Previous Section Index Home Page


14. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to ensure that those at risk of persecution are not returned to Zimbabwe. [29862]

Angela Eagle: All applications for asylum are considered in accordance with our obligations under the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary decided on 15 January to suspend removals of unsuccessful asylum seekers to Zimbabwe until after the presidential election is held. We will then assess the country situation and the risks faced by individual returnees and decide whether to resume removals.

Young Offenders

15. Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to tackle persistent youth offending. [29863]

Mr. Blunkett: The Government's youth justice reforms include a wide range of measures to deal with persistent young offenders. We have delivered the youth justice pledge by halving the time from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders; funded the youth justice board's intensive supervision and surveillance programme for the most prolific offenders; provided direct support to address youth street crime in London; and introduced the detention and training order for persistent and more serious young offenders. We are also providing the courts with new powers to remand to secure accommodation for those juveniles who commit offences while on bail.

Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisons in the juvenile estate provide a pre-release scheme. [29606]

Beverley Hughes: All juvenile establishments work with Youth Offending Teams to plan the transfer of the young person into the community phase of the Detention and Training Order. Juvenile establishments plan a young person's release from prison with the young person's community supervising officer and where applicable his/her parents or carers. Release is planned from the start of a sentence through a series of meetings and action plans. A final meeting takes place 10 days before release in order to finalise arrangements for on-going support in the community. The personal officer from the custody setting then attends the first training plan meeting in the community. This ensures that the two parts of the sentence are linked. Sentence planning forms part of this process and is, so far as is possible, tailored to individual needs.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many young offenders aged 10 to 16 years are in institutions by region according to their home address expressed as (a) a percentage and (b) the total number, ranked in descending order according to percentages for the latest date for which figures are available. [30595]

4 Feb 2002 : Column 659W

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 30 January 2002]: The number and percentage of juveniles (10 to 16-year-olds) detained in secure establishments broken down by home region on 31 December 2001 is shown in the table.

Home regionNumber of juvenile offenders in secure establishmentsPercentage of total number of juvenile offenders
North West23017.5
West Midlands20315.5
East Midlands1209.2
South East977.4
South West695.3
North East564.3


16. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on recent changes in policy on prosecution for possession of cannabis. [29864]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is responsible for prosecuting criminal offences. There has been no change in CPS's policy on prosecution of offences for possession of cannabis.


17. Siobhain McDonagh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action his Department is taking against graffiti. [29865]

Mr. Denham: Writing graffiti will normally constitute an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. Where criminal proceedings are not appropriate, it can also be dealt with through a number of measures designed to address antisocial behaviour, including antisocial behaviour orders.

Our neighbourhood wardens programme and proposals for community safety officers will help to reduce yobbish behaviour, such as graffiti writing, in our neighbourhoods. We are also providing support through the Youth Justice Board for a range of projects to combat the problem of youth crime, including graffiti.

Crime Detection

18. Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the crime detection rate. [29866]

Mr. Denham: In the year ending March 2001, just under 1.25 million recorded crimes were detected. This amounted to 24 per cent. of all recorded crime in England and Wales in 2000–01.

This figure is much higher for some crimes than for others—for example, 62 per cent. of all crimes of violence against the person were detected. Of that figure, 90 per cent. of homicides and 81 per cent. of attempted murders were detected.

4 Feb 2002 : Column 660W

There are also striking variations in performance at both force and basic command unit (BCU) level. For example, in 2000–01, the detection rate for burglary across thirty comparable urban BCUs varied from 27.7 per cent. to just 5.5 per cent.

There cannot be any justification for such variable performance in similar parts of the country. That is why the work of the Standards Unit will be so important: it is the means by which we will identify and spread good practice, driving the performance of all forces up to that of the best.

Sex Offences

21. Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase child protection through new sentences for sex offenders. [29869]

Mr. Keith Bradley: We are looking at tougher determinate sentences for sex offenders that will ensure they stay in prison, up to the full term if necessary, or as long as they continue to present a risk of serious harm to our communities and that they are subject to strict and extended supervision on release.

In addition the Government are concerned that the law should provide clear and coherent offences that protect all victims of sexual exploitation, especially children and the more vulnerable, with penalties that enable the appropriate punishment of abusers. My Home Office colleagues and I are currently reviewing the existing laws on sex offences with a view to introducing strengthened legislation when parliamentary time allows.

Home Detention and Curfew Orders

24. David Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase the use of home detention and curfew orders; and if he will make a statement. [29872]

Beverley Hughes: Decisions to release prisoners on home detention curfew (HDC) are a matter for indiviual Governors, within the guidance set down by the Prison Service, including a requirement for a rigorous risk assessment. Research undertaken by the Home Office shows that home detention curfew helps prisoners to make the transition between prison and the community. (Home Office Research Study 222, Electronic monitoring of released prisoners and evaluation of the Home Detention Curfew scheme, March 2001). We have asked Governors to make full use of the scheme where they can do so without unacceptable risk to public safety.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has also announced this morning at the Prison Service Conference, his intention to increase the maximum period that a curfewee may spend on HDC from two months to three months. The eligibility criteria, and the risk assessment process will not change.

Police Morale

26. Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the state of police morale. [29874]

4 Feb 2002 : Column 661W

Mr. Denham: There is no established direct method of measuring the level of morale in the police service.

We are actively improving the resources of the police so they can play their key part in tackling crime and disorder and improving community safety. We are also determined to tackle those elements of police officers' working lives that can create frustration and detract from their ability to do their jobs in the way that they would wish.

We are committed to investment in scientific and technological support and to reducing the burden of unnecessary bureaucracy. This should help officers to spend as much of their time as possible on the front line.

The Police Negotiating Board (PNB) has agreed in principle to a package of reforms to police pay and conditions of service.

The agreement is subject to ratification by all parties by the end of February. We believe that, taking the package as a whole, it will benefit the vast majority of officers.

An ambitious programme of work in police training has begun to raise professional standards for officers and support staff, and to achieve greater consistency nationally.

We have turned around the decline in police numbers that started under the last Government. Police numbers rose by 2,645 officers in the 12 months to September 2001, taking national strength to 127,231, the highest since February 1995. This increase, of 2.1 per cent. is the largest single annual increase in police numbers for 20 years.

We have set the police service a target to reach record numbers of officers by this April, and 130,000 officers by spring 2003.

Next Section Index Home Page