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Intrusive Surveillance: Code of Practice

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Further to the Answer I gave to my noble friend Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove on 16 July (WA 114), we have now decided that the public consultation exercise should begin on 12 August.

Stephen Lawrence: Inquiry

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend has decided to establish an inquiry under Section 49 of the Police Act 1996. The terms of reference of that inquiry will be:

My right honourable friend has appointed Sir William MacPherson of Cluny, formerly High Court Judge of the Queen's Bench, to conduct this Inquiry. He will be supported in carrying out this Inquiry by: Mr. Thomas Cook (former Deputy Chief Constable of West Yorkshire); the rt Reverend John Sentamu, Bishop of Stepney; and Dr. Richard Stone (Chairman of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality). Under Section 49, the inquiry will have the powers to summon any person to give evidence, to require the production of documents and to take evidence on oath.

The handling of this case by the Metropolitan Police is the subject of complaints made by the Lawrence family which are currently under investigation in accordance with police complaints procedures. That investigation is being supervised by the Police Complaints Authority. The authority expects the investigation to be completed in September and to report the outcome in October. Under Section 97(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the authority may make a report to the Secretary of State on any matters coming to its notice to which it considers that his attention should be drawn by reason of their gravity

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or of other exceptional circumstances. The authority intends to produce a report on this case under that special provision. Under Section 97(5) of the 1984 Act that report must be laid before Parliament and published.

The inquiry under the Police Act will begin when the Police Complaints Authority report has been completed. That will allow the inquiry to consider any issues emerging from the investigation supervised by the Police Complaints Authority. The inquiry's statutory powers will also allow it to require the production of any evidence gathered during the course of the Police Complaints Authority investigation. My right honourable friend the Attorney General has also confirmed that the full co-operation of the Crown Prosecution Service will be given to the inquiry.

We believe that the establishment of this inquiry following the completion of the investigation supervised by the Police Complaints Authority will allow the concerns of the Lawrence family and others to be fully addressed, and will identify the lessons to be learned from this tragic case which will be relevant to the future handling of racially motivated crimes by the criminal justice system.

Offences against the Person:Law Commission Report

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to implement the recommendations of Law Commission Report No. 218: Offences against the person and general principles.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Law Commission's report No. 218, published in November 1993, is a major contribution to the development of the criminal law. It was warmly welcomed by many involved with the criminal justice system as creating a clearer and more coherent statement of the law of violence against the person. The Government have considered the Law Commission's recommendations with great care, and accept the principle of its proposals for reform of those offences contained mainly in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

This is a complex and difficult area of the law, and case law has evolved since the Law Commission's report was first published. It is important that any proposals to reform offences that come before the courts so frequently, and have been in existence for 136 years, are robust, well thought through and well supported. Following a detailed consideration of its report, done in close collaboration with the Law Commission, we have decided to publish a draft Bill in a consultation paper later this year. This will set out our initial proposals for reforming the law in this area based on the Law Commission's report and seek views on some of the difficult issues around the technical legal changes proposed by the Law Commission, such as definitions of intent, recklessness and intoxication, or whether the intentional transmission of disease should be included in the Bill. The proposals will apply to England and Wales.

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In accepting the principle of reforming the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the Government do not plan to take forward all of the Law Commission's proposals at this juncture. In particular, the Law Commission made recommendations for setting out general defences of duress and the justifiable use of force in statute. We recognise the importance of these proposals, which are not directly related to the reform of the 1861 Act, but they raise some very difficult questions which should be considered separately and over a longer timescale.

Custodial and Non-custodial Sentences

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many offenders in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland received community service orders and custodial sentences respectively in the most recent 12-month period for which such information is available and what plans they have to increase the number of offenders who are sentenced to community service orders rather than custodial sentences.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Information is given in the table below.

Within the statutory framework set by Parliament, it is for the courts to decide the appropriate penalty. Non-custodial penalties play a vital role in punishing offenders for whom prison is not the most appropriate response. The Government are determined to ensure that community punishments are tough and effective so that they command the confidence both of sentencers and the public.

Offenders sentenced for all offences by disposal

CountryYearTotal sentencedCommunity service orderImmediate custody
Northern Ireland199532,9726072,313
Northern Ireland199630,6766452,168

(2) To improve comparability excludes sentences imposed following breach of probation or breach of community service orders (normally included in Scottish figures).

(3) Includes custodial sentences imposed following a sentence deferred for good behaviour.

Care of Mentally Ill Prisoners

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they are giving to using empty psychiatric hospital accommodation for the care and treatment of mentally ill offenders now in HM Prisons; and, if so, when they expect to reach decisions.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prison Service is considering a number of redundant psychiatric hospitals as possible sites for new prisons, but does not propose to use any which it might acquire solely for the care and treatment of mentally ill prisoners. The Government's policy is that prisoners who need medical treatment for mental illness which can only satisfactorily be given in hospital should be transferred there as soon as that can be arranged.

Prisoners' Medical Records

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether previous medical records are always supplied to the Prison Medical Service when required; and, if not, what action they are taking to ensure that records are so supplied; and

    Whether records of medical care and treatment provided to prisoners in custody are regularly sent to the National Health Service when prisoners are released, and, if not, what action they are taking to ensure that records are so supplied.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Prison health care staff are not required, as a matter of routine, to obtain the previous, non-Prison Service medical records of all prisoners committed to custody. However, staff may request individual records or other medical reports from the National Health Service in cases where that is considered necessary and with the prisoner's agreement. Information about the number of such requests is not collected centrally.

Medical files raised during a prisoner's time in custody are retained by the Prison Service after the prisoner's release. Where there is a need for continuing treatment, medical information is transferred from the prison doctor to the prisoner's general practitioner. The Prison Service plans to issue a new health care standard on continuity of healthcare which will give additional advice to establishments on exchanges of information about healthcare matters between the Prison Service and other agencies.

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