The Ministry of Justice’s proposals for Resettlement Prisons…

July 11, 2013

Rt Hon Chris Grayling outlines Ministry of Justice plans for Resettlement Prisons.

The “Through the Gate” initiative will involve offenders once sentenced being directed to one of the 70 resettlement prisons. At this point according to their sentence, prisoners will either remain in a resettlement prison if they have a shorter sentence or they will move to alternative prison accommodation if it is longer. Prisoners with short sentences will serve their entire custody in resettlement prison and whilst there they will have access to a number of services to assist with rehabilitation once they have completed their sentence. Those prisoners who have been serving longer sentences elsewhere will be transferred to resettlement prisons for the last three months of their sentence to assist with integration back into the community.

This initiative is in line with the plans contained within the Offender Rehabilitation Bill which is currently before Parliament, which extend rehabilitation support to 50,000 short-sentenced offenders each year. From the information distributed, I understand that trials for Resettlement Prisons will begin in the North West of England this autumn.

I think the proposals outlined by the Ministry of Justice are a very good idea. Offenders with short sentences are the most likely to reoffend and there is not an adequate support framework in place to assist them once they leave prison. Hopefully the Ministry of Justice’s new initiative will deal with this issue helping ex-offenders back into a normal life once they finish their sentence and to stop them offending again .

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Immigration Rise Deliberate

February 11, 2010

Speaking to local residents of North East Herts, many (including members of minority communities) have raised concerns at the weakness and inefficiency of Britain’s immigration system and I have explained the more straightforward Conservative policy.

Knowing how inefficient this Government is, I had assumed that their failure on immigration was due to the same old incompetence that runs through their overbureaucratic, spin-driven way of going on, which has led so many of the public to despair of anything they do working properly. This is the view of the public on most doorsteps – the Government could not run anything properly and you’ve got to get rid of him (the Prime Minister), “get him out”. The rise in immigration has led UK population since 1997 to go up by about 3 million. It never occurred to me that this was what they intended.

Yet, new evidence in the form of a secret policy paper clarifies that Labour’s past policy was to open the doors to immigration and was …. deliberate …. in an ill-considered attempt to boost economic growth and to meet “social objectives”. The paper has only seen the light of day following a Freedom of Information request.

Conservatives have demanded an independent inquiry into Labour secretly overseeing a deliberate open-door ­policy on immigration to boost multi-culturalism. Migrants have been thought more likely to vote Labour. Perhaps that was a motive too.

This disclosure puts Gordon Brown’s recent “British jobs for British workers” into context as a rather desperate late u-turn as the recession led to rising unemployment.

Damian Green, shadow immigration minister, has rightly attacked this secret policy. “This shows that Labour’s open-door immigration policy was deliberate, and ministers should apologise,” he said. “This makes it all the more important that there is a proper independent inquiry in the origins of this policy and whether ministers have been deceiving people.”

It is certainly true that we need the solid dependability of an immigration system that works.


Serving on the Law Commission Bill Committee

July 8, 2009

Today I served on the Committee looking into the Law Commission Bill. The Law Commission was set up in the 1960s under Labour to come up with improvements and consolidations of the law with the idea that it would be better for citizens if the law on a particular subject was all in one place and set out simply. Over the past 45 years, the Law Commission has come up with many ideas and proposed improvements, but all too often the government has not allowed these the necessary time to become law.

The Bill is an attempt by Emily Thornberry MP to improve matters by making the Government report each year on progress with Law Commission changes and to set ground rules for the Government to help the Commission.

The backgound is that the Chairman of the Commission Sir Terence Etherton made a strong speech to the Bar Law Reform Committee recently explaining why there were problems with Government. My summary of what he said is:

*tiny budget
*administratively hidden away in the Court Service
*their proposals sidelined in favour of less worthy eye-catching political initiatives
*Ministers failing to attend the Ministerial Committee with them

I put these points to Justice Minister Michael Wills MP and there has been some progress with the Ministerial Committee upgraded to Cabinet level and a commitment to try to get more proposals through. So, maybe the 1960s’ vision for the Law Commission will be less abused over coming years. Let’s hope so. Well drafted laws which are accessible is a fine ambition.


The rise in rural crime

March 16, 2009

I recently blogged about the fear caused by rural crime and the need for vigilance against it. I called for a strong and visible police presence in our rural areas. I pointed out that ‘neighbourhood policing’ is the current buzz, but it doesn’t sound very rural – what about village crime too?

Figures out today show that the down-turn has seen a rise in violent crime and rural areas are bearing the brunt of this. Rather than saying ‘I told you so’, my reaction is to welcome the fact that this evidence is coming out into the open and to hope that it informs policing. An article on the front page of the Daily Telegraph goes into more detail, reporting that violent crime such as assaults and burglary is up a shocking 20 per cent in the countryside. Neighbouring Cambridgeshire is badly affected. I am going to write again to our Police Authority asking for the Hertfordshire figures and stressing the importance of this issue.

