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Prisoners' Correspondents

Volume 894: debated on Tuesday 24 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) under what circumstances a governor of a prison requests the police to make discreet inquiries about the character of members of the public from whom prisoners wish to receive letters, or write to, or be visited by; and to what categories of prison this applies;(2) how many members of the public have been prevented from communicating with prisoners as a result of inquiries made as to their character by the police, in the last year for which figures are available;(3) under what authority a prison governor is entitled to ask the police to make inquiries about members of the public who wish to communicate with prisoners;(4) what form the discreet inquiries made by the police of members of the public at the request of prison governors take;(5) what happens to the character assessment of members of the public made by the police at the request of prison governors; and who has access to them;(6) how many members of the public have been investigated by the police at the request of a prison governor in the last year for which figures are available;(7) if members of the public are informed that the police are making inquiries as to their character at the request of prison governors; and if they have any redress against unfavourable and unfounded reports;

A governor may need to satisfy himself that visits by a particular person to a prisoner, or correspondence between them, will not threaten the security and good order of the prison; in such a case he may at his discretion consult the police. The advice to be given is a matter for the chief officer of the force concerned, but is, I understand, based on existing police knowledge, and not on an investigation undertaken specifically for the purpose. Any report is provided in confidence to the governor, and only one or two designated members of his staff have access to it. The number of reports of this nature is not readily available, and could only be provided at a disproportionate cost.