Friday, 17 March 2017

Prisons and Courts Bill 2

Continuing to tread water until the next act in the long-running TR omnishambles saga, lets take another look at the Prisons and Courts Bill. The MoJ also published 17 fact sheets, such as this:- 

Prisons and Courts Bill 


1. The issues in our prisons are serious and long-standing. Violence and self-harm are at record levels, and reoffending by prisoners costs society £15bn a year. The Prison Safety and Reform White Paper published in November set out a clear plan to reform our prisons: investing in an additional 2,500 more prison officers across the estate by the end of 2018; taking robust action to address emerging threats to prison security such as drones, drugs and mobile phones; empowering governors to drive forward improvements in their prisons, and holding them to account properly for their performance; and strengthening the inspection and scrutiny regime. 

2. We are making good progress in delivering that plan. We have made job offers for 389 of the 400 additional prison officer posts we committed to recruit in 10 of our most challenging prisons by March of this year. We are investing more than £100m a year to recruit an extra 2,500 frontline prison officers by the end of 2018. From 1 April, governors will have new freedoms in a wide range of areas including regimes, staffing, budgets and health cocommissioning. 

3. We are also tackling the criminality and contraband that undermines security in our prisons: 
  • We have introduced testing for psychoactive substances across the estate, the first jurisdiction in the world to do so. 
  • We are working with mobile network operators to tackle illicit use of phones and are already equipping all prisons with portable and fixed detectors. 
  • We are working with the police to catch and convict criminal using drones to smuggle contraband into prisons, and testing physical and technological countermeasures to stop incursions. 
  • We have enhanced our intelligence capability to identify security threats early on by recruiting an extra 50 intelligence staff to form a new national command supported by regional units. 
4. The Prison and Courts Bill is another step in our path to reform. It will set a new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons which – for the first time – enshrines into law the purpose of prison and sets out that a key aim for prisons is to reform offenders. Under this framework, the Justice Secretary will account to Parliament for progress in reforming offenders, and a strengthened inspectorate and ombudsman will provide sharper external scrutiny of the system. This framework will be supported by new standards and league tables, a new commissioning structure, and new powers for governors. Together, this will create a more focused prison system where governors are clear what they need to deliver and empowered to do so. 

Statutory purpose for prisons and the role of the Secretary of State 

What is the current position? 

5. As it stands, there is no statutory requirement for prisons to do anything other than hold those sentenced by the courts. This means that there is no focus around which everyone working within the prison system can unite. The existing legislation requires the Secretary of State simply to ‘make the contracts and do the other acts necessary for the maintenance of prisons and the maintenance of prisoners’. It is outdated and focuses on the administrative running of the system. What is missing is clarity over what that system as a whole should be delivering. 

6. The current way in which the duty on the Secretary of State to superintend prisons and maintain prisons and prisoners is framed is outdated. There is no clear distinction between the Secretary of State’s role in managing the prison system as a whole and the operational running of individual prisons that is rightly for governors and their staff. 

What are the proposed changes? 

7. The provisions in the Bill reform the framework of the prison system, providing aims for the system as a whole to unite behind, clarifying the role of the Secretary of State and sharpening accountability. 

8. The provisions introduce a clear statutory purpose for prisons. The provisions recognise that prisons give effect to sentences or orders imposed by courts for imprisonment or detention, and in doing this, prisons must concentrate on four aims: 
  • Protect the public; 
  • Reform and rehabilitate offenders; 
  • Prepare prisoners for life outside prison; and 
  • Maintain an environment that is safe and secure. 
9. These provisions will be supported by new standards for governors, introduced from April 2017, with league tables measuring prisons on key areas linked to these aims, such as reducing assaults on prison staff and prisoners and the number of incidents of self-harm. 

10. The legislation modernises the Secretary of State’s overarching responsibility for prisons, to help make clear the distinction between her role in managing the prison system as a whole and the operational running of individual prisons that is rightly for governors and their staff, such as the governor’s responsibility for progress made in substance misuse and health. 

11. It will also require the Secretary of State to report on the extent to which prisons are meeting their purposes, such as success in reforming and rehabilitating offenders, so enabling the Secretary of State to be held to account against them by Parliament and more broadly. 

Strengthen the role of the Inspectorate and put the PPO on a statutory footing 

What is the current position? 

12. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) inspects and provides independent reports on the conditions and treatment of those in custody. 

13. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) investigates complaints and deaths in custody. The PPO does not have a statutory basis. 

What are the proposed changes? 

