Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment
of Offenders bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Sarah Thatcher, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Emma Scott, Director, Rights of Women
Ruth Bond, Chair, National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Jerry Petherick, Managing Director Offender Management, G4S Care and Justice Services
Kate Steadman, Director of Government Strategy, Sodexo Justice Service
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): On a point of order, Mr Sheridan. At the beginning of Tuesday’s proceedings the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland claimed that the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges was not giving evidence because it would not attend at a given time. I want to correct that. I understand that in fact the council was invited, but declined the invitation, as it felt that it is for politicians to decide such things, and not for the council to comment. It passed on its thanks for being invited to give oral evidence.
That if, on Tuesday 19 July, references to specific times in the Standing Orders of this House apply as if that day were a Wednesday, paragraph (1)(c) of the Order of the Committee of 12 July shall be amended by leaving out ‘10.30 am and 4.00 pm’ and inserting ‘9.00 am and 1.30 pm’.—(Mr Djanogly.)
That the Order of the Committee of 12 July be amended as follows—
in the Table in paragraph (2), in the second entry for Thursday 14 July, in the third column, leave out ‘Serco;’—(Mr Djanogly.)
The Bill does not mention women, but in various ways women will be affected, and I wondered whether you had any views on whether its effects would be different or disproportionate for men and women, or whether women would be disadvantaged in any way by proposals in the Bill.
Emma Scott: We are really clear that there is going to be a disproportionate effect on women. We know that women make up a significantly greater proportion of those who receive civil legal aid, particularly around family and immigration law, which are the areas we are particularly concerned about.
We, as an organisation, provide legal advice to women, and we speak to women on our telephone helplines on a daily basis. Those women come to us not just with one particular issue resulting from a relationship breakdown; they come to us wanting advice about child contact proceedings, financial relief proceedings, welfare benefits, debt and immigration law.
There are a whole range of issues that women need advice on. We are very, very concerned that removing legal aid for those issues will significantly disadvantage women. Our particular concern is around domestic violence. Our concern is that the definition of domestic violence in the Bill will not allow all women who experience violence to have access to family law legal aid, and that that will put women at risk.
Ruth Bond: I reiterate what Emma said. We are a women’s organisation and, hence, we deal with women. We have a vast raft of research that we have conducted on this subject. I think it does disproportionately, shall we say, outlaw women, because they are the ones, we have found from our research and from what our members tell us, who need to go for legal aid, because they are so often violated.
Q 165 Helen Goodman: On the sentencing provisions, the Government are exempting domestic violence cases from the new rules on bail. In other words, if a person has been accused of domestic violence, that is a reason for remanding them in custody. The definition used in that part of the Bill is, “physical and mental violence”. Are you content with that as a specific enough test? Have you thought about that part of the Bill as well?
Emma Scott: We have not looked specifically at the sentencing provisions, but what we are really clear about as an organisation is that, where legislation talks about
Q 166 Helen Goodman: At the moment, women are more likely to receive longer sentences for the same serious crimes as men. Would you support the insertion of a women’s champion into the criminal justice system? That is one of the recommendations in Corston that the previous Government did not get around to implementing.
Q 167 Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk) (Con): On the subject of legal aid in general, Britain has one of the highest legal aid bills per capita in the world. One of the reasons for that is that a lot of issues, which would normally be dealt with in other countries through standard appeals procedures or through non-legal advice, end up being dealt with by lawyers. You mentioned the specific case of welfare. Is it not the case that, in order to get welfare claims properly dealt with, there are appeals procedures in the welfare system, there are other sources of non-legal advice that women could go to, and, in fact, all we are doing by involving lawyers is just ratcheting up costs and not actually benefiting the end recipients?
Emma Scott: Again, welfare benefits is not a particular area of specialism. In general, in terms of the costs of legal aid, we would urge the Government to look at the costs of not providing legal aid to women, particularly the costs of not providing legal aid to women who are affected by violence.
Emma Scott: No, absolutely not. As I said at the beginning, women face a myriad issues when there is relationship breakdown and one of them is ensuring that they have access to advice on and support with welfare benefits, so that they are able to challenge benefit decisions.
Ruth Bond: I would say the same. We do not delve into this in any great depth, but we certainly need to have other welfare things in there. The definition of how you can get legal aid is too narrow. It needs to be widened, and this should be included.
Emma Scott: I started to talk about that. You need to look at the costs of not providing legal aid, particularly in the area that we are concerned about: domestic violence. We know from evidence that has been updated recently that the costs of domestic violence, when women are not able to get support and advice to make safe arrangements, for child contact for example, and resolve financial and property disputes and become independent of those relationships—
Elizabeth Truss: Domestic violence is within the scope, and the definition has been widened. It seems to me from what you are saying that we could allocate almost an infinite amount of money to legal aid because there are no areas that you think the money should not be spent on. If you are saying that domestic violence is a priority—I agree that it is, and we have widened the scope for it—let us ensure that we spend the money on that. Those eligible for domestic violence legal aid will also be eligible for things such as ancillary support through the divorce proceedings. We are being more generous in that area and less in some of those other areas where there seems to be a rational reason to cut costs. I think that the case would be better put if you focused on the areas you thought really ought to be protected rather than just saying, “We need legal aid for absolutely everything.”
Q 172 Elizabeth Truss: Sorry. My question is: do you support the Government’s proposals for bringing forward cost support in cases where there is no legal aid and there is an economic imbalance between the two parties?
