HC Deb 12 May 1960 vol 623 cc601-3
15 and 16. Mr. Abse

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether he is aware that a boy of 17 years of age, sentenced to one month's imprisonment for non-payment of a fine, was placed in a cell in January at Cardiff Prison with two older prisoners serving terms of imprisonment and was sexually assaulted by them; and what steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence of such incidents; and (2) whether he is aware that two boys aged 17 years, sentenced to undergo Borstal training, were placed in cells at Cardiff Prison, one in December, 1959, and one in January, 1960, with older prisoners serving terms of imprisonment and were each sexually assaulted by them; and what steps are being taken lo prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I regret to say that two youths sentenced to borstal training, aged 17 and 19, respectively, were sexually assaulted in Cardiff prison by two cellmates aged 20. A third boy, aged 17, serving six weeks' imprisonment for non-payment of a fine, was assaulted by one of these assailants in an attempt to commit indecency. The prison authorities, by careful allocation of young prisoners under 21 to cells, are doing all they can to prevent such deplorable incidents, but the only effective answer to this problem is to provide enough cellular accommodation to make it unnecessary to put three boys together in a cell and, as the House knows, I am pressing on with a prison building programme as fast as I can.

Mr. Abse

Whilst welcoming his promise to press on in this connection, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in the meantime, in this appallingly overcrowded prison in Cardiff, he will take steps to see that these young persons do not, as at present, share the same dining-room with murderers like Carter and Mitchell, or the same workshop with murderers like Straffen? Also, can we have a firm date when a remand centre will be built in Wales so that we can be quite certain that no young teen-agers of this kind will be placed with star prisoners as they are at present?

Mr. Butler

I have frequently stated my belief in what the hon. Member has said, namely, that young persons should not be put with older prisoners in the wrong sort of circumstances. We are dealing with an exceedingly overcrowded situation owing to the increase in crime which has risen to a certain summit. What I am proposing is an unprecedented prison building programme. In the last three years no fewer than thirty-four institutions have either been started, completed or put under planning. This is unprecedented, and we are pressing ahead as fast as we can. The present situation will be dealt with locally, as far as it can be, in the sense in which the hon. Member desires, but there are severe limitations on what can be achieved.

Mr. Shinwell

Apart from the merits of this particular case, has the right hon. Gentleman expressed any opinion to the prison authorities, who are responsible? Was it not rather shocking that this should have been done?

Mr. Butler

Yes, I have been into this most thoroughly with the prison authorities. For example, we found that the records of these boys did not give evidence that this sort of thing was likely to happen. In the case I mentioned, there was no evidence of previous violence. We have been into it as fully as possible and put the points raised by the hon. Member for Ponty-pool (Mr. Abse) to the prison authorities.