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Prison Service Website

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Prison Service's website went live on 21 May 1999, some six months prior to the publication of the Cabinet Office guidelines. It does not conform 100 per cent to these guidelines but does conform to the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) HyperText Markup Language 3.2 specification. This ensures that the site's functionality is available to as many as possible, including the visually impaired for whom there is a text only version. The Prison Service's website, therefore, conforms to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Cabinet Office guidelines.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 23 February (WA 31), whether they have a responsibility for General Pinochet's health and therefore should not wait for representations to be made to them but should take steps to ensure they are automatically informed about his health.[HL1230]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The police who were guarding Senator Pinochet would have alerted the Home Office to any significant development such as a transfer to hospital. More generally, it was open to Senator Pinochet's legal representatives to inform the Home Office of any change in his state of health.

M25 Murder Case Decision

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the M25 murder case, they will expedite the appeal procedure for other similar cases.[HL1240]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the cases of Michael Davis, Raphael Rowe and Randolph Johnson to the Court of Appeal on 7 April 1999. It will be for the court to decide in due course whether their convictions should be quashed. The Government play no part in the listing of such appeals. The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an independent body and Ministers could not intervene in the determination of any similar cases that were being considered by it.

Prison Service: New Regime Orders

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) when the new Prison Service order on regimes for women will be issued; and whether it will be published; (b) whether the Prison Service order on regimes for juveniles has been published; and, if not, when it will be; (c) when the new Prison Service

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    standard on mothers with children in prisons will be available; and whether it will assert the paramountcy of the best interests of the child.[HL1249]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: A Prison Service standard on regimes is due to be piloted in September 2000 and issued in February 2001. It will cover regimes for all groups of prisoners including women. The Prison Service order on regimes for young men under 18 years old was published in July 1999 and the Prison Service order on regimes for young women under 18 years old was published in February 2000.

The Prison Service order on the management of mother and baby units and the application process was published in February 2000 and states that the best interest of the child is the primary consideration at every level of policymaking as well as when considering individual situations. The Prison Service order was developed to deliver the majority of the recommendations in the Report of a Review of Principles, Policies and Procedures on Mothers and Babies/Children in Prison (Her Majesty's Prison Service July 1999), which were accepted in the Prison Service response and action plan (December 1999), copies of which are available in the Library. A Prison Service standard on mother and baby units is currently being piloted and will be published in May 2000.

Female Foreign Nationals in Prison for Drug Offences

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many non-British women were serving sentences for drug offences in England and Wales at the most recent date; and what was the average length of their sentence.[HL1250]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The latest available information is for 31 December 1999. On that date there were 312 female foreign nationals in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales for drug offences serving an average sentence of 6.7 years. Information on nationality by offence is published in Prison statistics England and Wales (Table 6.4 of the 1998 edition, Cm 4430), a copy of which is in the Library.

Women Offenders: Suspended Sentences

Lordy Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider greater use of suspended sentences to be appropriate (whether or not in combination with other sentences) for female offenders, particularly for non-violent crimes.[HL1251]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Home Office and Her Majesty's Prison Service have established a joint working group to consider strategy on women offenders, including the range of sentences available.

The Government believe that the courts should have available to them a range of sentences suitable for dealing with all offences and offenders, both men and women. We believe that appropriate sentences can help reduce reoffending and protect the public.

Suspended sentences are currently available only in cases where imprisonment of not more than two years is appropriate and where exceptional circumstances justify suspension. Decisions as to the appropriate sentence in a particular case, including decisions as to whether circumstances are exceptional, are for the courts. The Government are considering whether greater use might be made of suspended sentences, by themselves or in combination with community penalties or supervision, for particular types of offender.

Sentencing of Women

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the Court of Appeal to issue guidelines on the sentencing of women; and, if not, why not.[HL1252]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has no power to ask the Court of Appeal to frame guidelines. Powers in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 empower him to direct the Sentencing Advisory Panel to propose to the Court of Appeal that it issue guidelines for specific offences or categories of offence. This power does not, however, extend to making directions that the panel should propose guidelines for particular categories of offender.

Electronic Monitoring of Offenders

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to introduce measures to tag stalkers and wife beaters electronically; and, if so, whether such measures will apply to female stalkers and husband beaters.[HL1253]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Crime and Court Services Bill will seek to introduce wider use of electronic monitoring and will create new exclusion requirements that could be particularly helpful in relation to domestic violence and stalking. These measures will allow the electronic monitoring of both offenders sentenced to community penalties and prisoners released on licence who have been prohibited from entering a particular place or places, which could include the home of a victim. The monitoring arrangements will operate irrespective of gender.

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Domestic Violence

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can confirm press reports that they intend to introduce a major programme to tackle violence against women by men; and whether it is also intended that identical measures will be introduced at the same time to tackle violence against men by women.[HL1254]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government condemn unequivocally all forms of violence. The law treats equally violence whether committed by men or women.

According to the British Crime Survey, domestic violence by women against men is statistically as common as violence by men against women (both are 4.2 per cent in the last year). But women are more likely to have been assaulted three or more times; are twice as likely to have been injured by a partner in the last year; and are three times as likely to have suffered frightening threats.

Soon after coming into office, the Government launched a campaign against domestic violence, Break the Chain, and that campaign treated violence by men against women equally with violence by women against men.

Last summer, the Government published a paper, Living Without Fear: an integrated approach to tackling violence against women, which set out their initiatives and commitments in this area. That work naturally includes our campaign against domestic violence. But this does not mean to say that the Government see domestic violence as only about men as perpetrators and women as victims.

Immigration Rules, Paragraph 320(18)

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What statutory provisions contain the current rules barring offenders who have served prison sentences of over 12 months from entering the United Kingdom and the making of exceptions to these rules; and[HL1256]

    Whether outside organisations with an interest in the resettlement of offenders will be consulted in the course of the review of the rules barring ex-prisoners from entering the United Kingdom to work; and whether a public consultation document will be issued before final decisions are taken.[HL1257]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The rules regulating the entry into and stay in the United Kingdom of foreign nationals subject to immigration control are laid down by the Secretary of State for the Home Department under Section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971.

Paragraph 320(18) of the Immigration Rules (HC 395) provides, inter alia, that, where a person has been convicted of a criminal offence outside the United Kingdom which would have been punishable

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with imprisonment of 12 months or more if the conduct concerned had occurred in the United Kingdom, refusal of leave to enter or an entry clearance should normally follow unless admission is justified for strong compassionate reasons or other exceptional circumstances justifying the exercise of discretion. If a person's conviction is spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the provisions of paragraph 320(18) do not apply. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is reviewing the operation of the rules and practice relating to admission of persons with previous convictions, but he presently does not think it will be necessary to consult organisations of the kind referred to in the light of the effect of the 1974 Act. He will report the outcome of this review to Parliament when it is completed.

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