Examination of witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 27 OCTOBER 1999
and MR ROBIN
40. Even making allowances for the transition
and the fact that you are using this time for training, six officers
to each individual prisoner is quite an incredible ratio. Are
you aware of any other regime that has that kind of ratio?
(Mr Halward) No.
41. I want to talk a bit about Maghaberry
Prison, but there is a relationship between the Maze and Maghaberry
obviously in terms of some of the things which are happening with
reference to the reduction in the prison population. In response
to Mr Beggs you did say that the staff reductions and the prison
population reduction at the Maze had not had an impact on staffing
levels at Maghaberry, yet I receive reports continually of problems
at Maghaberry in terms of staffing levels and ongoing trouble
there. I know you have taken measures to deal with the arson attacks
which have been occurring there but there continue to be problems.
Ought there not to be some flexibility here that if there are
problems at Maghaberry some of the personnel presently based at
the Maze could be redeployed to take some of the pressure off
the staffing situation at Maghaberry. You may say there is no
staffing problem but prison officers would not be coming to me
as their MP and telling me there is a staffing problem if there
was not some problem. Therefore I wondered whether there is not
some room, given this very generous ratio of prisoner to prison
officer or prison staff that you have at the Maze, to do something
to ease the situation at Maghaberry?
(Mr Halward) A couple of general points, if I may.
The first one is about the difficulty by any objective means of
deciding what is an appropriate level of staffing in a prison.
This is an ongoing issue. If you take the old style prison exercise,
which would have maybe 200 prisoners out in the fresh air, do
you need four, 14, 40 or 400 staff to supervise that? It all depends
on the circumstances. If the prisoners are co-operating fully
four is plenty, if the prisoners are refusing to come in and we
want to bring them in, it is 400. It is an area where there is
constant debate and by many standards the overall number of staff
at Maghaberry is very reasonable. Having said that, I quite acknowledge
the staff concerns about staffing at Maghaberry and our need to
tackle that. We have in fact given some modest extra staff to
Maghaberry at various points in the course of this year. We have
transferred into them replacements for staff leaving under the
first two phases of the staff reduction programme several weeks
in advance of the staff leaving, which has helped with that. Most
recently for the court escort group when setting that up we have
not removed the number of staff from Maghaberry that we might
have done. In other words we have taken the work away without
taking all the staff away. That is being seen now at Maghaberry
in terms of consistency in running workshops, PE, education and
so on, which was not there previously. Maghaberry is in my view
a very, very difficult prison. It consists of buildings which
were not designed for the purpose to which they are currently
being put. It was a design which was used essentially for long-term
sentence prisoners. Now 50 per cent of those at Maghaberry are
remand prisoners who move in and out of the prison more often
and make particular demands on things like the reception area
and visits and so on. It is quite difficult in that respect. There
is a fundamental staffing issue about Maghaberry which is the
relationship of the attendance arrangements of the staff to the
work that is to be done. We are currently in negotiation with
the POA about how we rectify that. That is also part of the problem.
