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31 Mar 2004 : Column 1421W—continued

Animal Experiments

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the efficacy of animal experiments; [163903]

Caroline Flint: The Home Office has not commissioned or evaluated any formal research on the efficacy of animal experiments. Animal experiments must be judged to be potentially efficacious in order to be licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which requires that animals may only be used in scientific procedures where such use is fully justified, where the likely benefits outweigh the costs to the animals involved, and where the procedures are most likely to produce satisfactory results. Also, under the conditions attached to their certificates of designation under the 1986 Act, all places that undertake animal experiments are obliged to have an ethical review process, one of the functions of which is to review the efficacy and conduct of the work undertaken under licence at the establishment. In addition, research councils and charities fund many research projects carried out under the 1986 Act and the work done is reported to and evaluated by them. Other work is funded by pharmaceutical companies and is subject to internal scrutiny within those companies. The safety and efficacy testing needed before people are exposed to new drugs is evaluated by the relevant regulators.

Child Abuse

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on plans to establish regional centres dedicated to high technology investigation of on-line child abuse; [158986]

Paul Goggins: The deployment of officers to units dealing with child abuse investigations and their training in forensic investigation skills is a matter for individual chief officers. In addition a number of private companies provide forensic examination services which are regularly utilised by law enforcement agencies. There is no centrally aggregated figure of these resources.

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In addition to the on-going support for high tech crime, in December 2002 the Home Office provided a one-off payment of £½ million to the Association of Chief Police Officers to support operations to combat child abuse on the internet. This money has been used in part to provide relevant hardware and software, and also to train 86 individuals within forces in basic forensic analysis this financial year. The Home Office is currently producing tactical guidance for managers of computer crime units within forces which will include advice on running these units and practical guidance on procedures and tools for forensic analysis.

Every police force in England and Wales has a computer crime unit and a child protection/child abuse investigation team which has expertise in the recovery of forensic evidence and network investigation. These skills are utilised in on-line child abuse investigations. Whilst the degree of expertise and training within these units will vary from force to force, all forces have specialists in dealing with such cases.

With regard to training police who are not part of specialist units, there is a module included in the probationary training for all new police officers covering the internet and new technology to raise their awareness of how paedophiles and other criminals can exploit this technology. Centrex are also developing an on-line training package for existing officers. I have also made available £100,000 to facilitate the development of a joint awareness package covering how children and those who exploit them use these technologies. This package will be aimed at all professionals with a role in child protection, including social workers, police and probation officers.

A major consultation on the future of police reform was launched on 4 November 2003 entitled 'Policing: Building Safer Communities Together'. This raised a number of questions including whether there is a need for larger strategic forces, and specialised 'lead' forces to tackle certain issues, such as on-line paedophilia. Responses to the consultation paper are now being considered and we will publish firmer proposals for consultation later this year in relation to these issues.

I understand from figures provided by the Internet Watch Foundation that from the images reported to them in 2003, 55 per cent. of child abuse content is believed to be hosted in the United States. My right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, has recently met the Deputy Attorney General and has discussed how we can co-operate to close down illegal sites that are based in the US. There will be a UK/USA working group to take this issue forward bilaterally.

All G8 countries, including the UK and US, adopted a strategy on Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation on the internet in October 2002. The aim of the strategy is to protect children from sexual exploitation on the internet and help make cyberspace a safer environment for all internet users.

A problem for all law enforcement agencies is the identification of children featured in child abuse images. As part of this G8 strategy the UK is leading the development of an international (not restricted to G8 countries) Child Image Database, housed at Interpol. It aims to act as a global repository of images of child

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abuse with the capacity to carry out automated analysis. It will be a significant tool for international law enforcement contributing to the identification of victims and offenders and analysis of images.

In the UK, where the Internet Watch Foundation discover that child abuse material is produced or hosted overseas, arrangements exist for notifying the relevant law enforcement agency and Internet Service Provider (ISP) concerned.

There are also a variety of funding mechanisms to assist in furthering international co-operation such as through the provision of equipment and training to overseas law enforcement by UK agencies, and the provision of specialist training courses. For example the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and National Crime Squad are hosting a second conference for international law enforcement experts later this month.

Courts (Remand and Tagging)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the effects of courts' (a) secure remand and (b) tagging powers. [159806]

Paul Goggins: Between April 2002 and January 2004 11,263 juveniles aged 12 to 17 received secure remands and 5,713 juveniles aged 12 to 16 were bailed with a tagging requirement. Tagging has only been available for 17 year olds since 5 January 2004 and we do not yet have figures.

Secure remand powers are intended for young people charged with the most serious and persistent offending. Youth Offending Teams' recommendations to courts reflect this approach. In addition, remand review schemes operate to identify any juveniles who would be more suitable for conditional bail on their next court appearance.

Tagging for juveniles is currently being evaluated and the findings are due to be published shortly.

Criminal Justice (Greater London)

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to ensure that targets for improving the performance of the Criminal Justice System in Greater London are met. [163075]

Paul Goggins: The London Criminal Justice Board is one of 42 Local Criminal Justice Boards tasked with improving the performance of the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

The local boards are responsible for delivery of the CJS Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets. Their key priorities are to improve the delivery of justice by increasing the number of crimes for which an offender is brought to justice and to improve the level of public confidence in the CJS. Additionally they have targets to ensure the Persistent Young Offender pledge is met and where applicable, including in London, they have a target to reduce street crime.

Each local board has set out in delivery plans what their precise targets are and how they intend to achieve them. Progress against these plans are monitored and

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assessed by teams made up from representatives from across the three CJS Departments—Home Office, Department for Constitutional Affairs and Crown Prosecution Service—and appropriate feedback and support is given.

Additionally the National Criminal Justice Board, at its monthly meetings, discusses the performance of local boards and members of the board—Ministers and senior officials—regularly visit local areas to offer support, build good working relationships with board members and challenge boards on poor performance.

London also benefits from having a CJS Ministers Group that works with the board to identify and remove any obstacles to improved performance.

The board recently reviewed its sub-structures and has now set up 28 borough level Criminal Justice Boards that will allow them to focus attention and resources on those areas that most require them.

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