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Prisoners In Police Custody At Christmas

Volume 415: debated on Tuesday 9 December 1980

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2.48 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements are being made over the Christmas holiday period for prisoners who are at present being held in police stations.

My Lords, Chief Officers of Police will make appropriate arrangements for the care and custody of any prisoners who, as a result of the prison officers' industrial action, have to be detained in police cells over the Christmas period.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply. If there are any privileges in ordinary prisons for prisoners to receive visits from their families over the Christmas period, may I ask him whether such privileges can be extended to prisoners in police stations without any breach of security?

My Lords, the police are, of course, charged with looking after the prisoners concerned at the moment and, although they do not have to conform to prison rules, the police use their discretion to allow normal rights and privileges to prisoners wherever possible. I am absolutely certain that all will be done which can practicably be done to make sure that Christmas for prisoners—if there are prisoners in police cells at that time—is not cheerless.

My Lords, since I understand that a number of prisoners are spending most of their days in police vans travelling between police stations because there is not sufficient room for them in police station cells, may I ask the noble Lord what arrangements will be made for them and whether it is the case that a number of prisoners are travelling around in very small, confined cages within police vans?

My Lords, that is not my information, but I will certainly look into the matter for the noble Baroness.

My Lords, would not the Government agree that the police have been coping magnificently with the extremely heavy burden which has been put upon them?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for saying that, because I very strongly believe that to be true. We must hope that the Prison Officers' Association will soon end their action so that prisoners may enter the prisons where they belong and so that the police may be able to get on with their primary duties.

My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us how many prisoners are detained at present in police cells?

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend what arrangements have been made over the Christmas holiday period for the police then on duty in police stations?

My Lords, may I ask whether special constables are now helping the police who are very overburdened?

My Lords, I take on board, and I am sure that any members of the police service who read these exchanges will take on board, the burden of the question which my noble friend has asked; but again this is a matter for individual chief constables.