Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 9:45 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, I shall be as brief as I can. Overcrowding, as we all know, is the scourge of imprisonment. With far too many people in prison who should not be there, inadequate resources are unable to be deployed to the people who need them most; that is, the people who present the greatest risk to the public.

Having welcomed the end of the unspeakable indeterminate sentence in this Bill, I was very concerned about those people who are in prison serving indeterminate sentences who do not know their release date. Some have already exceeded their tariff and more exceed their tariff almost every day. That is why I raised the issue in Committee. I was very grateful to the Minister for his letter of 16 February in response, in which he described to me the workings of the Indeterminate Sentence Prisoners Co-ordination Group, which had been set up in 2010 not to manage the cases of individual prisoners but, interestingly enough, to provide strategic oversight-a word for which I was berated by the Minister earlier-and co-ordination of the whole system management of the whole sentence itself.

The purpose of this group is, apparently, to develop and promote the most effective means of managing indeterminate sentence prisoners and to ensure that resources are effectively directed. To this end, it has developed and co-ordinated strategies about assessment, sentence planning and delivery, access to interventions in the parole process, prison capacity issues and control in the community following release. It has also developed a tool for providing information on the numbers requiring specific interventions and also allocation to local prisons. In other words, there is a strategy; there is a group responsible for overseeing the strategy; and there is a tool for doing what is required. The only thing that is missing is the application of all this to the individuals who need individual plans made; otherwise, they will stay in prison for an indeterminate time caused by the fact that there are not the resources to do anything about getting them out.

In Committee, I proposed that it might be worth changing the burden of proof so that the Prison Service had to prove why someone should not be released rather than the person concerned having to prove that they should be. Therefore, this amendment is very much related to the information that the Minister gave me. Why could not the Indeterminate Sentence Prisoners Co-ordination Group be entrusted with making the plans for every individual indeterminate sentence prisoner, so that people-most particularly, those prisoners and their families from whom I receive several letters every day-know something about their future? I tabled this amendment again in the hope that something will be done to tackle this problem; otherwise I fear that the Government will be tarred with the same brush as those who introduced the sentence in the first place. I beg to move.

Amendment 154YUA (to Amendment 154YU)

Moved by Lord Thomas of Gresford

154YUA: Clause 120, line 9, at end insert-

"( ) The Secretary of State shall report to both Houses of Parliament every six months thereafter-

( ) the number of IPP prisoners remaining in custody after the tariff date in each case has expired,

( ) the arrangements made for such prisoners to complete their courses,

( ) the proportion of such prisoners who have already completed their courses, and

( ) the number of outstanding applications to the Parole Board for release."