Taking sensible precautions can help reduce the likelihood of being a victim of crime, whether that be rural or urban crime. Getting into good habits such as keeping valuables out of sight as much as possible and keeping a watchful eye out for who is looking at your and your neighbour’s property can all help keep crime at bay. Rural crime has the added dimension that properties are often located out-of-the-way with few people around to witness the perpetrators of violent theft. The prospect that help could be a long way away leads to fear of crime.

I would urge constituents to report crimes, as the incidence of crime reports affects police priorities – the more crime reported, the higher up the scale it goes. I have also been pressing the minister not to cut back on police numbers in rural areas.


Rural Crime

March 3, 2009

In deepest rural Hertfordshire – one of the safest parts of the country statistically – fear of crime is rife. As fewer people live in rural areas it is easy for their concerns to be overlooked in setting police priorities.

Police plans talk of “neighbourhoods”, anti-social behaviour, even terrorism – all important – but the rural dimension of crime is largely ignored and not simply the epidemic of fly-tipping. A constituent recently told me about four hooded men coming at night to the yard of his gardening business, brandishing weapons and demanding to steal the new trailer and mower needed for work. The owner and his father felt forced to back down and he lost equipment worth thousands of pounds. This was a terrifying ordeal, after which his father found difficulty sleeping for some days.

Gangs come on to farmland with four-wheel drive vehicles, guns and dogs to do illegal hare coursing and threaten anyone who tries to stop them. There is also dog stealing and illegal shooting.

A survey of local residents in rural East Hertfordshire produced comments such as: “…garage broken into and motorbike, riding leathers, crash helmet… stolen…” “…picking up one of our dogs and taking it back to their vehicle…” “…a victim myself on numerous occasions…” “…very little police presence round here so villains can do pretty much what they like…” “There is not nearly enough police presence.”

Now, this is not just about Hertfordshire Police with their miserly budget from Government, but also about understanding that it is very frightening to be subject to crime many miles from a Police Station in a small rural community, particularly when a number of criminals are involved.

That is why local Police who know the area and are visible are vital. We need more of them. I know from my time spent with police that there are cars out patrolling, but police drivers have a difficult challenge in Hertfordshire with such a network of small lanes between villages and towns. When a police car is called to a rural spot, the police driver needs to know the roads as well as the criminal.

One initiative by a community police officer has been to send mobile phone messages to local people if criminal activity is taking place and coming their way. This allows local residents to secure their valuables and has led to crime being prevented and detected. Now it seems a central decision may see the mobile phone taken from the officer as a cutback. This must not happen.

So, I will continue to press for a strong police presence in the rural parts of the Hertfordshire as well as the urban and proper attention to rural crime. Police training needs to ensure that Hertfordshire Police know the rural area well.

It is vital that crime is reported and I always worry when told that a resident didn’t bother. Police effort is partly directed by an analysis of where crime is happening, so it is vital to report crime. It is also important that Police treat the report seriously and as more than an opportunity to hand out a crime number.

Rural crime matters and sentences for those convicted should reflect the fear these crimes engender in victims.


A meeting about Policing in the UK (From the archive)

July 17, 2008

Today I had coffee with an Australian friend of mine, Andrew McIntosh the MP for Kew in the State of Victoria, Australia and his friend and colleague Bill Tilley (member for Benambra). Andrew is the Liberal Shadow Minister for policing and I was pleased to be able to discuss this vital issue with him, perhaps more important than ever now with the rise in violent and knife crime. Andrew was the Attorney General for Victoria and like me was a practising lawyer before he entered politics.

We had a really positive meeting and it was good to introduce him to our former Home Secretary Michael Howard and Philippa Shroud of the Centre for Social Justice, who has done a great deal of research into social issues with Iain Duncan Smith. They even arranged my factfinder five days at a hostel for homeless people (see February 2007 “press releases” for my diary).

Michael explained his approach to policing matters had been to look at the overall picture of the criminal justice system, and we discussed how Tony Blair had tried to take this on by being “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. We were also able to discuss the Police Green Paper.

As is often the case when I meet Andrew, it struck me how similar our public concerns are despite being from opposite sides of the planet. I wish him well in his efforts to realise his policies in Government.


Visiting the new Major Crime Unit (From the archive)

July 4, 2008

With all the current publicity about knife crime, I was glad to be invited to visit the new Major Crime Unit at the Welwyn Garden City Police HQ by Detective Superintendent Andy Schrives

This unit deals with murders, attempted murders, kidnapping and other major crimes in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, and has 94 dedicated officers and staff. When I spoke with Andy, who used to be at the MET, it was clear to me that he is building four excellent teams to deal with major incidents. They have certainly had their work cut out over recent months and a number of their enquiries are now successfully in court with trials or are approaching the court. One case being tried in St Albans involves the notorious Bishop’s Stortford murder.

After meeting the team I also has the chance to visit the communications centre where all the 999 calls are received and dispatched. I was amazed at the level of technology they are using, the computers are able to find the caller on a map and even call on CCTV cameras in the area.

The centre is run by Andrew Crook and I’m going to write community groups and parish councils and explain that it welcomes visitors. I am sure that it would provide a fascinating insight into the modern technology the police now use.