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Prisoners (Breaches Of Discipline)

Volume 895: debated on Thursday 17 July 1975

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider allowing prisoners representation by a solicitor when they appear before boards of visitors for breaches of prison discipline.

This matter is within the terms of reference of the departmental working party which has been reviewing adjudication procedures in Prison Department establishments and whose report we hope to publish shortly. Following publication we shall be seeking the views of boards of visitors—and shall be glad to receive those of other bodies or individuals—not only on the recommendations made in the working party's report but also on the suggestions made in the recent report of the committee chaired by Lord Jellicoe and set up by Justice, the Howard League and NACRO to consider the role of boards of visitors of penal establishments.

In cases of breaches of discipline, where there is the appearance of judicial hearings, if representations are not allowed, is it not right that the nature of the hearings should be changed to that of an executive performance by the governor? Will the Minister bear in mind the recommendation of Lord Jellicoe's committee that in determining these matters there should be a group of persons other than boards of visitors, such as professional lawyers, who might be involved in deciding the issues?

The different alternatives are being considered by the working party, which will receive the views of the bodies which it consults.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the answer given earlier by my right hon. Friend is disappointing? Does she accept that in sentencing offenders the courts take into account the remission which can be earned? When a prisoner is potentially losing such remission he should in the interests of fairness and equity—never mind the administrative convenience of prisons—be legally represented.

The Question I am answering concerns breaches of prison discipline and representation before boards of visitors. A case which came before the Court of Appeal in June this year was dismissed. However, the situation has been fully examined and we hope to make a statement as soon as we have received and considered views on it.