|Gerry Steinberg MP||In the House...|
The Drug Treatment and Testing Order: early lessons (HC 609-i)
Public Accounts Committee 17 May 2004
Evidence given by Mr Martin Narey, Chief Executive, National Offender Management Service, Mr Paul Hayes, Chief Executive, National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse and Mr Stephen Murphy CBE, Director General, National Probation Service for England and Wales.
Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Mr Narey, I like you a lot, I have known you for a long time, but you should be a social worker and nothing to do with prisons, to be quite honest.
Chairman: Was that a compliment or an insult?
"Never mind these Orders, they should be locked away until they are off drugs and not committing offences."
Q50 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): It was a compliment. He is too nice to be in the Prison Service and that is probably the reason it is the way it is. I was asking Parliamentary Questions about this about six months ago, as you are probably aware. I was talking to some solicitors and they were asking me to put some questions in the House about the Drug Treatment and Testing Orders because they felt they were a waste of time, a failure. They were spending more time now back in court than they were previously with all the offences which are being re-committed whilst they are on these Orders. What do you say to that?
Mr Narey: I should like to be fairly robust, if I may. A number of times you have made plain your quite proper irritation at the way community penalties are not being enforced. A lot of court time is caused by these Orders for two reasons. First of all, we allow sentencers to review progress, which is a very important development, which I should like to extend further. I do think we should tell sentencers what has happened to people they have sentenced. Secondly, because breach is so rigorous, a lot of people are returned to court, but all my experience of offenders is that if they understand very clearly that consequences will follow their actions, if they understand that if they do not comply for a second time on this Order they will be breached and will be back in court, they are more likely in the longer term to comply. I think your solicitor friends were quite wrong. The fact that there is a lot of court time generated by this ---
Q51 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): They spend more time in court with them, so how can they be wrong?
Mr Narey: Because they may be misunderstanding. One of the purposes of this Order is to make sure it is properly and rigorously enforced and the evidence of that is the amount of time people spend in court. You may think I should be a social worker but magistrates and judges who see these individuals back in court very frequently consider that sufficient progress has been made despite the breach to give them another chance on the Order. They can see that there is real evidence of reduced re-offending.
Q52 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): One of them told me that when he came out of court after getting someone onto a Drug Treatment and Testing Order the addict said "Well done. Great. Fantastic. I've got one of those Orders now and I haven't gone to prison. Well done".
Mr Narey: I have no difficulty with that.
Q53 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): You have no difficulty with that?
Mr Narey: No. If somebody wants to take the motivation of not going to prison to comply with this, then fine. I know with absolute certainty that if they do not comply they will be re-sentenced for the offence and they will go to prison. It is folly to take one of these Orders and agree to comply and not do so, because you will do a few months on this order and then you will go to prison anyway.
Q54 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): He also told me that as far as he is aware the vast majority of them on the Orders commit numerous offences while they are on the Orders, but they are not brought back because they know very well they can do that and they are not going to be brought back to court.
Mr Narey: I have made you this offer before. You know I spend a lot of time in the North East. I am convinced I could take you into Durham City and introduce you to offenders on this Order and they would convince you that they were offending much less.
Q55 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I bet you could. I am also told they get the gym free, they get this free, they get that free, they do this, the day is filled in for them.
Mr Narey: The day is filled in for them. It is a very necessary part of the Order that we give them a lot of activity. We take them out of their environment and we give them things to do. However, it is not all gym. I have presented educational certificates to people on this Order. I see people getting their first educational qualifications ever.
Q56 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): They get that in prison as well.
Mr Narey: They do get it in prison as well. The employment status of people on this Order improves significantly during the time they are on the Order. It makes a lot of people employable.
Q57 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): What is more successful, somebody being locked away off drugs, or on one of the Orders? What is the most successful?
Mr Narey: It is very difficult to give a single answer. If somebody has committed a very serious crime and needs to go into custody for a long time, I think custody can make some difference and can get somebody off drugs.
Q58 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): You talk about a very serious crime but Jim Sheridan brought up the very point. This morning before I came away I had somebody on the telephone in tears, a man who fought in the first Gulf War, a marine. He was in tears because he had given information to the police about drug dealers and drug takers in his village and he was being threatened; he had had his windows broken and his life made a misery because of these people. They should be locked away. Never mind these Orders, they should be locked away until they are off drugs and not committing offences.
Mr Narey: I understand why you would come to that conclusion and I would say this, would I not? I was in the Prison Service for 20 years and we can get people off drugs in prison. The great challenge, and offenders tell me this all the time and I believe them, is that it is one thing to stay clean in prison, it is quite another to go back to the community you have come from, where your mother is on drugs, your father is on drugs, all your friends are on drugs and to maintain that gain. This Order makes people keep off drugs within their normal life.
Q59 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): How much does a successful Order cost? You just said to Mr Jenkins that an Order costs between £5,000 and £7,000.
Mr Narey: About that.
Q60 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): That includes the failures as well, does it not?
