New Lord Chief Justice

Following the retirement of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Sir Ian Burnett has been appointed the new Lord Chief Justice. He was called to the Bar in 1980, was appointed a Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division, in 2008 and has sat in the Court of Appeal since 2014.

Queen’s Speech 2017

On Wednesday the Queen delivered to both Houses of Parliament a speech outlining the Government’s proposed legislative programme for the forthcoming two-year parliamentary session. While proposals include bills on domestic violence and modernising the courts, prison reform is notably absent. The Government’s full background briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech are available online.

Prisons and Courts Bill scrapped

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a General Election to take place on 8 June, the Prisons and Courts Bill has been scrapped by a unanimous vote of MPs on the bill committee. It will be up to the next government to decide whether to take forward  important proposals on prison reform, the treatment of victims of domestic abuse in court and a new online courts system.

MoJ announces prison building programme

The Justice Secretary unveiled plans for four new prisons in Yorkshire, Wigan, Rochester and Port Talbot. The new prisons will provide an additional 5,000 prison places.

Restorative Justice Action Plan

The Government published its Restorative Justice Action Plan for November 2016 – March 2018. The vision is for victims to have equal access irrespective of their location, the age of the offender or the offence committed against them. A progress report setting out key achievements against the previous Action Plan was also released.

Prisons and Courts Bill

Liz Truss has unveiled the Prisons and Courts Bill. It sets in law that a key purpose of prisons is to reform offenders. Governors will take control of budgets for education, employment and health and they will be held to account for getting people off drugs, into jobs and learning English and maths. In a statement to Parliament the Justice Secretary stated that new three year performance agreements will be signed by each governor, the first on 1 April 2017, with the other two thirds moving to this approach by 1 April 2019.

Safety in Custody Statistics

The Ministry of Justice has published Safety in Custody statistics showing a record high of 119 self-inflicted deaths last year, up 29, 12 of which were female. The rate of self-inflicted deaths in prison has doubled since 2012. The likelihood is 8.6 times higher than in the general population.

Justice Select Committee: Young Adults

The Justice Select Committee has released a report on the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system. It argues that there should be a distinct approach to the treatment of them while in the system in order to make successful transitions to a crime-free adulthood.

Justice Select Committee: Role of the magistracy

The Justice Select Committee has released a report on the role of the magistracy recommending the Ministry of Justice; takes steps to increase the diversity of magistrates; carries out a comprehensive review of their training needs; and develops a timetable for increasing their sentencing powers to 12 months’ custody.

HMI Probation Through the Gate Inspection

HMI Probation thematic inspection of through the gate resettlement services for short-term prisoners. There was little evidence of the anticipated creativity or innovation in the new services being delivered by the CRCs. Payment by results isn’t in anyway incentivising the work when compared with direct contractual requirements. Too many prisoners are reaching their release date without their immediate resettlement needs having been met, or even recognised.

CJA Awards Shortlists 2016

The shortlisted nominees for the CJA Awards 2016 have been announced. Judges include Baroness Young of Hornsey, journalist Joshua Rozenberg, Director of Anawim Joy Doal and Mark Johnson, Chief Executive of User Voice.

PCC Elections 2016

Elections for Police and Crime Commissioners were held on Thursday 5 May for 41 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. The Mayor of London is the de facto PCC for the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police do not have a PCC and the role of the PCC for Greater Manchester has been subsumed into the responsibilities of the Mayor, for which elections will take place in May 2017.

A full list of the new PCCs is available here.

Prime Minister announces prison reform

David Cameron confirmed government plans to overhaul the way prisons are run and how prisoners are treated. The speech was the first from a Prime Minister in over 20 years specifically to address prisons, and follows on from announcements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Spending Review.

 

Mr Cameron said he now recognised that, given the high rates of re-offending amongst prisoners upon release and the current levels of self-harm, violence and suicide in prison, the system requires ‘wholesale reform’. He stated that the system as it currently stands is ‘failing’ victims, offenders and prison staff and hurting the public purse.

 

The full speech is available here.

 

Justice and Home Affairs Appointments

The Labour Party have appointed their shadow ministers for Justice and Home Affairs. The Liberal Democrats have also appointed spokespersons.

 

The full list is here, along with the list of Government ministers.

Chief Prisons Inspector’s Annual Report 2014/15

The annual report of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, shows that the performance of the prison estate for 2014/15 was the worst in a decade. The decline in standards was most pronounced in the men’s estate where the cuts to staffing, prison overcrowding and wider policy changes have had a significant effect on safety. The report also found a serious deficiency in both the quality and quantity of purposeful activity for prisoners.

In what is his final report as Chief Inspector, Nick Hardwick writes:

Three broad themes emerge from this report and review – not just of the last year but of the five years since I was appointed. First, the increased vulnerability of those held across the range of establishments we inspect and the challenge establishments have in meeting these individuals’ needs. Too often locking someone up out of sight provides a short-term solution, but fails to provide the long-term answers more effective multi-agency community solutions would provide. Second, there is a real need to match the demand for custodial services to the resources available. Detention is one of the public services where demand can be managed. Alternatives to the use of custody may be unpalatable but so, no doubt, are the other public expenditure choices that government has to make. Third, the case for the independent inspection of custody remains as strong as ever and that independence needs to be preserved.

Read the full report here.