Emma Scott: May I come back to the point about domestic violence? I think that it is misleading at best to say that there has been a concession on domestic violence in family law. The proposals as they are set out do not adequately reflect women’s experience of domestic violence and the way that they deal with it in their lives. They set out criteria that require women to have been through statutory routes to address the violence, to have obtained a criminal conviction, to have applied for a non-molestation order or to have been referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference—MARAC—and we know that that simply is not the experience of women affected by domestic violence.
If I may just draw your attention to the Women’s Aid annual survey from last year, of the 17,500 women who had taken the very drastic step of leaving their homes to
We are very clear that the proposals will not catch all the women who are affected by domestic violence. Those who are greater experts in domestic violence than we are will say that women do not report or disclose violence. I know from my own experience as a family lawyer that women very often do not talk about it until halfway through the proceedings, and therefore we cannot assume that these proposals will ensure that all women affected by violence will have the protection of family law legal aid. As I say, it is misleading to say that they will.
We are also very concerned about the loss of legal aid in immigration cases where women apply under the domestic violence rule. Those women are particularly vulnerable to further violence and in terms of their ability to make an application for indefinite leave to remain.
Q 173 Elizabeth Truss: I have just one more point on the letter from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in response to the initial consultation. You claim that the definition of domestic violence included only physical harm, but that was never the case; indeed, the scope has been widened. Do you acknowledge that it has been widened?
Emma Scott: From my recollection, the consultation paper specifically referred to physical harm at a number of points, and that was where our confusion lay. It is clear that there has been a shift, but there still is not uniformity in terms of the definition of domestic violence in the Bill and across Government policies.
Q 175 Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I want to follow up a couple of the points you have alluded to. More generally, though, could you comment first on the role you see for mediation in family cases?
Ruth Bond: In cases of domestic violence, mediation is never a good thing. That is true in some cases where there are other issues, but certainly with domestic violence—no. It means that you have to face the perpetrator, which can be very stressful. I think, in all cases, no.
Emma Scott: There is clear evidence from not only the women we speak to on a daily basis, but other experts who have looked at this that mediation is not appropriate in domestic violence cases. As we have said,
Q 176 Kate Green: Of course, legal aid will be available, although we have talked about the definition for matters involving domestic violence. What is the appropriate role of mediation in cases where there is no actual violence—physical or mental—but there are high levels of conflict?
Ruth Bond: Sorry. Any way to save children from being put into care in dire cases is obviously the best. Even in insidious cases that go on for a long time, whether the courts intervene or not, we need to have a wider understanding.
Q 178 Kate Green: Can I ask Emma Scott about the issue of mediation’s appropriateness? In situations where there is no actual domestic violence and legal aid will not be available for legal advice, the woman and the man could be encouraged to go through mediation in circumstances where there are still very high levels of conflict. What is your view on that?
Emma Scott: We have been very concerned about the role of mediation and about women feeling forced into situations where they do not feel that they have a level playing field in terms of negotiations and discussions. There are still very clear and pervasive imbalances between men and women within relationships, particularly around financial issues. Women whom we talk to often have limited knowledge of the financial arrangements of their marriage. There are still clear inequalities, and there is a real role for the courts to play in ensuring that fair and equal settlements are made, particularly in financial relief proceedings.
Q 179 Kate Green: That brings me to the second point that I wanted to raise, following some of the remarks made a few moments ago, about the way in which problems arrive in clusters. Elizabeth Truss made the point to you a few moments ago that legal aid would still be available for ancillary relief in divorce cases. To what extent are women who are presenting and seeking
Are you aware—many people who responded to the consultation did not pick this up—that should domestic violence, either mental or physical, be realised, it would unlock all the other types of support, such as ancillary relief, contact and so on, to be funded by legal aid? Are you aware of that? Should the court effectively recognise the objective test on domestic violence and grant legal aid, that would unlock legal aid for all the other remits around it. It would not just be dealt with for that specific injunction, perhaps; it would be about everything else, including contact.
Emma Scott: Absolutely, but what we say is that the proposals are too narrow in the definition that they place on domestic violence, and that they will not capture all the women who are affected by domestic violence. As I said earlier, not all women will have seen their perpetrator convicted of a criminal offence, not all will have a non-molestation order, not all will have a child protection plan in place and not all will have been referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference.
Q 184 Mr Wallace: But do you not think that at some stage in the process, there needs to be an objective assessment of domestic violence? Somebody has to make an assessment objectively about whether it has taken place. I would regard bullying, for example, as mental domestic violence. Somebody somewhere has to make an objective ruling, so that it isn’t just one word against another and people do not access it as a means to—
Emma Scott: What we proposed in our response to the consultation, as well as, “Please see that MARACs are added to the list of gateways”, was that very often women will go to specialist domestic violence organisations, to social services or to their doctor, midwife or health visitor. Evidence from those kinds of professional, in addition to the statutory routes that have been set out in
Q 185 Mr Wallace: Secondly, I want to ask about mediation. If domestic violence is currently a factor, compulsory mediation with all the requirement to seek it is excluded, and that is not due to change. Nobody is going to force people into mediation, or force them to explore mediation as an option, if domestic violence is a recognised factor. That is what the situation is now and that is what will continue.
Emma Scott: We have wider concerns about mediation beyond legal aid, in terms of the family proceedings rules that have already been introduced. Participants in family proceedings have to take part in mediation information assessment meetings and we have real concerns about identification of domestic violence in those cases. I think that there has been research that shows that four minutes has been spent addressing whether domestic violence is an issue in those cases and that is really not adequate to explore the safety and appropriateness of mediation. So we have wider concerns about the role of mediation in family cases.
