Schedule 8

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 22 November 2007.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 12:00, 22 November 2007

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North, who, as other Committee members have made clear, has exercised a vigilant and extremely proper interest in this matter, particularly as it relates to the experience of her constituent and the family of Gareth Myatt. I want to make it as clear as I can that the remit will include, and is intended to continue to include, deaths, whatever the discussions between the Youth Justice Board, ourselves and the commissioner. The debate is about whether it should include complaints in secure training centres. My hon. Friend made points about that, which I will certainly pass on, so that they inform that debate.

The only question is whether the issue of complaints in secure training centres should still be dealt with by the new commissioner or whether that is better dealt with in other ways. We will come on to the issue of complaints, but I think that it is appropriate for me to say this now, with your indulgence, Sir Nicholas. Complaints from children detained in young offender institutions are included in the commissioner’s remit. Complaints from children held in secure training centres are included in the Bill. However, a debate is taking place between the commissioner, ourselves and the Youth Justice Board about whether that is the appropriate way to deal with complaints in secure training centres. The board is considering what changes may be needed in its system for investigating complaints in secure training centres and whether the commissioner should have a role. That has not quite been sorted out yet, but there is no question of deaths being taken out of the new commissioner’s remit. I hope that that assists hon. Members.

The hon. and learned Member for Harborough made points following on from the evidence that we had from the Prison Reform Trust. He set out the points that the trust made, so I will not go over them again. If there is a death in circumstances in which prisoners are held in court cells or police cells under Operation Safeguard, it will be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Any deaths occurring among those recently held in court cells, who were in the custody of the Prison Service at night and escort contractors during the day, would fall within the commissioner’s remit under paragraph 2 of schedule 8. In the event of a death occurring after release from prison or immigration custody, the commissioner would have discretion to investigate it if he or she believed that it was linked to events that occurred during custody. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough made some comments about proximity in time and circumstances, and it would be for the commissioner to take a view on that matter, but if he thought there was good reason to investigate he would certainly be able to.