§ Lord Lester of Herne Hill
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What steps have been taken, and what further steps are planned, to protect converts from Islam to Christianity in the United Kingdom from violence, threats of violence or harassment related to religion. [HL1198]4WA
What is their estimate of the number of people who use crack cocaine and heroin combined in England and Wales for each year for which figures are available; and what estimates they have set for the years 2005–06 and 2006–07 for the number of people who use crack cocaine and heroin combined in England and Wales. [HL902]
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
The British Crime Survey (BCS) provides an estimate of the number of people in England and Wales who used drugs in the year before interview. The estimated numbers of heroin and crack cocaine users obtained from the BCS between 1996 and 2002–03 are shown in the following table. Estimates of the number who used both heroin and crack cocaine are not currently available.
§ Baroness Scotland of Asthal
The Government deplore any threats made by any religious group against any individual who has chosen to apostasise. We want to ensure that individuals from any religious group have protection against hatred being stirred up against them. That is why we are, through the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, extending the existing incitement to racial hatred offences so that they also outlaw the stirring up of hatred against people because of their religious belief or lack of religious belief.
These provisions will ensure comprehensive protection for converts from Islam to Christianity adding to the public order legislation that deals with any form of direct harassment, threats, or violence, and the common law offences which outlaw inciting the commission of any criminal offence.
Additionally, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, as amended by the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, provides for nine religiously-aggravated offences which make available to the courts higher maximum penalties where there is evidence of religious hostility in connection with the offence. There is also a statutory requirement for sentencers, where there is evidence of a religious element in the commission of an offence, to consider this as an aggravating factor meriting an increased sentence.5WA
Both the police and the prosecution services are taking seriously the need to protect people who may be targeted because of their race or religion. In its public policy statement published in 2003 the Crown Prosecution Service gave a commitment to prosecute racist and religious crime fairly, firmly and robustly. The Government welcome the fact that the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has published a guide (currently being updated and to be re-released shortly) that sets out the police service's approach to identifying and combating hate crime and hate incidents.
The Government believe that adding protection against incitement to religious hatred to the existing measures will afford protection to anyone who might find themselves targeted because they have renounced their faith.