|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
On regional priorities, English regional and local bodies now have a much clearer picture of the resources from the Department for Transport that are likely to be available to their region over the next 10 years. Via the regional funding allocation process, we have given them the opportunity to advise the Government on how they think that those resources would best be used. That involves setting priorities. To address any concerns about how we deal with cross-border schemes in any future regional prioritisation exercises, we have recently consulted on how the processes for regional funding allocations might be further improved.
I am delighted to hear of the success of the Deeside shuttle bus service. I recognise the value of demand-responsive services. Similar schemes operate in Merseyside, funded by the Governments urban bus challenge fund, and I understand that discussions are under way about trying to achieve better integrated ticketing between services. I mentioned the Putting Passengers First document. I thank my hon. Friends for their contribution in that respect, which has been invaluable. In addition, we can look forward to the draft road transport Bill, which will support the Governments efforts to cut congestion and to improve public transport.
I am glad that the Governments proposals to improve bus services in the area that we are discussing are welcome. I am sure that we will continue to work to improve services. Rail has seen significant Government investment and improvements over the past few years, with rail performance exceeding targets, and passenger numbers and the amount of freight transported by rail increasing. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) said that the Government have invested £11 billion on the west coast, delivering benefits to the north-west and to north Wales. As we have also heard, reductions in journey times, improved timetables and an enlarged fleet of trains are all extremely welcome.
I agree that transport problems need to be addressed before they arise. That is why the Department for Transport and the Welsh Assembly Government are
jointly sponsoring a study known as the Wales rail planning assessment. That involves the Welsh regional transport consortiums. It will ensure that plans for the railway reflect, where appropriate, the policies and priorities of the Welsh Assembly Government and regional transport plans, which I know my hon. Friends will be keen to see.
I recognise that implementation of the borderlands study, including a new station to serve Deeside industrial park, is a key aspiration of the Consortium of Local Authorities in Wales. Improving connections to major employment centres is one of the options being evaluated by the Wales rail planning assessment.
I am delighted to have had the opportunity to hear the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham regarding the Wrexham-Bidston line. Perhaps when Wrexham and Lincoln next play, I will be able to avail myself of the opportunity to visit his fine constituency. I understand that there is considerable support for improvements to that line and I welcome the co-operation that is already taking place between Merseytravelthe Merseyside passenger transport executiveEnglish and Welsh transport authorities and the Welsh Assembly. Merseytravel and the Welsh Assembly Government, with others, have jointly commissioned Network Rail to undertake a detailed feasibility study of electrification of the line. The creation of a business case, working with Network Rail and the rail industry, is the essential first step in taking forward any rail proposal.
The A494 was mentioned. I understand that the Welsh Assembly has recently published draft orders that are open to objection or comment until later this month. I also understand that no final decision has been reached on that scheme. I am sure that my hon. Friends will continue to make their voices heard. I assure them that the Welsh Assembly, the PTE and DFT officials are keeping in close touch with one another about the progress of Network Rails study considering electrification. I look forward to seeing local transport plans and rail studies
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): I thank the House for letting me raise this issue. I do so because of the case of one of my constituents, Keith Morris. He is a convicted paedophile who has been released on bail while awaiting his sentence. Clearly, I cannot comment further on the offence, or his case, except to quote Judge Cottle, who said of Mr. Morris at Exeter Crown court on Friday 26 January:
If this case had been here last week, it would be over by now and he would be in Exeter Prison.
Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): This is not the first time that Judge Cottle has shot from the hip in the media in the south-west of England. His quote has caused a great deal of consternation among my constituents, who believe that a judges first duty is to protect the public, not to make a political point, important though that political point is.
Richard Younger-Ross: My hon. Friend makes a good and interesting point. I was not in the court, so it is hard for me to provide the full context of the judges comments, but it strikes me that either the Home Secretary was wrong in what he said to the judges or this judge has wrongly interpreted what he said.
David Taylor (in the Chair): Order. I caution the hon. Gentleman that the sentence in this case has yet to be handed down. General reference to it is acceptable, but anything else will be out of order.
bear in mind the current sentencing climate.
because judges can no longer pass deterrent sentences.
The current situation is a crisis of profound proportions. It is a crisis for the Governments credibility and for judicial impartiality. Most importantly, it is a crisis for which we need societys help. We must help those with mental health problems, those who lack education and drug abusers. Instead of receiving an outstretched hand of support, they receive a shaken fist and end up in prison.
Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.
Well, he is certainly true to his word in the first instance. Some 80,000 men and women reside in prison. That number is up 2,000 on the number a year
ago, and up almost 20,000 since Labour came into power in 1997. One could argue that new Labour brought in new police who have made more arrests and that more people have consequently been found guilty, but that is wrong. Criminal convictions have barely increased. There were 1,736,629 in 1993, and 1,816,676 in 2004. That is an increase of barely 80,000, but the number of people sent down by magistrates has more than doubled in that period from 25,016 to 61,384. The same number for the Crown court went up by about a third from 33,722 to 44,938.
One could argue that the type of crime has changed and that there were a greater proportion of violent crimes in that period, but that is wrong. In 1993, 38,923 people were convicted for violent crime. In 2003, that figure was only 39,257, but, again, the number of custodial sentences increased from 7,516 to 12,247. It does not matter where one looks, sentencing trends are on the up.
Crown court sentences have risen from 20 months to 27 months in those 11 years, and magistrates courts have increased their use of prisons. They have gone from using them in 6 per cent. of cases to using them in 16 per cent. The use of fines, on the other hand, has declined from 46 per cent. to only 30 per cent. Some 9 per cent. of shoplifters are now jailed for their first offence, whereas only 2 per cent. were in 1993. The number of life sentences passed is now 570 a year, which is double the number passed 10 years ago. Some 59 per cent. of those were mandatory life sentences. There is no question but that sentencing is leading to prison overcrowding.