Q 186 Mr Wallace: Mediation cases exist at the moment. Of the 14,600 cases in 2009-10 where mediation was started, publicly funded and full or partial engagement was achieved, in 66% of those cases agreement was reached. Mediation was a successful model for very many people. It has worked at quite a high level in the last year, 2009-10. Do you think that it is wrong, therefore, for the Government to choose it as a favoured route? It seems to be a route that has a very high success rate and that is going in the right direction.
Emma Scott: The women who contact us who have been through the mediation process do not always feel that it has been a successful process for them. They may have reached an agreement, but they have not always felt that they have been able to take an equal or safe part in that process.
Q 187 Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): The Government’s own impact assessment says that about 79% of the current acts of assistance will not be eligible for family legal aid in future. Does the figure of 21% accurately reflect the amount of domestic violence in the UK, or the number of separations after physical, emotional and financial violence?
Ruth Bond: First, I am sure that not all cases of physical violence and domestic violence are out in the public domain. That is the first thing to say. Whether or not that skews the numbers is a consideration. From our research and from hearing from our members who came forward, they often said, “This is the first time I’ve ever mentioned it.” We had some who accessed legal aid and it was fine; there were others for whom it did not go fine. We do not have to be skewed by numbers all the time.
Emma Scott: It is very clear from the British crime survey statistics that there are many more women affected by domestic violence than are coming forward. Domestic violence remains hidden within relationships and relationship breakdowns.
Q 188 Yvonne Fovargue: You said in your previous evidence that quite often women do not go to the statutory agencies and they go to other advice agencies instead. Do you feel that there are enough of those agencies at the present time?
Emma Scott: Absolutely not. The funding of women’s organisations generally is probably a separate issue. We are the only organisation that provides legal advice to women. We are seeing a huge demand for the services that we offer as legal advice becomes scarcer and scarcer up and down the country. And we know from our sister organisations that they are facing really challenging times and that women’s organisations are closing, so there are fewer and fewer places for women to go, particularly regarding the proposals around the domestic violence rule cases and immigration law cases. In those cases, the Government are suggesting in their proposals that women can seek advice from other agencies, but there simply will not be those agencies to provide that support, even if that was appropriate. We would say that it is very clear from the law that it is a criminal offence to give immigration law advice if you are not regulated by the office of the immigration services commissioner, or a solicitor or barrister, or exempted. Therefore, the proposals put advisers at risk of committing criminal offences, if they are going to be supporting women applying under the domestic violence rule in that way.
Q 189 Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I want to pursue the issue of mediation. Restorative justice schemes have a very high satisfaction rate with victims—95% in some cases. That is really about mediation, and it often involves antisocial behaviour, harassment and bullying. I just want to understand why you are so categorical that in no cases of domestic violence mediation is ever appropriate.
Emma Scott: I am not sure that I am the best person to talk about the dynamics of abusive relationships. That is not my expertise. But it is very clear from my understanding of the power and control dynamics within abusive relationships that mediation does not provide a safe or a level playing field for negotiations and discussions to take place. From our experience of the women who contact us, they do not want to do it. When we surveyed women, again, in the run-up to our consultation response, an overwhelming majority of women and legal professionals told us that they did not feel that mediation was appropriate in domestic violence cases. All of them talked about the dynamics of power and control within those relationships and how that can continue and be perpetuated through the mediation process.
Ruth Bond: Often when a case does come forward and a woman has the courage to say, “I have been suffering domestic violence,” mediation is way past them. They have usually got to the point where it is so bad they have to get out and they do not want to speak to the perpetrator.
Emma Scott: Women commented in our survey about feeling terrified to speak when they are face to face with their perpetrator. It is very obvious that if you have experienced perhaps years of violence and abusive behaviour, you would feel extremely unsafe.
Q 190 Tom Brake: I understand that—although I would have thought the same applied in terms of restorative justice schemes between victims and perpetrators. I hear what you are saying. On a different point, you have made it very clear that neither of you believe that legal aid cuts are necessary; in fact, Mrs Bond suggested that it should be extended. That is clearly not the Government’s view. In terms of what will be left within the scope—for example, domestic violence and harassment—do you accept that, in fact, the provisions are perhaps more friendly towards women rather than less friendly?
Ruth Bond: We have no problem with looking at the Bill and seeing how you can alter it but, at the moment, it is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It still needs to go further. Yes, we have said that women will be disproportionately affected by it.
Q 191 Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): The Justice Committee’s report on family legal aid was published this morning. I do not expect that you will have seen it, but two or three headline issues have been reported, so I just wondered if you could comment on them. First, the Chair of that Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), said that there will be significantly more litigants in person following changes to legal aid and that
Emma Scott: Absolutely. We have seen more and more women having to represent themselves as legal aid has been restricted, even over the past 10 years. We know, again from our research with service users, that women will be deterred from taking legal proceedings, which can provide safety for them and their children, ensure that they have financial settlements that ensure their independence and financial security, and mean that they are not reliant on the state. We are very concerned about women having to represent themselves in proceedings, not least because they are incredibly complex. Ancillary relief proceedings are very complex. Recently, our telephone helpline advised a woman who was representing herself in proceedings and I could hear the fear that she had about having to explain her situation to the court and tackling the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Not only are there complex legal issues that women face in representing themselves, but there is also the potential that they will face the perpetrator directly in court proceedings, again with the re-victimisation that that brings.
