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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): I welcome the publication today of the Prison and Probation Ombudsman's (PPO) report into the death at Styal of Julie Walsh in 2003 and wish to make a statement about developments since 2003 and further planned work relating to women offenders. Much work has been done or is underway in respect of women offenders but it is timely to take stock and assess whether the right steps are being taken.
On 21 August 2003 Paul Goggins announced that he had commissioned the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the death at Styal of Julie Walsh on 12 August 2003 and to examine the death in the context of the series of six deaths at Styal since August 2002. On 21 January 2004 Paul Goggins made a statement in which he outlined the main general findings of the Ombudsman's report and the action the Prison Service was taking as a matter of urgency to prevent a recurrence. The Ombudsman's detailed and thorough report identified some serious inadequacies at Styal relating to regimes, facilities and procedures during the period covered by the six deaths. The Ombudsman suggested what lessons can be learned from these sad events to prevent a recurrence; reported on factors common to the deaths; and made a number of recommendations, which Paul Goggins accepted. The report will be published today, 17 November 2005, on the Ombudsman's website.
The first five deaths were thoroughly investigated by the Prison Service and were examined further by the PPO as part of his investigation into the death of Julie Walsh. Full public inquests took place between October 2003 and April 2005, the sixth inquest concluding on 26 April 2005. These were thorough and transparent investigations. There has been subsequent correspondence with the Cheshire Coroner about a number of concerns he identified in respect of three of the inquests.
Many important changes have been made at Styal in the intervening period including the opening of a first night centre to which women arriving from court are transferred within 30 minutes of arrival, the introduction of a methadone detoxification programme, the opening of a specialist unit known as "CALM" to provide a therapeutic environment for those women not able to access wider regime activities, transformation of
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the segregation unit into a Care, Separation and Reintegration Unit, staffed by selected prison officers and mental health nurses to support prisoners in crisis, and development of the Reeman Unit into a day care facility run by mental health nurses to support prisoners with long term mental health issues. Following a review, new suicide and self-harm prevention procedures are in place overseen by a dedicated Suicide Prevention Coordinator. ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork), which provides individualised support and care for women at risk of self-harm has been introduced and staff at Styal folly trained in its use.
The Ombudsman's report raised some very serious issues and has made a valuable contribution to suicide prevention not just at Styal but also throughout the rest of the women's estate. From 1 April 2004 the Ombudsman has conducted investigations into all deaths in prison custody (and probation hostels and immigration centres). He has provided greater independent scrutiny and transparency and increased public confidence, and made it more likely that lessons are learned that reduce the likelihood of further deaths. The report has helped inform development of a suicide and self-harm prevention strategy specifically for women. Moreover, the increased knowledge and learning is being shared across other custodial institutions to help inform suicide prevention strategies across the board.
The Government believe that prison should be reserved for dangerous, serious and seriously persistent offenders and sentences should be as long as necessary for punishment and public protection, but no longer. Sentencing is a matter for the courts but sentencers should be adequately informed about the vulnerability of individual offenders and should balance the seriousness of the offence and the risk of harm offenders pose to others with the risk of harm to themselves. Section 166 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 gives sentencers the discretion to mitigate sentences by taking into account such information and allows sentencers to impose a community sentence, providing there are relevant mitigating factors, even where the offence would normally have justified a custodial sentence. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 also states that a court must not pass a custodial sentence on an offender unless it is of the opinion that the offence, or combination of offences, are serious enough to warrant such a sentence.
Sentencers must be well informed about the range of non-custodial sentences at their disposal. To ensure effective dialogue between sentencers and those who deliver sentences liaison takes place between local probation services and sentencers. Consultative fora involving sentencers, court staff and offender managers are being used to provide feedback to sentencers on the effectiveness of sentences; to enhance understanding of sentencing options available locally; and to provide feedback on sentencing decisions including information when someone they have sentenced to custody self harms, or commits or attempts suicide. Many sentencers welcome this feedback.
Work continues on The Women's Offending Reduction Programme (WORP) to co-ordinate and implement a comprehensive programme of work to address the complex range of factors that affect women's offendingincluding substance misuse, mental health problems, housing, child care issues, histories of abuse,
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poverty and education, training and employment. WORP seeks to identify ways in which the various departments, agencies and organisations that deal with these issues can work more effectively together to tackle the problem as a whole, rather than dealing with each in isolation. £9.15 million is to be spent on new approaches in two areas to demonstrate how women's offending can be tackled effectively in the community, including provision of one-stop centres for women serving sentences in the community and for those at risk of offending. We have also introduced a full range of tough, credible and effective sentences as alternatives to custody within a new sentencing framework in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Work is in hand to improve the prison life experience of those women who need to be in prison, particularly relating to their health, mental health and substance abuse needs. We are also developing suicide prevention and self-harm strategies specifically for women; providing much better healthcare services in prison in partnership with the NHS; and improving clinical substance misuse services by providing effective detoxification services and drug treatment programmes for women prisoners.
We believe that all of these measures are helping to make a difference to the vulnerable women who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System. Nonetheless, the Government is not complacent and considers that it would be timely to take stock of the work being done. We therefore plan to look again at the measures in place to ensure that we are doing everything possible for these women, including looking at the pathways through the criminal justice system of "vulnerable" women with a multitude of risk factors. I will make a further announcement about this when the scope of the review has been determined.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): The Privy Council has made an Order in Council, the Consular Fees (No. 2) Order 2005, which gives authority for a revision in passport fees. The revision will take effect on 1 December 2005. The fee for a standard 32 page passport will increase from £42 to £51 while the fee for a 48 page passport will increase from £54.50 to £62.50. The fee for a passport for a child will increase from £25 to £34. The fee for an adult using the guaranteed one week counter service for a standard 32 page passport will increase from £70 to £77.50, for a child from £60 to £70 and a 48 page jumbo from £71 to £87. The fee for an adult using the guaranteed same day service for a standard 32 page passport will increase from £89 to £96.50, for a child from £71 to £83 and for a 48 page passport from £95.50 to £104.50. The fee for a collective passport, for organised trips for schools and youth groups, will remain unchanged at £39.
These fees have been set following a stringent review with HM Treasury of costs to ensure that the fee for each type of passport service closely reflects the production costs accrued by that service and bears its share of the cost of consular protection services. This
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increase will deliver extensive improvements required in the ongoing efforts to combat passport and identity fraud.
Subject to Parliamentary approval of any necessary Supplementary Estimate, the Charity Commission DEL will be increased by £1,365,000 from £31,242,000 to £32,607,000 and the administration budget will be increased by £1,660,000 from £30,493,000 to £32,153,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:
In addition the resource element reflects corrections to the Main Estimate submission in terms of a £157,000 increase in administrative expenditure and a £407,000 decrease in resource costs related to Efficiency Challenge Fund monies.
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