Prisons in Parliament

Should a guilty plea have a price tag?

Parly pic

Prisons in Parliament brings you up-to-date on the last week of politics and prisons. What’s been said? And by whom? Get it all here. 

Criminal Courts Charge

Moved by Lord Beecham on 14 October: This House regrets the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (Criminal Courts Charge) Regulations 2015.

“Among the many dubious legacies bequeathed to Michael Gove by his predecessor as Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, (The criminal courts charge) ranks as one of the most misconceived.”

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In context:

The Criminal Courts Charge was introduced April 2015 under the premise that those convicted should take responsibility and contribute towards the costs they impose. Intended not to be part of punishment, but simply to help recover the costs of court.

Under the Criminal Courts Charge:

  • A defendant pleading guilty in the magistrates’ court will be charged £150
  • If defendants are convicted after a not guilty plea, the charge will be £520 or £1,000

The bill has been criticized for undermining the principle of judicial discretion and encouraging those charged to plead guilty simply to avoid higher fines. It has also been suggested that the savings outlined cannot be substantiated.

“Imposing unaffordable penalties on offenders who cannot pay commands no respect, just as it brings no real money into the Treasury.” Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames  

Lord Beecham called for a review. Read to full debate here.

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Prisons: Planning and Policies

Moved by Bob Neill (Chair, Justice Committee): That this House has considered the Ninth Report from the Justice Committee of Session 2014-15, on Prisons: planning and policies.

 “I have worked in prisons in the early ’90s; I know exactly the state that they were in then and I see the state that they are in now. I have seen nothing but declineOvercrowding, understaffing and a lack of political interest or leadership is responsible” Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

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In context:

The report, published in March this year, highlighted overcrowding, understaffing and issues of prisoner and staff safety across the UK prison estate

 The figures:

  • The prison population is currently 85,973 (one of the highest rates of incarceration in western Europe)
  • The National Offender Management Service is at 98 per cent of its usable operational capacity
  • Since 2012 there has been a 38 per cent rise in self-inflicted deaths and a 7 per cent rise in assaults

 

“We will press the Government over the coming year or so for more detail on precisely what the plans are to reduce capacity. Will there be an increase both in the build and in finding genuine, constructive and publicly credible alternatives to custody, wherever possible?” Mr Neill.

Read the full debate here.

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Upcoming Business

29 October, Lords: Main Chamber: Harris Review on deaths in custody of 18-24 year olds: Changing Prisons, Saving Lives

11 November, Lords: Main Chamber: Prisoners serving Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences


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