HL Deb 04 December 1995 vol 567 cc66-7WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the rules, instructions and administrative practice within the Prison Service governing the use of handcuffs and other physical constraints on pregnant women attending maternity and other appointments in hospitals outside prison.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch):

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the temporary Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Lester of Herne Hill from the Director of Operations-South, HM Prison Service, Mr. Alan Walker, dated 4/12/95

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about the handcuffing of women prisoners on escort.

The requirement for female prisoners to be handcuffed on escort from prison, as men are, was introduced in April 1995. This removed a governor's discretion to escort female prisoners without the use of handcuffs or a closeting chain. The new arrangements were considered necessary in order to improve security, as the rate of escapes by escorted female prisoners was considerably higher than that by male prisoners.

During medical examinations or treatment, the officer in charge of the escort must remove the cuffs if this is necessary for medical, clinical or surgical reasons. Restraints must also be removed during labour. It is also possible to allow sentenced women who are visiting their children to be released on compassionate licence if they are not category A, if they fulfil the criteria for temporary release and if risk assessments have shown that there is little risk of the prisoner trying to escape.

We are reviewing the policy to see if governors need to be allowed to have discretion not to use handcuffs on women prisoners in certain limited cases.

The results of the new security arrangements so far have been very successful in reducing both the number of escapes from escorts and failures to return from temporary release.