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Walton Prison: Cemeteries

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) on what date the National Offender Management Service received the request to meet the costs of the exhumation and reburial of George Kelly at Walton Prison, Liverpool; (205722)

(2) what requests for interim payments have been received by his Department and its agencies in respect of work conducted in connection with the exhumation and reburial of George Kelly; and when and how they were processed;

(3) what agreement the National Offender Management Service reached on the costs incurred in the exhumation and reburial of the remains of George Kelly at Walton Prison, Liverpool; with whom the agreement was reached; and on what date;

(4) what (a) guidance and (b) training is given to personnel working in Prison Service custodial property and estates management on (i) dealing with members of the public and (ii) settlement of disputes using alternative dispute resolution;

(5) when the decision was taken to construct a car park over the grave area of executed persons at Walton Prison, Liverpool; who was responsible for the decision; what consideration was given to providing access to each grave; and if he will make a statement;

(6) what his policy is on building over graves sited on land (a) owned and (b) occupied by the National Offender Management Service; what regulations apply to building on such land; what guidance he issues on building on such land; what sanctions apply to breaches of (i) regulations and (ii) policy; and if he will make a statement;

(7) what requests his Department and its agencies have received for alternative dispute resolution of outstanding issues regarding the costs involved in connection with the exhumation and reburial of George Kelly at Walton Prison, Liverpool; and what steps were taken to (a) respond to and (b) comply with such requests.

A request was received in November 2005 before the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Custodial Property Estates Section agreed to meet the reasonable costs.

Following the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly, NOMS received in May 2006 invoices for the funeral directors and other services relating to the exhumation and reburial. These were settled the same month by final payment made to the solicitors who had requested the exhumation and reburial. There were two remaining claims for costs in respect of which requests for interim payments were made. The first claim related to the role of a person asked by the same solicitors to make the arrangements for the exhumation and reburial. However, no breakdown of the costs was supplied with the claim and as, despite several requests, such a breakdown was not provided no interim payment could be made. The information was eventually provided and the amount payable agreed and paid. The second claim related to the services of a psychologist. Following a meeting in August 2006 an offer to settle the claim was made that month but there was a delay in a formal response. NOMS is endeavouring to seek to settle this account appropriately.

In November 2005, following an approach by solicitors about the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly, the then Department of Constitutional Affairs contacted the head of NOMS Custodial Property Estates section who agreed to meet the reasonable costs of the exhumation and reburial. Invoices submitted by those solicitors for the funeral directors and other services relating to the exhumation and reburial were agreed and paid in May 2006. The claim for costs for the role of the person asked by the same solicitors to arrange the exhumation and reburial was agreed with the solicitors and paid in January 2008. The claim made by the solicitors for the services of a psychologist has yet to be resolved.

The staff in Custodial Property Estates section dealing with estate management matters are professionally trained surveyors experienced in dealing with members of the public and all aspects relating to contracts which include alternative dispute resolution. If any specific training need were to be identified appropriate training would be arranged.

The car parking area has been in use for a considerable number of years and to search for the information about decisions, as requested, could only be undertaken at disproportionate cost, if such information is still in existence. The brick paving and sand base over the graves can be removed to facilitate exhumation of remains.

In cases where it is proposed to erect a building on land where there are graves it is normal practice for the remains to be exhumed and reburied away from the site. Such buildings are subject to the building regulations in the same way as other new prison buildings. The Coroners’ Office has previously advised that there is no legislation or rules relating to burials preventing the use of such areas for car parking.

Alternative dispute resolution and other such processes in relation to two claims in respect of costs relating to the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly was raised in August 2006 by the solicitors who had requested the exhumation and reburial. With regard to the first claim from the person engaged by those solicitors to make the arrangements for the exhumation and reburial, in September 2006 that person served a claim against the solicitors who then served a claim against NOMS. The claim was resolved out of court. The second claim relates to the services of a psychologist. The NOMS Custodial Property Estates Section is endeavouring to resolve this matter without the need for a process such as the alternative dispute resolution as the sum in dispute is some £1,500.