Q 192 Mr Slaughter: That is my second point. The Sun covers the issue rather more prosaically under the headline “Paedos ‘to quiz victims in court’”. It quotes Mrs Justice Pauffley as telling the Justice Committee
Mr Wallace: On a point of order, Mr Sheridan. Is it in order for Mr Slaughter to quote to a witness partially, without that witness having seen the details of the report or the report itself, and, secondly, to omit the role of the judge in any court vis-à-vis the protection of a witness or victim? A judge does not sit idly by and allow those things to happen. They have a duty to protect a victim or witness.
The Chair: I do not accept that that is a point of order. I am certainly not in any position to put forward a legal perspective, but I ask for brevity and accuracy in all questions, and particularly in answers.
Emma Scott: Perhaps I could say that the same protections are not available to victims in civil law cases. In family law cases, you do not have the same kind of protection that you have in rape cases in the criminal courts, for example, where witnesses cannot be cross-examined directly by the perpetrator. If these reforms are put through, they will increase the number of litigants in person and the number of women who have to face the perpetrator directly in court.
Q 193 Ben Gummer (Ipswich) (Con): I have some very quick questions, but all I need is a yes or no. Emma Scott, I am sure that you are well aware of jurisdictions around the world. Would you say that Sweden is probably at the forefront of the recognition of and action on women’s rights?
Q 195 Ben Gummer: It is a matter of great interest to me. I put it to you that Sweden and Germany—I think we can agree that those two countries have led the way in progress on the recognition of and action on women’s rights—have the highest rates of mediation in legal cases in the world. Is that something we could learn from?
Ruth Bond: The unmet need is to have provision for the mentally ill out in the community before they become perpetrators of crime. It is not so much when they are inside but before they go inside that we are worried about.
Q 200 Helen Goodman: The Government have introduced a new signposting diversion system, which everyone welcomes. Do you think that the £5 million that they are spending on that will meet the needs that you observed in the work that you did?
The Chair: Order. On that last question, perhaps you could give an answer in writing—that would be extremely helpful. I apologise if we have been somewhat abrupt, but we have limited time. Thanks very much for coming along.
Examination of Witnesses
Jerry Petherick: My view is that the revised NOMS structure gives the clarity we have been seeking for some time. The separation into distinct business streams is positive and good, and my initial experience is certainly that there is a much clearer definition of the expectations and work.
Kate Steadman: I echo that. It is a clearer structure and it is smaller. Greater clarity could be given to external stakeholders about the structure of MOJ. Obviously, it is still going through a transformation process, but that is still not entirely clear to people outside the Department. However, broadly, I echo what has been said. The ending of the regional structure is an improvement and a simplification.
Jerry Petherick: As Kate said, the removal of the regional tier has helped and it is giving clarity. The further savings would come through greater assimilation of the custodial and non-custodial work. Not only would there be cost savings in that, but it would be a more effective end-to-end system. Increasingly, that is work that I see before people come into custody, once they are there—but particularly when they come through the gate—and where any mentoring-type opportunities exist.
Kate Steadman: As far as my understanding goes—given how long a full-time job allows one to study a Bill in such detail—the Bill does not make changes to the structure of NOMS that would create savings. It is more about changes that might result in lowering the prison population, which would create savings. I think that the main savings made in the criminal justice system will be through reducing reoffending, and nothing in the Bill would particularly act against that. However, I do not see any particular structural changes to NOMS or possibilities for that in the Bill.
Jerry Petherick: At three of my establishments, we already have, or we will shortly introduce, elements of that. This will be an incremental drive. Certainly our experience is that it is possible, and it is right that prisoners and staff value it. It is particularly valuable when we have links with external companies and organisations. There are obviously risks in introducing it, but there has to be an incremental spread to build the culture, because some establishments plainly will not have the facilities that will enable them to have a widespread 40-hour working week.
Kate Steadman: I echo that, again to the degree that I welcome very much the Government’s call for increased work in prisons. That is the right thing to do for reparation to victims, for punishment, and for rehabilitation in terms of skills and increasing the chances of employment
There are a lot of questions to be raised about space in prisons and the flexibility to introduce full working days, particularly in public sector prisons. The private sector has it slightly easier in that regard because we can be more flexible with our staffing. There are other questions about the local job market that are being worked on, but it is a big challenge and I do not underestimate that. In my mind, the biggest thing that needs to happen is for there to be a culture of businesses coming into prisons. I do not think that that has been fostered yet. In some regards, there is still a stigma attached to that—quite wrongly. That is the biggest thing in my mind that needs to change.
The Chair: Before we move on to the next speaker, I am conscious that yet again a number of speakers wish to contribute, so answer briefly please. For fairness to hon. Members, there will be one question and one supplementary.
Q 205 Helen Goodman: You said that extending the amount of time that prisoners should work will be difficult. What are the resource implications in moving from where you are now to a 40-hour week? How many more prison officers will you need to run that in a prison?
Jerry Petherick: It will vary from establishment to establishment and, indeed, in terms of culture. We have managed with a very small increase in staff, but let me make it absolutely clear that we are lucky in terms of some of the estate that we have. It is new or relatively new. We have workshops that are built for the purpose as opposed to converted. The real issue is that of a cultural mind change. I have spent 29 years in prison management and people are very reluctant to have prisoners unlocked in small pockets around the establishment. We need to change that culture, and we have done. We need to make a prisoner’s working life much more similar to the working lives that we have. We introduced portakabins as canteens at the place of work, for example. We have to make sure of security and safety. The actual resource is about changing shift patterns and making sure that we are maximising the usage of that as opposed to a large scale increase in numbers.
