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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I regard that as an extremely important point. If the noble Lord recalls the Statement, I made it clear that Category A prisoners were removed some time ago from that particular prison. There has been a policy of dispersing the most serious criminals to a number of locations. That is the very policy being criticised by Sir John Learmont in his report. Sir John is suggesting that there should be one geographical location but in a maximum security prison specially designed to contain the prisoners and protect the public.

As regards the important point made by the noble Lord about the residents of the Isle of Wight, I can certainly give an assurance that they are safe. Again, referring to the Statement, many of the changes announced by Woodcock needed to be made quickly. They are almost all complete. That work is very much in hand and it is continuing apace. As I say, for the moment, Category A prisoners are not on the Isle of Wight.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, perhaps I may return to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, with which the Minister agreed; namely, the repeated leaks to the media and the press before Parliament is informed. We hear morning after morning that the BBC has acquired information followed by discussion about a matter which should be first brought before Parliament. It cannot be beyond the ability of intelligence within the Government to discover how that is happening. It is outrageously unsatisfactory from the parliamentary point of view. It is regular; it is not an occasional happening. We have to register the fact that the situation is totally unsatisfactory and that action should be taken to stop it.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness. It is an important point. My heart sinks when we go to such lengths to keep a matter confidential until Parliament has actually heard the case. I am as disturbed as the noble Baroness. One of the difficulties with this kind of report is that a very large number of people have been interviewed as a result of it and have made statements to Sir John in the course of the investigation. Consistent with convention now, a large number of Salmon letters were sent out to people who have been interviewed as part of the investigations, and perhaps critically. Therefore, they are given the opportunity to respond to the criticism and to any inaccuracies which they pick up in the report. They are then considered by Sir John before the report comes to Parliament. So it is very difficult to pin down that someone who has been party to the inquiry and who has a fairly good idea of what is going to be contained in the report has not actually pre-empted the announcement. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness's basic point.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and reiterate the calls made from other parts of the House for a debate on the report. The question of a "supermax" prison—I believe that that is how the Minister described it—needs careful consideration. That will not form part of my questions this afternoon, but we shall obviously need a debate on the subject.

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My question is: what alternative steps will be taken to protect prisoners' families, prison staff and the community at large, given that the Government have apparently taken significant decisions that fly in the face of the report's recommendations? I refer particularly to in-cell television and home leave. I think that we would all accept the validity of having in-cell television in order to prevent idle minds getting up to mischief. I am sure that we would all also accept the importance of home visits when it comes to reintegrating prisoners into society and family life. Therefore, what alternatives to in-cell television and home leave are to be provided?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, on the noble Lord's final point, many privileges can be earned in prison. I have visited a number of prisons where the system of earning privileges works well. I have visited a prison in the Channel Islands where prisoners start with a basic level of provision and almost everything they receive is earned by good behaviour in the prison. However, those privileges do not extend beyond radios in the cells. They do not extend to television. The principle of privileges having to be earned as opposed to being given automatically seems an inducement to good behaviour. If prisoners are better behaved, that makes life easier for those running the prisons. We know to our cost—this is behind much of the Parkhurst report—that in the end the policy of appeasement never works.

I hope that your Lordships will accept a correction of something that I said earlier. I must put this on the record. In answer to an earlier question, I said that there were no Category A prisoners on the Isle of Wight. I am told that there are no Category A prisoners in normal locations but that there are some in the segregation and psychiatric units at Parkhurst which are secure. Therefore, as I was seeking to say, residents of the Isle of Wight can sleep safe in their beds. I hope that your Lordships will accept that correction.

Viscount Tonypandy: My Lords, may I submit—

Noble Lords: Time!

Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill

5.43 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Clause 2 [Basis on which compensation is to be calculated]:

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 2, line 4, after ("compensation") insert ("or an amount within a defined band of compensation").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to propose that, within the tariff system, instead of having merely one specific figure for each type of injury, there should be as an alternative for certain types of injury a band of figures from which the appropriate amount of compensation may be chosen.

In declaring an interest as the present chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, perhaps I may say that in moving this amendment I in no way depart from the view that I expressed originally that it is sad

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that we are moving away from the common law system of damages to a tariff system as a whole. As has been said on many occasions, a tariff system is unable to take account of the very different effects of similar injuries on different people. Such a system can take no account of age, occupation, sex, way of life or other obvious matters which should be taken into account when deciding compensation. I shall not repeat those arguments today because the House has had two opportunities to debate these matters and our views were expressed then.

As I said on those occasions, I recognise that there is a need for change and that one cannot say that a system that is now required to deal with 70,000 cases a year can be the same as that which was required originally to deal with 3,000 cases a year. Therefore, I recognise and accept—although I regret it—that the tariff system is probably necessary in the vast majority of cases. At the moment, in something like 85 per cent. of the cases dealt with by the board the award is less than £5,000. Many such cases are straightforward. I accept that given the need for simplicity and speed there is an argument that there should be a tariff system, as proposed in the Bill, for a general type of injury. We could have tariff compensation for those who suffer a broken nose, broken arm or broken cheekbone.

