Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
MP, MR MARTIN
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
100. Can you drop us a line giving us the history
of why they were cut and why they have been reinstated?
(Mr Narey) Happily.
101. Can I now talk a little about escapes.
In the five years to May 2000 there had only been one escape,
how many escapes or absconds while outside the prison have there
been since May 2000?
(Mr Narey) There has been one escape from each of
the three resettlement prisons in that period.
102. And for absconds?
(Mr Narey) I do not have the figures for absconds
but it is very low indeed.
103. I understand, and it may be wrong, you
can correct me in a letter, that the absconds have increased since
May 2000 compared with previously?
(Mr Narey) I will have to check on that and write
104. Did you know we were going to ask about
Blantyre House today?
(Mr Narey) Yes.
105. You do not have this information?
(Mr Narey) I do not have figures on absconds but it
has not previously been suggested to me that the rate has altered
106. Can we make the suggestion that on absconds,
from the figures we have, from November 1998 to April 2000 there
were three, and from May 2000 to October 2001 there were eight.
Also in terms of people testing positive for drugs, there has
been a slight increase as well, the figures for the same periods
being six up to nine.
(Mr Narey) I will check on those figures and write
to you, Chairman.
107. Mr McLennan-Murray, the previous Governor,
has made a complaint about bullying, has he not?
(Mr Narey) He has indeed.
108. That was made earlier this year.
(Mr Narey) That is right.
109. Was it asked by him, or anybody else, that
the investigation be by an independent person?
(Mr Narey) The request from Mr McLennan-Murray was
that the investigation should not involve me because I had given
an opinion to this Committee last year about whether or not bullying
had taken place. So the complaint or grievance was sent to the
Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.
110. Was it asked that the investigation be
carried out by an authority independent of the Prison Service?
(Mr Narey) Yes, and it has been done so. The report
has been carried out primarily by Deborah Loudon from the Home
Office, and she is finishing the report at the moment. She is
a personnel director in the Home Office.
111. Independent of the Prison Service?
(Mr Narey) Yes. She was assisted by Clare Pelham who
at one time, no longer, was director of the Quantum Programme,
the IT Programme, in the Prison Service, who has had no involvement
at all in operational matters.
112. Is it right that twice it has been said
that the report will be completed, first of all in September,
just gone, and secondly no later than 16 November?
(Mr Narey) There have been delays in the report being
113. Twice it has been said it will be completed,
and there have been delays. The allegations involve Mr Murtagh?
(Mr Narey) That is right.
114. When does he retire?
(Mr Narey) He retires in the middle of next year.
115. This is going to be completed well before
(Mr Narey) I have checked on this point carefully.
I expect the report to be forwarded to the Permanent Secretary
possibly this week. There is no possibility, I can promise the
Committee, of Mr Murtagh retiring before the report is completed
116. That is helpful. Would you like to give
us a general statement on how you see Blantyre House in the last
six months, because you will know we were very concerned about
that establishment? Are you pleased with it?
(Mr Narey) Yes, I am pleased with Blantyre House.
Clearly it went through a trauma this time last year because of
the events which had happened. I have been very anxious to get
it back on track and have paid the prison quite a lot of attention,
seen quite a lot of the Board of Visitors, for example, and the
Governor and Area Manager. I think we now have greater clarity
about its status and that of the other three resettlement prisons.
I think there is a better balance between security and outside
activity. I have just had a standards audit completed on the prison
and it has performed significantly better than it performed two
years ago on a range of issues. I think the prisoners are being
selected now more on their resettlement needs. That means that
the balance of long and short-term prisoners has had to be kept
in careful view, because some of the prisoners going there have
certainly shorter sentences, and at the request of the Boardand
it was a very good suggestionI compensated by significantly
increasing the lifer population at Blantyre House. There have
been some things which have improved the place. A Throughcare
Unit has led to better sentence planning; I am very enthusiastic
about the introduction of a job club; I would like to see many
more prisoners going out to carry on their education outside rather
than in the prison, as we do in other resettlement prisons. I
think it is going well and, although the Board have brought some
concerns to me through the year, they have generally recorded
satisfaction with the progress which is being made.
117. You said there was a better balance between
security and outside activity, but surely security has got a bit
worse and outside activity has diminished?
(Mr Narey) It depends on the way you look at it. I
was very concerned about the lack of supervision of work places
outside the prison. I was concerned about the fact, for example,
a lot of prisoners were driving cars which were uninsured, and
I was extremely agitated about the interest of Customs & Excise
in the activities of some prisoners while on temporary release,
where I do not think they were being adequately supervised and
monitored. I may have failed to convince the Committee of this
but I was extremely concerned about the possibility of serious
criminal activity taking place at Blantyre. I am confident that
we still have the same emphasis on working out but I am confident
it is much better monitored, staff are spending more time ensuring
people are at their place of work, and there is not quite the
same occurrence of prisoners going to Blantyre House and finding
their own jobs. We are sending people to Blantyre House who need
to go there because they cannot find their own jobs and we are
finding them for them.
118. Yet you have had more abscondings and more
people testing positive for drugs. I do not want to make too much
of that because the difference is not enormous, but it is up.
(Mr Narey) I do not in any of the open estateand
essentially Blantyre has been moved very much into the open estateminimise
the danger of absconds, but I do not take that as a real commentary
on the security of the place. By security I mean the place is
a safe place to live and criminal activity is not being planned
or taking place as sometimes happens. When you take the risk of
putting prisoners out to work, you will sometimes get absconds,
and from some open prisons the abscond rate is very high. So long
as proper care is taken and we are not making rash decisions in
putting people outside, I am satisfied with that. Generally speaking,
the number of failures on temporary release we have now are very,
very small compared to two years, and minute compared to five
119. Can I just put to you one or two points
made by the Board of Visitors. The main one is that stage one
prisoners are only allowed out for 12 hours a week. They are complaining
(Mr Narey) What we have tried to do across the open
estate, which deals with much more than resettlement prisoners
but 4,000 prisoners, in the advice we have given and in the framework
for resettlement which the Committee encouraged us to put into
operation, we have divided the time in those prisons into two
stages. Stage one is primarily spent in the prison, dealing with
education, and perhaps other work to prepare for employability.
The second stage, which still comes in some cases a considerable
time before release, is when the emphasis is more on leaving the
prison on a daily basis to work out. It means for Blantyre, who
released quite a lot of prisoners much earlier in the sentence,
there has been some reduction in the time at which early release
will come, but on the other hand we were filling Blantyre with
some long-term prisoners and restricting the opportunities for
more prisoners to get there one after the other and have their
resettlement needs addressed.
16 See Appendix, Ev 25-26. Back
See Appendix, Ev 26. Back