We have proposals on the table which tackle this, which bring
the work and staffing of Maghaberry into balance. We are tackling
it and I appreciate the frustrations that staff there feel. May
I just say that a lot of staff at Maghaberry are working very,
very hard in my view to make that establishment run, despite all
42. The Committee had previously expressed
some concerns about the mix of prisoners at Maghaberry and the
annual report notes "particular difficulties" in this
regard at Maghaberry during 1998-99. Would you like to expand
on that a little and tell us about some of the particular difficulties
there have been vis-a"-vis the mix of prisoners. You obviously
have now factored into the equation at Maghaberry paramilitary
related prisoners who committed offences post the Belfast Agreement
but are being held at Maghaberry rather than being transferred
to the Maze. What impact has that had on the management of the
(Mr Halward) It is undoubtedly true that it makes
it more complicated because it adds an element to the mix. It
is quite difficult again to get at a real assessment of the extent
of that problem. We have three people in custody at Maghaberry
from an organisation not currently on ceasefire. There is nobody
else in there for paramilitary related offences although of course
there is a number of prisoners in there who have previously been
associated with paramilitary organisations and have committed
other offences. It does make it more complicated and we are doing
some detailed work on how far to sustain the present arrangements
which are a fairly full integration of those prisoners. Another
group we are concerned about are prisoners who might loosely be
described as vulnerable, prisoners who do not fall into any particular
category in terms of offence. Often sex offenders are regarded
as vulnerable prisoners and some or indeed many of them are, but
the category is much broader than that. It includes anybody who
is in danger of being victimised. Given that many of those in
prison in my experience, if not most, are in different circumstances
both bullies and bullied, the way in which we handle that has
to be worked up fairly carefully. We are looking at how we might
best provide a more safe and secure environment for all vulnerable
prisoners than we do at the moment. There are already in place
at Maghaberry anti-bullying programmes and means of tackling identified
bullies but we are conscious that more needs to be done.
43. I shall come on to the vulnerable prisonerunit
in a moment but sticking with the problems withthe mix of prisoners,
supposing that the numberof paramilitary-related prisoners increases
at Maghaberry, are you confident that you as a Prison Service
will be able to maintain integration of those prisoners at Maghaberry
without having to go to the Maze style segregation that we have
had in the past where paramilitary groups have wings and a relative
degree of control of those wings. You did express concerns earlier
on about the ability of the layout of Maghaberry to cope with
the evolving role of Maghaberry in terms of the greater mix of
prisoner you are having there. Is there a danger at some stage
that we might fall back to this kind of segregation that has operated
in the past at the Maze Prison?
(Mr Halward) It would certainly be wrong of me to
give the impression that I am complacent about that issue. In
operational terms it is probably the most serious issue confronting
the Prison Service. It depends on the numbers, it depends on the
individuals and it depends on the level of support for those individuals
and any campaign they might launch from groups in the community.
We have a fundamental responsibility, which is to provide the
most safe and secure conditions we can for both staff and prisoners.
I would certainly not say that there is no point at which we would
have to consider separating out different groups. It is possible
to devise ways of separating out different groups and providing
secure conditions without a return to some of the features of
the Maze regime which are uniformly and rightly regarded as unsatisfactory.
What we are doing at the moment is some detailed work on the whole
range of options if we reach the point at which we cannot maintain
full integration along the lines I explained earlier. We have
very experienced but quite junior staff doing the work on that,
the ones who have to cope with it on a day to day basis.
44. What you are saying is that the Prison
Service cannot rule out the possibility, depending on numbers
and the level of support they would have for any campaign for
segregation and so on, that in the future you might have to implement
a segregation system if the numbers of paramilitary prisoners
increase and there is pressure to separate them. Would Maghaberry
Prison be able to cope with that kind of segregated system given
(Mr Halward) We cannot be certain at this stage. The
contingency plan we will do will look not only at Maghaberry but
at the rest of the prison estate as well and indeed whether we
can manage it within the buildings we currently have in Northern
Ireland. I come back to the point that there is a limit to what
can be done within the approach to imprisonment taken in the United
Kingdom and what is regarded as humane in United Kingdom terms.
The approach taken in the United States to this sort of issue
of dangerous prisoners would be fundamentally different from the
approach we would take in western Europe and the UK.
45. You mentioned earlier the vulnerable
prisoners. There is a proposal for a vulnerable prisoner unit
at Maghaberry. When is it expected to come on stream? You also
mentioned the anti-bullying programme you have there. Could you
expand on that a little? For example, could you tell us whether
a victim of bullying at the prison has to be prepared to name
a bully or does there have to be staff or do the staff have to
have independent evidence before a prisoner would be referred
to a vulnerable prisoner unit? Where do you see that going?