Q 206 Helen Goodman: Do you think that you can do that at the same time as there are 23% cuts in criminal justice? The contracts that you are making at the moment are presumably less generous than they were five years ago.
Jerry Petherick: That is obviously the challenge for us. We have got to be innovative in the approach. That is the type of work that we are doing. We need external companies to be involved. To be honest, we are seeing an increased number of people who are prepared to take prisoners in employment, both within the establishment and, more importantly, outside the establishment. Research shows that a prisoner who has gained the work ethic in
Q 207 Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) (Con): You both mentioned changing the culture to enable more work in prisons. How do you change that culture and bring in more partners to introduce the sort of high-value work that allows deductions and can still ultimately be turned from a cost centre to a profit centre? Ideally, that could also be integrated with the Work programme through post-release Work programmes as well.
Kate Steadman: There are two elements to that: the culture inside the prison and the culture outside the prison. I have less experience of public sector prisons, but to incentivise governors who do not already have an incentive—many do—the Policy Exchange report published recently suggested giving an overhead fee to the prison out of the prisoner wage. That is one interesting idea. Also, as I said before, it is a problem with flexibility in the public sector, with the core day obviously making things difficult on a Friday. So that is a real challenge.
The bigger challenge is the external culture, and changing that is very difficult, particularly at a time when unemployment is rising on the outside and there are very careful political decisions to be made. There is a lot of work being done by the Ministry of Justice behind the scenes to engage employers and larger organisations, and I really welcome that. I do not know if it would be possible to do that more publicly and make more public pronouncements of the Government’s championing of this, really doing something to change the reputation that working in prisons is bad. Lots of big corporations do work inside prisons but they hide it because it is somehow dirty. The biggest thing that needs to be done is to change that.
Q 208 Damian Hinds: Can it ultimately be a profit centre, for both the partner firm and the prison? In terms of economics, there must be some scale or curve related to hours in a week and numbers of people involved. How does that work? What does it take to get to the point where there is an active incentive, in a financial as well as a responsibility sense, to do these things?
Kate Steadman: I think that it has to be a financial incentive, certainly on the external side. You cannot expect people to do it out of goodwill and I do not think that anyone does expect that. The question of the actual finances and how it works out is too complicated to answer at the moment, but on a general basis it would depend on all kinds of profit margins—
Jerry Petherick: Yes it can. To get there you have to have great resilience, do lots of hard work, have lots of contacts at a number of levels, including the CBI level and the local chambers of commerce level, and get out there and market and explain, hosting work fairs for local employers and so forth. One of the problems is that it can be very small scale and bitty, and the real issue is about scaling it up, and that is where bodies
Q 210 Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): How can you guarantee safety in an environment where prisoners are more mobile within the prison estate, even in a situation where people might be reluctant to engage with work? What does that mean in terms of appropriate staff numbers, such as of prison officers who will be needed to supervise prisoners who are more mobile?
Jerry Petherick: In any establishment, be it public or private, safe system of work, risks assessments and so forth are undertaken to ensure that, and some of it is a matter of judgment. In my experience, a busy prisoner is a safer prisoner and a happier prisoner because they are engaged. If there are high levels of inactivity in a prison, boredom comes from that and we have control problems. I have experienced that various times in my own career. If you make work attractive, from the training, rehabilitation or financial point of view, there is buy-in from the prisoner and that breeds safety.
Jerry Petherick: There is always a risk when you have people out, and that is where the professionalism and the risk assessments come in. You make sure that you have sufficient staff. No one—certainly not me—would advocate having unsafe staffing levels and working practices.
Q 212 Alex Cunningham: So do you need additional people? That is the point. At a time when there are cuts in the system, do you not need additional people in the system to supervise prisoners when more of them are mobile within the community?
Jerry Petherick: I cannot accept a generic statement that you need additional people. You need to look at how you are using your current resources, and you might be re-profiling those resources to make more effective use of them. In some instances, you will require more staff, and that is where the economic element comes in. If you are bringing in more income, you can afford to have more staff, but I refute any suggestion that, across the board, there are not sufficient staff already in the system. There will be some locations where there are not, and others where there are. You have to do that on an individual establishment risk assessment.
Q 213 Tom Brake: May I press you on what you are doing for businesses, for instance in hosting jobs fairs? What are you doing to get these businesses into your prisons? You will have to do that if you are going to deliver a work programme.
Kate Steadman: We are in the process of a systematic engagement with outside organisations in order to bring further work into the prison. We already have a lot of workshops going on in our prison, with qualifications
We recently developed a proposal, which we are beginning to implement, to put all of our company’s UK printing business inside one of our prisons. It is currently disparately outsourced; it will now be done by prisoners inside a print shop in the prison; it will be run as a social enterprise, with profits going half to victims and half to local resettlement charities. We are engaged in a combination of external engagement and bringing our own work into the prison to increase things, but we are already operating almost a 40-hour week in several of our prisons.
Jerry Petherick: We have very much the same internal-external supply chain. At Altcourse prison, we hosted the local chamber of commerce on two or three work fairs. We have had great benefit from that, not only in the work coming in but, as someone suggested earlier, in the change of attitude from people outside, who have never been in a prison often see prisoners as being unemployable. When we start getting that interaction, they realise that these are genuine people who, for whatever reason, ended up where they are.
