Examination of witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 27 OCTOBER 1999
and MR ROBIN
60. Would you consider housing women and
young girls in that unit, bearing in mind you have the space?
(Mr Halward) We have to in certain circumstances.
We have to if a girl of 14 has been sentenced.
61. Is that expediency or do you think that
(Mr Halward) If one had a substantial proportion,
a small group of girls in that category then one might look to
deal with them in a separate unit. However, because it is never
more than one it would be inhumane to keep that one person isolated
from the rest of the population. So there is as much integration
as we think is sensible with whoever happens to be in the women's
prison at that time.
62. Did not Spandau Prison survive for 22
years with one prisoner? There is a precedent but I do not think
Spandau comes under your remit.
(Mr Halward) I personally would have difficulty in
putting a young girl into that environment.
63. I want to turn to the question of accountability.
That was obviously an area where this Committee had a number of
concerns and a number of criticisms and some quite specific recommendations.
It occurs to me that we are about 12 months down the line from
that report. I am not aware that there has been too much action
to address the question of accountability. I note that you say
you are currently considering and examining ways of implementing
this Committee's recommendations. I really just wondered whether
you could tell me when you are likely to stop considering and
examining it and move to the implementation phase?
(Mr Halward) We are considering the adjudication issue,
the Ombudsman issue and the prison inspection issue in the context
of a fairly wide-ranging review of prison rules in relation to
Northern Ireland which in turn is linked with the implementation
of the Human Rights Act which has implications for all those areas.
In each of them of course we are concerned to make things better.
We are clear that there will not be a role for the Board of Visitors
in adjudications but the Human Rights Act raises the issue of
whether there should be an element more independent than the prison
governor doing adjudications. It is in the context of that that
we are tackling that issue. Our concern over the Ombudsman issue
is very much about how we make things better. There are certain
practices in Northern Ireland which are much quicker in tackling
prisoner concerns than was my experience in England and Wales.
The most obvious one is the speed of access to the courts where
that process, that route, is much faster than the route through
a Prisons Ombudsman would be for getting an issue tackled. I note
from some recent stuff on the Ombudsman in England and Wales that
they are concerned that the system in England and Wales gets a
disproportionate amount of complaints from the most experienced
and litigious long-term prisoners; in other words precisely those
who are well provided for in Northern Ireland. We are going right
back to first principles and looking at the whole complaints and
requests system with a particular view to resolving issues where
they arise which are usually between each individual prisoner
and the officer on the landing. On the Chief Inspector of Prisons
issue, the concern there is whether we stick with England and
Wales where in practice the access at the moment is precisely
the same although there has not been a formal statement to Parliament
which set up that system, or whether, as I think the Chief Inspector
may have suggested in evidence to this Committee, we should actually
be more closely associated with Scotland which is geographically
closer. While that is going on the Chief Inspector of Prisons
continues to have completely unfettered access to prisons in Northern
64. Am I right to conclude from that then
that you do not know when you will be able to move to an implementation
phase? When exactly was the review established, this review of
the legislative base to which you referred? When was it set up?
(Mr Halward) I cannot give you a precise date; it
was in this year, earlier this year. I would not want in any way
to mislead the Committee. We have not as yet got a target date
for the changes in the three areas we have identified.
65. We do not know when there will be some
action. The review was set up earlier this year. One of the things
which has happened is that you have had a prison governor loaned
to you from HM Prisons who has some expertise. When did that person
become available to you and when did you ask for that person to
be made available to you?
(Mr Halward) The person became available a few weeks
ago; I can give you a precise date.
66. Very recently.
(Mr Halward) Yes, within the last couple of months
67. When did you ask for him or her?
(Mr Halward) It is "her". Her immediate
previous job was with the Prison Ombudsman's office and we were
waiting for her to finish her period of attachment to that office,
which I think was six months or something of that sort. We are
back to the spring of the year I suppose.
68. Are you happy with the length of time
it is taking to produce any action on this? Do you personally
feel satisfied with this?
(Mr Halward) I would certainly prefer that we can
resolve these issues as quickly as possible. I would have been
very happy if I could have appeared before the Committee today
to say we had done that. However, I am also very keen that we
get very good quality solutions to what are quite difficult issues.
I suppose in thinking about that, I am to some extent guided by
my own judgement about what the practical implications are of
the present arrangements, in other words that the Board of Visitors
does a very small number of adjudications, for example, that the
Chief Inspector does have unfettered access to Northern Ireland
and that I am reasonably satisfied that the complaints, certainly
the ones which would be tackled by an Ombudsman's office precisely
along the lines of those that exist in Scotland, England and Wales,
are already being provided for. What I want to make sure we get
at is perhaps the more vulnerable prisoner, not in the sense in
which we were using the term earlier, the less experienced prisoner,
and make sure that that person has access to an effective requests
and complaints system.
69. I do not want to be unreasonably harsh
but given the kind of criticisms that were mounted it would be
tempting to say to you that it took nearly five months before
a review was established in response to the Committee's recommendations
and seven or eight months before you asked for help from another
prison governor and we are still at the stage where you are not
in a position to say when in fact you will move to some kind of
implementation phase. I notice that back in March in particular
Ministers said in response to the Committee's recommendations
that ". . . the removal of the Board of Visitors' role in
adjudications will be implemented . . . by amendment to the Prison
Rules". That sounds like a relatively simple, concrete bit
of activity that everyone understood and, as you say, the numbers
are not that massive. Why has that taken so long? Is that not
an administrative procedure almost?
(Mr Halward) Yes, at that point there was no reason
why that could not have been implemented quite quickly. It is
as we have begun to consider, along with everybody else, the implications
of the Human Rights Act that we are trying to make sure that we
only make one set of changes. It is still unclear and all three
Prison Services are working on the implications of the Human Rights
Act for adjudications on prisoners.
70. Would you have any idea how many staff
you actually have working on this review at the moment? I am just
thinking that if you had 6 to 1 staffing ratios at the Maze and
you told us earlier you are into delegating and devolving, why
do we not delegate some of those staff and ask them to speed up
the review and get it to a phase where there is some activity?
(Mr Halward) I am afraid this is one of those areas
where quite a lot of technical knowledge is needed. We do in fact
have on the requests and complaints side of it a small team led
by the deputy governor at the young offender centre working on
this. We have particularly chosen him because if we can come up
with a system which works with inexperienced youngsters then it
will work across the rest of the system.
71. I know I speak on behalf of the whole
Committee for all the hard pounding we have occasionally given
you in terms of this session when I say that it has been of considerable
satisfaction to us to take the evidence and for the evidence to
be given in the way that it has been. I took incidental pleasure
in your Borstal reference because one of the incidental pleasures
of my youth was meeting the great C A Joyce, from who I owe the
observation about the publication of the memoirs of a Liberal
peer being held up for three weeks because the printers had run
out of the capital "I". I have since studied the memoirs
which include the remarkable citation of his batman for a VC on
the grounds that "Throughout his military career he was never
more than one yard behind me". We are genuinely grateful
for the evidence. I think I speak on behalf of the whole Committee
that we were encouraged by the progress report. You yourself made
reference to the fact that you have been given some freedom by
the fact that the security position had become less tense. The
fact remains that that would not necessarily have been the case.
It would have been perfectly possible for there to have been lapses
in security. There have not been and that has obviously been to
the credit of the Service. You have taken the maximum advantage
of that fact to make the progress, particularly in the personnel
area, that you have described both in the progress report and
in answers to our questions. On behalf of the whole Committee,
we are extremely appreciative. Thank you very much indeed.
(Mr Halward) Thank you.