Examination of witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
MONDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2000
40. If I went into one of your prisons today
and looked through your prisoner files, how many would not be
complete in terms of the documents listed in Appendix 2, which
you would normally expect to be on the prisoner's file?
(Mr Narey) It would depend very much on how long into
the sentence somebody was. I would be very confident that on almost
all those files you would now find previous convictions, which
you would find at a very early stage of the sentence. I would
not like to predict what stage you will find all of those reports
41. Have you ever done a sample test?
(Mr Narey) I often look at files.
42. Roughly, how many do you find not complete?
(Mr Narey) Within four to six months after a finding
of guilt I would say that the vast majority of that information
43. That is only a very rough and unquantified
(Mr Narey) I would say, I am estimating, 75 per cent
or more. One of the reasons why we begin to see some improvement,
I think it will get better, is it is only since April this year
that my Services has the same regional boundaries as the Probation
Service and the Crown Prosecution Service. We have only just got
the mechanisms to be able to work horizontally with the rest of
the Criminal Justice System in a way which was made impossible
when we had 13 areas and the probation had 54 areas.
44. All of you have said, certainly Mr Narey
and Sir David, offending behaviour courses are very important
in terms of determining whether somebody is ready for parole or
not. Am I right in saying you cannot get on that sort of course
if you do admit your guilt to start with, and you still maintain
you are innocent?
(Mr Narey) That is broadly true. There are some courses
that offenders can go on if they do not accept the guilt for the
offence they are in custody for, if they admit to previous offending
or a previous impetus to criminal behaviour. Certainly a prerequisite
for our current sex offender treatment programmes is an acceptance
of guilt, because it is only through that one can try and explore
with the prisoner the effect on his victim. We try and expose
a twist of thinking which lies behind a lot of sex offending.
Some paedophiles will argue and rationalise themselves that children
can consent to sex and enjoy sex. It does need an admission of
45. I understand your reasons for not doing
that. Going on from that, if people who are not going to admit
their guilt do not go on these courses, because they are of no
use of them, if that is true, then how does the non-attendance
on such a course affect their chances of parole?
(Mr Narey) Mr Casey may want to say something about
that. From the Prison Service's point of view our difficulty is
that, whilst we know that there will be individuals who will be
convicted who are innocent, we have to treat everyone we see from
the court as properly and appropriately convicted. We will continue
to encourage all those, particularly sex offenders, to agree to
address their offending behaviour. It means in the reports that
we provide to the Parole Board we will almost certainly conclude,
where that has not happened, that somebody may be more dangerous.
(Mr Casey) The Parole Board has to proceed on the
basis that the prisoner has been properly convicted. We are required
to look at all of the information in the dossier and to take into
account not only if the person convicted went on courses but any
other information that may be favourable to their release. It
may be possible for a person who is still in denial to demonstrate
through other factors that his risk is reduced to an acceptable
level, a change of life-style, what have you. In the case of sex
offenders it is particularly relevant whether or not they have
done the SOTP.
46. You seem to be saying, and this is a worry
that has been brought out in public very recently in some sections
of the media, that it is correct to say if you are genuinely innocent
and, therefore, if you are not prepared, quite naturally, to admit
your guilt you do not get on one of those courses, and you are
in practice less likely to get parole than you would be if you
were guilty. That seems to work contrary to common sense, in a
sense, that one would want people who were innocent, even if the
court procedures have decided they are guiltywe all understand
sometimes court procedures can go wrong. It seems to me that those
who are, in practice, innocent are less likely to get out earlier
than those who are in practice guilty, is that not something of
(Mr Casey) The Board's function is not to look at
the question of guilt or innocence.
47. I understand that.
(Mr Casey) It can potentially disadvantage a person
who is innocent if it is felt that attendance on a particular
course they cannot do would be essential. As I said, in other
circumstances people have been able to demonstrate the risk has
been reduced without having done courses.
48. Do you accept what I say, that in practice
you are less likely to get parole if you are innocent?
(Mr Casey) You are less likely to get parole if you
are in denial of guilt.
49. That is not the question I asked. One assumes
you are in denial of guilt if you are innocent, it is possible
you could admit guilt even though innocent.
(Mr Casey) To say somebody is innocent is misleading
because they have been found guilty by the court.
50. I understand that, but the fact of the matter
is that almost certainly some of them will be innocent, even though
the court has found them guilty. In those circumstances it does
seem to me less likely that they will get parole.
(Mr Narey) I would agree with that.
