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28 Jan 2003 : Column 758W—continued

Gun Crime

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many people were convicted of offences involving airguns during 2001–02; what proportion of those convictions were for criminal damage; how many of those convicted of criminal damage were aged under 17 years; and what the ages were of all those convicted of offences more serious than criminal damage involving airguns; [90654]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The information requested is not collected centrally. However, 240 persons aged 10 and under 17 years were found guilty of offences in England and Wales during 2001 under the various Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997 (11 per cent. of all persons found guilty of firearms offences). The equivalent figures for those persons aged 17 and under 21 was 455 (21 per cent.); and 1,467 persons aged 21 and over (68 per cent.).

Information for 2002 is due for publication in the late autumn of 2003.

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many incidents of illegal gun possession crime were recorded in (a) Lancashire, (b) the north-west of England, (c) England, (d) Wales and (e) the UK in (i) 2002 and (ii) each of the preceding five years. [90749]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Numbers of illegal firearm possession offences are not collected separately. Offences of illegal possession of firearms are included in the recorded crime classifications of 'Possession of Weapons' and 'Firearms Acts Offences' (Home Office offence classifications 8B and 81 respectively), but other offences are also included under these classifications, for example, possession of knives and illegal trading in firearms. These offence classifications were used from 1 April 1998, and the figures for England and Wales since that date are given in the table. A breakdown of the offences included under these classifications is included on the Home Office website at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/countrules.html

Financial yearPossession of weaponsFirearms acts offences
1998–9923,6353,325
1999–200023,7923,143
2000–0124,5523,531
2001–0228,7403,205

Some police forces adopted the principles of the National Crime Recording Standard in advance of its national implementation on 1 April 2002, which will have the effect of increasing the number of crimes counted.

Information relating to Scotland and Northern Ireland are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

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HMP Garth and HMP Wymott

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to introduce 24-hour health care at HMP Wymott; [92027]

Hilary Benn: There are no plans to introduce full 24-hour health care at Wymott prison as there is already a 13-place in-patient facility with 24-hour nursing cover in the health care centre at Garth prison, which serves as a resource for other Prison Service establishments in the area, including Wymott prison.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the decision was taken to place two prisoners in single cells at HMP Wymott. [92020]

Hilary Benn: The decision to ask training establishments to locate two prisoners in selected single cells was taken centrally, as a result of the overwhelming population pressures faced by the prisons estate. The practice commenced at Wymott on 26 June 2002. Each single cell utilised in this way has been risk assessed for the purpose, and all prisoners are also individually risk assessed to determine their suitability for location with another prisoner.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to build (a) extensions to and (b) a new prison at (i) HMP Garth and (ii) HMP Wymott. [92022]

Hilary Benn: On 27 March 2002, the Prison Service was granted an extension in time of a further five years to the planning clearances already granted for additional single houseblocks for 120 prisoners at both Garth and Wymott prisons.

Planning clearance has been applied for to increase the size of the proposed houseblock at Wymott to 180 places. The outcome of the application is expected on 21 January 2003. On 24 July 2002, planning clearance was granted for an 80 place modular temporary unit (MTU) at Wymott, which will be additional to the 180-place houseblock. Work is under way to construct the 80 place MTU and, subject to a successful planning application, work on the 180-place houseblock will begin in the near future.

There are no immediate plans to build the houseblock at Garth although the position will be regularly reviewed and there are currently no plans to build a complete new prison at either site.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the number of bed watches taking place at HMP Wymott; and what the average number was in other prisons at the most recent available date. [92024]

Hilary Benn: Since July 2002, there have been 1,000 bedwatches for 60 prisoners at Wymott, averaging around 40 per week. No figures are centrally collected on the frequency of bedwatches and information on the average number in other prisons is therefore not available.

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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners were taken to hospital from HMP Wymott on average in each of the last five years. [92025]

Hilary Benn : During the last five years, an average of 470 prisoners have been taken to hospital each year from Wymott prison.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners died in HMP Wymott in each of the last five years. [92026]

Hilary Benn: A total of 14 prisoners have died at HMP Wymott in the last five years: two in 1998, three in 1999, five in 2000, one in 2001 and three in 2002.

Juvenile Offenders

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to ensure that the courts deal effectively with persistent juvenile offenders. [92019]

Hilary Benn: We have delivered the Youth Justice Pledge by halving the time taken from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders, funded Youth Justice Board Intensive Supervision and Surveillance programmes for the most prolific offenders and introduced the detention and training order for persistent and more serious young offenders.

We have also strengthened the secure remand powers and introduced bail tagging for 12 to 16-year-olds nationally, and 17-year-olds in the 10 street crime priority areas, who repeatedly offend.

We have already reduced young offender reconvictions by 14.6 per cent., as measured by those dealt with in July 2000 just after national implementation of the main youth justice reforms.

Police Authority Funding

Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the standard police grant sought by each police authority in England and Wales was in each year since 1996–97; and what the final settlement was for each authority. [91104]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 16 January 2003]: Police grant is allocated by the police funding formula and not by police authority bids. The funding formula is largely based on an analysis of policing activity. Distribution between Police Authorities takes into account socio-demographic factors such as population.

I have placed in the Library details of general policing grants since 1996–97. Figures for 2003–04 are provisional. I expect to announce details of the final settlement for next year on 5 February.

Prison Staff Changes

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how quickly a risk assessment has to be carried out in prisons when changes in staffing levels take place. [92021]

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Hilary Benn: Prison Governors are required to carry out risk assessments where a change in staffing level brings an increased level of risk to staff, prisoners and others.

The risk assessment should be carried out on those jobs, which are affected by a change in working practice, and should be completed before the change in staffing levels is implemented, except where the operational demands of the Service prevent this.

Replica Guns

Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his policy on possession of a replica gun in a public place. [93211]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: An imitation firearm can create the same fear as a real one. It is not acceptable that people going about their business should be put in fear in this way. We therefore propose to introduce a new offence of having an imitation firearm in a public place without reasonable excuse.

This will mean that anyone seen in public with an imitation firearm can be challenged and if they do not have a reasonable explanation for having the gun, they can be arrested before any further offences can be committed.


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