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29 Oct 2008 : Column 1042W—continued

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Roads: Robin Cousins Centre

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions (a) he and (b) his officials have had with (i) Bristol city council and (ii) the Highways Agency in relation to highways access to the Robin Cousins centre. [227145]

Paul Clark: Officials within the Highways Agency have agreed terms for the sale of a permanent right of way to Bristol city council over a plot of land which is under the M5 viaduct at Shirehampton. The land is currently leased to the council and provides access to the Robin Cousins Sports centre. The council are purchasing the right of way to facilitate the sale of their sports centre.

The Highways Agency's valuer considers that the sports centre site has future development potential and to ensure that the agency obtains best value from its disposal the terms agreed with the council included a "clawback" provision which would trigger a payment to the Highways Agency if the sport centre site's value is increased by the granting of planning, permission for other development in the future.

The Highways Agency has been advised that inclusion of the clawback is hindering the purchasers of the sports centre from obtaining finance to purchase and operate the site. A meeting between the Highways Agency, Bristol city council, the prospective purchasers and representatives from the community to try to find a way to enable the sale of the sports centre to proceed took place in Shirehampton on 19 September.

Neither I nor officials from the Department have been involved in these discussions.


Administration of Justice: ICT

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has in place to ensure that all criminal justice IT systems are effectively co-ordinated once they are fully operational. [228844]

Bridget Prentice: We have in place governance arrangements to manage the co-ordination of IT development across the criminal justice system through the business change board and its technical advisory groups. We have put in place an IT infrastructure that is complementary and we are developing this further, for example, through the introduction of joint video services, which enable criminal justice organisations to use one shared service providing video facilities.

Approved Premises

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what assessment he has made of the implications for public safety of the disclosure to the public of the identity and location of bail hostels; and if he will make a statement; [230075]

(2) what guidance he issues to local authorities on the disclosure to the public of the (a) identity and (b) location of bail hostels in their area; and what assessment he has made of the operation of such arrangements in practice. [230076]

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Mr. Hanson: The bail accommodation and support service provided by ClearSprings Ltd under contract to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), to which I take these questions to refer, does not provide hostels. It provides people on bail and on home detention curfew with private, rented accommodation in small houses and flats with up to five people sharing. It is not our practice to disclose the addresses as these are the private homes of those provided with the accommodation. If an address does become public ClearSprings and NOMS will consider the risks to the occupants and to the public, consulting the police and other agencies as appropriate, and take such action as is considered appropriate. Local authorities are consulted by ClearSprings about the locations of properties. The Department has not issued guidance to local authorities about the disclosure of addresses. However, in its communication with local authorities in July 2008, ClearSprings asked that they respect the private nature of the houses and share address information on a ‘need to know’ basis only.


Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what powers coroners have to investigate deaths overseas. [230073]

Bridget Prentice: Since a decision of the Court of Appeal in 1983 coroners have had a duty to investigate a death overseas when the body is lying in their district and the death is reported to them, and the circumstances are such that they would have been required to investigate the death had it occurred in England or Wales.

Coroners have no special powers in this respect. When investigating overseas deaths they rely on co-operation from British embassies, high commissions or consulates and the relevant foreign administration.

Under planned coroners’ legislation, coroners will retain this important duty. To assist coroners, the new chief coroner will have authority to secure information from overseas administrations.


Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what his objectives are as Government anti-corruption champion over the next 12 months. [230838]

Mr. Straw: I refer the hon. Member to the written statement I made on 15 October 2008, Official Report, columns 44-45WS.

Departmental Disciplinary Proceedings

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what sanctions are available in cases of departmental staff found to have committed disciplinary offences; and how many times each has been used in each of the last three years. [230202]

Mr. Wills: In the Ministry of Justice (former DCA), including HMCS, OPG, Tribunals Service, Wales Office, Scottish Office and the Ministry of Justice Headquarters, there are three levels of sanction in disciplinary cases. They are a first written warning, final written warning, and dismissal, although as an alternative to dismissal, a 36-month final written warning can be given.

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In the public-sector prison service, the following sanctions are available: oral warning, written warning, final written warning, re-grading, removal from the field of promotion, financial restitution and dismissal from service. In cases where the misconduct is serious but does not warrant dismissal, a combination of penalties (for example a final written warning and removal from the field of promotion) can be awarded.

It is not possible to provide information as to how many times each sanction has been used during the last three years without incurring disproportionate cost.

Electoral Commission: Standards

Alun Michael: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps are being taken to (a) increase the effectiveness of the Electoral Commission as a regulator of electoral administration and (b) strengthen electoral regulation at local authority level. [225001]

Mr. Wills: The main statutory functions of the Electoral Commission in relation to electoral administration are to:

In addition, under section 10 of PPERA, the Electoral Commission may provide advice and assistance to electoral administrators.

Under the Electoral Administration Act 2006, the Government strengthened the Electoral Commission’s functions relating to electoral administration by increasing their reporting responsibilities. This included introducing provisions allowing the Electoral Commission to set performance standards for electoral administrators and to collect data on the financial aspects of electoral administration.

The Electoral Commission has developed these performance standards and the final set of standards was published on 21 July. A copy of these standards was laid before the House and the information obtained from local authorities as a consequence will give us a better understanding of the actions taken to increase registration.

The Government believe that the measures currently before the House, as part of the Political Parties and Elections Bill, to reform the Commission’s governance in line with the recommendations in the 11th report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life will help to make the Commission a more effective regulator.

