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Mr. Denham: We are committed to ensuring that violent offenders are punished effectively. Severe penalties are available to the courts to deal with offenders who carry knives. For instance, any person who has an article with a blade or point in a public place or on school premises can be sent to prison for up to two years. It is also an offence for any person to have an offensive weapon in a public place or on school premises, or for any person to sell knives to people under 16.
The police give high priority to action against knife crime. For example, the Metropolitan police are using an intelligence-led approach in exercising their powers to stop and search people who they believe may be carrying knives, and are working with door staff to tackle the problem at licensed premises. Largely as a result of these initiatives, the Metropolitan police have arrested and charged 17.8 per cent. more people for carrying knives and offensive weapons over the year to February 2002 than in the previous year.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many recorded offences of criminal damage there were in (a) each police force area in each year since 1997 and (b) each crime disorder reduction partnership area in each year since their establishment. 
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The requested figures for the criminal damage recorded crime offence group are given in the table. There was a change in counting rules for recorded crime on 1 April 1998, which was estimated to have increased the total number of criminal damage offences recorded over England and Wales as a whole by 5 per cent. Numbers of recorded crimes after this date are therefore not directly comparable with previous years.
|Avon and Somerset||20,396||20,605||20,519||22,479|
|Devon and Cornwall||15,232||17,722||18,490||18,284|
|City of London||287||297||409||260|
|Metropolitan Police District(8)||140,516||136,870||151,590||144,231|
|England and Wales||877,042||879,586||945,682||960,087|
(6) 1997 is the calendar year, with the other years ending in March.
(7) The number of crimes recorded in that financial year using the expanded offence coverage and revised counting rules which came into effect on 1 April 1998.
(8) There was a boundary change on 1 April 2000 in which parts of the Metropolitan Police area were transferred to Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey, so that these police force areas followed county boundaries thereafter.
Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce plans for mandatory bans from using public transport to those convicted of violence while using public transport systems. 
Mr. Denham: Powers are already available to individual transport operators and the criminal justice system to ban those convicted of violence while using public transport systems from using public transport. Transport operators can take action in respect of preventing violent individuals from using the transport
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system by taking out civil injunctions. Football Banning Orders against individuals can also be applied for through the Crown Prosecution Service. Under proposals in the Police Reform Bill, the British Transport police will be able to apply directly to the courts for Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in order for them to deal more effectively with particular problems of anti-social behaviour. It is also proposed to give criminal courts powers to place restrictions through ASBOs on the actions of offenders imprisoned for anti-social behaviour related offences once they are back in the community.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on ill health retirement from the police service; what the consistent approach to it will involve; and what measures he will introduce to increase officer retention. 
Mr. Denham: The recently published White Paper "Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform", reaffirmed the Government's view that one of the priorities for the police service is to manage ill-health retirement effectively. The Police Negotiating Board are considering ways to deliver a fair and more consistent approach towards early retirement due to ill health. This should enable forces to reduce the level of ill-health retirement and match the performance of the best quartile of forces by 2005. The measures under consideration include the Police Negotiating Board issuing joint guidance to police authorities and senior management to ensure that wherever possible officers continue in employment where they are capable of performing sufficient duties to make their retention operationally justifiable.
In the White Paper the Government also announced that they will establish a national occupational health strategy for the police service, which should assist forces to manage cases of ill health more effectively at the outset.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: While contributions to the Confiscated Assets Fund (CAF) from Welsh courts were relatively low, a number of bids to the fund from organisations in Wales were successful (see table). The new Recovered Assets Fund, which has replaced CAF, and other measures, including the Proceeds of Crime Bill now under consideration by Parliament, will enable more criminal assets to be seized and recycled back into the community.
|Counselling in 12 pharmacies spread evenly throughout Dyfed Powys||54,000|
|Production of a leaflet in five key languages for use throughout Wales||50,000|
|Helping to fund a part-time creative therapy worker in West Glamorgan||81,086|
|Developing a treatment service for young heroin users in Gwent||77,000|
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Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with the Association of Chief Police Officers about the use of hand held mobile phones when driving. 
Mr. Denham: The Association of Chief Police Officers confirmed last year that they remain satisfied with existing legislation, which allows for the successful prosecution of those whose use of a mobile phone may contribute to a driving offence. This is a matter that we keep under review.
Mr. Keith Bradley: The available information for 1997 to 2000 is contained in the table and relates to the proportion of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts for all offences who were found guilty at all courts, by police force area.
|Avon and Somerset||73||71||71||73|
|Devon and Cornwall||73||73||75||76|
|London, City of||74||67||70||80|
|England and Wales||75||75||75||75|
(9) Defendants found guilty of all offences at all courts as a percentage of persons proceeded against for all offences at magistrates courts, as notified to the Home Office.
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