(Mr Halward) As far as the timescale is concerned
for setting up a vulnerable prisoner unitand I would say
we see this with a small "v" and a small "p"
and a small "u" really, I am not generally speaking
a great fan of hanging labels around people's necks if we can
avoid itMagilligan Prison now has a very good way of dealing
with a substantial number of vulnerable prisoners where there
is no vulnerable prisoner unit with that label on it but the prisoners
are housed together in one unit where they associate with people
who are not a threat to them. One particular benefit of this is
that we are now able to hold in ordinary accommodation a few prisoners
who would previously have had to be segregated under Prison Rule
32 because they would not have fitted in anyway but they will
fit in with this group. That is the principle of the approach
we shall seek to have at Maghaberry where people are accommodated
separately but not totally isolated for things like visits and
46. You feel the way your plan is evolving
is that you might not have a separate labelled vulnerable prisoner
unit but have a policy of accommodating together those who are
suffering from bullying and are vulnerable.
(Mr Halward) Yes.
(Mr Mogg) In terms of the mechanics, the anti-bullying
landingclose supervision landing it is calledat
Maghaberry operates on the basis that if there is sufficient information
coming from staff and from prisoners then we will isolate a prisoner
on that close supervision landing. There is no requirement necessarily
that a prisoner should stand up and face and name the bully. Obviously
you cannot do that because part of the reason they are bullied
is so they do not tell people. The area we have to manage is the
likely judicial review of removing privileges from prisoners.
Rule 32 is quite specific about what we can take away and we have
to be prepared to tell the prisoner why and obviously face legal
challenges to that if that is the case. There are two devices
which operate at Maghaberry at the moment, one is this close supervision
landing, which contains a number of prisoners who associate together
because they are all bullies, and then there is segregation with
a small "s" of other prisoners who as individuals have
to be kept separate from other prisoners. At any time there are
up to one dozen on that particular regime as well. That is also
subject to judicial review.
47. I have spent a fair bit of time in prison;
wearing black and white I hasten to add. At Dartmoor where I was
the other day you have a very enlightened governor, John Lawrence,
who has a policy within his prison very much along the lines you
were talking about though not just with regard to the VPU, although
in that case they do actually have a VPU block, but on the bullying
thing. What advantage do you take of the shared expertise within
the Prison Service, bearing in mind, and you could not deny it,
that there are exceptional circumstances in the six counties?
Do you have any sort of pool of knowledge on which you draw? Can
you get any benefit from what I would say is an extremely successful
policy in Dartmoor Prison and one which is supported by staff
and inmates and really does seem to be working?
(Mr Halward) There is a substantial level of contact
between the Northern Ireland Prison Service and prison services
in both Scotland and England and Wales at every level. We are
conscious just how small a service we are. There is a steady trail
of people going across from Northern Ireland to look at good practice
in a whole range of different areas. It is a standard part of
policy formulation. The extent to which people go from Northern
Ireland to other prison services is much greater than from England
and Wales and Scotland; I am thinking of England and Wales in
particular which is so large that it has perhaps all the expertise
within it. There is quite a lot of exchange of views. We go to
various conferences and things they organise as well.
(Mr Mogg) Specifically to do with anti-bullying, the
management team at Magilligan actually went to Lancashire Farms
Prison in Lancashire where there is a very good anti-bullying
strategy. The young offenders establishment team here have also
gone to look at Moorland Prison in Yorkshire which has a very
successful anti-bullying strategy. Yes, we pinched the ideas from
the mainland to be quite honest and the model which is operating
in Maghaberry is based on experience we have shared with colleagues
across the water.
48. One of the things at Dartmoor which
they identified very quickly with bullying was that a great deal
of it was to do with contraband. There are some people who are
bullies per se and who will bully in any circumstances,
but a lot of it was to do with drugs and tobacco and money and
various things within that. They linked the anti-bullying strategy
with the drug free wings, with mandatory drug tests, with constant
drug tests. Is that a similar problem in the Northern Ireland
Prison Service, particularly drugs?
(Mr Halward) We are certainly concerned about contraband.
