Earlier this year the privately run HMP Birmingham collapsed to such an extent that the UK Government had to nationalise it. Standards had slipped to completely unacceptable levels with prison officers and offenders safety being put at risk.
It is a prison that has experienced riots in the past and it was an utter failure of G4S to ensure they fulfilled their contractual agreements.
During the Justice Select Committee I was able to press the representative from G4S on what actions he had taken in the run up to the collapse of the prison and why he didn’t act sooner.
This week’s Justice Committee had the chance to question high ranking civil servants about the UK Government’s policy on prisons.
After the calamity that was both HMP Liverpool and HMP Birmingham over private contracts – indeed Birmingham was in that bad a state that G4S lost their role in running the prison and the Government had to nationalise it – I wanted to know what checks and balances were in place to ensure the suitability of contract bidders.
In both cases the private firms under-bid to secure the contracts only to find they couldn’t sustain them without running services into the ground on the cheap. The civil servants, obviously, must remain neutral – which is quite right – but they were struggling to provide the evidence to show the UK Government was doing its job in protecting our money.
In an exasperating Justice Select Committee this week we had the Justice Minister before us to answer our concerns about the impacts of Brexit on the justice system.
Before the scrutinising of the Minister we heard evidence from the Bar Council, QCs and others on their concerns – especially over the European Arrest Warrant.
It has become clear that the UK Government is accepting that the European Court of Justice will still have supreme judicial oversight in EU law so I wanted to know what would happen if an EU national fought UK legal action – say extradition through the European Arrest Warrant.
The Minister didn’t know. So I asked what risk analysis have they undertaken and what information are they sharing with the legal profession on issues such as this. The Minister stated that the Ministry of Justice has not undertaken such action – instead hoping that the Home Office would.
This is completely unacceptable. We leave the EU on the 29 March 2019 and the UK Government have still to figure out what the impact will be on our justice system. Loss of the European Arrest Warrant would undermine our polices ability to keep us safe. The lack of briefings to QCs and legal professionals means they will be unable to make the right decisions on law and order. All in all this Justice Committee session raised more concerns than answers.
The Justice Select Committee secured a debate on the financial situation of the Ministry of Justice – the most cut department in Government.
Over my speech I covered the abysmal failure of the part-privatised probation service – brought in by Chris Grayling MP – the cuts to prison officer numbers, the rise in violence in prisons and the crumbling infrastructure of our Victorian prisons.
This debate wasn’t just about where we have been and what mess the Government has placed our prisons and probation system in, it was a debate about how do we solve these problems created after eight years of neglect.