Jerry Petherick: Yes. That is an ongoing issue. As we change the work stream, and we are currently changing a workshop at Altcourse prison from one type of work to light engineering training and production facility, there inevitably have to be changes.
Q 215 Mr Slaughter: From the answers that you have given to my colleague, it seems that you do not have to be asked to do a lot more with fewer resources. The Minister announced yesterday that there would be a new tendering process. One of the G4S prisons is coming to an end, and there are about eight further prisons. At the same time as you are coping with those tensions in your existing work, are you intending to expand and to bid for any of those contracts?
Q 216 Mr Slaughter: That is an interesting point. When you say resources, do you generally recruit your management staff or your staff generally from within the Prison Service—I do not know about your background or that of Ms Steadman—or do you tend to take people from outside?
Jerry Petherick: Increasingly it is a mixed economy. Traditionally there was only one source, and I came through that source personally. At Altcourse prison, we have the first director who joined us as a prison custody officer. Increasingly the reservoir of talent and experience is such that we are beginning to see it pull through. Indeed, we obviously use international experience as well.
Kate Steadman: In the private sector, governors are called directors. All our directors have long and impressive public sector experience. The rest of our prison staff are a mixture, and I would say that a lot of them are fresh staff. However, with regard to the new tendering process, I should point out that all but one of the prisons are currently in the public sector. That poses very different questions about where we get our staff.
Q 218 Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): May I move on to curfews? In two ways, most notably in terms of sentences, the Bill extends the potential ambit of curfew from six months to 12 and from 12 hours to 16. Can you give some evidence about the system, the expansion and how you as a service are going to be able to cope with the expected increase in the use of tagging and electronic devices related to curfews?
Jerry Petherick: From my perspective, the increased use of technology, new technology and flexibility, particularly if given through offender managers, can bring huge benefits. To refer to international work, in Norway, people are curfewed the night before they should be going to work. That seems to be a very intelligent use of it. I spent a night back in December out with our field teams, talking to people who were coming to the end of their tagging period. I was amazed talking to them—it was an education for me—to hear just how restrictive and successful they have found it. The intelligent and more flexible use of it—the refining of it to make sure that people turn up for unpaid work or whatever—will, I think, change lives positively.
Kate Steadman: We do not currently provide electronic monitoring services. Obviously, that is coming up for tender again soon and may well change; I do not know. Traditionally, as an organisation, we have taken the view that we are very values-based and do not enter into pieces of business unless they have a predominantly rehabilitative element. Electronic monitoring, as it has been structured in the past, is more of a monitoring service than something that we believe has the ability really to impact people’s lives in the bits that the private sector provides.
Q 219 Mr Buckland: You are developing the points about changes in technology to make the system more effective. You mentioned unpaid work. Is it an evolution from just a monitoring service to a service that is potentially much more intrusive in terms of regulating the activity of the individual who is tagged?
Jerry Petherick: I have to dissent from the statement that it is only a monitoring service. My experience is that it was far from that. I saw field-based officers interacting not just with the person but with their environment and with the family. I have listened to the calls at the other end, and there is a lot of interaction. Obviously, we can do more. Yes, I think it will be more intrusive, but I think that that is what the public want—
Kate Steadman: Unless I have missed something, I do not think that the Bill touches in particular on women or has a particular impact on them. There are some measures that could be seen to strengthen community punishments and community sentences, which can only be a good thing for instilling public confidence so that sentencers feel able to hand down those sentences on more occasions. That is, obviously, favourable to women who are carers for families. Otherwise, I do not think that the Green Paper focuses particularly on women.
Jerry Petherick: I think that the strengthening of the community sector issues can only be good, particularly if we give flexibility to offender managers at the local and regional level to have more impact on refining some of the restrictions. Then we can look at tagging people for different curfew periods to allow them to attend school with their children and so forth. There are heaps of ways for innovation and entrepreneurialism to help in that way.
Q 222 Kate Green: You have both alluded to the fact that there is no specific focus on women, either in the Green Paper or in the Bill. Do you feel that it would be useful to progress the proposal that the previous Government took from the Corston review of having a women’s champion in the penal system?
Kate Steadman: I personally think that champion or no, it does not particularly matter. The policy that comes out is important, and how that is done is, to me, neither here nor there. It is difficult, as a service provider, to comment on detail in sentencing proposals, to be frank. My personal opinion is that I welcome the recommendations of the Corston report. In a criminal justice system, which in my view needs quite a lot of reform—the Bill and Government policy go a long way to achieving that—it is really a matter of where you focus your time and resources. Women are a very important population group, I do not doubt that at all, but I understand that they are also only a small proportion of the prison population.
Q 223 Damian Hinds: I want to ask about the importance of financial capability in rehabilitation, and the implicit intent to increase the prevalence of payroll deduction saving schemes, but more importantly how that can best be integrated with wider financial capability programmes in prison—there seem to be some pilots, but it is a little bit patchy—and also how you can integrate that to involve mainstream financial services upon release.
Jerry Petherick: A lot of that is in how you prepare and explain to prisoners what it is for. Again, at Altcourse prison last year we gave £4,500, which prisoners had donated from their wages, to local victim support charities. We have created the expectation that prisoners will both save some of their money—on average, people in that group have been leaving with £250, which may not seem a lot, but it is a start—and give money to charities. So I
Kate Steadman: We won a Guardian public services award for our Co-op bank scheme at Forest Bank. The finance gap for prisoners is obviously something that needs serious work. I think that it is improving. I do not have any particularly strong additional views on that.