One of the areas on which we are doing detailed work at the moment
and have gone out to take the views of the people in the community
on, is the question of tightening up on visits security. You will
know that there is a fairly limited range of means by which contraband
can come into prisons.
49. Do you have passive dogs?
(Mr Halward) No, we do not at this stage. There is
a whole range of things at which we are looking. One is parcels
of food which can be used to store contraband. There is a question
of passive drug dogs, there is better searching of visitors, better
identification of visitors, a whole range of security measures
which for reasons largely linked with the culture of imprisonment
in Northern Ireland in the last 30 years or so have not progressed
in the way in which they have in England and Wales. Mr Mogg has
set up a team which is doing the detailed work on that and we
are trying to introduce a pilot scheme in Magilligan next year.
(Mr Mogg) That includes a passive drug dog.
50. What arrangements are in place and what
programmes are being developed by the Northern Ireland Prison
Service to help prisoners deal with the behaviour which led to
(Mr Halward) The programmes we currently have in place
are a sex offender treatment programme, anger management programme,
some drugs programmes. We have a pilot scheme going in the young
offenders' centre on the New Deal, Welfare to Work scheme which
is looking very encouraging. For the young offenders we have some
parenting classes going. Those are probably the main ones going
at the moment and we are currently working very closely with the
Probation Service, both to extend the number of those courses,
preferably jointly delivered by probation staff and prison staff
and to extend out into other areas. It is one of the areas where
quite frankly we have not been able in the past to give as much
attention as we would have liked and we see it as something we
must do for the future. There remain some little pockets of excellence.
In addition to things I have mentioned, the young offenders' centre
is involved in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. That scheme
was re-launched a few months ago and it is very good to see a
couple of former trainees from the young offenders' centre who
have made good come back and explain to people how doing the Duke
of Edinburgh's Award had enabled them to steer clear of crime
when they went out.
51. What improvements in the regime for
sentenced prisoners at Maghaberry, which suffered as a result
of the priority use of staff for escort duties, may be expected
to arise from the new arrangements for court escorts described
in your memorandum?
(Mr Halward) Broadly speaking the PE, education and
workshops were frequently, often daily, interrupted by the staff
for the courts. Since the introduction of the court service, certainly
since 11 October, there has not been a single shutdown of any
one of those activities. We shall be able to build up to full
operating in those areas which will be a major step forward both
in terms of services to prisoners and indeed staff satisfaction.
As committed staff they have not been able to do the job for which
they have been recruited and trained.
52. Could we turn to the needs of women?
What is the service actually doing about the specific needs of
women prisoners in general? I do not mean young girls, which will
be a separate question, but the needs of women prisoners in light
of the growing recognition in the prison world that the needs
of women prisoners are quite different from those of men.
(Mr Halward) A continuing challenge in Northern Ireland
will be that it is a very, very small women's population. I think
the figure yesterday was 16 women prisoners in Northern Ireland
and that was everybody, sentenced, unsentenced, young offenders
and adults. It is going to be extraordinarily difficult to provide
a full range of activities unless we can reach the point, and
we are perhaps not far from it, where in some respects it is an
individualised programme. I do not know whether you visited Mourne
House at some stage, which is attached to Maghaberry but it is
a prison with a full range of facilities, a workshop, an education
department and so on for this tiny group of prisoners.
53. How many could it take?
(Mr Halward) It could take up to about 80.
(Mr Mogg) Fifty-two in single cell accommodation.
We have never had more than about 48 in Northern Ireland.
54. That is a tribute to the women of Northern
Ireland clearly. I have just been told they do not get caught.
(Mr Halward) Because the number is so small it is
virtually individualised education, training and so on and a purpose
designed regime is put together if we have a mother and baby for
example in prison in Northern Ireland. There has not been one
in my year or so. What it does mean is that there is a limited
extent to which the prisoners can associate with each other because
there are so few.