Home Secretary after Home Secretary has talked tough on crime. Since Labour came to power, new prisons have been built to accommodate 19,000 extra prisoners. Another 8,000 places are to be constructed at an average cost of £99,899, but to what end? Last February, the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) said:
Prison does not work in stopping reoffending.[Official Report, 9 February 2006; Vol. 442, c. 1033.]
He is right. Some 67.4 per cent. of prisoners are reconvicted within two years of being released. For young men aged 18 to 21, that figure rises to 78.4 per cent. In 1992, however, the overall figure was just over 50 per cent. The idea that by locking up all those people we will somehow rehabilitate them is clearly demonstrably wrong. The reoffending of ex-prisoners costs us £11 billion a year, according to the Governments figures.
For a male born in 1953incidentally, the year that I first popped into the worldthere is a 7.5 per cent. chance that he has been to jail and a 33 per cent. that he has a conviction. I do not fall into either of those categories.
Someone born in 1997 will, in 33 years time, have been more likely to have spent time inside, and more likely just to have committed an offence. We have to accept that crime is falling, but of the 30 per cent. fall
reported by the Prime Ministers strategy units Carter report, only 5 per cent. was due to the 22 per cent. increase in the prison population at that time. The report states that
there is no convincing evidence that further increases in the use of custody would significantly reduce crime.
If sending people to jail does not help, why do we keep doing it? Clearly, we need to keep some people locked away, such as murderers, rapists, paedophiles and serious repeat offenders. No one is going to argue with that, but what about people with mental health problems and drug dependencies? In his evidence to the all-party group on penal affairs, Dr. John OGrady, a consultant forensic psychologist, said:
When you start looking at things like being taken into care, in the general population its about 2 per cent., but in the prison population its 27 per cent. If you start looking at people being excluded from school, that runs at about 2 per cent. of the general population, but for male sentenced prisoners its almost 50 per cent., for female prisoners its about 33 per cent. When you start looking at numeracy and literacy below the age of 11 that runs at about 20 per cent. or so of the general population but about 65 per cent. of the prison population. If you look at IQ its skewed towards the lower end of the intellectual spectrum. Looking at things like unemployment, thats about 5 to 7 per cent. in the general population currently, but 65 to 67 per cent., before imprisonment, in the prison population. Homelessness (on a fairly wide definition) runs at about 1 per cent. in the general population, but about 30 per cent. in the remand population in particular. Add to that mental disorder and its overwhelming. About 5 per cent. of people in the general population have 2 or more mental disordersbut this rises to 70 per cent. or so in the prison population.
Some 80,000 people are in prison; the annual turnover is twice that, at 160,000. In 2004, only 831 people were transferred from prison to health authority care. Some £500 million is spent on securing prisoners, but only £25 million is spent on in reach, according to Dr. OGrady, who likens prison to a third world country: impoverished, with few facilities and where it is impossible to move to a first world country for health. He describes sections 48 and 49 of the Mental Health Act 1983 as being like visas; impossible to get. Section 37 does allow movement, but few people get it.
In the same evidence session, Dr. David James argued that it was possible to divert some people with psychotic disorders out of the prison system at the police station or the magistrates court. He spoke of encouraging pilot schemes being set up to do that. Such schemes increased the recognition of mental illness at the magistrates court by 400 per cent., leading to a speeding up of admission to hospital, and were encouraged under the national service framework for health. Indeed, there are supposed to be 150 such arrangements around the country, but reports by National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders showed that, as funding declined, so did the success of those schemes.
The number of court-to-prison diversions fell by 29 per cent. over the period 1993-2004 whereas the total number of people formally admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 increased during the same period, so the fall in diversions is surprising.
The scale of the problem is huge. Based on the best research weve got, it may be about 4 per cent. of the prison population that need to be in hospital beds and in current terms, that means something in the order of 3,000 prisoners, possibly up to 3,700.
If the people with mental health problems who are currently residing in prison were diverted towards health care, an additional number of places would instantly be available in prisons. Instead of sending missives to judges, the Home Secretary might be better talking to his colleagues, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Health, in order to put more money into mental health and into schemes to prevent people from going to prison at the court stage and at the police station.
If we put funding into drug rehabilitation units, alcohol misuse centres, quality care for children in care and education to deal with excluded pupils, we might not need so many prison places. We should put funding into those things and spend less on spin doctors fabricating headlines for the tabloid press.
All of this is very serious, but the bizarreness of the statements made by judges is highlighted by the fact that, at the same time as Keith Morris was released on bail, another gentleman in my constituency, James Short, was released on licence from Exeter prison. According to our local paper, the Herald Express:
He was given a place at the Amber Foundation in Barnstaple but was told to leave three days later after he had sex with a female resident. Short set up an alternative address near relatives in Newton Abbot and informed the Probation Service.
I retired from the office of Lord Chief Justice more than a year ago and have since avoided being drawn into the debate about sentencing. Recent events have made me decide to do so. The prison system is in crisis.
Overcrowding in prisons corrodes standards. At that time the prison population was 43,000 and falling. It is now almost double that and is expected to continue to rise. Overcrowding makes it almost impossible to tackle effectively the causes of offending...The only possible solutions are either to reduce the numbers in custody or increase the proportion of the nations wealth devoted to providing the accommodation necessary.
Lord Woolfs letter is long, but worth reading. At the end of it he makes a number of points that relate particularly to the Home Secretarys actions and why he, among others, is culpable for the current crisis in our prisons. Lord Woolf states that in order to deal with this we need
action to include the repeal or suspension of statutory provisions that force judges to use more and longer sentences than are necessary for the publics protection.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|