Helen Goodman: I want to follow up on the question that Damian Hinds just asked. I think it is a very important question. When I came to Peterborough, you very kindly showed me around, Kate. We came across a story from one of the people who worked there about a woman with an infant for whom housing had not been organised before the day of release. I have since discovered that, for women leaving mother and baby units across the system, that is quite a common practice. You have said a lot about co-operating with the private sector, but I wonder how you would feel about a duty to co-operate with public sector agencies—local authorities, housing associations and primary care trusts—to ensure the kind of seamless support that people need, that Mr Hinds was really alluding to.
Kate Steadman: To clarify, if I may, if I understand correctly, in that case the prison discovered that the local agencies had not prepared housing for the offender who was being released, and the prison intervened to ensure that it was done before she was released. I do not think that there was any absence on our part.
I personally think that this great divide between the sectors in all areas of governance, that existed historically, is out of date. We work very closely with local agencies in the public sector. We work very closely with voluntary sector organisations and we are a partner. I do not think that any one prison or any one agency can exist on its own, working in silos. We work extremely closely with all different local agencies on release and pre-sentence to give offenders proper joined-up care, as far as is possible.
Jerry Petherick: The real issue is that we all have to stop looking at prisons on one side and the community on the other. We have to work through the gate. To do that, we must jointly create a very effective and professional mentoring process through the gate. They are trite words in many ways. People use them time and again, but the transition from custody for any prisoner—male, female, adult or youngster—back into the community is a real risk. I have seen it time and again. It is where you actually have someone to whom that individual can turn, to make the transition. The real problem is with the under-12-month-sentence people, who do not have any statutory supervision. In Wales, we have a transitional support scheme, which is the professional mentoring scheme for any prisoner—prisoners from any prison, whether they are male or female—going back to south Wales. We see the impact of the mentors, some of whom are ex-prisoners themselves who have had that experience of leaving prison.
Jerry Petherick: I have to say that I take that as read and I expect my directors to do that. I would get very irate if I found examples of where they would not do that and I am sure that Kate feels the same.
Jerry Petherick: Again, it is really about creating that culture and that expectation. We all know that in the future this will be a major element of the work and the specifications, and I am delighted about that because it is a further driver in that way.
Q 225 Tom Brake: I just wanted to check something that you said, Mr Petherick, to ensure that I understood it. It was about tagging. Are you saying that tagging can now act as a sort of GPS device, in that people can go somewhere and you can track the fact that they have gone there and then returned following a particular route?
Jerry Petherick: That is my understanding. I have to say that I am no technical expert, but that is certainly my understanding. I will write to you, Sir, after this evidence session about that, if you would like me to.
Q 228 Alex Cunningham: I want to return to appropriate facilities in prison for delivering the work programme. Mr Petherick, you said that you were an experienced prison officer, so doubtless you have experience of older prisons as well as new prisons. In your opinion, how difficult will it be to deliver this more comprehensive work programme in the older establishments, which have perhaps more than 1,000 prisoners, and what kind of investment do you think will be needed to make them fit for purpose?
Jerry Petherick: First, it is not necessarily a function of size. It is more about old gate lodges, etc, admitting lorries and so forth that are of the requisite size. Again, it is very difficult to give a complete figure across the board, but I remember that when I was the area manager for the south-west, Exeter prison had an incredibly narrow gate lodge, which caused problems for any vehicles entering. I had Channings Wood prison, which was much more modern, and we did not have that problem there. So some of it is purely about access issues and
Jerry Petherick: No, I would not have thought that. I come back to the point that I was making before, that sometimes you have to start with smaller workshops that you can manage and from them you begin to build the work culture, etc.
Jerry Petherick: Yes. The other point that I want to make is that the very aged prisons tend to be the local prisons, which prisoners go through and out into the training estate—quite rightly—where the facilities are much more available. That is because the local prisons, as you will know, actually serve a particular purpose. So that is where I would see the growth.
Q 232 Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): May I ask you both a question about something that I am interested in: drug and alcohol treatment? Do you support the introduction of compulsory drug and alcohol treatment in prisons?
Kate Steadman: I think that anything that encourages offenders into drug and alcohol treatment is a good thing. I think that drugs and alcohol are one of the biggest causes of crime and one of the biggest problems affecting our society. Most people on the outside tend to have this view that most people in prison are inherently evil and incurable, and I think that in most cases they are in there due to some social problem—drugs and alcohol make up a huge proportion of that. On average, only about 5% of orders in the community are drug and alcohol-related and the proportion of offenders suffering from such problems is much higher than that.
Jerry Petherick: There would be problems with any approach to be absolutely honest. Yes, I can foresee some problems, but I also reflect on other times, including the introduction of mandatory drug testing, when I
Jerry Petherick: Increasingly, in the new bids they are not privatised, because, in my experience at the moment with Birmingham and Featherstone, the local PCT commissions the health care service. I feel that that is the right model. My assumption is that that will continue.
Kate Steadman: My understanding is that it will continue. Prisons currently in the private sector will not have their health care contracts ended, but as the contracts come up for renewal, they will move over to being PCT-based. That is my understanding from the Department of Health.
Q 235 Mr Slaughter: From what you have said so far, it seems that there will be quite significant changes in how prisons are run—capital works, staffing changes and, presumably, staff will have to be trained. How will it work in contractual terms? Do you renegotiate your contracts? Do you have supplementary contracts?
