§ Mr. Frank Field
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what vetting procedures are in place on the staff of Group 4 who will be involved in the transportation of prisoners to Birkenhead Crown court; and if Group 4 will be responsible for the transportation of prisoners irrespective of their offence.
§ Mr. Michael Forsyth
Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Frank Field, dated 10 February 1995:
The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the vetting procedures and responsibilities of Group 4 staff at Birkenhead Crown Court.426W
All Prisoner Custody Officers (PCOs) at contracted out prisons and those working in the contracted court escort and custody service are certified by the Home Secretary. This is in accordance with Section 89 of, and Schedule 10 to, the Criminal Justice Act 1991. Before issuing such a certificate, routine enquiries are made. These investigations are similar to those made in relation to applications for Prison Service employment and include checks made by the police against criminal records held in the National Identification Bureau. Candidates applying for employment as PCOs are exempt for the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and conviction which ordinarily are regarded as "spent" are therefore taken into account.
Group 4 will be responsible for the escort of all prisoners to and from court and for their custody at court, with the exception of category A prisoners, who will continue to be escorted by the Police and Prison Service.