APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
1. Memorandum from Rt Hon John Denham
MP, Minister of State, Home Office
Thank you for inviting me to give evidence at
the Joint Committee on Human Rights on 18 November. I found it
to be a very constructive session.
During the discussion I promised to provide
some additional information on:
the education of juveniles in custody
and the provision for those with Special Educational Needs;
the effect of the abolition of doli
incapax on defendants aged between 10 and 13;
the protection of young offenders
from committing suicide and self-harm in custody; and
widening the Children Act.
I hope the Committee find the enclosed information
useful. Please contact me if I can provide any further information.
I look forward with interest to reading the
9 December 2002
Do you know how many children there are under
the statutory school leaving age in custody and how many are receiving
full-time or part-time education in line with the national curriculum?
There are currently 493 young people in custody
under school leaving age. 227 are housed in Local Authority Secure
Units, 104 are in Secure Training Centres and 162 are based in
Young Offender Institutions.
All custodial providers are required by the
Youth Justice Board (YJB) to deliver full-time education and training
to young people and these requirements are set out in the individual
Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This is normally achieved in
the Local Authority Secure Units and Secure Training Centres.
The core curriculum for prisons includes basic
skills, information technology, social and life skills and preparation
for work, all of which are assessed using nationally recognised
qualifications based on the YJB's National Specification for Learning
Provision is available in a number of establishments
for trainees to begin or continue GCSE courses. But the majority
of juvenile offenders do not have the skills to study at this
For Young Offender Institutions the YJB has
a target of achieving 30 hours a week by March 2004. We estimate
that currently they average between 15 and 20 hours education
and training meeting the National Specification, depending on
location. The YJB is providing additional investment to ensure
the 30 hours is delivered on time.
Do you have figures on how many (children under
the statutory school leaving age in custody) have special educational
needs and what provision is made for that?
A recent Youth Justice Board audit of education
provision in custody indicated that as many as 50% of all young
people in custody would qualify as having special educational
needs (SEN). However in only 1% of cases was there evidence that
LEAs had made formal SEN statements. To address this the Youth
Justice Board is funding over 250 additional learning support
assistants across the whole of the custodial estate to achieve
a ratio of 1:10.
Each juvenile establishment has a Special Needs
Co-ordinator responsible for assessment of learners, drawing up
specialist learning programmes, supervising Learning Support Assistants
and supporting all staff on special educational needs issues.
To improve identification of particular leaving
needs including dyslexia, the Prisoners' Learning and Skills Unit
based in the Department for Education and Skills is:
trialing new national diagnostic
indicator tools for dyslexia covering, literacy, numeracy and
ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages);
ensuring all establishments have
access to the practitioners guide for all teaching basic skills
to people with learning difficulties, "Access for All";
offering all education and instructional
staff accompanying training.
The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act abolished the
principle of doli incapax which put the burden on the prosecution
to prove that any defendant aged between 10 and 13 understood
that the offence committed was seriously wrongdo you know
whether the Home Office has made any assessment of the effect
of the abolition of doli incapax on defendants of that age?
There has not been a formal Home Office review
into the abolition of doli incapax. We have not had a surge
of representations about this issue, and have checked with key
sources that no problems have been identified. Some of the feedback
is very positive, indicating that this provision was sometimes
being misused, which delayed trials and was of no benefit to the
offender or victim.
There are still safeguards in place for anyone,
adult or juvenile, not fit to stand trial. The court will consider
reports submitted by the defence, including medical reports, and
can, taking all the evidence into account, declare that the defendant
is unfit to plead because of a mental illness.
The issue of the protection of young offenders
from committing suicide and self-harm in custodyIs it not
fairly clear that prisoners on the juvenile estate need more staff
and staff need better training and more appropriate practices
need to be implemented and conditions need urgent improvement?
Is the Government going to take remedial action very quickly?
The Prison Service is working with the Youth
Justice Board to improve the conditions in which young people
are held and transform the services provided for young people
involved in the Criminal Justice System.
A new Safer Custody strategy was launched in
2001. This is a three-year strategy, which applies to all prisoners,
and is due to be completed by March 2004. This includes an initial
focus on five high risk local establishments (Wandsworth, Winchester,
Leeds, Eastwood Park with Feltham, and Birmingham) with planned
improvements to reception and induction, detoxification centres
and mental health in-reach support. The commencement of inter-related
projects will also improve pre-reception arrangements including
inter-agency information exchange, reception and induction, cell-sharing,
prisoner care, detoxification, prisoner peer support, and the
learning from investigations into deaths in custody. The strategy
also includes the appointment and training of over 30 full-time
suicide prevention co-ordinators in high risk establishments,
the launch of a project by the Samaritans to recruit and train
more prisoner "Listeners" in high risk establishments,
and the development of safer prison designs including, "safer
The Youth Justice Board has fully embraced the
Safer Custody strategy and is working closely together with the
Prison Service to ensure funding of additional first night and
healthcare staff in juvenile sites. This includes the setting
up of a pilot scheme for the new "meet and greet" system
for reception/induction currently under development. Existing
juvenile trainees will give information and advice to those entering
custody, particularly if this is for the first time. Funding for
dedicated juvenile outreach teams to work at Prison Service headquarters
as part of the Safer Custody programme will specifically assist
juvenile establishments to further develop and maintain their
suicide and self-harm prevention strategies. There is also funding
for the completion of 30 "safer cells" in the juvenile
A number of intervention strategies have been
introduced into prisons and young offender establishments for
people who self-harm. These include counselling, support groups,
and specialised psychological interventions. Evaluation of these
interventions is, at present, very limited. A pilot study with
male young offenders/juveniles at Wetherby reported benefits from
a programme combining psychological intervention with physical
exercise. Evidence from research in non-prison settings suggests
that male and female adolescents who self-harm repeatedly may
benefit from group therapy. A network of establishments is being
set up to develop interventions, to facilitate evaluation and
sharing of good practice. Guidance to staff in establishments
on managing people who self-harm and developing interventions
has been circulated.
Would it not be right to widen the Children Act
to provide that in any acts concerning children the best interests
of the child are a primary consideration?
On widening the scope of the Children Act 1989,
Mr Justice Munby handed down judgment in a judicial review brought
by the Howard League against the Home Office. The judge found
that the Children Act 1989 applied to children in prisons subject
the requirement of their being in prison. He did not believe it
would be proper for him to comment on whether the Act needed to
be widened. However, he did comment that the particular piece
of Prison Service guidance under discussion, with the exception
of the incorrect sentence about the Children Act itself, was commendable
in the vision it set out for the treatment of children in prison,
including cross-boundary working.
We are not convinced that a legal formulation
declaring general principles which would apply across the whole
range of sectoral law is the best approach. We need safeguards
suitable for circumstances that will work in practice in the particular
As regards custodial establishments for children
and young people, for example, we have already indicated that
we fully agree that the principles of the Children Act should
be fully applied to children within the juvenile estate. This
needs to be done in a way that takes into account the needs and
circumstances of our secure institutions.
The development and implementation of recent
Child Protection and Safeguard Policy has meant that considerable
progress has already been made within juvenile establishments.
The Juvenile Safeguard Development Programme will ensure that
the Prison Service will, in partnership with public and voluntary
sector agencies, continue to draw up safeguard standards. A Child
Protection Committee has been established within each Young Offenders
Institution in the juvenile estate.
A considerable amount of work has already been
done in this area. We are fully aware of the need to continue
to develop and implement our programme, in partnership with the
Youth Justice Board and the Department of Health, in order to
ensure the welfare and safety of young people in Prison Service