We welcome the ECHR’s inquiry on this important issue. Significant progress has been made in recent years supporting vulnerable defendants, particularly through the continued rollout of liaison and diversion services in police stations and courts across England.
However, far more could be done to ensure the justice system meets its duties under equality law, for instance through the increased use of accessible information, intermediaries and other reasonable adjustments.
Reacting to David Gauke’s speech to Reform this morning, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The justice secretary is establishing a reputation as a thoughtful, balanced policy thinker, driven by evidence not preconception. This speech rightly rejects the pointless language of tough versus soft, and calls for an informed debate about how to punish serious crime in ways that are both effective and humane. It deserves a non-partisan response, so that we can ultimately achieve a penal system of which the country can feel proud rather than ashamed.”
Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“This is very welcome news for prisoners’ families, who are very often the key to a crime free future for people leaving prison. David Gauke is right to point to other benefits too. Access to legitimate in-cell phones can reduce tension and self-harm. It also undermines the market for illegal mobile phones in prison, and all the violence associated with it.
The Prison Reform Trust has called for an urgent moratorium on the planned roll out of PAVA spray to prison officers in the adult male estate.
It warns that the roll out, which is due to begin in the New Year, is likely to do more harm than good and undermine the safety of prisoners and prison officers.
After the decision to roll out PAVA was announced in early October, the Prison Minister Rory Stewart said that PAVA would only be used in “exceptional circumstances” to protect staff from the threat or perceived threat of serious violence.
Assaults and self-harm incidents in prisons in England and Wales have reached a record high, according to the government’s Safety in Custody quarterly bulletin.
Over the last year, there have been 325 deaths in prison custody - up 8% on the previous year. Out of those, 87 were self-inflicted deaths. A huge 9,485 assaults were recorded against staff, up 27%, and prisoner-on-prisoner assaults reached 23,448.
The report also stated that nearly 50,000 self-harm incidents took place over the last year, up by 20%.
Commenting on the publication of today's safety in custody statistics, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Despite the unrelenting effort of many in the system, all of these indicators show that there is no end in sight to the catastrophe that has engulfed many of our prisons.
The Ministry of Justice to invest £10m into 10 of the most challenging prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The Governors of the 10 prisons will be pleased to have a little more money, wherever it comes from. But we have been here before. In 2016 Michael Gove set up six reform prisons that would pave the way for others to follow."
The government should follow Scotland’s lead and introduce a presumption against short prison sentences as part of their efforts to restore safety and stability to our struggling jails according to a new briefing, Prison: the facts, published today by the Prison Reform Trust.
The briefing reveals the current scale of the challenge facing the government, with hundreds of people flowing in and out of the prison system on short sentences every week, placing pressure on an already overstretched and overcrowded prison system.
As part of its forthcoming employment strategy for prisoners, the government should introduce a radical approach to using release on temporary licence (ROTL) at scale across the prison estate.
This would be a huge incentive to good behaviour in prison as well as an effective aid to resettlement, the briefing suggests.