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Prison Transfers Prior to HMCIP Inspections

Volume 507: debated on Thursday 11 March 2010

In my statement of 20 October 2009, Official Report, column 53WS, I announced a review of the transfer of prisoners prior to inspection. This will be published on 11 March 2010. The review was conducted by the director of analytical services at the Ministry of Justice and HMCIP and was commissioned after an investigation by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) discovered that 11 prisoners were subject to temporary transfers around the time of inspection. Six were moved from Pentonville to Wandsworth immediately prior to the Pentonville inspection (11 to 15 May), and five from Wandsworth to Pentonville immediately prior to the Wandsworth inspection (1 to 5 June). The investigation found that the 11 transfers had been arranged as deliberate attempts to manipulate the outcomes of the inspections.

Subsequently allegations were made regarding transfers from Brixton prison around the time of inspection. A separate investigation concluded that these were also deliberate attempts to manipulate the outcome of the prison inspection. A separate investigation commissioned by the Director of Offender Management for London found that three prisoners had been transferred out of Brixton prison on the day the prison’s inspection began in April 2008. Two prisoners were held in HMP High Down and one in HMP Wandsworth. All three returned to Brixton after the inspection was completed. As a result, four members of staff were charged under the Prison Service’s Code of Conduct and Discipline. Two later had their charges dismissed, one was found guilty of serious unprofessional conduct and received a written warning and the fourth was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and received an oral warning.

The wider investigation focused on identifying patterns of movement which were similar to those at HMPs Pentonville, Wandsworth and Brixton. The defining characteristics of these transfers were transfers to and from a prison where all transfers out of the prison took place on the same day; and all transfers back to the prison took place on the same day; and the time spent in the second prison was very short compared to other transfers at the time of inspection. In addition some prisoners had been transferred who should not have been transferred for medical reasons.

By analysing these characteristics around the time of all inspections it was found that the practice identified at Wandsworth, Pentonville and Brixton was not widespread but there were some features that warranted further investigation.

One other prison had transferred a prisoner at the time of inspection who should not have been moved for medical reasons and six prisons transferred prisoners who should not have been moved for security reasons.

These details were passed to the NOMS for further investigation. These cases were investigation by NOMS found that none of these were a deliberate attempt to manipulate HMCIP inspections.

In addition a selection of other cases where transfers took place at the time of inspection but did not have the same characteristics as the transfers which took place between Wandsworth and Pentonville were also sent to NOMS for investigation. This was to ensure that there were not other methods being used to carry out this practice.

Following this work, the report concludes that there is no evidence that the practice identified in the transfers between Wandsworth and Pentonville and also at Brixton took place at any other prison. However, improvements can be made to the system to prevent such incidents occurring in the future.

Prisons will be required to submit details of all transfers in the four weeks prior to inspection to HMCIP upon arrival then any movement of prisoners with security or medical reasons for not being transferred would be identified.

Secondly, the analysis conducted here will be repeated annually to check for any further suspicious patterns.

A copy of the report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available on: