Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum from Northern Ireland Prison Service


  During the course of our recent meeting with the Committee, I undertook to provide Members with additional factual information which I did not have immediately to hand. There were two topics. Mr Beggs asked for the proportion of prisoners remaining in HMP Maze compared to the total number when the early release programme began in September 1998. In exploring performance on recruitment, and in particular the religious balance during a recent exercise, Mr Barnes quoted figures from the Prison Service's Annual Report. I undertook to provide information on the full recruitment exercise which spanned both the end of 1998-99 and the beginning of 1999-2000. I attach the figures on the Maze population at Annex A and the information on recruitment along with an explanatory note at Annex B. I also enclose copies of the Northern Ireland Prison Service staff magazine "Inside Out" as requested by Mr Pound.

  I trust that the Committee finds this helpful.

Director General

3 November 1999

Annex A

Total number of prisoners in HMP Maze before commencement of early releases in September 1998 460
Total number of prisoners at 27 October 1999 158
Proportion now in HMP Maze compared to pre-early release arrangements 34%

Annex B


  The Committee commented on the recruitment statistics contained in the Northern Ireland Prison Service Annual Report for 1998-99. I undertook to provide more detailed advice.

  In keeping with the practice across the Civil Service, recruitment statistics relating to a particular period reflect the activity, ie applications and appointments, within that period. The appointments do not necessarily directly relate to the applications, as some may be made after the end of the period reported on. In 1998-99 the competitions for which applicant figures were given had not been completed at 31 March 1999 and the appointment figures do not reflect the result of the applications. In hindsight an explanatory note to this effect would have been helpful and will, if relevant, be included in future reports.

  The attached table shows the final outcome of the applications which were included in the Annual Report. From this it can be seen that the level of Roman Catholic and women appointments was broadly in proportion to the application rate. Roman Catholics represented 18 per cent of applicants and 20 per cent of appointees. Women represented 48 per cent of applicants and 51 per cent of appointees. This suggests that there is therefore no cause for concern at present about any disproportionate effect of selection procedures. The under-representation of Roman Catholics is largely due to insufficient numbers applying to join the Service.

  Compared with previous years and other recruitment drives, there has been a relatively low level of recruitment activity for some time because of the decline of the prison population over a number of years. Taking the six competitions of the previous two years, which included a major Prison Auxiliary Officer competition, Roman Catholics represented 14 per cent of the applicant pool. There has not been a competition for Prison Officer Grades since 1993 when the Roman Catholic applicant rate was only 11 per cent. The application rate is therefore improving, although it is not yet at an acceptable level.

  We believe that the disproportionately low number of Roman Catholics applying for jobs in the Prison Service is related to a genuine fear of intimidation or harassment by terrorist organisations and a reluctance of prospective applicants in some parts of the community to be associated with what they see as part of the security services, along with police and army. The introduction of affirmative action advertising in 1993—specifically welcoming applications from Roman Catholics—and the improving security and political situation have improved the Roman Catholic application rate somewhat. We would expect this to continue to improve with further political progress. However, with a reduction in the size of the Service by approximately 40 per cent due to the accelerated release of prisoners under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, recruitment in the Service in the immediate future will be minimal.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 25 November 1999