Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

4 Dec 2002 : Column WA107

Written Answers

Wednesday, 4th December 2002.

Alami and Botmeh

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, and if so from whom, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received representations about the possible miscarriage of justice in the cases of Alami and Botmeh (1996), in addition to the 21 representations to the Home Office mentioned in the Written Answer of 24 July by Lord Falconer of Thoroton (WA 96–97).[HL124]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): Since May 2001 we have received three representations about the possible miscarriage of justice in the case of Alami and Botmeh; one from Dr Nabil Sha'ath, the Palestinian Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, and two representations from Tony McNulty MP and Kevan Jones MP on behalf of their constituents.


Lord Watson of Richmond asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in identifying, locating and freezing the assets of leading members of Mr Mugabe's regime.[HL170]

Baroness Amos: The most recent EU Common Position on Zimbabwe sanctions (2002/145/CFSP) imposed an asset freeze on 79 members of Mugabe's regime. Twenty-eight accounts containing funds totalling £513,000 have been frozen in the UK and crown dependencies. We are continuing to work with UK financial institutions to identify and freeze more accounts and funds belonging to the targeted individuals.

Israel: Security Fence

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they intend to make to the Government of Israel concerning the potential loss of greenhouses, olive trees and citrus trees belonging mainly to Palestinians which would result from the erection by Israel of a long security fence.[HL177]

Baroness Amos: Our Embassy in Tel Aviv has already raised our concerns about the location and likely impact of the security fence with the Government of Israel. While we fully understand Israel's need to take steps, within the law, to protect itself from terrorist attack, lasting security can only be achieved through a negotiated peace.

We are particularly concerned that the construction of the 360km long fence will involve the seizure of more Palestinian land. As described in the Israeli media, it would run east of the Green Line for most of

4 Dec 2002 : Column WA108

its length. Approximately 10 per cent of the entire West Bank will lie to the west, ie on the Israeli side of the fence. The northern and Jerusalem sections of the fence, approximately 215km long, will incorporate on the Israeli side approximately 7 per cent of the West Bank and 290,000 Palestinians, of whom 70,000 do not have Israeli residency cards and so will be under pressure to leave their homes. Construction of the fence has already led to the destruction of Palestinian farmland, and access to farmland lying to the west of the fence is in doubt. In this Government's view, the building of the fence and the displacement of the Palestinians is wrong. It harms the prospects for peace.

Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Consulate General in Jerusalem are monitoring the situation closely. Officials have travelled to Palestinian areas affected by construction of the fence to talk to farmers and other villagers and to see for themselves its impact. We will continue to make our concerns known to the Israeli authorities.

Capita: Criminal Record Checks

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What predictions were made, and by whom, of the number of criminal record checks in the contract with Capita; and over what periods.[HL215]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The agency made forecast volumes of the expected number of criminal record checks available to all bidders during the tendering process. However, no volume forecasts are contained within the contract. These forecasts were based on work which had been undertaken by consultants for the Home Office prior to the establishment of the Criminal Records Bureau and the contract with Capita.

Criminal Justice System: Consultation

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to publish the responses to the consultation exercise in the Criminal Justice White Paper.[HL426]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Criminal Justice Bill was published on 21 November setting out radical legislation to re-balance the Criminal Justice System in favour of victims, witnesses and communities. The Bill was preceded by the White Paper Justice for All, and we are today publishing the responses received in relation to the consultation exercise. Justice for All invited comments on three specific issues: a trial by judge alone, trial of 16 and 17 year-olds in Crown Courts and new measures to tackle domestic violence.

Two hundred and forty-two responses have been received by the Home Office, Lord Chancellor's Department and Crown Prosecution Service. The majority of these responses went wider than the three consultation issues and commented generally on the

4 Dec 2002 : Column WA109

proposals contained in the White Paper. Copies will be placed in the Library.

Of the 242 responses, 53 commented on the issue of trial by judge alone in long and complex cases other than serious fraud and in cases where there is a risk of jury interference.

As previously stated, jury trial will continue to be the norm for the vast majority of serious cases. The Criminal Justice Bill safeguards this central principle of our justice system. What we are doing is recognising and seeking to deal with a small number of cases where there are clear difficulties in conducting a trial by jury. Our proposals deal with the very real problems of managing trials in certain fraud and other complex financial cases and in cases involving jury tampering and the risk of intimidation. Some fraud trials can last for months; police protection, which the court orders in cases where there is a serious risk of jury intimidation, can be extremely intrusive. Such trials can and do place an excessive and unreasonable burden on the members of the jury. Our proposals, which are based on the recommendations of Sir Robin Auld, address these problems by giving the judge the discretion to order a trial to take place without a jury. After careful consideration we have decided to legislate to give them effect in the Criminal Justice Bill.

Seventy-nine of the respondents commented on the strengthened youth courts proposals. The majority of these favoured the government option to allow the Crown Court the discretion to try 16 to 17 year-olds in the Crown Court. There was a strong opposition in principle to the removal of trial by jury for juveniles and strong support for the creation of a specialised youth court and for the training of magistrates, judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and other staff. The Government are now considering how best to take this forward.

Ninety-one of the responses commented on the domestic violence proposals but not all of the 91 commented on all of the proposals. For each proposal the majority who gave a view were in favour. The proposals were: reviews following domestic violence murders, extending the use of restraining order, making breach of non-molestation order a criminal offence, anonymity for victims of domestic violence and improved liaison between the civil and criminal courts.

The Government intend to publish a consultation paper on domestic violence by spring 2003 which will build on the initial consultation in the Criminal Justice White Paper.

Alongside the main consultation exercise outlined in the White Paper, we consulted with the legal profession on possible legislation to require the defence to disclose, in advance of trial, unused expert witness reports and lists of witnesses that they propose to call to give evidence. The consultation ran from 15 August until 16 September.

Twenty-five responses were received. Of these, five favoured the Government's proposal on the disclosure of unused expert reports, 15 were against and the others made no comment or were undecided. On

4 Dec 2002 : Column WA110

disclosure of defence witness lists, nine were in favour, 10 were against and the others made no comment or were undecided.

As a result, the Government have modified our proposals. We now plan to require the defence to disclose only the names of experts who have been consulted and not the content of their report. The defence will also be required to disclose witness lists as proposed.

Courts Administration

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are yet in a position to make a statement about the proposed unified administration of the courts.[HL427]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Courts Bill, which was introduced in this House last Thursday, includes provisions to enable the Government to fulfil the commitment made in the White Paper Justice for All to establish an executive agency with responsibility for the administration of all the courts in England and Wales, except the House of Lords.

I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses a statement about the principles which will form the basis of the agency's Framework Document.

Local Tax Default: Committal to Prison

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In how many cases people have been committed to prison by magistrates' courts for local tax default since the poll tax was introduced; and how many such committals were subsequently declared unlawful by the High Court.[HL166]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Figures relating to the number of people committed to prison for non-payment of the community charge, council tax, are listed below. Information concerning the number of those committals subsequently declared unlawful by the High Court is not collected centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

YearCommittals to prison

NB. Information in this detail is not collected prior to 1992.

4 Dec 2002 : Column WA111

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page