Schedule 4

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:15 pm, 25th October 2007

I do not like it. The problem that we face, which is one of the Government’s own making, is that the custodial estate is full to the gunnels. I might be wrong, but I do not think that young offenders are kept in police cells or court cells overnight. There is no more room on the custodial estate. It has more than its official capacity. Last Friday, there were 81,533 adult prisoners. That is about 30 prisoners over the establishment. It might be thought that 30 is not a big number, but the Committee must bear in mind that about 20,000 adult prisoners are in cells that were designed for one person and which are now having to be shared by two or three people.

We have an accommodation problem. To deal with it, people are being put into cells or accommodation with others of a different age group. I accept fully that some people look 14, but are 20 years old, while some look 20, but are 14 years old. We must be careful that people are put in the right place.

Because of overcrowding, young offenders convicted of offences or on remand in custody in courts in the east of England, for example, are having to be taken in a sweat box hundreds of miles overnight and brought back to court the following day. On some occasions, they do not arrive at their overnight accommodation until well after 9 o’clock. When I was at Lancaster Farms, the governor and his senior colleagues said, with huge regret, that there was not much that they could do about the fact that young people were arriving in their care at almost midnight. That has an effect on the child or young person as well as on the staff who, by the time that they have gone over their shift and are waiting to go home, are not necessarily in the best frame of mind to deal with disoriented, difficult or plainly bad teenagers in need of overnight accommodation.