HL Deb 04 December 1996 vol 576 cc58-9WA
Lord Marlesford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to Baroness Blatch's Answer of 29th January 1996 (WA 99), what progress has been made in the consideration of options for the development of computer systems to provide a centralised computer register of all persons detained in Her Majesty's penal establishments in Northern Ireland and when they expect to announce plans for the introduction of such a register.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield):

Responsibility for subject of the question has been delegated to the Northern Ireland Prison Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. Alan Shannon. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Marlesford from the Director of Finance and Estate Management, Northern Ireland Prison Service, Mr. L. O'Reilly, dated 27th November 1996.

In the absence of our Chief Executive, Mr. Alan Shannon, I have been asked to reply to the parliamentary Question you tabled seeking information on progress in considering options for the development of a central register of inmates detained in Her Majesty's penal establishments in Northern Ireland.

Each prison in Northern Ireland maintains a computerised record of a range of information about its prisoner population. A limited centralised prisoner information database, manually updated from regular returns made by each prison, is maintained at Northern Ireland Prison Service Headquarters.

At the beginning of October 1996, a number of staff from the Northern Ireland Prison Service visited the Scottish Prison service to review the Scottish Prisons Information Network (SPIN), which provides an integrated central register of inmates detained in prisons in Scotland. The purpose of the visit was to evaluate whether this system might provide a model from which an improved inmates information system could be developed in Northern Ireland. Our general conclusion was the Scottish system did provide a framework for an improved system in Northern Ireland.

We are now considering a timetable for the development and implementation of a new inmates information system, based on the Scottish model. We have not yet set a firm target date for implementation, as this will depend on the availability of resources to provide the replacement for the present systems.