Mr Narey: Yes, it does.
Q61 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): So how many successful Orders are there and how much does that cost?
Mr Narey: About one third of Orders are completed successfully, they get to the end of the Order.
Q62 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): So now we are talking about £21,000, are we not?
Mr Narey: We are, but as I have also explained, even for those orders which are not completed, if someone is on an Order one of the graphs here shows that the peak time for failure is four months. If someone has been on one of these Orders for four months the severity of someone's offending when they are paying for a daily heroin habit will make that cost effective even if the Order is not completed.
Q63 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Tell me what you believe to be a success story?
Mr Narey: Someone using fewer drugs and committing crime less frequently.
Q64 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): That is a success?
Mr Narey: I think that is a success.
Q65 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): So somebody who is on an Order, who is still thieving and who is still taking hard drugs, because he is doing it less frequently, that is a success is it?
Mr Narey: Not a complete success, but yes, that is a success. If we have fewer victims of crime and someone is taking fewer drugs, that is a success.
Q66 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): My idea of a success would be to take that person off the street, stopping him or her committing offences, and lock them away until they are off drugs.
Mr Narey: I have 240 empty prison places at the moment.
Q67 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): It would be no more expensive. It is £30,000 for a prison place and we have worked out that it is £21,000 for a successful Order and in your definition of success they are still committing crime and still taking drugs. That is not a very big success to me.
Mr Narey: I am not suggesting that it cannot be improved; it must be improved. I do not want to dismiss the achievements which have been made in prisons in recent years which are very significant. I know that even now, although things are improving fast since a thing called the Criminal Justice Interventions programme, for which Mr Hayes is responsible. The reality is that most people who get clean from heroin in prison spend their discharge grant on heroin the day they go back to the communities from which they come. Keeping clean in prison is one thing, keeping clean in communities is quite another.
Q68 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): When I was reading the report I thought to myself that the report seemed to indicate that those who are the worst offenders and those who are frankly taking the system for a ride are the ones who get all the benefits. The genuine ones, who want to come off drugs, who are on methadone and are not taking cocaine and who are not taking heroin, are the ones who cannot get on, but the worst offenders are the ones who get on. Surely it should be the ones who have an aim to improve, have an aim to succeed; they should be the ones who are given the help, not the ones who are not interested. In Durham it seems to me that is the case, but if you read the report, unless I am getting mixed up, paragraphs 2.9 and 2.10, it seems Sussex took the opposite view. They were saying that the priority should be given to those who want to make progress. Is that not more sensible?
Mr Narey: I think what you are saying is that people who do not comply, who do not help themselves should go to gaol and that is exactly what happens with this Order. If someone does not comply, they are only allowed two failures. After two failures they must be returned to court. The court may give them one chance, but ultimately if people do not comply with this Order, they might have had four months on this Order and then they get a prison sentence which is a fresh sentence for that offence. The people who do not co-operate, who do not take advantage of this, end up in gaol. Some people, at least one third or more eventually, do co-operate and we manage to make some progress in terms of reducing the drug abuse and drastically cutting their re-offending.
Q69 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): The question I asked before was that in the experience of the solicitors to whom I was talking, people were breaking the Orders on a very regular basis, but the Probation Service very often forgot to let the courts know this was happening.
Mr Narey: I certainly do not believe that ---
Q70 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I am being facetious. In fact when crimes were being committed they were turning a blind eye.
Mr Narey: I do not think that happens; certainly not in your constituency. You know your chief. She is exceptionally able, very resolute. I think offenders in Durham know exactly where they are in terms of breaching. If they do not co-operate with this Order, ultimately they will find themselves in gaol.
Q71 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): May I say that over the last 17 years I have formed my view, not on individuals in the Probation Service, but on the whole system and that I have had two constituency offices in 17 years, both next to probation offices. The disrespect the criminals have for the Probation Service and the way they hold it in contempt clearly means something needs to be done and the whole Probation Service needs to be transformed or reformed or whatever.
Mr Narey: I have been responsible for the Probation Service for 18 months and I am very impressed with many of the people I have seen.
Q72 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I was not talking about the people, I was talking about the system.
Mr Narey: There are several testimonials in here from offenders, quotes from offenders saying how much they have been helped through their problems by the Probation Service.
Q73 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I have seen them coming out of the doors and making a gesture all the time.
Mr Narey: They may do that occasionally but they are also very, very hardly managed now and enforcement by the Probation Service has been transformed. People who try to mess around with the Probation Service and do not comply with any community sentence find themselves back in court and many of them go to gaol.
Q87 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): The point you missed was that they actually know that they can screw the system up as well, do they not?
Mr Narey: I am not sure how they screw the system up.
Q88 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Because they know that if they disappear and you cannot find them a huge process has to be gone through before you can do anything about it?
Mr Narey: Most of the individuals in this sort of Order, if they go missing, yes, they may be temporarily missing, but frankly most of them usually turn up back in the communities if not back in their homes eventually. The police pick them up and they go to gaol.
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.