Justice – in the House of Commons on 5th July 2022.
Let me take the chance, on behalf of those on the Conservative Front Bench and, I believe, on all the Benches behind me, to offer our condolences to the shadow Justice Secretary on the passing of his father.
The overall reoffending rate has decreased by 5 percentage points from 31% in 2009-10 to 26% in 2019-20. Over that period, reoffending rates for robbery, criminal damage, arson, drug offences and sexual offences have all fallen.
I very much welcome the work that is being done to reduce reoffending rates. I vividly remember visiting Armley Jail and hearing about the work being done there. A big part of this work is transitioning ex-offenders into work. What role does my right hon. Friend see apprenticeships playing in that work?
My hon. Friend is right: the work that we are doing on skills and education right the way through to getting offenders into work is vital. I am very pleased, as he may know, that, working with the Department for Education, we are introducing a statutory instrument to introduce apprenticeships in prison. That SI will pass in September, and we will start the first apprenticeship straight away.
The top 10 repeat offenders being dealt with by police in North Devon have committed 108 offences in April to June this year. As the police themselves say, many of these individuals have previously been in prison—some on multiple occasions—but the offending cycle continues. What more can be done to reduce repeat offending, as, locally, the current system is clearly not delivering that desired outcome?
By 2024-25, we will be investing £200 million a year, in dealing with skills and work, as I have already said, and also with drug rehabilitation, particularly sustainable absence-based drug rehabilitation. The further action that we are taking on resettlement passports will avoid that potential cliff edge when an offender leaves prison, and makes sure that the wraparound care is there as they transition.
Sussex prisoners’ families have highlighted how important families of offenders, particularly prisoners, are in reducing offending. Prisoners’ families are often forgotten about in the criminal justice system, but research shows that if prisoners have a supportive family, they are less likely to offend. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to support such families, thereby helping to make our communities stronger and safer?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; research shows that the odds of reoffending are 39% higher for prisoners who did not have visits from family or friends while they were inside prison. That is why the new builds, Five Wells and the others, have not only in-cell technology that can facilitate dialogue and close family ties, but family centres to ensure that the ties that bind, and can cut crime by reducing reoffending, are strengthened and not weakened.
Careful parole decisions are important to minimise reoffending. Can the Justice Secretary explain why new Parole Board rules will mean that expert report writers will be forbidden to provide a view on suitability for release of the most serious offenders?
At the moment, when the vital question of risk is assessed, there is a risk that separate reports, whether from psychiatrists or probation officers and those who manage risk, may give conflicting recommendations. Therefore, in those serious cases that the hon. Lady refers to, there will be one overarching Ministry of Justice view, so that the Parole Board has a very clear steer and we make sure—the hon. Lady shakes her head, but I think she agrees with me—that the overriding focus is on public safety and protecting the public.
I call the shadow Secretary of State.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State and other hon. Members for their condolences on the passing of my dad, Roy Reed, a few days ago. Everyone’s very kind words were a great comfort to our family at a very difficult time.
Community payback is vital for reducing reoffending and giving justice to victims, but the number of hours completed by offenders has been falling since 2017. It fell in 2018 and again in 2019, before anyone had heard of covid-19. Please can the Secretary of State explain why?
There is renewed investment going in to community payback. There has been a covid effect since the years the hon. Gentleman mentions; I know he has raised the issue of those obligations being discharged from home, but that will all be phased out by the autumn. This is a valuable scheme for restorative justice, so that the public see those who have committed crimes making recompense.