this test. Since the introduction of the Access to Justice Act 1999, all legal aid providers have to meet strict quality standards.
The current programme of legal aid reform is designed to maximise value for money from legal aid spending, so that the Legal Services Commission can fund assistance to as many people as possible within the available resources. At the same time reform is designed to maintain, and where possible improve, the quality of advice provided.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice on how many occasions since the implementation of the Licensing Act magistrates have awarded costs against objectors; and what written guidance he has given to magistrates on the exercise of their discretion to award such costs. 
Maria Eagle: The Ministry of Justice does not collect information on the award of costs against objectors in licensing cases. It would not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to magistrates on the award of costs since this is a matter of judicial discretion. The Justices' Clerks Society and the Magistrates Association, in conjunction with the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), published an article in The Magistrate magazine setting out as a principle that the award of costs against an unsuccessful individual, including objectors, should be exceptional.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many people received (a) custodial and (b) non-custodial sentences on conviction for offences which included the carrying or use of a knife in Essex in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Hanson: The following table gives the number of people sentenced for offences of carrying a knife from 2004 to 2006. These offences are having an article with a blade or point in a public place, having an article with a blade or point on school premises, possession of offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse and possession of offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse on school premises.
In such instances as a robbery or violent assault where an individual has used a knife or other offensive weapon then they will be sentenced for the more serious transgression, and the figures do not isolate the specific use of a knife in such circumstances.
|Persons( 1) sentenced for offences of carrying knives or offensive weapons, by outcome, Essex courts( 2) , 2004 - 06
|Total persons sentenced
|(1 )Principal offence basis.
(2 )Magistrates courts in Essex and the Crown court if committed by magistrates in Essex.
(3 )Will include knives, but information collected centrally does not provide a distinction between them and other offensive weapons.
These figures have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system.
RDS-NOMS, Ministry of Justice