Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540 - 559)

TUESDAY 10 JUNE 2008

MR RICHARD BOBBETT, MS CHARMAINE EGGBERRY AND MR PAUL MOONAN

  Q540  David Davies: I have heard it is very high.

  Mr Moonan: Ninety-five per cent of people successfully complete their curfew.

  Q541  David Davies: We are talking about thousand of breaches.

  Mr Moonan: It depends how you classify it. A breach to us is somebody who arrives—

  Q542  Chairman: This is a very important question from David Davies. How many breaches have there been? You must have some figures.

  Mr Moonan: I have not got those figures to hand. We have tagged—

  Q543  Chairman: You do not have the figures as to how many people.

  Mr Moonan: I can get those figures, but I was not expecting to be asked. We have tagged hundreds of thousands of people over the years.

  Q544  Chairman: Will you write to the committee with the figures?

  Mr Moonan: Yes.

  Q545  David Davies: There is a suggestion that thousands have been breached and that those breaches are not properly followed up in all instances.

  Mr Moonan: I can tell you that we are under a very strict regime of management from the Home Office with strict KPIs, and we have to adhere to that.

  Q546  David Davies: Do you follow every single breach?

  Mr Moonan: We follow every single breach from the areas where we are responsible. Sometimes an element of following up that breach is passed on to other people within the Criminal Justice Agency, and that is not something that I could comment on, that entire process.

  Q547  Mrs Cryer: Mr Moonan, can I ask you about your capacity to administer custody suites. Your organisation has apparently said that you would be able to provide better control of difficult detainees and potentially violent situations. However, Sergeant Rooney, a very experienced custody sergeant at Acton Police Station, told us that he felt that it is, in fact, harder for non-sworn officers to control difficult detainees. I wonder if you could give us a clue as to why you feel that you could do the job better than the sort of experienced and trained officers that are doing it at the moment? Are you already doing this sort of work?

  Mr Moonan: Yes, we provide five contracts in England and Wales to provide custody suites; so I can talk with a lot of experience and facts on those matters. What has typically happened when we have provided the custody service is that service has been far cheaper, 30% or more cheaper, and the standard of service has been improved.

  Q548  Mrs Cryer: Is it cheaper because you are paying your employees much less than the police authority will be paying their officers?

  Mr Moonan: Yes. When we train a police officer, we train them in a wide variety of skills, and that requires a lot of investment and requires a significant salary package to have that person trained to that level. When G4S provides a custody suite service, we train people in the specific roles for that particular area of police work, and what the police have found is that we provide a better service because our training is consolidated into the key things that are required for that environment and our people are very used to working in that environment. Typically a policeman is asked to do many different jobs, and working in the custody environment could be an eight-week period for them and they maybe do not enjoy that work as much, but we train specifically just for that role and that is why we have been able to provide a better service, and our police partners tell us that we provide a better service in those areas where we have taken on that service.

  Q549  Mrs Cryer: It is considerably cheaper.

  Mr Moonan: It is cheaper as well, because we pay people for the skills we need just for that role.

  Q550  Mrs Cryer: Can I suggest, again, that it is cheaper because you are paying much lower wages to your people than the police authority would be paying.

  Mr Moonan: Yes, but I would suggest that it is not necessary to pay someone a substantial salary if you just give them one part of the police work. That is why there could be lots of efficiencies from outsourcing. The workforce modernisation programme, which you will all be familiar with, talks about segmenting the police work into different areas. Therefore, you are able to pay people for the bit of the work that they do and get better value for money and release more police to frontline duties.

  Q551  Mrs Cryer: Your people are in complete control of a custody suite. You do everything. You provide the food, make sure the toilet is all right and everything. Is that right?

  Mr Moonan: We do all of that, but we are not in complete control. There are still police custody sergeants working alongside us. At the moment we are starting to pilot taking on some of the custody sergeant work. At the moment we provide the custody officer work, and there is still a police sergeant working alongside us.

  Q552  Mrs Cryer: Thank you. How can technology, including facial imaging, be used more effectively in custody suites to improve efficiency and safety for detainees?

  Mr Moonan: We work with, as I said, five different police forces, and they have all adapted the technology to different levels. What we have found is, where technology has been utilised by that force, we have been trained to utilise the technology, and it has made things more efficient. Some of our best custody suites, or where there has been more investment, process information better. For example, fingerprints. I was at one of our stations the other day in Staffordshire and we had had one error in 11,000 fingerprints in the previous period, and that error was due to someone who had a disability that made it hard for them to keep their finger still. So the sort of performance that we are able to give now in conjunction with technology and in conjunction with the training is very, very high.

  Q553  David Davies: Do you accept there has always got to be a warranted officer there in the case of a dangerous prisoner, where incapacity spray may need to be used when cuffs are removed in a custody suite?