Jerry Petherick: The initial specification will set out expectations on the level of work, time out of cell and so forth. If we want to negotiate a change to that, either we or the authority can submit a notice of change for consideration. I would be surprised if we went to the authority to say that we wanted to change a workshop from A to B, for example, because that would be down to our management of it and we would incorporate any costs in our business model and business case for any particular change.
Kate Steadman: Some of our workshops, operating at Forest Bank prison for example, operate 37 hours a week, so it would require very little change to have an extra three hours. We have the resource, the modern design and the flexible staffing arrangements to do that.
Q 237 Mr Slaughter: You will not go back to the Ministry of Justice to say, “We need more money” or, “We need substantive changes in the contract we already have”? You will simply use existing resources to cope with the change that the Bill introduces?
Kate Steadman: As far as my understanding goes, yes. We certainly will not ask for more money. As far as my knowledge of contracts goes, I do not think that there are any other contract changes that would have to result.
Jerry Petherick: Our workshops are working at that kind of level already. Obviously, we have the benefit of being relatively recent operations, so we are developing and have developed our own culture. I come back to the fact that a lot of this is about cultural and organisational changes, and that can come down to shift pattern changes and so forth.
Q 238 Damian Hinds: I want to ask about payment by results and social impact bonds, which touch on some of the issues that have come up, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and the work programme, as well as overall rehabilitation. They are new areas with which everyone is trying to come to terms. There are six challenges with PBR and social impact bonds: defining the audience; isolating the impact of interventions; defining a control group; having measures of success; the fact that savings will come from different budgets in the public sector and that there is a danger of double counting; and finally, that positive cash flows may happen over a very long time during which there may be two, three or four changes of Government. It strikes me that with stopping reoffending, you have the most perfect model to deal with those six challenges, but even within that challenge, how big a potential do you see ultimately for payment by results and social impact bonds?
Kate Steadman: There are two slightly different questions. With payment by results, the logic is, to a degree, flawless. You can argue that if it works, you get paid and if it does not, you do not. Obviously, at one of our prisons in Peterborough we are piloting a social impact bond, which is going very well—it has also been a learning process. However, I think payment by results has a positive future, but the devil will be in the detail in a lot of these cases, and we have to see how it goes. I cannot pretend it will be the solution to everything.
Kate Steadman: That is a different question. My second answer was going to be about social impact bonds versus payment by results, because they are two different things. A social impact bond, as far as I am aware, is when the money comes from social investors in the community, as opposed to private finance and other things like that. I do not know to what degree there is—at the moment, anyway—an appetite for social investment to the extent to which you can meet every offender coming out of a prison in England and Wales at the gate. I do not know whether that will change when proof of the concept is there, but I think it will be interesting to see how social investment goes. PBR is more general and it is different; I think it is much more promising, if that makes sense.
Q 240 Damian Hinds: To a degree. To be fair, social impact bonds are kind of a subset of payment by results. You can have lots of payment-by-results programmes, of which some are suitable for social impact bonds. In fact, in the list of six challenges that I gave, I think the first four apply to all payment-by-results programmes, and two more apply particularly to social impact bonds. I am just trying to get a sense—I know it is impossible to say accurately—of how big this could grow. The pilot in Peterborough seems encouraging. How far can it go, and what percentage of the ex-offender population could be covered?
Jerry Petherick: I would add a seventh challenge, which is scalability, and that is implicit in the other points. The real issue is about the pace and scalability of the pilots, and so forth. Certainly, we are up for payment by results; it is the way forward, and we are getting experience of that through the welfare to work programme. We will take a lot of learning from it into the criminal justice sector. At the moment, we are conducting a type of “lessons learnt” survey from our initial work, which again, I would be very happy to provide to the Committee when it has been completed. The appetite is there, but as Kate says, the devil will be in the detail.
Q 241 Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): I was interested to hear your response to the earlier question on your relationship with the public sector, and specifically, about the woman who was leaving—I think you said that the prison found out that the local authority had not provided housing. Does that not indicate that there is a gap in the relationship between the prison and the public sectors? The relationship does not appear to be what it should be.
Kate Steadman: If I am totally honest, I cannot recall the exact details of that case. I am not based at that prison. It was during the visit of the shadow Minister, when a member of staff relayed an anecdote about how the prison intervened to ensure that there was housing. To be frank, I cannot remember whose fault it was, and who failed to do what in the process.
Without doubt, as Jerry said, the relationship between the prison and the community is where the answer to reducing reoffending lies, and all our prisons are designed towards achieving that. There is no doubt that, for years and years, that has been the cliff edge. No matter what you do to prisoners while they are inside, if you let them
Q 242 Mr Watts: I absolutely agree with you, which is why I am trying to pursue that point. It seems to me that a gap is there from what you indicated, which does not seem to be addressed in the Bill, and I am asking for a comment. There does not seem to be a joining together of the probation service, youth offending teams, and so on, in a way that is likely to lead to stopping people from reoffending in future.
Jerry Petherick: I think it is far better than it used to be, and MAPPAs—multi-agency public protection arrangements—for those who come into it obviously help. I recall that in my previous life I was one of the first members of the south-west reducing reoffending committee, which is particularly pertinent because it is easy to identify someone to lead on a police matter and someone to lead on prison and probation, and so on. Our real problem was identifying someone who could lead on the local authority, for a very wide geographical area.