Corston's Review

Home Department written statement – made on 13th March 2007.

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Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

On 28 March 2006 my predecessor made a Statement to announce that my noble Friend Baroness Jean Corston had agreed to undertake a "Review of Women in the Criminal Justice System with Particular Vulnerabilities". I am delighted that Baroness Corston's report is being published today and wanted to make a statement to welcome her report and to give an undertaking that the Government will now give serious and detailed consideration of the issues it raises and the recommendations it makes for change.

The Government invited Baroness Corston to conduct this independent review following the tragic series of deaths of six women at Styal prison in 2002-03. The purpose was to look at the measures in place to ensure that we are doing everything possible for women who come into contact with the criminal justice system who have particular vulnerabilities, such as mental health problems, drug addiction, or histories of abuse. The scope of the Review was, therefore, very wide and considered the services and interventions available to such women on each occasion they come into contact with the criminal justice system, and also to those women at risk of offending.

I would like to thank Baroness Corston for producing such a comprehensive and thought-provoking report and I welcome the honesty and directness with which she addressed her remit and the recommendations she makes for more to be done. Her report tackles some of the most difficult, complex and entrenched issues and provides a valuable insight into the reality of the problems faced, and presented, by many women offenders.

I am particularly grateful for the support and assistance that Baroness Corston received from all those who contributed to the Review, especially the families sadly bereaved by the deaths at Styal and other prisons and women offenders themselves who have spoken so powerfully about their experiences. I would also like to thank the voluntary organisations who gave their valuable time and resources to support the review.

The 43 recommendations made are wide-ranging and propose action by a number of different Government Departments and other organisations to address together the complex and multiple needs of women both in the criminal justice system and at the risk of offending. These recommendations will be carefully explored with all the Departments and agencies concerned and the Government will develop a detailed response and set out an agreed way forward.

Baroness Corston also makes some overarching recommendations for how the management of women in the criminal justice system should be co-ordinated across Government. I agree that, in order to drive forward this important work, it is necessary to ensure that there is high level commitment and effective inter-departmental working. We will, therefore, look carefully at what mechanisms and governance arrangements would be possible to achieve this and I will discuss this with my ministerial colleagues.

Baroness Corston's report also highlights the work and initiatives that are already being taken forward to tackle issues for women offenders and ensure that their needs are met, in a system that has primarily been developed in response to the majority of male offenders. She refers in particular to the Women's Offending Reduction Programme and the Together Women Programme, which is using an injection of Government funding to test out how a more integrated community-based approach can effectively tackle the multiple needs of women and reduce the use of custody for those women who do not present a significant risk and do not need to be held in prison. She also highlights the importance of the Gender Duty, which comes into force in April 2007, in supporting this agenda.

In developing the detailed response, we will consider how the lessons learnt and recommendations in Baroness Corston's report can be used to build on the work already underway.

I commend this report to anyone with an interest in, or working with, women in the criminal justice system. I know that it will be an invaluable resource in taking forward our agenda to tackle the issues that can lead women into crime and avoid the damaging effects that this can have on women and their families.


Pauline Campbell
Posted on 14 Mar 2007 7:54 pm (Report this annotation)

The 10 questions I put to the Government's Review Body on 07.06.06 - still unanswered - were:

(1) In 2003, why did the then Prisons Minister, Paul Goggins, wait until 6 deaths occurred at Styal Prison in 12 months before taking action (ie by sending in the Prisons Ombudsman to investigate)?
(2) Does the Review Body agree that if action had been taken sooner, lives might have been saved, including that of my daughter Sarah?
(3) What action, if any, has been taken against Paul Goggins, for his dilatory & inexcusable response as a Government Minister?
(4) Why did the Ombudsman's report [re Julie Walsh's death: the 6th woman to die] sit in the Home Office for over 2 years, gathering dust, before it entered the public domain, & who was responsible for suppressing this information for an inordinate period of time?
(5) The Prison Service report into Sarah's death was completed in April 2003, ie 3 months after her death, so why did the Prison Service not forward this report to the Cheshire Coroner until January 2004 (ie 12 months after her death), and who was responsible for this disgraceful delay?
(6) Is the Review Body aware that I was denied 'exceptional funding' in January 2004, & only after I threatened legal action against the Legal Services Commission was the decision reversed [even though no new evidence was provided in the meantime], resulting in my daughter's pre-inquest review having to be called off [because I had no funding]?
(7) There were 2,629 women in prison when Labour came to power in 1997, a figure that has now risen to 4,456 (02.06.06), yet there has been no equivalent increase in the number of women committing offences, or of women committing more serious crimes, so what is the explanation for Labour having presided over such a shameful increase in the number of women sent to prison?
(8) And why, when I wrote to the then Home Secretary (Blunkett) along with 4 other grieving mothers (asking for a meeting to discuss the deaths of women prisoners) was I snubbed, & snubbed again a month later, & does the Review Body not agree that this is unacceptable behaviour for a Home Secretary in the 21st century (especially when the 5 daughters of the 5 women had died in the 'care' of his prisons)?
(9) Does the Review Body agree that the degrading & inhumane treatment of women prisoners is likely to increase the likelihood of women's self-harming & self-inflicted deaths in jail, & that someone should be held responsible for such cruel treatment of vulnerable women? (The Guardian, 1 June 2006: "End degrading slopping out, says prisons watchdog")
(10) Does the Review Body agree that the decision to exempt the Prison Service from the corporate manslaughter legislation is wrong in principle, & that the absence of a powerful sanction in dealing with prison deaths (female & male) remains not only problematic, but an obstacle to progress?

(end of questions submitted to the Review Body)

Posted on 20 Mar 2007 2:32 pm (Report this annotation)

where can baroness corston's report be found as a member of the public i would very much like to read it

Posted on 20 Mar 2007 2:33 pm (Report this annotation)

when will you answer pauline campbell's questions i would very much like to see your answers too

Pauline Campbell
Posted on 1 Apr 2007 10:55 pm (Report this annotation)

The Corston Report is now in the public domain, and can be obtained from The Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London, SW1A 2JX; telephone orders: 020 7219 3890; general enquiries: 020 7219 3890; fax orders: 020 7219 3866.

Such documents are also available from The Stationery Office; general enquiries 0870 600 5522; and can usually be ordered through good booksellers.

The Corston Report
Publication date: March 2007
ISBN 978-1-84726-177-9

Re my earlier post (14 March 2007), questions remain unanswered, and I await a response from the Home Office.