However, I still believe firmly that there are certain types of injury or certain offences for which a single tariff figure is, frankly, so unrealistic as to become almost unworkable. The purpose of my amendments—the others are consequential on Amendment No. 6, which I am now moving—is not merely to accept the principle of the tariff system which the Home Office is proposing and which has been accepted by this House and another place and to accept that there should be published figures for types of injury, but to say that for certain types of injury there should be bands with a lower and a higher figure within which the individual claims manager—I think that that will be his title—can decide on the proper amount of compensation in the case in question.

I should like to give the Committee the four examples—one might say the three areas—for which I believe that such a system is necessary. I urge that this be considered by the Home Office. I refer to scarring cases, to cases involving mental shock, to sexual abuse cases and, perhaps as a further category, to cases of abuse against children.

In my submission, it is not realistic to believe that scarring cases can adequately be dealt with by a single figure. In the tariff which the Government have provided, it is intended that so far as facial scarring is concerned there should be three categories. I accept that that is done in an effort to make distinctions. The three categories are minor disfigurement, significant disfigurement and serious disfigurement. The difference between "significant" and "serious" may be a question of semantics to some extent, but amounts apparently to £4,000. If you suffer significant disfigurement, you get £3,500, whereas, if you suffer serious disfigurement, you get £7,500. One knows from experience on the board that the effect of scarring, particularly facial or

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visible scarring, varies enormously with different people. It is absurd to suggest that substantial and clearly visible scarring on a young girl of 17 or 18 does not have enormous emotional effects as well as physical effects compared to such scarring on someone of adult or even elderly age.

In fairness to the individual, that is one of the areas in which there should be a band within which people should attempt to put the individual rather than suggest that they can fall into those three categories. It may be that £7,500 just is not enough for the really bad case of scarring. Those cases should be looked at by photograph and, where necessary, by seeing the person concerned. There should be a wider area of choice than that which exists.

I move on to the three other areas that I mentioned: mental anguish, mental injury, and shock. Those cases differ enormously depending upon the make-up of the individual concerned. With the best will in the world, I recognise that the Home Office has accepted—it has had to accept, though it may be a bad acceptance—and has attempted in its most recent tariff to meet the board's own recommendation as to how, if it is to be done by a tariff, a tariff should achieve that end. However, we still believe that a tariff is not appropriate. To say that the compensation for a disabling mental disorder which lasts for over one year but which is not permanent is £7,500, and then to say in the next breath that the next step is that the amount for a permanently disabling mental disorder is £20,000, is far too wide a gap.

I do not believe that the proposals I am advancing—if the Home Office is concerned, as I understand it is, about the costs of the scheme—need necessarily increase costs in any way. For example, if one takes the case of mental shock, one could say that the compensation should be up to whatever the figure is in the tariff at the moment. What I believe—and what I believe experience has shown in the past year when we have had to review the cases that were carried out under the aborted tariff which the Home Secretary attempted to bring in—is that a great many awards of public money are being given which are far more substantial than were being given under the board and far more substantial than we would have recommended in those cases.

Then there is the whole area of sexual abuse. How can one have a single tariff figure for abuse of a child? Is the effect the same if the child is four or if it is 14 or 15, and conscious of what is happening to it? The suggestion is that if the severe abuse is for less than three years—however many offences within that time, and whatever effect they may have—the victim will receive only £3,000 whereas if the child should be shown to have been abused for just over three years it will receive £6,000. It is not a question of the length of time for which the child is abused. It is the relationship with the abuser, the type of abuse, and the effect on and the age of the individual child and its emotional development. Again, it is unrealistic to look at the matter on a single-figure basis.

Finally—I know that this is always highly controversial, and I tread warily into this field of adult sexual offences—I notice now that for rape there are

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to be two figures: for non-consensual vaginal or anal intercourse £7,500, and for non-consensual vaginal or anal intercourse with other serious bodily injuries—whatever those bodily injuries are—the figure jumps to £17,500. Surely, again, that cannot be right. Of course there are some rapes of extreme degrees of seriousness, but often a rape at gunpoint or knifepoint without any physical injury to the individual concerned is just as serious as when that knife inflicts the slightest wound, which presumably would take it into the field of being "other serious bodily injuries".

Therefore, what I would ask the Home Office to consider, and what the board has repeatedly asked the Home Office to consider once we accepted, as we do, that the Home Office was determined to stick to the principle of the tariff—it is not inconsistent with the principle—is whether in certain areas of what I would call generic offences a band of figures would not be more appropriate than a single figure. That is the purpose of my amendment. It is for the purpose of obtaining debate on that issue that I put it down today so as to hear the views of other Members of the Committee on what I believe is a proposal which would improve the tariff system as now proposed by the Government. I beg to move.


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