Police Cells

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11 March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 12:00, 11 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made to reduce the number of prisoners in police cells.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

Since 12 February the Prison Service has not locked prisoners out of prison, except on one occasion on 4 March. Of course, police forces have continued the normal practice of detaining in police cells prisoners who have been taken into custody after it is too late to transfer them to prison that night.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Can the Minister confirm that prisoners who ought to be in prison are still being held in police cells in Greater Manchester and that following the Strangeways riot over £200 million was spent on containing prisoners within police cells rather than in prisons? The money could have been far better spent on putting more police on the beat. The scandal of the way prisoners were dealt with after Strangeways was a disgrace to the Government.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

Of course prisoners ought not to be kept in police cells. We have made enormous changes to the system to ensure that does not happen. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that police forces have been paid £200 million over the past two years for looking after those prisoners. That operation has been brought to an end, but we still need the co-operation of the police and the other criminal justice agencies to make sure that the rising number of prisoners now coming into prison does not again spill over into police cells.

Photo of Mr Anthony Durant Mr Anthony Durant , Reading West

Will my hon. Friend have further discussions with the prison officers about these matters because there is resistance to taking in prisoners at late hours, which means the police have to look after them in cells? I do not believe that it is the job of police officers to guard prisoners in cells, except before they appear in court.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

No, it is not. The courts generally finish by lunchtime or early afternoon and in most cases there is plenty of time to get people to prison. Prison officers do not organise to refuse to receive them if there are places in the prisons. There are now places in prisons. Where there are difficulties and courts sit late, there should be flexibility and communication from the police to the prisons warning them that they will be arriving with prisoners rather later than usual.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Chair, European Legislation Committee

Is the Minister aware that the number of absconding prisoners in Scotland has doubled over the past two years? Has that anything to do with the changes in working practices and the indoctrination of prison officers?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I have no idea, as I have no responsibility for prison services in Scotland.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Does my hon. Friend accept that many people believe that individuals should be sent to prison when they have done wrong? Many people believe that too many are being granted bail and welcome the decision by the Court of Appeal that the south Wales rapist should be sent to a detention centre.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

My hon. Friend's views will be shared by many. All I can say to him on the part of the Prison Service is that we take those whom the courts deliver to us.