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Victims of Crime

13. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent assessment he has made of the rights of the victims of crime and their families to take part in court proceedings. [209553]

Maria Eagle: In April 2008 the Government concluded the Victims Advocates Pilot Scheme. The pilots ran in five Crown courts and tested mechanisms to improve support and give a voice in court to relatives in murder and manslaughter cases. An evaluation report outlining the findings from these pilots is due to be published this summer (2008).

The Government have also introduced intermediaries to ensure witnesses with communication difficulties are supported to give best evidence. This followed the independent evaluation of the pathfinder phase of intermediary project which indicated that around half of trials would not have got to court without an intermediary.

Voting Rights: Prisoners

14. Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to extend voting rights for prisoners in England and Wales. [209554]

Bridget Prentice: The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hirst v . United Kingdom requires the Government to reconsider its policy of a blanket ban on the voting rights of convicted prisoners.

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In response to this we undertook a first stage consultation which concluded in March 2007. However, since that point, the context for the debate about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and in particular the exercise of the franchise, in the United Kingdom has changed significantly following the launch of the Governance of Britain Green Paper and publication of the Goldsmith review.

We consider it essential that any changes to the law to extend the franchise to those held in custody are considered in the context of the wider development of policy on the franchise and the rights that attach to British citizenship.

Sentencing: Knife Crime

15. Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the adequacy of sentencing options for those convicted of knife crime; and if he will make a statement. [209555]

Mr. Hanson: The Government are satisfied that the courts have a comprehensive range of sentences available in relation to knife crime. We have doubled the maximum sentence for possession from two to four years, and where a knife is used, more serious offences are charged, some of which can attract life imprisonment.

The courts take these matters very seriously. Last month, Sir Igor Judge, Head of Criminal Justice in the Court of Appeal, in the judgment of R v. Povey and others, said that

Prison Security

16. Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he is taking to improve prison security to reduce the supply of illegal drugs and mobile telephones to prisoners. [209556]

Mr. Hanson: A range of measures are in place to prevent illegal drugs, mobile phones and other contraband from entering prisons. The National Offender Management Service is working closely with partner agencies to develop and trial new technologies and procedures.

Prison Work

17. Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many hours of unpaid work requirements were completed by prisoners in 2007; and if he will make a statement. [209557]

Maria Eagle: Under Prison Rule 31 prisoners are required to work. It is Prison Service policy that all prisoners who participate in purposeful activity are paid. The average purposeful activity per prisoner per week for 2007-08 was 25.3 hours.

21. Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent discussions he has had with business representatives on the expansion of prison work programmes. [209564]

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Mr. Hanson: Since the launch of the Reducing Re-offending Corporate Alliance we have established links with many employers and, as was noted in the Ministry of Justice's Prison Policy update published in January, we want to expand and further develop these links. A ministerial led forum with the private, public and third sectors, was held in May to discuss how we can further work together and we intend to hold another such event in autumn.

Early Release Schemes

18. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many prisoners were released under early release schemes in May 2008. [209560]

Mr. Hanson: The latest available information relates to April, when there were about 2,600 releases on end of custody licence, 950 releases under home detention curfew and 50 prisoners removed from the country under the early removal scheme. About 100 prisoners were released on parole.

Electoral Fraud

19. Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent representations he has received on postal vote fraud; and what response he has made to them. [209561]

Bridget Prentice: Since 1 January 2008, 10 letters have been received from members of Parliament and four parliamentary questions asked in relation to postal fraud. We have also received a copy of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Report entitled “The Purity of Elections in the UK”. Our response to these representations has been to confirm how seriously the Government take the integrity of the electoral process, including postal voting.

It is clear that postal voting has proved popular with the electorate and has helped to boost turnout at elections. We have recognised the need to balance accessibility with security, and have put in place a range of measures to safeguard the security of postal voting. This has included the introduction of a system of personal identifiers for postal voters to ensure postal votes counted at an election are valid.

We are, however, not complacent on this issue and will consider what further action may be taken to ensure postal voting is secure.

Prison Welfare

20. Albert Owen: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps his Department is taking to prevent suicide and self-harm by people in custody. [209563]

Maria Eagle: The National Offender Management Service published a revised prisoner suicide prevention and self-harm management strategy in October 2007.

This builds on several years of learning from the experiences of prisoners, staff, investigators, inspectors and others, and encompasses a wide spectrum of prison and Department of Health work and addresses issues such as mental health, drugs, resettlement, leadership and training.

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Single Judge Model

22. Mr. Simon: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what reports he has received on the operation of the single judge model at the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre. [209565]

Maria Eagle: The qualitative evaluation of the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre published in October 2007 found strong judicial case management has improved efficient court operation.

In addition to the project at North Liverpool, and the Community Justice Initiative at Salford, community justice has now been extended to eleven further areas around the country. The problem solving approach with judicial continuity in case handling has great potential to tackle the causes of crime and reduce re-offending by those subject to its rigours.

