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Prisoners: Segregation Under Rule 43

Volume 413: debated on Friday 10 October 1980

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11.12 a.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many prisoners were segregated under Rule 43 for the maintenance of good order and discipline in each of the years from 31st August 1977–1980 inclusive.

My Lords, I regret that information is not readily available in the form requested. However, available records show that the numbers of men notified to Prison Department regional offices as being segregated under Rule 43 for the maintenance of good order and discipline at the end of each month totalled 1,054, 1,187 and 1,322 respectively in the calendar years 1977, 1978 and 1979. The corresponding total figure for the first seven months of 1980 was 717.

My Lords, do not those figures show that the use of Rule 43 is increasing? Bearing in mind that segregation is a form of punishment which is inflicted on a prisoner without any charges being preferred against him, without his being given an opportunity of a hearing before a tribunal of any kind, would it not at least be proper to make a rule that a prisoner should be given a notice when he is placed on Rule 43 explaining, even if only in broad terms, the reasons for it so that he can contest them if he thinks that it is unjust? Can the Minister also say whether any psychiatric advice is sought on the effects of segregating a prisoner for considerable periods at a time and whether, within the totals that the noble Lord has given, there are any records of a person spending longer than three months continuously on Rule 43, bearing in mind that although it provides for only one month, the period can be extended indefinitely?

My Lords, the noble Lord asked me about psychiatric advice. If I may give a more general answer, I should say that there is a vigilant regional oversight of the use of the power of Rule 43, and for the reasons that the noble Lord has given in his supplementary questions this is of course necessary. Establishments are required to submit information to regional offices showing the relevant circumstances and authority for each individual decision to segregate, and providing regulations for further action, so as to enable regional offices to keep individual cases under review. Incidentally, it is of course always open for a prisoner to present a petition to the governor, or go further than that. So far as the last remarks of the noble Lord are concerned about the period of three months or more, No, the answer to that is that I cannot give the noble Lord clarification on that for reasons that I think were implicit in the original Answer that I gave.

My Lords, will my noble friend comment on, or confirm, the noble Lord's premise that segregation is a form of punishment? Is it not simply a precautionary measure?

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right, if I may say so. The opening words of Prison Rule 43 are, "Where it appears desirable …" These are cases where it appears desirable, and this is not something that is wished on prisoners by governors or staff.

My Lords, does the noble Lord recall writing to me only the other day stating that a particular individual prisoner was placed on segregation under Rule 43 because he was alleged to have fermented dissent within the prison where he was confined? Therefore, was that not used as a form of punishment in this case? Is it not true that in many instances a prisoner who is thought to be a trouble-maker, but against whom specific charges cannot be preferred, is treated in this manner? Can the noble Lord reply to the first part of my original supplementary question, in which I asked whether he considered that it was just and proper that a prisoner who is segregated for reasons of good order and discipline should at least be given a notice stating that he has been so treated and explaining in broad terms the reasons for it?

My Lords, if I may, I should like to look further into that. However, if the noble Lord is suggesting that the prisoner has no idea at all why he has been segregated under Prison Rule 43, all I would say is that the noble Lord is making himself out as being more naive than in fact I think he is. I do not think that Question Time is really the occasion to bandy semantics across the Floor of the House, but in regard to the case which the noble Lord says was referred to in one of the letters that I have had the pleasure of writing to him recently, all I can say is that seems to have been one of those cases in which it appeared desirable that the prisoner should be so segregated.