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17 Feb 2003 : Column WA147

Written Answers

Monday, 17th February 2003.

Prisoners Serving Life Sentences

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the number of prisoners serving life sentences has increased in each of the past five years; what is the percentage increase over the whole period; and to what causes they attribute any increase.[HL1430]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The number of prisoners serving life sentences has increased in each of the past five years.

The number of prisoners serving life sentences in June 1997 was 3,721. The number of prisoners serving life sentences in June 2002 was 5,147. This represents a total increase of 1,426.

The percentage increase in the population of life sentenced prisoners between 1997 and 2002 is 38 per cent.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of low reoffending by lifers released on parole, they consider that the Life Sentence Management Unit and the Parole Board are working effectively to move prisoners towards parole and re-entry into society.[HL1432]

Lord Filkin: I am satisfied that through the work of Lifer Unit, the Prison Service's responsibilities for progressing lifers towards release when it is safe to do so are being managed properly and effectively. In this, the independent Parole Board plays a key role through its assessments of a prisoner's risk.

Individually and jointly, the Lifer Unit and the Parole Board continue to seek to improve the lifer review process. I am satisfied that the overall risk assessment and review processes continue to work to the benefit of the prisoner and to society as a whole.

Offenders: Pre-sentence Reports

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether pre-sentence reports on offenders are being delayed; and whether sentences are being passed without reports or deferred.[HL1463]

Lord Filkin: Several probation areas in England and Wales are currently experiencing difficulties with the timely delivery of pre-sentence reports to courts. As a consequence some hearings have been deferred and some sentences have been passed without a report, although information is not collected centrally on the number of cases involved. The reasons for the difficulties vary from area to area. Chief officers of

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probation have been given clear guidance on the prioritisation of reports to court and encouraged to work closely with sentencers locally to agree criteria for the provision of reports.

Asylum Seekers

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Filkin on 5 February (WA 36) that 77 per cent of the 80,315 applicants for asylum in 2000 and 68 per cent of 71,365 applicants for asylum in 2001 were refused asylum and exceptional leave to remain, how many of those applicants had been removed from the United Kingdom by 31 January.[HL1570]

Lord Filkin: Information on the number of persons who were removed after unsuccessfully seeking asylum in 2000 and 2001 is not available except by examination of individual casefiles. This could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

The number of asylum applicants removed from 2000 to September 2002 is given in the table.

20002001January to September 2002 (p)
Principal Applicants (1)8,9809,2857,780
Dependants (2)n/a1,495(2)1,825

(p) Provisional data subject to change.

Figures are rounded the nearest five.

(1) Includes persons departing "voluntarily" after enforcement action has been initiated against them and persons leaving under the assisted voluntary return programmes run by the IOM.

(2) Data for dependants removed show only those removed from April 2001 onwards. Data on dependants were not collected prior to this date.

Data on the number of asylum applicants removed in the final quarter of 2002 are due to be published at the end of February on the Home Office web-site:

Anti-Money-Laundering Controls

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What statute-based rules now apply to the surveillance and reporting of activity in bank accounts belonging to individuals and to businesses; when the present rules were introduced; whether the surveillance and reporting of activity in bank accounts differs according to categories of people and businesses and assessed degrees of fraud and other offences; and whether the rules or practices in relation to Muslim individuals and Muslim-owned businesses, or those from predominantly Muslim countries, are in any ways different from those which apply to individuals and businesses in general.[HL1379]

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Lord Filkin: Anti-money-laundering controls comprise a mixture of legal requirements and regulatory arrangements. The main primary and secondary legislation currently in force are the Drug Trafficking Act 1994, the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Money Laundering Regulations (1993 and 2001). The anti-money laundering regime will be strengthened when Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 comes into force on 24 February. This Act will require employees in the regulated financial sector to report transactions where they know, suspect or have reasonable grounds to know or suspect that a person is engaged in money laundering.

In addition, the Terrorism Act 2000 provides that it is an offence for a person who in the course of a trade, profession, business or employment believes or suspects that a person has committed a terrorist fund-raising offence and does not disclose it to a constable. The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 strengthened this provision so that it made it an offence for a regulated financial institution not to report a transaction where an employee "had reasonable grounds to suspect" it was the proceeds of, or intended for use in, a terrorist crime.

None of this legislation discriminates between countries or individuals on religious, ethnic or cultural grounds.

The only countries which are treated any differently in the above arrangements are the 15 identified by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (the international standard setting organisation) as failing to comply with the international fight against money laundering. Financial institutions have a duty to pay attention to the list of these countries when considering whether a transaction is suspicious. The countries in question are: Burma, the Cook Islands, Egypt, Grenada, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nauru, Nigeria, Philippines, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Ukraine.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, constables, customs officers and financial investigators accredited under the Act will also be able to apply for court orders to obtain information on bank accounts and to monitor transaction details. Such powers are already in place in respect of terrorist funding. Police and Customs officers may also use powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to obtain financial information in their investigation of acquisitive offences.


Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment has been made of the amount of police time that is wasted arising out of false allegations of rape.[HL1453]

Lord Filkin: Rape is an extremely serious offence, and it is right that the police should be prepared to investigate any complaint made to them.

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The Home Office has conducted limited research into the reasons that rape allegations were withdrawn (Home Office Research Study 196), but this study did not attempt to quantify the impact of cases where it was felt that the allegations were false.

There is a clear difficulty in obtaining information about false allegations because of the need to make a subjective judgment about whether or not complaints that are withdrawn or found to be ungrounded are also false. There may be clear evidence in certain instances that false allegations were made, but this is likely to apply in a minority of cases.

There is a range of offences to deal with those who might seek to pursue false allegations, including the offences of perverting the course of justice, wasting police time and perjury.

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they have given to the work of Carol Sarler on the issue of raising rape conviction rates by introducing a new charge of date rape.[HL1488]

Lord Filkin: The Sexual Offences Bill follows a major review of the criminal law on sexual offences, which looked at a wide range of the very numerous authorities on sex offences and sex offenders, as listed in Annex K of volume 2 of Setting the Boundaries. The review process involved consideration of a significant number of reports and research studies and included a comparison with the laws of a number of other countries, including Australia and New Zealand. Carol Sarler's work was not considered as part of the review process, but we are satisfied that the review was comprehensive and thorough and the question of whether there should be a separate offence of date rape is one that was considered in detail and properly rejected by the review.

We believe that the offence of rape cannot be divided into more or less serious offences. It can be just as traumatic to be raped by someone you know, especially in view of the breach of trust that is involved, as to be raped by a stranger who sexually assaults the first man or woman who passes by. The crime of rape is so serious that it needs to be considered in its totality rather than being constrained by any relationship between the parties. The issue of severity of the offence should be left to the judges on sentencing, rather than attempting to deal with it by creating a separate offence.

This view is supported by the Sentencing Advisory Panel in its recently published guidelines on sentencing in cases of rape.

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