(Sir David Omand) The direction the Secretary of State
gives to the Parole Board is that they should look at the risk
to the public of further offences being committed. What we say
to the Parole Board is they have to look at whether the prisoner
has shown, by attitude and behaviour, that they are willing to
address offending behaviour. In the circumstances you describe
it is very difficult to see how an individual will be able to
meet that criteria. I do not see a way around it.
(Mr Narey) It is a real dilemma. You occasionally
do become convinced that someone you are dealing with is innocent.
I have been in that position myself in the past.
51. You have been innocent when in prison!
(Mr Narey) I was dealing with somebody and it was
later proved to be the case that he was innocent. Within the group
of people who protest their innocence there are also within that
group, some very, very dangerous people in denial and if released
prematurely would be extremely dangerous.
Chairman: The undoubtedly innocent Barry Gardiner!
52. I suspect this is one Committee where one
can honestly say that the witnesses are guilty until proven innocent,
because they sometimes feel that like.
(Mr Narey) There is nothing new there, then.
53. Sir David, you have been before us in the
past, and we have often been robust in other situations where
you have been telling us about problems with the IND and passports,
and so on. First of all, can I say congratulations for the improvement
the Department has obviously made in this area. There is a huge
change around from the sort of 40 per cent of dossiers and 40
per cent of decisions made by the due date to the figures you
have now presented to us, which are in the 90s. That is good and
something that this Committee should be thanking you for and congratulating
you upon. Could I move from that to ask you, what is the point
(Sir David Omand) If I can point you to the Secretary
of State's Directions, "It is to look at the advantage and
the benefit, both to the public and the offender, of early release
back into the community under a degree of supervision which might
help rehabilitation and so lessen the risk of re-offending in
54. Do you accept that many people find it very
hard to understand why when a judge has passed a sentence of six
years a prisoner can be out after having served four?
(Sir David Omand) I think we have a continuing job
to do to educate the public as to what is meant by a sentence.
A sentence of so many years does not mean so many years in custody,
it means that at least one half of that sentence, and possibly
up to two thirds of that sentence, may be in custody, and these
are the crucial dates that the Audit Report brings out. The sentence
however, goes on until the end of the sentence. The individual
is at risk of being returned to custody if they re-offend. They
are under supervision on licence in the community for a proportion
of that time, which may vary between a quarter and a twelfth of
55. If I can remind you of what Mr Narey said
earlier when talking about the effect on prisoners when parole
had been denied. I think, Mr Narey, the words that you used were
that it can "sometimes present a problem of control."
(Mr Narey) Yes.
56. Meaning that it was difficult to control
those prisoners in prison once they knew that the option, or the
possibility, of parole had temporarily, at least, been taken away
from them. So I wanted to ask you quite bluntly, is parole simply
a means of exercising social control within the prison?
(Mr Narey) I think, Mr Gardiner, it is much more than
that, but I volunteer that it is very important in terms of making
it possible. Because we have to run prisons, for a large part
of the time, on consent, then I do not deny that it makes order
and control much more easy. Tonight in a typical prison, in Parkhurst,
for example, I know that there will be 300 prisoners locked in
Parkhurst and there will be about 20 staff on duty, so it does
give that benefit. In addition, I believe very firmly, that for
long-term prisoners it provides real levers to us to get those
prisoners to do more things about their offending than they would
otherwise do, particularly drug treatment, for example.
57. I want to take the two part that you have
quite clearly outlined there in order. You said that, yes, there
is an element of social control within the prison. Do you believe,
therefore, that if one were to have a judicial system, or penal
system, in which prisoners served precisely that, only that, and
always that time which was prescribed by the judge as being their
sentence, that would be a penal system which would be extremely
difficult to operate in practice?
(Mr Narey) I certainly do. If I can give a very brief
example, with those 3,000 young men who are 17 and under who are
detained, from April of last year I was advised that governors
had lost the ability to add days to their sentence, and without
that discouragement for bad behaviour you will find, in that age
group in the closing weeks of the sentence, a great deal of misbehaviour
58. The second part of your answer was that
parole, or the possibility of parole, gave you the opportunity
to influence the behaviour of the prisoner and to get them to
seek to address their pattern of offending behaviour and redress
that pattern. Is that correct?
(Mr Narey) That is correct.
59. If you turn to paragraph 2.33 of the Report
you will recall that it says that 90 per cent of parole clerks
had difficulty in obtaining police reports, 51 per cent could
not get hold of something as basic as a list of previous convictions,
and 82 per cent had problems in getting other documents, I cannot
remember what they were at the moment. At what stage are the parole
clerks requesting those documents? How long before the parole
(Mr Narey) Mr Casey will correct me if I'm wrong,
but I think, 26 weeks before the eligibility date.