HC Deb 27 February 1997 vol 291 cc288-9W
Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the video recording of legal visits at(a) Belmarsh, (b) other prisons and (c) legal visiting rooms; [16049]

(2) on what statutory basis the video recording of legal visits is permitted; [16050]

(3) in what circumstances audio recording of legal visiting rooms is permitted. [16051]

Miss Widdecombe

[holding answers 26 February 1997]: Responsibility for these matters 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 Richard Tilt to Mr. Tam Dalyell, dated 27 February 1997: The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Questions about video and audio recording of legal visits. I shall deal with your second and third Questions first. Prison Rule 37 provides that legal visits shall take place out of hearing but in the sight of an officer. One way to achieve this is to use CCTV without sound, recording the CCTV image on video tape to allow an officer to review the visit at a convenient time. The camera facilities used do not allow any documentation that may he open on the visits table to be read. The Prison Service does not permit the audio recording of legally privileged visits. Belmarsh prison uses video-recorded CCTV without sound in the legal visits facility in its special secure unit (SSU). A system similar to that used in the SSU at Belmarsh is used in the other SSUs at Full Sutton and Whitemoor. CCTV without sound is used in the non-SSU legal visits rooms at Full Sutton, Long Lartin, Frankland and Wakefield, and can be video recorded if necessary. Information about the rest of the estate is not held centrally and accurate information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.