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CS Sprays

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Police officers are given special training on the use of CS spray but not particularly in respect of duty inside football grounds. Guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers on the use of CS sprays have general application to all of the circumstances in which an officer may need to use CS spray.

Surrey Police have discontinued trials of a water-based CS spray. Hertfordshire Constabulary are continuing to research the possibility of a synthetic version of Oleoresin Capsicum.

During operational trials of CS spray in 16 police forces between March and August 1996, it was found that no clear conclusions could be drawn from the data about the effect of carrying CS on assault rates. The officers who took part in the trials were clear that CS spray significantly improved their safety. Early indications within the Metropolitan Police Service are that the use of CS spray significantly reduces the risk of assault and injury. During the operational trails, CS was seen as easy for even the slightest officer to use, and was particularly welcomed by female officers for this reason. Female officers stated that it gave them confidence to ward off or arrest the most powerful subject.

The effects of CS spray wear off relatively quickly and have no significant long-term effects. The physical impact involved in making a baton strike will inevitably carry a greater risk to the health of the person who is struck.

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Regrettably, there may, be occasions when police officers need to use force against people suffering from mental illness, and the use of CS spray may well represent the most benign option. The treatment of patients suffering from mental illness who may have been sprayed with CS is a matter for health practitioners and nursing staff.

Asylum Applications from Victims of Sexual Violence

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to ensure that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Guidelines for the victims of sexual violence are implemented.[HL3145]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Our current approach to asylum claims from women is generally compatible with that set out in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) guidelines. We recognise the need for sensitivity in dealing with asylum applicants and this is stressed in the training and guidance provided to staff involved in the asylum process. This focuses particularly on the need to handle applications sympathetically so as to reduce anxiety, and on ensuring that caseworkers understand cultural differences and respond appropriately.

Gender is taken into account in the assessment of individual claims where this is relevant. In practice, few asylum applications by women in the United Kingdom turn solely on gender issues. Applications normally involve claims of persecution on the grounds of race or religion or that a particular group of women face persecution.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence may amount to persecution. Where the treatment of women generally in a particular country is discriminatory, whether such treatment amounts to persecution will depend on the circumstances of the individual case.

Those who do not meet the requirements of the convention may nevertheless be granted exceptional leave to remain if there are compelling humanitarian reasons for doing so.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to acknowledge rape as grounds of asylum where sexual violence has been used as a method of torture and persecution in another country.[HL3146]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Where rape or any other form of sexual violence or torture amounting to persecution is committed for one of the reasons set out in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the applicant would qualify for refugee status. If, in the individual case, the requirements of the 1951 convention are not met, consideration will be given to the grant of exceptional leave to remain.

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Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they will ensure that victims of rape abroad who seek asylum in this country receive the same standard of treatment as should be accorded to victims of rape in this country.[HL 3191]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The need for sensitivity in dealing with all asylum applicants is recognised and stressed in training and guidance to all staff involved in the handling of asylum claims. Interviewers are alert to the special needs of female asylum seekers who may be particularly vulnerable and will take this into account when interviewing applicants. Requests for female interviewers and interpreters are complied with as far as is operationally possible.

Asylum Applications: Harmonisation of Procedures

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether European Union harmonisation could result in the system of processing asylum applications in the United Kingdom being assimilated to that in other European Union Member States and becoming less open; and whether harmonisation will be used as a reason for cutting the cost of processing asylum applications.[HL 3192]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Council of the European Union has identified work on harmonisation of national procedures for granting the right to asylum as one of a number of priority areas pending the coming into force of the Amsterdam Treaty. There are no proposals presently before the Council for any substantive measures of this sort. The Amsterdam Treaty provides for measures to be adopted which would establish minimum standards in relation to the reception of asylum seekers, the qualification of asylum seekers as refugees and procedures for the grant or withdrawal of refugee status. The United Kingdom will be in a position to decide whether or not to participate in any such measures. There is no reason to believe that any

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minimum standards so established would require national asylum procedures to be less open. Member states will, of course, be alert to the resource implications of any proposals in this area, but their primary motivation is likely to be the need to ensure that those in genuine need of international protection receive it quickly and to prevent, as far as possible, abuse of asylum procedures.

Prisons: Mother and Baby Units

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of Her Majesty's prisons have mother and baby units; how many places are there in each unit; and how many mothers and babies are currently accommodated in them.[HL3072]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There are now four mother and baby units in the female prison estate, located at Holloway, New Hall, Askham Grange and Styal prisons. Holloway has places for 13 mothers with their babies; Styal has places for 22; Askham Grange, which is an open prison, can take a maximum of 20 mothers with their babies; and New Hall has places for nine.

On 20 July 1998, 51 women had their babies with them in the four mother and baby units.

Indictable Offence Sentences by Gender and Type

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of male and female offenders respectively sentenced for indictable offences in 1997 received (a) prison sentences, (b) fines, (c) community service orders, (d) probation orders, (e) combination orders and (f) discharges.[HL3073]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Available information for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is given in the attached tables.

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Table A: Percentage of offenders sentenced at all courts for indictable offences by sex and type of sentence or order, England and Wales, 1996 and 1997 (p)

Year & SexTotal sentencedImmediate custody(5)FineCommunity service orderProbation orderCombination orderDischarge(6)Other
1997 (p)

(p) = provisional.

(5) Immediate custody = detention in a Young Offender Institution and unsuspended sentence of imprisonment.

(6) Discharge = absolute and conditional discharges.

Table B: Percentage of offenders with charge proved for cases heard in High and Sheriff courts(7) by sex and main disposal, Scotland, 1996

Year & SexTotalCustodyFineCommunity service orderProbation orderCombination orderAbsolute discharge(8)Other

(7) No direct equivalent to indictable offences.

(8) Absolute discharge also includes admonition or caution.

-- Not applicable in Scotland.

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Table C: Percentage of offenders convicted at all courts for indictable offences by gender and disposal, Northern Ireland, 1996 and 1997

Year & SexTotalImmediate custody(9)FineSupervision in the community(10)Conditional dischargeOther(11)

(9) Immediate custody = Prison, YOC and Training School.

(10) Supervision in the community = Probation, Community service Order and Attendance Centre Order.

(11) "Other" includes suspended custody, recognizance and absolute discharge.

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