HC Deb 16 December 1997 vol 303 cc91-2W
Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what record is maintained of the number of occasions on which remand prisoners are unable to appear in court as a result of injuries sustained en route; if he routinely receives reports of such injuries; and to whom trial judges report concerns in such cases. [20333]

Ms Quin

Between April 1993 and July 1997, the responsibility for transporting to court all prisoners other than those in the highest security category has progressively been contracted out to the private sector.

The Prisoner Escort and Custody Services of the Prison Service monitor all such contracts and require the submission of reports on all injuries sustained by prisoners while in the contractor's custody. These include details of the injuries sustained, the circumstances in which they were received, for example a road traffic accident, self harm, etc., and the action taken. Any such incident which may call into question the actions of the contractors or their staff is fully investigated by the prisoner escort monitor.

Incidents involving injuries to prisoners in the custody of escort contractors while on their way to court are extremely rare. Only two cases have been recorded where they were serious enough to prevent attendance.

Incidents relating to category A prisoners are reported to Prison Service Headquarters as well as being subject to full reports. However, figures relating to injuries to remand prisoners while in transit to court are not compiled centrally.

Trial judges are able to express any concerns about the late delivery or non-delivery of prisoners to the escort contractor, the escort monitor, the establishment dispatching the prisoner or Prison Service Headquarters.

All cases relating to prisoners moved by private sector contractors are investigated by the escort monitor. If, as a result of this investigation, a prisoner custody officer (PCO) is found to have been at fault, the escort monitor has the power under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 to recommend the revocation of the PCO's certificate.

Also, under the terms of the contract, the escort monitor may impose penalty points in cases where the contractor has failed to deliver the service specified. These penalties may lead to the imposition of financial remedies.

Where individual PCOs have not performed their duties satisfactorily they will be subject to the contractor's own disciplinary procedures.