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Prisons: Northern Ireland

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In what circumstances a person can be sent to prison for non-payment of debt in Northern Ireland. [HL5580]

A person who fails to comply with the terms of a decree or money judgment made by any court in Northern Ireland can ultimately be committed to prison by the court as a result of that failure.

The court will take into account a range of factors including the debtor's ability to pay. In addition, the legislation governing such proceedings provide a wide range of debt recovery payment options including, for example, time to pay, payment by instalments or an attachment of earnings order. An order for committal would generally be regarded as a measure of last resort.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the ratio of prisoners to wardens in prisons in (a) Northern Ireland, and (b) England. [HL5582]

The ratio of prisoners to officers is 1.13 to one in Northern Ireland and three to one in England.

There are differences in the classification of prison officers between the two jurisdictions. In England, for public sector prisons, officers are classified as prison officers, senior officers and principal officer. For private prisons they are classified as prison custody officers and senior custody officers. In Northern Ireland, prison officers are classified as main grade officers, night custody officers, operational support grades and night patrol officers.