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Coroner Arrangements

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I will write to the noble Lord at the earliest opportunity and will place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

Burial Law

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will undertake public consultation on a review of burial law, including arrangements for the disposal of the dead and the exhumation of buried human remains.[HL5414]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I will write to the noble Lord at the earliest opportunity and will place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

EU Anti-trafficking Measures

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they have made of the action taken by the European Union or any of its constituent bodies in the fight against trafficking in drugs, illegal weapons and persons; and whether any similar studies have been made by the governments of other European Union member states.[HL5498]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Reliable data on trafficking is extremely scarce, with the result that it is very difficult to make a comparative analysis of either the phenomenon itself or of the various counter-measures that have been introduced against it. The involvement of organised crime organisations complicates matters significantly further from a research perspective. However, the following three initiatives or sets of initiatives may be of relevance:

(1) Reflex

The most important development in terms of enforcement in the UK was the establishment of Reflex in May 2000. Reflex is a practical multi-agency task force on organised immigration crime, which includes people trafficking. The task force is led by the National Crime Squad (NCS), and brings together all the key agencies involved in combating the problem. This includes the Immigration Service, the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), the security and intelligence agencies and key police forces including the London Metropolitan Police, Kent Police and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In strengthening enforcement, the work of Reflex is aimed at building up the intelligence picture, co-ordinating operations and providing a focal point for the operational response to organised immigration crime. Reflex also provides both the information and the means to disrupt and dismantle the activities of organised crime groups involved in these activities. The task force is based around joint working between police and immigration, as well as between different

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countries on trafficking routes. The work of Reflex is both national and international. Overall, the Reflex strategy encompasses an end-to-end approach—it sees the phenomenon of organised immigration crime as one to be tackled in source and transit countries, EU, UK borders, UK-based facilitators, as well as through financial investigations.

An internal review is currently being conducted on the contribution of the core agencies to the Reflex objectives. This review is for internal management purposes only and is not available for wider dissemination.

(2) Nigeria—Italy

A programme of action against people trafficking in minors and young women from Nigeria into Italy for the purposes of sexual exploitation is currently being carried out as a joint initiative between UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The project has been funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has been formally approved by the Nigerian Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Nigerian Government.

The project envisaged four parallel activities to be carried out in both countries:

    (i) Research—collection and analysis of information about trafficking practices and existing counter-responses in Nigeria and Italy;

    (ii) Institutional Capacity Building—creation of task forces in Italy and Nigeria to formulate guidelines to improve bilateral co-operation and establish mechanisms of information sharing and collaborative learning between the two countries;

    (iii) Prevention—design and implementation of awareness-raising campaigns at a local level; and,

    (iv) Assistance—design and implementation of activities to support NGOs, associations and local departments involved in assistance for the victims.

It is anticipated that the project will be completed March 2004.

(3) Drugs

The market for illicit drugs is structured in much the same way as most other commodity markets. Very roughly there is an import or wholesale level (upper) a distribution level brokering between wholesale and (middle) a consumer supply level (lower). Interventions against traffickers in drugs are aimed very separately at these different levels of the market.

There is considerable activity aimed at reducing upper level 1 drug trafficking. For example, from April 1998 to the end of March 2003, the National Crime Squad recorded 1,490 operations (most of which involved drug trafficking) resulting in some:

1,300 groups being disrupted or dismantled;

    4,600 arrests were made, more than two thirds of which (67%) resulted in charges;

    £140,000,000 criminal assets identified; and

    118 tonnes of drugs seized.

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Other UK agencies recorded additional outputs (the biggest seizures being made by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise). All UK law enforcement agencies (LEAs) work closely with those of other countries in transit and source zones.

The Home Office is currently in the process of evaluating actions by the Merseyside Middle Market Drugs Unit and the regional task force of Operation Tarian (involving the police forces of Dyfed Powys, Gwent and South Wales) who are developing interventions against middle market drug dealers. Results should be available in 2005–06.

Studies into the actions against the consumer level of the market are comparatively well researched. There is British work by Edmunds et al 2 (1996) and Best et al 3 (2001) for example, while European comparative work on retail/local/city markets has recently been conducted by Paoli et al 4 (2002) and Gruppo Abele/Massard et al 5 (2003).

The Drug Markets and Supply Section within the Drugs and Alcohol Research Programme continues to expand the evidence base in this area.

    1 For the purposes of this review, upper level trafficking is taken to include source zone traders' relationships and transactions, including wholesale distribution within the source countries; export, international transit, entry into Europe and the UK; and connections downwards to city level. It excludes typically small-scale peasant cultivation of plants (such as opium poppy and coca bush); and, at the other end of the chain, exclude retail sale and transactions immediately above retail.

    2 Edmunds, M, Hough, M and Urquia, N, (1996) Tackling Local Drug Markets, Crime Prevention and Prevention Series Paper 80, London: Police Research Group, pp 55.

    3 Best, D, Strang, J, Beswick, T and Gossop, M, (2001), Assessment of a concentrated police operation: no discernible impact on drug availability, price or purity, British Journal of Criminology, 41, 738-745.

    4 Paoli, L, et al, (2002), Draft First Phase Final Report: illegal drug markets in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Milan, Lisbon: EMCDDA Scientific Report, A4 format, pp 169.

    5 Gruppo Abele/Massari, M et al (editors), (2003), Synthetic drugs trafficking in three European cities: major trends and the involvement of organised crime, Torino: Gruppo Abele et al.

Mr Joe Scholes: Death in Custody

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will arrange for a public inquiry into the death by suicide of Joseph Scholes, aged 16, on 24 March 2002 in Stoke Heath young offender institution, and into connected issues. [HL5503]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are no current plans to hold a public inquiry into the case of John (known as Joe) Scholes. More generally Paul Goggins is considering whether from a future date the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman should provide independent scrutiny of all deaths in prison custody.

Any death in custody, particularly that of a young person, is a terrible tragedy, which needs to be carefully investigated. As matters stand in the case of Joe Scholes, the coroner's inquest into his death has not yet taken place, having been adjourned with no date yet set.

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Both the police and the Prison Service have already investigated the death. In the latter investigation the investigating team included two members from outside the Prison Service (Youth Justice Board and the Director of Public Health) and an advisory panel was also convened to advise the investigation. The panel included representatives from the Prison Service, Youth Justice Board, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman's Office, the local health authority and social services. The resultant investigation report has been disclosed to the coroner in order to inform the inquest, and to the family's legal representatives.

Additionally, Trafford Social Services has carried out a "Part 8" case review pursuant to Part 8 of Working Together to Safeguard Children and that report will be finalised after the inquest.

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