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28 Oct 2002 : Column 620W—continued

Children in Custody

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how he intends to improve the protection of children held in prison custody. [75346]

Hilary Benn: Improvements in the protection of children held in prison custody are being taken forward by the development of child protection policy and

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practice, involving co-operation between the Prison Service, the Youth Justice Board and social services, as well as a range of community-based charities.

Considerable progress has already been made. Through the revision of the child protection protocol and the policy set out in the relevant Prison Service order, the relationship between young offender institutions holding juveniles and their local Area Child Protection Committees (ACPC) have been greatly improved with most governors now having representation on the local ACPC.

Each YOI in the juvenile estate has appointed a child protection co-ordinator (and deputy) and has established a child protection committee within the establishment, with some having representation on that committee from the local ACPC, police and other relevant agencies.

A child protection training programme has been developed for all staff within the juvenile estate.

Community Policing (Wales)

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he will take to encourage use of community police support officers in Wales. [76256]

Mr. Denham: We are committed to the development of Community Support Officers (CSOs) throughout England and Wales. On 23 September my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, announced a fund of #19million for the recruitment of more than 1,000 CSOs in England and Wales this financial year. 27 forces bid successfully for a share of this funding.

Gwent is among the forces which will benefit from this funding. They bid successfully for #169,029 to recruit 30 CSOs. Gwent is also one of the six forces which were selected to pilot, over the next two years, detention powers for CSOs.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the backlog of hon. Members' correspondence at the IND is; what the target date is which he has set to clear the backlog at the IND; what discussions he has had with posts overseas concerning the processing of applicants for citizenship by British Overseas Citizens; how many persons are awaiting decisions on citizenship applications; and how many passports were lost by IND in 2002. [76098]

Beverley Hughes: The total number of outstanding cases in the backlog of MPs correspondence at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) as of 30 September was 1,808, of which 361 await ministerial reply and 1,447 official reply. We aim to reduce the backlog to frictional levels by the end of this year and are on course to do so.

The Department published figures in June 2002 relating to the voluntary acquisition of British citizenship. In 2001 IND received 109,005 citizenship applications and made decisions on 90,295 applications. There are no available figures relating to the current number of applications awaiting a decision. There have been no substantive discussions so far with our overseas

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diplomatic missions about the processing of applications from British Overseas citizens etc. We and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are preparing the guidance needed by posts and applicants before the amendment in the Nationality and Immigration Asylum (NIA) Bill comes into force.

With regard to the last part of the question, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate issue letters to members of the public where a passport cannot be immediately traced. As at 11 October 2002 a total of 265 such letters had been issued.

Correspondence

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to reply to the letter to him dated 3 September from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Baez Azez Baez. [76235]

Mr. Blunkett: I wrote to my right hon. Friend on 22 October 2002.

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he intends to reply to the letter to him dated 18 September from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Mr. John Alosine Bangura. [76239]

Mr. Blunkett: I wrote to my right hon. Friend on 24 October 2002.

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he intends to reply to the letter to him dated 5 September from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Mrs. Vida Obiri (Yeboah-Burgess). [76236]

Mr. Blunkett: I wrote to my right hon. Friend on 21 October 2002.

Crime Detection Rates

Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to improve the crime detection rate and increase the numbers of criminals brought to justice. [75336]

Mr. Denham: The Police Standards Unit is currently working with a number of police forces to improve their crime detection rates. This will be achieved through a structured performance enhancement programme, utilising the good practice guide and supported through other existing initiatives. Force performance is measured through the performance information supplied to the Police Standards Unit on a monthly basis.

Through the further development and structured implementation of the National Intelligence Model (NIM), police activity can be targeted more effectively at both detecting and disrupting crime. This, coupled with the increased provision of analytical support, will provide the crime and disorder partnerships with the ability to detect crime and bring offenders to justice.

On 17 October this year, the Government published the XNarrowing the Justice Gap" framework document. This document sets out a three-pronged approach to increase the number of offenders brought to justice. The strategy involves:

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The Government have made available #182 million over a four-year period to expand the national DNA database. The Home Office, ACPO and the Forensic Science Service are working together to maximise the benefits gained from the expenditure being made in the development and application of DNA and other forensic techniques.

Crime Prevention Partnerships

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment has been made of the effectiveness of crime prevention partnerships in reducing crime in the Portsmouth, South constituency; and if he will make a statement. [76790]

Mr. Denham: The Crime Reduction Director for the South East regards the performance of the City of Portsmouth's crime and disorder reduction partnership as good and Portsmouth recently won the award for the best crime and disorder strategy for 2002–05 in the South East region. According to the latest available figures, total crime in Portsmouth is falling faster than in similar partnerships across England and Wales.

The partnership actively seeks to engage the local community in reducing crime. For instance, following a police operation in the Portsmouth, South constituency, there will shortly be a public meeting to work out with the local community ways of ensuring long-term sustainable improvements to the quality of life for the residents of Somerstown.

Crime Reduction

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on progress with reducing (a) crime affecting older people and (b) the fear of crime among older people. [75313]

Mr. Wills: Crime against the elderly is horrifying, but is thankfully uncommon; levels fell by 20 per cent. between British Crime Survey (BCS) 1996 and BCS 2000, and older people are on average only a sixth as likely as the young to suffer a personal crime. We are making special efforts to reduce the chances still further, and in particular we have developed and implemented a strategy to clamp down on the despicable crime of distraction burglary. Levels of fear of crime among older people are still too high; we are committed to reducing them, and we are working with charities such as Help The Aged to find new and better ways of tackling fear of crime among seniors as well as crimes against them.

Death Forms

Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what penalties are incurred by erroneous completion of (a) death certificates and (b) cremation forms. [73417]

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Hilary Benn: Under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, the doctor who attended the deceased during his or her last illness is required to state the cause of death to the best of his or her knowledge or belief. The certifying doctor may not be able to be certain in all cases that the cause of death given is beyond question, and such deaths should be reported to the coroner. It would be an offence to refuse to issue a death certificate or to falsify a certificate. On conviction, such a person would be liable to a fine of up to #200.

Contravention of regulations under the Cremation Act 1902 is an offence. On conviction, a fine of up to #1,000 may be imposed. Anyone convicted of wilfully making false representations, or falsifying a certificate, with a view to securing a cremation is liable to imprisonment of up to two years.

Death certification procedures are being considered by the Review of Coroners Services and by the Shipman Inquiry which will be reporting next year.


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