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12 Feb 2003 : Column WA117

Written Answers

Wednesday, 12th February 2003.

Muslim-owned Businesses

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many investigations have taken place on suspicion of fraud and terrorism offences into businesses owned or operated by Muslims in each of the past five years; how many have involved raids on premises; and how many arrests, prosecutions and convictions have taken place as a result.[HL1378]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): This information is not collected centrally.

Fraud: Home Office databases do not contain information on the religion of persons investigated, arrested, proceeded against or convicted for fraud.

Terrorism: No statistics are available for the number of investigations that have taken place in connection with terrorist offences into businesses owned or operated by Muslims, nor how many have involved raids on premises, nor how many arrests, prosecutions and convictions have taken place as a result.

The provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 are aimed solely at terrorists and their supporters. They are not targeted at the Muslim community, the overwhelming majority of which is peaceful, law-abiding and makes a valuable contribution to our society.

Rape Allegations

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the report of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary on their thematic review of the prosecution and investigation of rape cases, their examination of the incidence of dropped cases after charge and the overturning of convictions following withdrawal of allegations by alleged victims.[HL1450]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service (HMCPSI) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published their report on the joint inspection into the investigation and prosecution of cases involving allegations of rape in April 2002. The report touched on the issue of attrition, including cases dropped after charge and acquittals after trial. A separate literature review was published alongside the report which looked at research into the issue, both in the UK and internationally.

In July 2002 the Government published an inter-agency action plan in response to the HMCPSI/HMIC report. The action plan sets out a programme of action to implement the recommendations of the report and

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details practical measures at every stage of the criminal justice process.

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in legislation on the crime of rape due consideration has been given to rape allegations made by alleged victims where (a) the courts have dismissed charges; (b) the alleged victim has subsequently withdrawn the accusations following a period of imprisonment of the accused; and (c) the police have charged the accuser of wasting police time.[HL1451]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Sexual Offences Bill follows a major review of the criminal law on sexual offences. We do not believe there is anything in our proposals which would encourage an increase in the number of false allegations that are made.

The police are duty bound to make detailed investigations where allegations are made of serious offences. Following the initial investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considers the content of the police findings and makes its own independent assessment. Both the police and the CPS have to consider the nature of the evidence before them and whether it is reliable enough to support a realistic prospect of conviction. It is the overriding duty of the CPS to ensure that the right person is charged with the right offence.

There are important safeguards in the criminal justice system to ensure that those who are falsely accused or wrongly convicted can have this injustice righted. These include the presumption of innocence, the high standard of proof on the prosecution, the right to legal representation, the right to call any witnesses to challenge and test evidence through cross-examination and the right to seek leave to appeal against conviction or sentence. There are also a range of offences to deal with those who might seek to pursue such allegations, including the offences of perverting the course of justice, wasting police time and perjury. The latter carries a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

Probation Service

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to improve the morale, staffing and funding of the probation service; and whether this would be cost-effective in relation to criminal justice as a whole.[HL1464]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The information requested is as follows:

The National Probation Service has developed through consultation a people management strategy entitled Achieving Through People. The strategy was launched last September and covers the period 2002–07.

Achieving Through People aims to support the business strategy of the National Probation Service which focuses on improved performance and service delivery and nurturing of the service's staff.

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There are five themes to the strategy: (a) leadership and management development; (b) training and development; (c) HR policy and practice; (d) workforce planning pay and reward; and (e) developing the practice of people management.

The strategy has been well received both within, by management and unions, and without the National Probation Service.

A copy of Achieving Through People has been placed in the Library.

Detention Centres: Chaplaincy Arrangements

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any immigration, detention or removal centres have no chaplaincy arrangements at present; and, if so, which ones.[HL1467]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): In accordance with The Detention Centre Rules (SI 2001 No 238), every removal centre must appoint a manager of religious affairs. The religious affairs manager's task is to facilitate religious observance and the provision of pastoral care for detained persons, with the assistance of suitably qualified staff, including ministers of religion. Whenever a vacancy for the position of religious affairs manager occurs at a removal centre, appropriate arrangements will be made to ensure that all functions of the religious affairs office are maintained.

There are currently vacancies for the position of manager of religious affairs at Harmondsworth, Dover and Yarl's Wood.

Detention Centres: Insurance

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the amount of the increase in premiums charged for insurance cover for each of the establishments where asylum seekers are detained since 14 February 2002.[HL1479]

Lord Filkin: Insurance premiums generally have increased substantially since 11 September 2001 and premiums for detention centres are no exception. However, this information is commercially confidential and is therefore not publicly available.

Haslar and Lindholme Removal Centres: Visiting Hours

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the Prison Service to increase visiting hours at Haslar and Lindholme to match those of privately run removal centres.[HL1480]

Lord Filkin: The extent of the visiting hours at each removal centre is determined by demand and is kept under regular review. This includes Haslar and Lindholme removal centres. In these cases the visiting hours are assessed to be sufficient to meet current visitor numbers.

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Detention Powers: Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, into the operation of Part IV of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.[HL1651]

Lord Filkin: The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, has completed the report on the operation of Part IV of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which will be laid before the House today.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for his detailed work and is pleased to note that he is satisfied that the Home Secretary has certified persons only in appropriate cases and that he has exercised his independent judgment in each case, having given due regard to advice from officials.

The report follows the decision of the Court of Appeal in October last year which unanimously upheld the need for these detention powers. The court held that the powers are not discriminatory and comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Home Secretary welcomes the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, which he will be considering in detail over the next few weeks. In relation to the recommendation for the detainees to be held in a separate facility within the Prison Service, the Home Secretary has agreed to this principle, subject to further detailed feasibililty work.

Illegal Drug Imports: Liverpool

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What checks and investigations are made to prevent the entry of illegal drugs into the port of Liverpool.[HL1500]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Customs staff are based at the port of Liverpool with the specific task of detecting illegal drugs and other smuggled goods. These staff are fully trained anti-smuggling officers with experience in freight examination and vessel search.

Information and Customs' intelligence gathering, or its methods of selection and examination, is covered by exemption 4 (law enforcement and legal proceedings) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. However, in general terms, vessels and freight vehicles are selected for examination using intelligence. Such examinations may consist of scanning or a full physical examination by Customs officers. Drug detector dogs are also deployed to the port on a regular basis. A specialist team which can search all the confined spaces on a vessel is also based at the port.

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Since October 2000, Customs has seized nearly 1 tonne of cocaine imported through the port of Liverpool, with a street value of around £70 million.

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