14. Provisions will add to the remit of HMIP so that in addition to their broad focus on the treatment of prisoners, they must take into account the statutory purpose of prisons when producing inspection reports. Inspections must also include consideration of how the leadership of a prison is contributing to the achievement of outcomes. To increase the impact of inspections there is a new requirement for the Secretary of State to respond to findings of an inspection within a certain timescale. The Chief Inspector will be able trigger a response from the Secretary of State in cases where the Chief Inspector has identified prisons of concern where urgent action needs to be taken. The legislation is providing HMIP with statutory powers to enter premises or access documents so it has the right tools to conduct inspections. 

15. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman performs the critical functions of investigating deaths and complaints in custody. The legislation puts the Ombudsman on a statutory footing, giving it permanence and the powers to require information to fulfil its investigations.

Interference with wireless telegraphy to more effectively combat illegal mobile phones in prison 

What is the current position? 

16. Under the Prisons (interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2012, the Secretary of State, or Scottish Ministers in Scotland, can authorise the person in charge of a relevant institution to interfere with wireless telegraphy by preventing, detecting or investigating the use of mobile phones. A relevant institution is a prison in England, Wales or Scotland, a youth offender institution in England or Wales, a young offender’s institution in Scotland or a secure training centre in England or Wales. The person in charge is the governor or the director in the case of a contracted-out institution. 

What are the proposed changes? 

17. The proposed change would allow the Secretary of State to authorise public communication providers (PCPs) to interfere with wireless telegraphy in prison in addition to the existing authority that can be given to governors or directors. The rationale is that PCPs are the technical experts and have the knowhow and capability to interfere more effectively with illegal mobile phones. While this can currently be achieved through authorisation given to a governor or director, via the PCP operating as their agent, the change will see a clearer line of accountability set down in legislation to allow MNOs to act more independently if that is necessary and appropriate and ensure adequate safeguards apply where the PCP is effecting interference. 

Testing for psychoactive substances 

What is the current position? 

18. The current legislative framework for drugs testing in prison allows tests to be carried out for controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) and for “specified drugs”. “Specified drug” means any substance or product specified in prison rules for the purposes of section 16A of the Prison Act 1952. If a new drug is identified that is not a controlled drug for the purposes of the MDA, it can be added to the list in the prison rules by secondary legislation.

What are the proposed changes? 

19. The proposed change would allow us to adopt the generic definition of a psychoactive substance contained in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This would mean that in future tests can be carried out for controlled drugs and for any psychoactive substances covered by the definition in the 2016 Act, without the need to add each newly identified psychoactive substance individually using secondary legislation. This change would enable us to more quickly respond to and test for any new drug or substance identified.


This fact sheet explains a shake-up of the Magistrates:-

Prisons and Courts Bill 
Abolition of Local Justice Areas 


1. Local justice areas govern three areas of magistrates’ court business: (i) initiating and listing cases; (ii) the payment and enforcement of fines and community orders; and (iii) the leadership and management arrangements of magistrates. Local justice areas currently divide England and Wales into 104 separate areas. When appointed, all magistrates are currently assigned to a local justice area, although every justice is capable of acting as such in any local justice area (whether or not assigned to it), but may do so only in accordance with arrangements by the Lord Chief Justice. 

2. Changes to the management of business in the magistrates’ courts means that local justice areas are now restricting efficient operations because work and magistrates cannot be moved between them easily. 

3. These provisions will remove restrictions that currently mean cases must be dealt with in a specific geographical location, which can cause delays and inconveniencies for victims and witnesses. Cases will be heard quicker and in more convenient places. 

What is the current problem? 

4. Retaining local justice areas in legislation will continue to cause operational problems. The boundaries of local justice areas make it difficult to transfer cases to a court in another area. Court staff are often frustrated by the fact that they cannot cut waiting times for court users by transferring cases to a court in a nearby local justice area where they could be given an earlier listing date. 

5. In addition, as a result of changes to the organisation of the court estate and improvements in transport infrastructure, the court within a local justice area may no longer be the most convenient for court users to travel to. 

6. The enforcement of community penalties and fines is currently tied to local justice areas which causes unnecessary bureaucracy and delays. It means that where a defendant who is arrested for an offence in Manchester, for example, also has outstanding warrants in Somerset for non-payment of other fines, the Manchester court cannot deal with these additional financial penalties without a transfer of fine order. 

What are the proposed changes? 

7. Through the Bill, the Government will: 
  • Remove local justice areas with the effect that magistrates will be appointed on a national basis across England and Wales, rather than to a specific local justice area: Magistrates will still be assigned to a particular area, but will have the option of working in other areas. This will enable more flexible arrangements like that in London which already has a centralised bench support team and provides for an agreement whereby vacancies for Magistrates to sit will be offered across all nine local justice areas if the vacancies are not filled a week before the sitting. 
  • Amend the provisions for the assignment of work and the deployment of magistrates across magistrates’ courts: Allocation decisions will be made in accordance with local needs taking into consideration various factors such as where the offence took place, convenience, for victims and witnesses, or the relative speed at which a trial can be arranged. 
To take one example, Thames Magistrates’ Court serves Stoke Newington Police Station in the East London local justice area. Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court is closer to the police station but it is located in another (the North London) local justice area. If Thames Magistrates’ Court is very busy and unable to schedule a first hearing for several weeks, but there is capacity at Highbury Corner to hear cases sooner, these changes will remove the current restrictions which can prevent the Justices’ Clerk from making temporary arrangements at Highbury Corner to minimise delays. 

