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The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Too many fines are not paid. In the year 200203, an unacceptable 45 per cent of fines were not paid. In some areas the level of default was as high as 60 per cent. The authority of the courts must be enforced. We are announcing today a new approach to the collection of fines.
A report on the annual performance data was placed in the Libraries of both Houses today entitled Fine Enforcement Performance in 200203. The report shows that performance overall was poor, with the 42 independent magistrates' courts committees (MCCs) failing to deliver the overall national target of a payment rate of 68 per cent.
The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): As the noble Lord is now aware, the paper was intended to apply only to the Irish Language Agency of the North/South Language Body and action to rectify this will now be taken in accordance with the interim procedures.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The interim procedures were drawn up by officials to facilitate decision-making by Ministers under the agreement made between the British and Irish Governments of 19 November 2002. Implementation of the procedures is an administrative matter for officials in the relevant departments.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Cases of SARS have been reported in four of the countries from which there will be athletes for the Special Olympics based in Northern Ireland, viz the United States, Sweden, Spain and Australia. None of these countries is listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a SARS-affected country requiring restrictions on international travel.
SARS is a serious public health issue and the approach of the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) Northern Ireland has been to act quickly to strengthen its public health surveillance systems and make sure that the health service is prepared should a case occur in Northern Ireland. The department is represented on the national SARS taskforce, which itself works closely with the WHO. The taskforce agrees all relevant control measures and these are then implemented locally. As
In conjunction with the Centre for Communicable Disease Control (CDSC) (NI), the department is urgently developing a contingency plan for SARS or other emerging infection. A Northern Ireland taskforce is being established to monitor the situation and to implement the contingency plan.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: A further meeting of the joint working group was held on 20 March 2003 and work on a range of issues is still ongoing. The next meeting of the working group is scheduled for September 2003.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The department does not hold records relating to the period before colleges were incorporated in 1998. Since then £80,000, in 200102, has been invested in woodwork at Ballynahinch, for the purchase of a new machine. There has been no such investment at Kircubbin.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Extra funding has recently been made available to provide for the operation of all renal isotope scanning facilities in Northern Ireland. This will improve waiting times for children who require this important service.
The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): The Crown Prosecution Service will only bring a prosecution if there is sufficient admissible evidence to provide a realistic prospect of obtaining a conviction and a prosecution is in the public interest. It will continually review cases to ensure that such tests are met. In the appeal of Sally Clark the Court of Appeal focussed on the non-disclosure of potentially significant evidence by Dr Williams and the use and presentation of statistical data by Professor Meadow.
The Solicitor-General and I have met the DPP to discuss the implications of the appeal. Since the written reasons of the Court of Appeal were made available in the case of Sally Clark, and following the acquittal of Trupti Patel, the Crown Prosecution Service has undertaken a number of measures. First, interim guidance has been sent to all chief crown prosecutors requesting that all cases be identified in which either Dr Williams or Professor Meadow are witnesses. The defence is then to be served with a copy of the judgment in the Sally Clark case and its attention is drawn to sections of the judgment touching on his evidence. Further and fuller guidance will be provided to prosecutors as soon as possible. This will apply to both present and future cases.
With respect to previous cases in which Dr Williams has given material evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service is presently considering the implications of the Sally Clark judgment and is in discussion with other relevant agencies, including the police and Home Office. I intend to establish a group comprising these agencies to consider whether any cases resulting in a conviction in which Dr Williams has given important evidence require a more in-depth review.
The Home Office Pathology Advisory Board will I understand publish new codes of practice and procedure for pathologists, which will take account of the judicial comments on the methodology employed by Dr Williams in the Sally Clark case. Once published, the codes will be distributed to pathologists.
In its published judgment, the Court of Appeal raised no criticism of the Crown Prosecution Service for its handling of the prosecution of Sally Clark, neither did the judge criticise the CPS for bringing the prosecution in respect of Trupti Patel.
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