Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Thirty-First Report

Examination of witnesses (Questions 20 - 30)


  20. I think it has got to be clarified.

  (Ms Jackson)  It is a safety point.


  21. I wish to follow this up and ask why the rule does not expressly indicate the mischief and the initiative of the officer as restrictions on the ambit of the prohibition? That is a slightly technical question and I will read it again. I am asking you why the rule does not expressly indicate the mischief and the initiative of the officer as restrictions on the ambit of the prohibition?

  (Mr Middleton)  The explanation for the drafting is simply that it is identically worded to the young offender institution rules which in turn are identically worded to the prison rules. Both those sets of rules have been in existence for many years. We are implementing a set of rules for a new group of institutions and to the extent that we are dealing with similar circumstances we have obviously drawn on the existing legislation.

  22. So your explanation is that the rules have been in force in other areas and that really it is a sensible and normal procedure to transpose this set of rules on to the new structure? Is the mischief then jeopardising the security of the centre? Is that the mischief?

  (Mr Middleton)  It could be but it is not only that. I think it is more directed at relationships that could be detrimental to the functioning of the services if the officers are maintaining improper relationships with trainees or in YOIs with young offenders or in prisons with former inmates.

  Mr Bennett

  23. If your defence is that this is in the prison rules why did you not tell us that in your memorandum, it would have been a lot simpler, would it not?

  (Mr Middleton)  Our experience has been that the Committee does not normally regard it as a defence to explain something by reference to the drafting of previous legislation.

  24. It at least would have been sensible to draw it to our attention.

  (Mr Middleton)  I think it was mentioned at one point in the memorandum that we were following the young offender institution rules. We did mention it in relation to the second question. We did not specifically say that in fact a lot of the rules are based on the YOI rules. I think the implication is there in the memorandum.

  Rosemary McKenna:  If there are no further questions on this specific issue?

  Chairman:  Just a moment. I think Lord Skelmersdale has a question.

  Lord Skelmersdale

  25. One of the things you said in one of your responses was that the rule was not intended to prohibit casual conversation that is not initiated by the officer, and presumably having written it you stand by that. Where in the rules does it say that? How is the officer to know that is your intention?

  (Mr Middleton)  Through guidance.

  (Mrs Burnhams) There will be procedures which the contractor has in place for his staff and this will feature in those. There will be instructions to staff about how they have to report such occasions.

  26. I see. Does this already happen elsewhere, in the Prison Service for example?

  (Mr Middleton)  Indeed, yes.


  27. I do not want to labour this point, I know Mrs McKenna wants to move on to something else, but when you talk of improper relationship what is the impropriety, please?

  (Ms Jackson)  It is difficult to define. It could be any relationship. At the worst end I suppose it could be a relationship that is in some way to the detriment or potential harm of the young person. That is essentially what we are talking about. It is a protection issue. On the other side there is the issue of protection of the security at the centre but that is a separate issue.

  Rosemary McKenna:  If there was no rule then there would be no way, I think, of protecting the young person. I think there has to be something written down. I think our concern would be that it is maybe not specific enough. I do think it is important that there is a regulation and there is a comment there that does protect the young person because they must be able to report some complaint. There must be a mechanism for them being able to report this fact. I think we are perhaps getting bogged down in the mechanics without it being absolutely specific. It is important that it is there and probably that it is wide enough to cover any possibility that would protect the young person as well as the officer.


  28. Comments on that, Ms Jackson?

  (Ms Jackson)  No. I agree with what you have said. That is certainly what its intention is, part of what its intention is.

  29. May I just return for a moment to the improper relationship. It is not for me to put words into your mouth but is it perhaps that you are also thinking about the security of the centre, that it jeopardises the security of the centre, an improper relationship?

  (Ms Jackson)  Yes. Certainly, as we said, that would be one of the concerns, that it is about the security of the centre indeed.

  Lord Skelmersdale

  30. So there are three things: the security of the centre in general; the security of the young offender; and the security of the individual officer?

  (Mr Middleton)  Yes.

  Chairman:  Thank you very much. Are there any further questions from colleagues?

  Rosemary McKenna:  No, but can I just make a comment. I think we should welcome very much the movement by the Home Secretary in terms of the fact that the custody officers should always be of the same sex. I think that is really important.

  Chairman:  We have to be careful that we do not stray into policy.

  Rosemary McKenna:  I understand that. We did raise this question and I think there has been a significant shift.

  Chairman:  On behalf of the Committee many thanks for coming along this afternoon. It has been very helpful to have your explanation. We wish you well. Thank you.

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