Freedom of Information: Local Authorities

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what additional funding has been given to local authorities to assist them with processing the new burdens associated with the ongoing implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. [230553]

Mr. Wills: The Ministry of Justice currently has no plans to impose any new burdens on local authorities further to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

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Lancaster Farms Young Offender Institution

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 16 October 2008, Official Report, column 1379W, on the Lancaster Farms Young Offender Institution, how many inmates of HM Young Offender Institution Lancaster farms aged 18 years and one month are housed on the juvenile site. [229604]

Mr. Hanson: As at 28 October, there were six prisoners aged 18 years and one month or over housed on the juvenile site at Lancaster Farms.

Magistrates Courts: Kent

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effect of changes in the courts service budget for (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11 on the operation of magistrates' courts in Kent. [228812]

Bridget Prentice: HMCS' top priority remains running our courts effectively and efficiently—this is our core business and where we will focus our energy and effort.

The senior management team in Kent, along with all other areas of HMCS, are currently looking at what steps can be taken to reduce overheads, remove duplication and increase efficiencies within its business processes. The overall objective is to prioritise front line services to court users.

Further analysis is required before the full business impact of the budgetary pressures can be assessed. HMCS regional, area and central directors under the leadership of Chris Mayer, the chief executive, are currently reviewing where and how the savings in 2008-09 can be made and the impact.

Offenders: Rehabilitation

David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to ensure prisoners on sentences of imprisonment for public protection with mental health problems have access to offending behaviour programmes and other support to enable them to be released safely at the end of their tariff. [229940]

Mr. Hanson: All prisoners, including prisoners serving indeterminate sentences for public protection (IPP), are assessed at the point of reception into prison. Those at risk of having a mental health problem, or vulnerable to suicide, are referred for a mental health assessment to the mental health in-reach team, which will help inform their care and treatment.

The National Offender Management Service has implemented changes to support the movement of all IPP prisoners through the custodial system in order to improve their access to courses and other work to address their offending.

There will however be some prisoners who are unable to participate, due to the intensive nature and focus of the programmes. If an offender is not immediately suitable, further work may be possible to prepare the individual. Individuals suffering from serious acute psychiatric morbidity, generally are not suitable for programmes.

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Recent reports by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and HM chief inspector of prisons along with a report being prepared by Lord Bradley will inform our offender health strategy to be published early next year.

The Parole Board decides on the suitability for release of IPP prisoners, who will then be released on licence and subject to probation supervision.

Plain English

Mr. Scott: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much has been spent by his Department on Plain English Campaign training courses for its staff in each year since 2005. [230611]

Maria Eagle: There has been no spend in the Ministry of Justice on Plain English Campaign training courses since 2005. Prior to 2005, the Plain English Campaign was commissioned to support the creation of learning material for internal “Effective Writing” courses.

Prison Sentences

David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he has taken to ensure that people sentenced to imprisonment for public protection and their families are given correct information about the sentence. [229939]

Mr. Hanson: When the sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP) became available for offences committed after 4 April 2005, information leaflets were provided to members of staff to enable them to advise sentenced offenders with correct information.

The management of IPPs was changed and enhanced by the introduction of offender management for IPP prisoners in January 2008. The offender management implementation manual places a clear responsibility on staff, offender managers in the community and offender supervisors in prisons, to ensure that IPP prisoners understand the sentence they have received. The implementation manual was accompanied by a further information leaflet for prisoners.

Where members of prisoners’ families make inquiries with the specific consent of the prisoners themselves, they will receive accurate information about the sentence passed by the court.


Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what strategies have been developed in order to identify and combat radicalisation within the UK prison population. [230840]

Mr. Hanson: The Government recognise the risk of radicalisation in prisons, just as there are risks in the wider community. In England and Wales, the National Offender Management Service is working closely with partner agencies to tackle all forms of extremism. Its programme of work includes gathering intelligence and establishing a clear national picture of the risk; training and awareness-raising for staff; support for Muslim chaplains in their work with those vulnerable to radicalisation; and work to research and develop appropriate interventions.

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Re-offenders: Lancashire

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many persistent offenders there were in east Lancashire in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [229911]

Maria Eagle: There are two statistical counts of persistent offenders used in the criminal justice system.

The first count is of persistent young offenders (PYOs). A PYO is a young person aged 10 to 17 who has been found guilty of recordable offences on three or more separate occasions, and within three years of the last of these is arrested by the police for a further recordable offence.

During the three-month period from April to June 2008, there were 7,389 criminal court cases across England and Wales in which PYOs were found guilty and sentenced. Of these, 292 were in Lancashire. Within east Lancashire, there were 59 and 48 cases respectively in the “eastern” and “Pennine” base control unit (BCU) police areas during the same period. Further information on PYOs can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

The second is for prolific and other priority offenders (PPOs). The PPO programme tackles a small hard-core of offenders (not confined to any age group) who commit a disproportionate amount of crime, and cause disproportionate damage to their communities. It is a crime-reduction programme with a reducing re-offending focus.

Data from the PPO scheme performance framework indicated that at the end of March 2008 there were a total of 11,296 PPOs being managed in England and Wales, of whom 305 were in Lancashire. In the East Lancashire area (encompassing for this purpose the local authorities of Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle) there were 99 offenders being managed as PPOs.

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