Restrictions which can currently cause delays and inconveniences for court users will be removed. Court users in Glossop, for example, will no longer have to travel twice as far to their local justice area court in Chesterfield and can, instead, attend nearby Manchester court. Similarly, residents in the northern fringes of North Yorkshire will be able to attend Middlesbrough court which is significantly more convenient than a journey to their own local justice area courts in Northallerton or Scarborough. 

Courts will have the freedom and flexibility to manage their caseloads and ensure that cases are dealt with fairly and efficiently in the most appropriate location. This may, for example, be at the court closest to where the victim and witnesses live or at a location further away where they feel safe. They will be have the ability to deal with any case whilst retaining a practical oversight of how their business is managed. They will be able to work collaboratively across regions to reduce trial delays. 
  • Remove restrictions on the transfer of fines, community orders and suspended sentence orders, and the requirements that orders must specify the local justice area in which the offender resides or will reside: These changes mean that it will no longer be necessary to employ the equivalent of 20 full times court employees to process Transfer of Fine Orders. Any magistrates’ court will have the powers to enforce a fine, community order or suspended sentence order irrespective of where it was issued. HMCTS will create a single national view of offenders, allowing back office staff to provide better information about past financial impositions and payment history. Offenders will be able to pay fines more conveniently, or serve community orders supervised by the nearest court. Youth Offending Teams will no longer have to make an application to the court to alter the local justice area specified in a youth rehabilitation order when a young person moves home, which will help strengthen the management of young people serving sentences in the community. 
  • Repeal the provisions regulating the organisation and management of the magistracy: Arrangements for the recruitment, training and management of magistrates will be brought in line with that of the rest of the judiciary and will be more closely aligned to the leadership structure of the Crown Court. In common with similar arrangements for other judges, the formal aspects of these arrangements will be put into practice directions ensuring that the magistracy can be organised more flexibly and the size and makeup of benches can be adapted to meet local needs. The senior judiciary will have clearer oversight of business across the criminal courts.



    1. If that kind of vicious assault can be allowed to take place on an officer then I fear the worst when Working Links take obsession of Oakhill !!

    2. * possesion !!

    3. * possession

      (Susie from Countdown x)

  2. These provisions will be supported by new standards for governors, introduced from April 2017, with league tables measuring prisons on key areas linked to these aims, such as reducing assaults on prison staff and prisoners and the number of incidents of self-harming.

    There's such a wide range of prisons, from cat A to cat D, some hold as few as 200, others (super gaols) over 2000, adults to young offenders, closed and open, male and female. Giving governors more autonomy in the running the prisons they oversee creates even more diverse variables.
    I don't see how a league table can have any significant impact or any worthwhile contribution.
    Infact, it sounds a bit like a skeleton framework for a payment by results model, and preparation for large scale privatisation.


  3. Can I offer a St Patrick's Day diversion & suggest that following Graham Linehan (Father Ted, etc) on twitter (@Glinner) is a source of much needed mirth.

    1. What's also laughable is as well as earning around £800,000 since being sacked as Chancellor, and a new 42 days a year job with Black Rock at another £650,000, old George Osborne has now accepted the job of editor for the London Evening Standard!
      However, he still intends to be MP for Tatton.
      Bloody laughable.

  4. Interesting article here that demonstrates how Graylings CJS reforms are still impacting on particular groups within the system

  5. Let's hope it succeeds to bring clarity and direction, accountability and resources to address issues. A lead needs to be taken.

  6. Only good to come of it is magistrates and judges are loathe to impose prison sentences in all but most serious offences. They still expect CRC's to pull a rabbit out of the bag however and provide all the support required to get people back on the straight and narrow. The bbc need to follow and report on the system in meltdown , from hospitals, mental health, probation, prisons, benefits, social care and housing...everything cracking abd groaning at the seams and so called offenders..most of whom are lifes trauma casualties are left in the bottom of the sinking ship whilst the wealthy hop into the lifeboats and drink champers whilst it sinks! This government is a titanic mess of malpractise and corruption.

  7. The no redundancy clause was not fought for by the unions it was offered on day one from the NPS.
    This has always been a rope around the neck, it is certainly not a benefit, more so when everybody wants out.