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Family Visitor Appeals

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to publish the report of the inter-departmental review of family visitor appeals. [54107]

Angela Eagle: Following the announcement of the abolition of the fee by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Mr. Blunkett) on 24 April 2002, the report is now being finalised.

Damilola Taylor

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the actions that he plans to take as a consequence of the Damilola Taylor case. [54120]

Mr. Keith Bradley: First of all I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy for the Taylor family who still have many questions left unanswered despite an intensive police investigation and a lengthy trial.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister (Mr. Blair) has said there should be no rush to judgment. This was always going to be a difficult case.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith) has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to look into the handling of the case, to consider whether there are implications for the conduct of future cases and to make recommendations. Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate will be involved in the review. In particular, the Director has been asked to

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examine whether the time has come to introduce a system where, before trial, interviews of certain key witnesses are conducted by the prosecutor in a limited category of cases. The review will report by mid-summer.

We are already taking steps to help children and other vulnerable or intimidated witnesses give their best evidence.

In June 1998 the Government published "Speaking up for Justice", a report of an interdepartmental working group on the treatment of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses in the Criminal Justice system. It proposed a coherent and integrated scheme to provide appropriate support and assistance for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses. Key recommendations include a range of special measures available for use at the trial including:

The measures requiring legislation were included in Part II of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.

Implementation of the special measures is imminent and they will be an improvement on the current arrangements. In January I announced a phased implementation programme starting on 24 July this year. In the Crown court all the special measures will be implemented for vulnerable witnesses, with the exception of intermediaries and pre-trial cross-examination which will be subject to pilot projects. The same measures, with the added exception of video-recorded statements, will be implemented at the same time for intimidated witnesses.

All other measures will be introduced in 2003–04 for all qualifying witnesses.

In magistrates courts implementation of special measures in July 2002 will be restricted to television links and video recorded evidence for child witnesses in cases involving sexual offences, violence (including threats) and cruelty. This will provide protection for children in cases involving assaults, muggings and domestic violence. It will also bring the adult magistrates courts into line with the current provision in the Youth court. Most of the measures will be extended to magistrates courts by 2003–04 (after their evaluation in the Crown court) to bring them in line with the Crown court.

Over the next year or two we will also be starting pilot projects on video-recorded pre-trial cross-examination and the use of intermediaries.

A whole range of guidance and training materials for the criminal justice agencies have been published including:

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We are working closely with a full range of agencies in the criminal justice system and voluntary sector in implementing these measures. Arrangements are already in place to evaluate the special measures once they have had a chance to bed down. We will also be looking closely at the findings of the inquiries being conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan police to see if there are any lessons to be learned for the measures needed to enable children and other vulnerable or intimidated witnesses to give their best evidence.

On the wider front, Sir Robin Auld's Review of the Criminal Courts was published in October last year which resulted in a public consultation. The report contains 328 recommendations and makes wide proposals for reforming the courts and their proceedings. The Government is looking at the report and the results of the consultation carefully as well as other ideas for modernising the criminal justice system. We will publish a White Paper setting out our proposals for the way forward shortly.

Christopher Edwards

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will establish a public inquiry into the death of Christopher Edwards at Chelmsford Prison; [55407]

Beverley Hughes: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave about the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights to my hon. Friend for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on 25 April 2002, Official Report, column 438W.

I see no grounds for a new inquiry. The Court recognised the changes that have taken place since

Mr. Edward's death and found no grounds to order further investigation.

Policing Costs (Commonwealth Games)

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will announce his decision on the funding of policing costs which will be incurred by Greater Manchester police in connection with the Commonwealth Games. [55043]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 9 May 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 14 May 2002, Official Report, column 603W.

Prisoners (Suicide Risks)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the last review was undertaken of

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procedures to be followed in prisons, for inmates considered as possible suicide risks; and if he will make a statement. [55199]

Beverley Hughes: A three-year strategy was launched in February 2001 following the Prison Service's review "Caring for the Suicidal in Custody", which recommended a radical move from awareness to prevention, including a commitment to reduce self-inflicted deaths in prison. The strategy embraces targeted, preventative measures within a holistic approach that seeks a supportive prison culture based on good prisoner/staff relationships; a physically safe environment with reduced opportunities for self-harm; and strong multi-disciplinary partnerships within prisons, with the courts, police and other criminal justice partners and with voluntary agencies particularly the Samaritans. Related work is tackling bullying and violence.

The strategy focuses additional resources where the risks are highest such as the busy local prisons. Included in the strategy is a "care of prisoners at risk" project which is reviewing procedures and processes for identifying and supporting prisoners at enhanced risk. New procedures are being developed and will be trailed later this year.

Life Sentence Tariffs

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the range is of life sentence tariffs; and what the average tariff for (a) women and (b) male prisoners convicted of murder is. [55278]

Beverley Hughes: Tariffs for murderers range in length from four years to whole life. Excluding whole life tariffs, the average length of tariffs set for women currently serving mandatory sentences for murder is 13 years one month, and for men 14 years two months.

Lost Property

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the laws governing the ownership of lost property; and if he will review them. [55788]

Mr. Keith Bradley: Civil law governs questions of ownership of property, and that it is a matter for my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. The criminal courts consider questions of ownership on the facts of each case, in the light of the applicable law. The Government have no plans to review this area of the law.

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