A significant step forward in the fight against violence in prisons has been taken today (27 February 2015), with the publication of a joint national protocol on crime committed in prison.
The new joint protocol produced by the Prison Service, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has set out clearly that when there are serious assaults on prison staff, the perpetrators will be prosecuted unless there is a good reason why not.
The protocol provides robust guidelines for joint working between prisons, police and CPS to ensure that wherever possible prisoners who commit serious assaults on staff or other serious crimes – such as hostage taking, arson, absconds – are punished through the courts. It will help to improve crime reporting and information sharing and most importantly it will improve the service to victims of crime in prisons, especially hard-working prisons staff.
It is already the case that there is a presumption that sentences for offences committed in prison will be served at the end of, rather than alongside, the initial prison sentence.
This new approach sits within the Prison Service’s wider violence reduction strategy, focused on reducing violent behaviour and making the most of the latest technology such as body worn cameras. Hand-in-hand with this work is the crackdown on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or so-called legal highs’ coming into prisons.
Prison governors have recently received new guidance from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) which sets out clearly for the first time the measures available to them to deal with NPS. This will reinforce the prison estate’s zero tolerance approach to contraband. A loop hole is also being closed by the MOJ, which means that anyone found trying to throw these dangerous non-controlled drugs into prison could now face 2 years in prison.
Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said:
Violence in prisons is not tolerated and assaults on our hard-working staff are unacceptable. I do not underestimate the hard work and challenges that prison staff face on a daily basis which is why we worked hard to get this protocol in place as quickly as possible.
Today is a milestone in our huge effort to tackle violence in prison. This new approach to investigating crime in prisons will ensure that those that attack staff are prosecuted and fully brought to justice.
We have always had a complex and challenging prison population but are taking appropriate steps to ensure that we carefully manage the increased levels of violence.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC said:
It’s absolutely right that prisoners face prosecution for assaults. This government takes crime in prison extremely seriously and this new protocol sends a clear message that we will not tolerate assaults on hard-working prison staff.
These new guidelines will provide additional guidance to prosecutors, who review all charging decisions in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The Code for Crown Prosecutors requires the CPS to consider whether there is sufficient evidence and, if so, whether a prosecution is in the public interest before charging. It will ensure that different police force and CPS areas pursue prosecutions of crimes within prison in a more consistent and efficient way. While it is right that there should be some local prioritisation of crime investigation and prosecution, all agencies want to ensure that serious crimes in prison are dealt with fully by the criminal justice system.