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14 Oct 2003 : Column 26Wcontinued
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the war graves headstones which had been vandalised at Belfast City Cemetery have now been re-instated; and whether those which were beyond repair were replaced. 
Mr. Caplin: Yes. Following a visit by the Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in autumn 2002 it was agreed with the Lord Mayor of Belfast and City officials to re-erect the headstones. To date some 30 headstones have been re-erected and a further 180 replacements are on order and should be replaced on the graves this autumn. The remaining undamaged original headstones, which have been kept in storage, are currently being examined with a view to their reuse.
The threat from international terrorism in the United Kingdom and to United Kingdom interests worldwide remains real and has not changed from the level that it reached immediately after 11 September 2001. It is kept under constant review.
Mr. Alexander: In 1998, the Defence Research Agency developed a prototype electronic red box to test security and technology features. I am informed that the cost was approximately £1,000. After ministerial trials, the prototype was not rolled out because evaluation found that it would not have significantly improved the efficiency of the management of ministerial business at that time. We continue to explore alternative methods of electronic working such as remote connection to the Government Secure Intranet and Smart Card technology.
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Dr. Cable: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission how much has been (a) budgeted and (b) spent since April 2002 on (i) combating computer fraud, (ii) preventing theft of computers and (iii) safeguarding the security of information held on computer; and if he will make a statement. 
Sir Archy Kirkwood [holding answer 16 September 2003]: As a matter of policy the Commission does not comment on details of, or expenditure on, security arrangements. However, I can reassure my hon. Friend that current security arrangements include a high profile security presence, internal audit of procedures, security tagging of equipment supplied by the House and an in-house IT Security Officer. In addition to this, firewalls, anti-virus software, data encryption for Virtual Private Network access to parliamentary data, and password protection of systems form part of the software-based security arrangements.
In order to maintain the level of protection, PCD is preparing an IT Security Programme, which will address recommendations made by the IT Security Officer following an audit carried out by security consultants.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General how the CPS has revised its National Standards of Advocacy; and which areas employ full-time advocacy assessors and trainers to ensure that CPS advocates meet those standards. 
The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service regularly revises and publishes National Standards of Advocacy, usually every three years. The standards outline behaviours and practices that are expected of advocates who represent the Crown.
This year the standards have been revised to take account of the increased commitment of the Crown Prosecution Service to the care of victims and witnesses; the increased role of Crown advocates in the higher courts and the need to increase public confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole in line with the Public Service Agreement target.
All Crown Prosecution Service in-house advocates are annually appraised through the performance appraisal system by their line managers. This is most often done by way of observation in court by managers. However, some areas, currently London, Thames Valley and West Yorkshire, employ full-time advocacy inspectors and trainers who observe all the Area's
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Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many former care workers in children's homes and institutions have been investigated for child abuse in Merseyside in the past five years; and how many of those individuals were (a) charged, (b) convicted and (c) acquitted. 
Paul Goggins: I understand from the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police that, since Operation Care began in 1996, 541 employees connected with care homes have been the subject of allegations of child abuse. Of these, 98 were arrested, of whom 36 were subsequently convicted in court, 24 after pleading guilty. Nine employees were acquitted and the remainder had proceedings against them discontinued, either before or after being charged, for a variety of reasons, including poor health.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Government will adopt the recommendation by the Home Affairs Committee that resources be channelled into researching and piloting the use of statement validity analysis as a tool for evaluating the credibility of witness testimony in complex historical child abuse cases. 
Paul Goggins: The Government's response to the Home Affairs Committee's report supported this recommendation, while noting that statement validity analysis is only one of a range of techniques available.
We are aware that the Association of Chief Police Officers' Investigative Interviewing Group, which aims to develop and assist the implementation of a national investigative interview strategy, are in the process of preparing advice to police forces on a number of techniques, including statement validity analysis.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if the Government will adopt the Home Affairs Committee's recommendation that the prosecution of offences relating to child abuse, which is alleged to have occurred over 10 years since the date of the offence, should only proceed with the court's permission, and that the time period does not begin until the complainant has reached age 21 years; 
Paul Goggins: There is in general no restriction on the time that may elapse between the commission of an offence and commencement of prosecution. Either way offences, which can be tried either in a magistrates court or in the Crown Court, and indictable only offences, which must be tried in the Crown Court, can normally be prosecuted at any time. There are statutory
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provisions prohibiting proceedings in respect of certain such offences once a specified time has elapsed. An example is contained in the Sexual Offences Act 1956, which provides that prosecutions for unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 must be commenced within 12 months of the offence. If no time limit is set out in legislation in respect of any either way or indictable-only offence, then the general rule applies, and prosecutions may be commenced however long ago the relevant events occurred.
The Government do not support the Committee's recommendation that the prosecution of offences relating to child abuse, which is alleged to have occurred over 10 years since the date of the offence, should only proceed with the court's permission, and that the time period should not begin until the complainant has reached age 21 years. It is the role of the Crown Prosecution Service to consider each individual case, and whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. One of the factors to be considered is any delay in reporting a crime and the reasons for that delay. We cannot see a good reason to change the current system.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications have been received by the Criminal Cases Review Commission from those convicted of abuse in care homes in each year from 1997 to 2003. 
|Number of abuse applications|
|January to August 2003||3|
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the factors underlying the take-up rate, in historical child abuse cases, of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. 
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority will conduct a review of the accessability of its scheme to victims of past institutional child abuse. 
Paul Goggins: I would refer the my hon. Friend to the response given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in April 2003 to the Fourth Report from the Home Affairs Committee Session 200102 HC 836 on The Conduct of Investigations into Past Cases of Abuse
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in Children's Homes (column 5799). Paragraphs 71 and 72 of that response addressed a recommendation about the accessibility of the scheme to victims of past institutional child abuse.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidelines govern the conduct of police investigations and subsequent prosecution proceedings in care home abuse cases. 
Paul Goggins: The Government's publication "Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter-Agency Issues" and the Association of Chief Police Officers' Senior Investigating Officers Handbook both cover the conduct of police investigations into complex historical abuse cases. This is in addition to more general guidelines in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 and accompanying code and the Crown Prosecution Service code for Crown prosecutors.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Government will take steps to encourage early consultation on the conduct and direction of investigations between the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in cases of abuse in children's homes. 
Paul Goggins: These steps have already been taken. The Government issued inter-agency guidance on complex child abuse investigations in June 2002. The guidance stresses the need to ensure that the Crown Prosecution Service are involved at an early stage as appropriate, while noting that they should not be involved in operational decisions about the conduct of an investigation.
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