Saturday, 7 July 2018

Howard League Takes on MoJ

I do love how the Howard League and its indefatigable Frances Crook goes about its campaigning work; it's truly inspirational and dare I suggest, puts other organisations to shame. Whatever happened to NACRO and it's once proud campaigning voice?   

Howard League provides evidence to High Court concerning the state’s failure to monitor practices of private companies in the criminal justice system

Operational note

Case: R (Faulder and others) v Sodexo Limited and the Secretary of State for Justice

Where: Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

When: Wednesday 4 July 2018 (listed for two days)

The Howard League for Penal Reform has provided evidence concerning the state’s failure to monitor the practices of private companies in the criminal justice system, in a High Court case scheduled to begin in London tomorrow (Wednesday 4 July).

A witness statement by the charity’s Chief Executive, Frances Crook, has been prepared to assist the court in the case of R (Faulder and others) v Sodexo Limited and the Secretary of State for Justice.

The judicial review claim relates to a series of unlawful strip-searches in a private prison. The case will focus on the failure by the Ministry of Justice to ensure adequate systems were in place in the private prison to prevent breaches of the positive obligations owed to prisoners under Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case raises concerns about the state’s ability to monitor private prisons and hold to account the companies that run them.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “As more and more state functions in the criminal justice sector are delegated to private companies, this important case raises pressing questions about the state’s ability to spot damaging and unlawful practices and stop them happening.

“The consequences of these failures of oversight include serious problems in secure training centres designed to hold vulnerable children, an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into the management of electronic tagging, privatised probation services that have been criticised by the National Audit Office, and the failure of private companies to adequately maintain prisons.”

The case concerns a series of unlawful strip-searches that took place in Sodexo-run Peterborough prison in July and September last year.

In her witness statement, Frances Crook considers the monitoring of private prisons by Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs), whose members are volunteers, and the official watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP).

The statement says that IMB reports often do not pick up on pressing issues. The annual IMB reports from Peterborough prison for the last four years do not mention strip-searching at all. Nor do the annual IMB reports from Bronzefield, a prison operated by the same company. IMBs across England and Wales are experiencing difficulties in recruitment. In May this year the government revealed that one-third of IMB posts were vacant.

Frances Crook’s statement outlines two key weaknesses in the system by which HMIP monitors prisons – the watchdog visits prisons infrequently, which means that problems can go unchecked for years at a time; and there is no obligation on the State to implement its recommendations.

All public and private prisons are audited in a three-year cycle by Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service, formerly known as the National Offender Management Service. In her statement, Frances Crook suggests that, without some idea of the criteria prisons are being measured against, it is difficult to have faith in the audit’s positive conclusions.

The statement also considers the role of controllers, who are largely responsible for contractual compliance. Frances Crook suggests that, as they work in private prisons, alongside the employees of the private contractors, controllers may not be best placed to hold their colleagues and the management of the prison to account in a meaningful way.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

“In my experience, when effective, these mechanisms can shine a light in dark corners. However, in my view, they are less effective in leading to meaningful and urgent change than is required to safeguard the fundamental rights of prisoners, and ensure that prisons comply with the United Kingdom’s human rights obligations.

“In fact, I can think of no other field where damning findings made by inspectorates are routinely ignored; where the same problems are reported year after year, are still not addressed, and have no repercussions for the prisons.

“It would be unthinkable in the context of health services for the Care Quality Commission to make serious and recurrent findings that go unrectified. However, countless bodies have raised serious and grave concerns about prisons for years that have not resulted in adequate change.”

10 comments:

  1. Whatever happened to NACRO and it's once proud campaigning voice?

    Erm, it got wined, dined & fucked by Sodexo. Literally.

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  2. ingeus rrp looking to make further cuts

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  3. How can men kicking a ball, men hitting a smaller ball with a racquet & men consuming the world's fossil fuels at high speed leave this blog so devoid of interest?

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    1. ^^ Probation man hater alert !

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    2. Steady on - we don't live on Grumpy Street. I'm led to understand that more than a few women are hitting small balls with sticks too.(Intrusive Thought warning)

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    3. If its a she and its not mischievous comedy then what an idiot !! It is sunny people are relaxing, well earned time off and deserved in the MOJ farce come tragedy . Your worried about workers enhjoying the sports like I say Idiot.

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    4. Dear Silly People: A belated but wild guess would be the reference @19:27 7/7/18 was quite specific viz-the England mens football team at the World Cup, Kyle Edmund v Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon & Lewis Hamilton qualifying at Silverstone.

      There'd be little scope for anything other than 'men' doing those things.

      A Bemused Pedant.

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    5. So what I’m understanding from you 22:47 is an acknowledgement of the suggested unequivocal importance of men’s balls. As a man I can accept this although I do disagree with 19:27’s generalisation why commenters are inactive and I alsosuspect somewhere in the world there was at least one women’s sport featured on tv which may or may not have involved balls too.

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  4. Who else remembers the days when a motley band of Prison Service staff of all grades, plus a few Probation Service staff who were in the know, would provide marshaling and a degree of security at Silverstone for the Grand Prix.Three free days at the races - practice, qualifiers and GP - and a bit of cash at the end of it all. Fun times.

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    1. Now we wouldn’t pass the vetting!

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