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Crimes of Violence

Volume 502: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many threats made by prisoners to prison officers were reported in the latest period for which figures are available; and what his Department's policy is on action to be taken in response to such reports. (305124)

A prisoner who makes threats to anyone may be charged under the prison or young offender institution rules with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. The charge will be dealt with at an adjudication hearing by a prison governor, or in more serious cases by an independent adjudicator (district judge). If the charge is proved the governor may impose any of the punishments set out in the rules, ranging from a caution, forfeiture of privileges, stoppage of earning, or cellular confinement. An independent adjudicator may impose any of these punishments, plus up to 42 additional days in custody.

The Offender Management Caseload Statistics (OMCS), available on the Ministry of Justice website at:

www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/offender-management-caseload-statistics-2008-2.pdf

show that in 2008, 16,048 offences of threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour were punished following guilty findings at adjudications. The OMCS do not show the number of these offences that were directed at prison officers (as opposed to other members of staff, other prisoners, or visitors), or how many charges were not proven or not proceeded with.

Any threats by prisoners towards prison staff should be recorded on a Security Information Report (SIR). In the period January to August 2009, 15,232 SIRs were submitted in connection with threats to staff and others, but these records do not show how many of these incidents related to threats to prison officers, other staff, or visitors.

Alternatively to, or in addition to, the prison disciplinary system, prisoners' behaviour is taken into account when their privilege level under the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme is reviewed. A pattern of bad behaviour, such as making threats, or a particularly serious single incident, is likely to lead to a loss of privileges under the scheme. No figures are available on the number of prisoners whose privilege level has been reduced as a consequence of making threats.