  Mr Moonan: I do not believe that is necessary, because we also provide outsourced prisons where there are no police officers or no Prison Service people, where we have built, designed, maintained and managed the prison, including recruiting the Governor and all the people that work inside.

  Q554  David Davies: You reckon you can do it without any incapacity spray on all occasions?

  Mr Moonan: We do not use sprays in the prison environment, so I would not see why we would need to do that.

  Q555  Martin Salter: I want to explore with the three of you the lack of common solutions. Ronnie Flannagan, in his review of policing, noted that common solutions are rarely introduced service-wide as the favourable conditions required rarely arise at the same time in 43 places. This results in systems which do not link across forces and a large amount of duplication. Apparently up to 70% of all information is entered into police systems more than once; so a significant amount of double handling. From your experience of working with police forces, what is your view of providing a common system to all 43 forces as opposed to tailored systems appropriate to individual forces?

  Mr Moonan: Electronic monitoring is an example where we are providing the same technological solution and service to all of the forces, and so we know it can work, but our experience is also in trying to win work from the police. It is more difficult. We are dealing with 43 customers who have got different specifications. It is harder for us to give economies of scale and to give a solution that will provide the optimum value for money for the police because we have to work with each one in turn and develop a solution just for their needs.

  Q556  Martin Salter: Is this because of their individual procurement process and would, in fact, it be easier for you as major suppliers if there was a common procurement policy?

  Mr Moonan: We are finding that some police forces are starting to join together in local areas and also there are some framework agreements. When those people join together or when there is a framework agreement, there is more opportunity to provide a more efficient service, I would suggest.

  Q557  Martin Salter: Any views on that from Mr Bobbett or Ms Eggberry?

  Ms Eggberry: Definitely.

  Mr Bobbett: Yes; absolutely. I think the obvious benefit of Airwave providing a common communications platform enables things like mutual aid to happen on demand without there having to be that: "How do I communicate if I bring an officer in from a neighbouring force to help me? How do I communicate across boundaries?" So there are obvious benefits, and Sir Ronnie Flannagan, I think, alluded to those in his report. In our view, making sure that you have a common platform does not deny localisation, because there are local issues that are needed to be dealt with, but I think starting with a standard and a standard platform enables you then to build the localisation that makes the most efficient use for those individual officers but gives you the comfort of common information and common sharing. I think we have already done it with the Airwave system and, hopefully, we can have many more examples of that right across policing.

  Ms Eggberry: Certainly. I would agree. I think there is a great benefit to having a common platform but allowing for those individual requirements per force. As I mentioned earlier, a traffic officer has a very different requirement in terms of the information he needs to look at and input than, say, a bobby on the beat in a rural environment. I think the most important thing to do with this is to make sure, as I said, the information, as you point out, is secure and input once and everyone has a common view of that, and some of those ROI statistics that I mentioned earlier, the bedrock of that is that you are able to cut down the amount of paper work because you are inputting it once. As an example, the Gateshead Social Services uses that for domestic violence. They used to have laptops to input that information into and then that information needed to be uploaded into the police computers when they got back, et al—so a living example of trying to make it easier but not. They now have BlackBerries. They are unobtrusive, they can enter the details as they are sitting in front of the victim and, very importantly, that information goes straight into the police computer; so there is not this issue of having to fill in paper work, upload data et al, it just goes straight in. So, everyone is looking at the same data all at the same time, thereby, again, aiding efficiency. I think there is a great benefit to having a common platform, but we do have to allow for individual clients perforce and we do have to make sure we are cutting down on that all important paper work trail throughout.

  Q558  Martin Salter: This is quite revolutionary, of course, for some of our 43 individual fiefdoms who will stagger towards that point. Do not all feel obliged to respond to this, but the National Police Improvements Agency and the Home Office are trying to roll out these common platforms. What practical steps could either of those two agencies, the Home Office or the NPIA, take to facilitate a more co-ordinated and common process?

  Ms Eggberry: I think it is more about access to funding and how quickly you allow access to that funding. Thames Valley announced they were ordering 1,001 BlackBerries last week, and they managed to do that within a two-week period all the way through from the training et al, and the reason that they cite is that they are able to get the cash quickly et al. So I think that the NPIA and others can certainly help us. I think that is the issue, making sure that the individual forces have access to those funds as quickly as they can.

  Q559  Martin Salter: Thames Valley is my local force, but it is also a largish force and that affects the economies of scale.

  Ms Eggberry: One of the things we have worked with is with governments, and whether you are buying one BlackBerry or 143,000 BlackBerries, you are able to get that at the best possible price. So this is not a question purely of scale per se only, it is a question of how quickly can you roll it out, how quickly can you deploy them and, obviously, the cost element as well. We have worked very hard with government.


 
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