Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Guernsey: Legal Aid

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: The States of Guernsey is expected to legislate later this year to establish a civil legal aid system in Guernsey. It is hoped that the scheme can be brought into force as soon as possible thereafter.

Criminal Proceedings and Human Rights Act

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Proposed rules and practice directions for criminal proceedings in relation to the Human Rights Act 1998 will be published for consultation in the early summer.

Pentecostal Church, Brierfield: Petrol Bomb Attack

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: I understand from Lancashire Constabulary that a petrol bomb attack took place on 4 April against a Pentecostal Church on Stanley Street, Brierfield. At this stage the motive for the attack is not known and there is no evidence to link the offender to any particular ethnic background or extremist group. Police are carrying out detailed investigations into the attack, including house to house enquiries and forensic analysis of the petrol bomb. In the event of a prosecution the results of the investigation will be made public.

Deaf Suspects: Conduct of Police Interviews

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

19 Apr 2000 : Column WA116

Lord Bach: The Codes of Practice which regulate the conduct of police interviews with suspects contain a number of safeguards for suspects who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing. These include the requirement for an interpreter and for a contemporaneous written note of the interview to be made, as well as an audio tape recording. The interpreter is also given an opportunity to read the record of the interview and to certify its accuracy in the event of his being called to give evidence. In addition, it is open to chief officers to video-record interviews with deaf suspects with their consent.

There is currently no requirement to tape-record interviews with witnesses, but the interpreter and the witness are able to read over their statement and certify its accuracy.

Oakington: Absconding Asylum Applicants

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the legal status of the supporting statement for proposed use in respect of Oakington Barracks on behalf of the Home Office (Ref: EM/1998) and in particular of the statement in paragraph 4.2 that "ordinary law-abiding citizens of other countries held at Oakington will have their application for asylum automatically refused if they leave the Centre during the time they are held there"; and whether the statement that the application will automatically be refused conforms to the requirements of natural justice. [HL1989]

Lord Bach: I confirm that the statement to which the noble Lord refers has no legal status and does not represent the action that is taken if people abscond from Oakington.

The Government will fulfil their obligations under the 1951 Convention and no-one will be removed until their claim has been properly decided. Asylum applicants at Oakington are reminded that they have an obligation to co-operate with the authorities in the consideration of their claim. In the case of an applicant who absconds, their claim will be decided on the information available. That might result in the claim being refused. Such refusal is not mandatory. In the event that we are aware that an applicant who has absconded meets the necessary criteria for refugee status, that applicant must be granted asylum in accordance with paragraph 334 of the Immigration Rules. However, if the applicant's claim falls to be refused, he/she will then be liable to removal once located, subject to consideration of any further information provided at that time.

19 Apr 2000 : Column WA117

Human Rights Act: Training Events

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will be ready to give senior managers and key policy staff of the Prison Service training on the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 and whether they will place the course material in the Library of the House; whether they will also place course material for existing Prison Service training courses on legal issues in the Library; whether all officers of the Prison Service will have taken these courses by 1 October 2000, and what arrangements have been made for training members of Boards of Visitors on these issues.[HL1988]

Lord Bach: Training events specifically on the Human Rights Act 1998 have been running since last year and are continuing. Consideration of the effects of the Act will be incorporated into other relevant courses.

We do not propose to place copies of such a wide range of material in the Library since much will mean little in isolation. However, a copy of the Prison Service College prospectus, which gives details of Prison Service training courses, including those with a legal element, will be placed in the Library shortly. A copy of material specifically on the Human Rights Act 1998 which is designed for all Prison Service staff will also be placed in the Library when it is available.

Not all prison officers undertake training courses exclusively on legal issues. Such training is targeted at those officers who require it for their specific duties, although more general training frequently contains such an element.

Arrangements are currently being made to provide Human Rights Act 1998 training for Boards of Visitors at their annual conference later this year.

Burglaries by Bogus House Callers

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to respond to the crime of distraction burglary.[HL2178]

Lord Bach: Bogus callers claim over 16,000 victims every year but the true figure is believed to be much higher because many people do not report the burglary. This is a particularly nasty crime as its victims are usually the most vulnerable people in our society. More often than not, they are older people living alone.

My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mr Clarke) has established a steering group bringing together government and industry. Its membership is made up of: Severn Trent Water, Water UK, the Electricity Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers, Age Concern, BT Security, Crime Concern, Crimestoppers, the National Neighbourhood Watch Association, the Institute of Trading Standards, the National Housing Federation and the Womens Royal Volunteer Service. It first met

19 Apr 2000 : Column WA118

on 11 April and is currently finalising a detailed set of proposals to take forward its work.

This group will pull together existing good practice from across the country; establish a database so that details on offenders can be shared; provide co-ordinated advice for victims of this crime; and produce a help pack for workers who have regular contact with people from vulnerable groups.

Two staff will support it: a community safety officer from local government and a police detective superintendent. Both are based at the Home Office.

My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mr Clarke) will tomorrow, with the National Neighbourhood Watch Association and Severn Trent Water, launch this initiative with the first nationwide leaflet drop to groups and residents across the country.

My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mr Clarke) is pleased to report that Water UK have agreed to provide sponsorship support for this initiative for two years. The Electricity Association has also agreed to support the Taskforce by a financial contribution.

This is not, however, a crime that the Government can tackle alone. Organisations that send out people for home visits have an enormous role to play and my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mr Clarke) is very pleased that so many have agreed to support his initiative. But more is needed and we will continue to seek support from all our partners in this.

Blackwell Report

Lord Brett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Blackwell Committee, established by the Lord Chancellor to investigate non-legally qualified claims assessors and employment advisers, has completed its inquiries; and when they intend to publish the report.[HL2155]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Blackwell Committee has completed its investigations into the activities of non-legally qualified claims assessors and employment advisers. The Lord Chancellor's Department has today published their report and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page