New report on self-inflicted deaths of young adults in custody

The report is a result of the independent review that began in February 2014, led by Lord Toby Harris. The review examined self-inflicted deaths in custody since April 2007 with the purpose of assessing whether lessons had been learned from those deaths and if not, what steps should be taken. The report states:

‘The 87 cases we examined in detail demonstrated that many of the young people’s problems and vulnerabilities, including mental health issues, had been evident from an early age. We had to ask the question, why were so many of these young adults in custody in the first place? Prison should be used as a last resort. Much more needs to be done to address these problems and to divert these young people from the criminal justice system at an earlier stage in their lives. What is more a reduction in the overall prison population would make it easier for prisons to provide an environment that meets appropriate standards of decency, safety and respect.’

The report can be read in full here.

Government report on self-inflicted deaths in prison custody

The Ministry of Justice has released a statistical notice on self-inflicted deaths in prison custody from 1978 to 2014. Here are some of the key findings:

– The rate of self-inflicted deaths increased by over 30 per cent from 2010 to 2013.

– Almost a quarter of deaths occur within a week of arriving in prison.

– 40 per cent of self-inflicted deaths were of prisoners on remand.

– The rate of self-inflicted deaths tends to increase with the age of the prisoner.

College of Policing Leadership Review

The College of Policing Leadership Review makes recommendations that, taken together, attempt to  equip leaders of the future with the skills and knowledge to succeed. It is relevant at all levels in policing, for both officers and staff.

UN adoption of Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners

The United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice adopted revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, to be known as the Mandela Rules. The revision focused on nine thematic areas, including healthcare in prisons, investigations of deaths in custody, disciplinary measures, professionalisation of prison staff and independent inspections. You can read more on the resolution here.

Theresa May’s speech to the Police Federation

Theresa May addressed the Police Federation annual conference. The Home Secretary was critical of the conference’s theme “cuts have consequences”, and called for the Federation to stop “crying wolf”, as crime is substantially down over the past ten years despite protests. You can read her speech in full here

Joint review of disability hate crime

In March 2013 the criminal justice inspectorates published a joint review of disability hate crime, looking at how the police, CPS and probation trusts dealt with disability hate crime. Seven recommendations were made to improve performance. This follow-up review has assessed the progress that has been made against the them and concludes performance has not improved sufficiently. You can read the full report here.

Chief Inspector of Probation Resigns

The chief inspector of the probation service in England and Wales has resigned because of a “potential perceived conflict of interest”. Paul McDowell’s decision relates to his wife’s role as a senior manager at Sodexo, which has taken over the management of a number of probation contracts. Mr McDowell said it was “imperative that any inspectorate is independent and seen to be so”.

IPCC: 2012/13 and 2013/14 Police Complaint Statistics

Publication of official statistics showing a rise in police complaints and appeals in England and Wales. During this period, police forces were not handling complaints sufficiently well. The IPCC upheld 49% of appeals by those whose complaints were not even recorded in the first place and upheld 44% of appeals from those whose complaints had been investigated by the local force. Overall, that amounted to a 46% uphold rate – a figure that has steadily risen over recent years. The number of complaints itself continued to rise by 15%.  That would not be a cause for concern if it reflected a greater public confidence in the complaints system, or improved access to it.  This is unlikely to be the case: in a recent survey commissioned by the IPCC, 38% of those surveyed did not have confidence in the fairness of the police complaints system, and that was even higher among young people. Read the report here.

ECHR: Whole life tariffs

Strasbourg judges have said they were “satisfied that the Justice Secretary’s power to release a whole life prisoner was sufficient to comply with Article 3” of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bars “inhuman and degrading” treatment. A ruling by the Court of Appeal, in London, last year “provided a whole life prisoner hope and the possibility of release in the event of circumstances in which the punishment was no longer justified”, the Strasbourg judges said.

Home Affairs Committee: Policing and mental health

The Home Affairs Committee says the prevalence of people with mental health illness in the criminal justice system is a scandal, as it publishes its report on policing and mental health. The Mental Health Act 1983 should be amended so that police cells are no longer stated as a place of safety for those detained under section 136. The police need to make sure they use their powers in relation to mental health correctly, to reduce the numbers detained and so reduce pressure on both the police and the NHS. Frontline staff need to learn from one another, and each organisation needs to understand the priorities of others. Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee, said: “The prevalence of people with mental health illnesses in the criminal justice system is a scandal. It is unacceptable that the police should be filling the gap because the NHS does not have the facilities to look after mentally ill people. The detention of over 6000 adults under s.136 in police cells in England last year is far too high. These people are not criminals, they are ill and often are experiencing a great deal of trauma. The full statistics are available here.

Commission on Sex in Prisons: Healthy sexual development of children in prison

The Commission on Sex in Prison released the fourth report in their series on sex in prison earlier this week. The majority of children in custody are adolescent boys aged 15 to 17. They are likely to have reached physical sexual maturity and may be sexually active. They have not yet reached cognitive, emotional and social maturity. Children in custody are vulnerable and most will have experienced disadvantage. Some will have been sexually abused prior to custody. Prison severely restricts children’s opportunities to form normal healthy relationships and can damage or delay the maturation process. LGBT children are more isolated in prison and more vulnerable to bullying or abuse by other children or by staff. Sexual abuse by other children or by staff does happen in prison. Children in prison should have access to sexual health services. The high levels of violence in prison might be a risk factor for the development of sexual aggression among boys. The needs of vulnerable children with complex needs cannot be met in large prisons with low staff to child ratios.

Home Secretary: Independent review of policies and procedures affecting welfare of those held in immigration removal centres

The review will seek to identify whether improvements can be made to safeguard the health and wellbeing of detainees, and those being escorted in the UK. Stephen Shaw CBE, a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales, has agreed to lead the review and will inspect detention facilities, review healthcare provision and scrutinise all Home Office policies and operational practices. Read the Terms of Reference for the review.