HC Deb 08 May 2001 vol 368 cc91-3W
Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the recommendations of the Prison Service "Searches on the Person" Review indicating the progress made in the implementation of each proposal. [159551]

Mr. Boateng

Six recommendations have been implemented in full, and the security manual has been updated accordingly. On another seven recommendations, work has commenced towards full implementation. There are still three recommendations on which work has yet to start.

The review recommendations will be considered when the security manual chapters on searching are reviewed by the security manual project team. Given the importance of searching, it has been decided to review the searching chapter first.

Progress on the recommendations is as follows. The six recommendations implemented are:

  1. 1. For strip searches of menstruating women, issue further guidance that women should be allowed to remove and dispose of external sanitary towels themselves and that a fresh towel should be provided.
  2. 2. Issue guidance to staff to allow pregnant, disabled, or elderly prisoners to sit down for as much of the search as possible providing that this does not reduce the thoroughness and effectiveness of the search.
  3. 3. Post operative and bedridden prisoners and those who are in severe pain or have recently given birth should be strip searched only in exceptional circumstances. When it is necessary to carry out such a strip search, the procedure should be modified on an ad hoc basis to allow the least discomfort or intrusion. Searches should not be carried out if the healthcare professionals advise that it is clinically unacceptable.
  4. 4. Issue guidance making it clear that gender is not a Genuine Occupational Qualification for cell searching, and explaining how to involve opposite sex searchers.
  5. 5. Ensure managers set and communicate realistic targets for rub down searches, as part of the local searching strategy. particularly during periods of high movement.
  6. 6. Guidance should be issued on when a prisoner may be in the "sight" of a person of the opposite sex, for the purposes of Prison Rule 41(3) by way of amendment to the Security Manual.

Implementation has begun on the following recommendations: 1. Commission research to identify whether, and if so what, changes can be made in procedures for strip searching to improve its effectiveness. The research should consider: the views of staff; their approach and demeanour while conducting strip searches; prisoners' perceptions; and the gender, age and culture background of those searched.

A draft Business Case has been prepared which is awaiting approval.

2. Introduce procedures to ensure that new receptions understand they will be strip searched, and what is involved in the search.

The Prison Service Order on reception arrangements is being revised. When it is published, it will include further guidance on searching arrangements.

3. Set aside resources within the research programme to evaluate existing and emerging technology to replace routine strip searching when reliable and affordable equipment is available.

The Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB) undertake this type of research for Security Group. This work forms part of the research programme.

4. Ensure that statistical recording and monitoring of strip searches will be provided for in the future information and communication technologies introduced throughout the Service.

This will be considered when the Prison Service prisoner database is upgraded.

5. When Prison Officer Initial Training (POINT) course is revised, include in the module for those working with under 18s material that will ensure they are aware of ways in which searching, and the way they conduct searches, may affect young people.

POINT is being revised, and will be trialled. The additional considerations for searching under 18s will be included in the revised training.

6. Young offender institutions (YOIs) that will continue to hold juveniles must revisit their searching strategies and make specific provision for their under 18 units. Governors of prisons that are being re-roled to take only under 18s need to consider their whole searching strategy de novo to ensure that it is suitable for the establishment's new role.

Searching strategies are agreed between governors and their Area Manager, and will be amended to comply with this requirement. The appropriate section of the Security Manual and the security standard now need to be amended, so that governors will be audited against this requirement.

7. Issue central guidance for prisons on how to react when a dog indicates the possible presence of drugs on a visitor.

A research project conducted by Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) reported recently. One of its recommendations was that further guidance was needed in the light of its findings, and this work will be taken forward.

The three recommendations on which progress has yet to commence are:

  1. 1. Consider introducing the sideways stance for rub down searching of violent prisoners.
  2. 2. Cease the practice of randomly rub down searching official and professional visitors to category C and D prisons and to most women's prisons and YOIs.
  3. 3. For legal representatives, draw a distinction between, on the one hand, barristers and those counted as solicitors for the purposes of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), and on the other hand, those practising as legal advisers but not counted as solicitors for the purposes of PACE. The latter should continue to be rub down searched as though they were domestic visitors.

These recommendations will he picked up shortly as the Security Manual chapters on searching are reviewed.