(Mr Mogg) Having governed Durham Prison which had
a women's unit, facilities in Northern Ireland are much better
than they ever were in Durham. I think the facilities in Mourne
House are very good for the women prisoners. The numbers are always
a problem because obviously you do not want to isolate individuals
just because they are a separate group in the sense that they
might be remands or young offenders, so we do tend to mix judiciously
when appropriate. It is a very difficult small population to manage.
At one end of the scale you have lifers and at the other end you
have someone in for two weeks for not paying their TV licence.
It is very difficult to meet the needs of all those individuals.
55. You will be aware that the Home Office
has recently issued a consultation paper suggesting the abolition
of the legal distinction between prison and young offenders' institutes
in England, partially to improve flexibility of accommodation.
I am sure there is also a philosophical rationale behind it. Bearing
in mind as a given in everything we say that we are talking about
an estate of three establishments, is there a case for a similar
policy in Northern Ireland in your opinion?
(Mr Halward) Effectively with women in Northern Ireland
and indeed largely in England and Wales, there is little distinction.
Women of all ages mix, under supervision, in Northern Ireland.
The philosophical background as I understand it is that adult
women are regarded as helpful to young offenders in custody, help
them to settle in and cope with the pressures of imprisonment
and so on. In our circumstances there is not realistically an
alternative. You could seek to send out of the jurisdiction young
women in custody but that would be to infringe what is probably
the most important principle which is a nearness to home principle.
If you were to separate them off in any other way, it would be
too small a group to be completely isolated. You could be down
to an individual on some occasions. To mix with young males would
not be a sensible road to go down, certainly not at this stage.
56. In fact I was thinking about the general
principle of YO institutions generally, not just as they affect
women prisoners. What do you feel about the Home Office consultation
on the abolition of that distinction?
(Mr Halward) I have to confess I have not seen the
57. You have not read the Home Office consultation
(Mr Halward) I am afraid not.
58. Congratulations on your answer.
(Mr Halward) I shall go out straightaway and read
it. I have tended over my career to take it as a granted that
apart from some blurring round the edges which is justified by
different levels of maturity, I have rather taken it for granted
that one should seek to deal with youngsters separately. My own
personal experience has been that the potential to do positive
work with youngsters is, perhaps as one would expect, better than
the potential to do positive work with adults. One of the very
good things about the Northern Ireland Prison Service at the moment
is the young offenders' institution which to me seems to retain
the best of the ethos of the old borstal system which were very
much offender-centred, what can we do to help this individual
prepare to return to the community.
(Mr Mogg) Mr Halward mentioned blurring. Blurring
in Northern Ireland is greater than it is in England. We will
keep people in the young offenders' centre if they are immature
up to the age of 23 and we will transfer prisoners who are disruptive
or from a terrorist background into the adult prisons if that
is appropriate. Obviously there is a procedure we go through in
order to achieve that, but we are much more flexible about that
than they are in England and Wales.
59. Returning to the issue specifically
of young girls, given the general unease about the detention of
young girls in MaghaberryI think we are talking about three
in one year; it is a very, very small numberI am just wondering
what steps the Prison Service in Northern Ireland is taking to
address the problem of young girls in secure accommodation, leading
on from what you have just said.
(Mr Halward) We share the Committee's view that it
is profoundly unsatisfactory to hold young girls in Prison Service
accommodation. The problem is the alternative. We are very much
on the receiving end of this in that we have to take people who
are sent to us by order of the court. Our aim is to do the very
best that we can with them in the circumstances. We wish there
were an alternative but see the difficulties with that as well
because one tends to think in terms of individuals but young girls
who get sent into prison custody are very disruptive and a problem
in association with other young vulnerable girls. The problem
of the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland as a whole is quite difficult
for this tiny, tiny number of individuals. If such people must
be in prison custody, then a very small unit such as we have at
Mourne House is probably as good as you are going to get in prison
terms anywhere that I am aware of in the UK, because it is so
small and has a very high ratio of staff to prisoners.