Electoral Register

Mr. Devine: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to bring forward proposals for a system of individual voter registration. [209548]

Bridget Prentice: We are already committed to the principle of individual registration. This will be far-reaching reform, and it will be undertaken with great care—both to make sure a new system is robust, and to ensure that it properly tackles the problem of under-registration in Great Britain.

Bail Accommodation and Support Service: Peterborough

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what processes are in place to ensure that Clearsprings Ltd adhere to their contractual obligations on consultation on bail accommodation in Peterborough; and if he will make a statement; [209890]

(2) what monitoring has taken place in the last 12 months of the efficacy of consultation processes undertaken with (a) Peterborough City Council, (b) local residents and (c) other agencies by Clearsprings in respect of bail accommodation in Peterborough; and if he will make a statement; [209891]

(3) what recent representations he has received on the operation of the Clearsprings contract for bail accommodation in the Peterborough area; and if he will make a statement. [210160]

Mr. Hanson: The East of England regional offender manager holds monthly management meetings with ClearSprings’ regional manager which include discussions on the monitoring of property, consultation with the police, probation and local authority. Consultation is also monitored at fortnightly national contract review meetings.

I have met with ClearSprings management to discuss the operation of the contract nationally.

ClearSprings is contractually obliged to consult the police, local authority and probation about locations. There is not a consultation process with local residents because the properties are the private rented homes of those living there and there is no change of use.

I have only received representation on the service in Peterborough from the hon. Member.

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Coroners: Armed Forces

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will make it his policy to include in future quarterly ministerial statements on coroners' inquests relating to military personnel (a) whether a Board of Inquiry convened for each case, (b) the report date of each Board of Inquiry, (c) cause of death, (d) critical findings from completed inquests and (e) steps taken in response. [208721]

Bridget Prentice: The Minister for the Armed Forces and I are considering whether future written ministerial statements should include Board of Inquiry information, and will write to the hon. Member to give our response. We will place a copy of our letter in the Libraries of the Houses. Under rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1983 a coroner may make a report at the end of an inquest to a person or organisation where the coroner considers that action should be taken to prevent future deaths. The Ministry of Defence takes notice of all critical findings made by coroners and takes appropriate action. I am, however, proposing to amend rule 43 with effect from July to improve the system for disseminating coroners' reports and recommendations. For the first time organisations including Government Departments will be required to send a written response to the coroner detailing what action they propose to take. In turn, the coroner will send a copy of both the report and response to me, and I will provide a regular summary of action taken to Parliament. It may not be appropriate to include details of the cause of death given the sensitive and personal nature of this information.

Court Proceedings: Separation

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many court proceedings under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 were undertaken in relation to a dispute arising from separating cohabiting couples in (a) 2005-06 and (b) 2006-07; [208413]

(2) how many court proceedings under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 were undertaken in relation to a dispute arising from separating cohabiting couples in (a) 2005-06 and (b) 2006-07. [208414]

Bridget Prentice: Information on court proceedings issued under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 is not held centrally, because court databases do not identify proceedings issued in relation to this particular legislation. This information could therefore only be compiled at disproportionate cost.

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Information on proceedings issued under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 is available on a calendar year rather than financial year basis. There were 1,288 private law applications made under this Schedule during 2005, 1,221 during 2006 and a provisional total of 1,258 during 2007.

These figures cover all family courts in England and Wales and count the number of children on whose behalf applications were made, rather than the number of court cases. Applications can be made by separating couples who had previously cohabited, by parents who had never lived together and, in certain unusual circumstances, by divorced parents. However, it is not possible to identify these groups separately within the available data.

Courts: Manpower

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many (a) Lord Justices, (b) High Court judges, (c) recorders, (d) Masters and registrars, (e) district judges and (f) deputy district judges there were in each of the last five years, broken down by (i) sex, (ii) ethnicity and (iii) disability; and if he will make a statement. [209709]

Mr. Straw: The following tables provide available information relating to gender and ethnicity. The figures for masters and registrars are included within those for district judges given they are of the same judicial band and limited in number. Extensive historic data on disability have not been collected. In 2006-07 judges were invited to provide this information with the following result:


Senior Circuit Judges


Circuit Judges


District Judges




Deputy District Judges


Deputy District Judges (Magistrates Courts)


Member of the Appeals Service


(1) Including one district judge (Principal Registry of the Family Division).
(2) Including one deputy district judge (Principal Registry of the Family Division).

In total 39 judges declared a disability in this exercise. Plans are under way to record the disabilities declared by newly appointed Judges in the future.

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Diversity Breakdown from 2003-07
Male Female Of ethnic minority origin
Post Total Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage

Lords of Appeal in Ordinary








Heads of Division (excluding LC)








Lord Justices of Appeal








High Court Judges








Circuit Judges (including TCC)
















District Judges (including Family Division)








Deputy District Judges (including Family Division)








District Judges (MC)





21 .20



Deputy District Judges (MC)
















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