HC Deb 28 October 1976 vol 918 cc682-4
5. Mr. James Lamond

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the number of prisoners in Northern Ireland prisons; and what is the range and average of sentence.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)

The total number of prisoners on 24th October 1976 was 2,667. This included 1,867 sentenced prisoners, of whom 1,163 were special category, 660 were untried prisoners and 140 were borstal trainees. The sentences being served ranged from two weeks to life imprisonment. The average for those serving determinate sentences at 3rd October, the latest date for which the figure is available, is 6.38 years.

Mr. Lamond

Is the number of special category prisoners reducing, and what is the average length of sentence being served by that category of prisoners?

Mr. Concannon

The ending of special category status has reduced the number of special category prisoners, and the number has been stabilising for a short time. If we except the 132 prisoners serving life sentences, there are 1,031 prisoners serving sentences totalling 8,565 years, an average of 8.31 years per prisoner.

Mr. Carson

Is the Minister aware that many prisoners on remand at the Crumlin Road Prison are refusing to leave their cells for fear of being attacked by other prisoners on remand? Does he agree that in Northern Ireland, although one would like to see it, it is impossible to have full integration in schools and other places? Surely the only sensible thing to do now for murderers and men who have not yet been found guilty is to provide segregation?

Mr. Concannon

My remit from the House was to end special category status, and the one thing I do not recognise now is a Protestant prisoner or a Catholic prisoner. I recognise merely prisoners.

Mr. McNamara

How many prisoners have applied for special category status since the ending of that form of imprisonment? How many people who would otherwise have been granted that status have gone cheerfully—perhaps that is not quite the right word—into cellular accommodation, no longer being of special category status?

Mr. Concannon

It is my guess—I stress that it is my guess—that about 20 of those convicted since the ending of special category status would have claimed that status. Of those 20, I think that seven who have claimed special category status and are not receiving it are refusing to wear prison clothing. They are protesting against not being allowed special category status. There are a further four who, although conforming to prison rules and cellular accommodation, have submitted written application for such status. I should guess that about 20 is the overall total.