Nick Hardwick - Chief Inspector of Prisons

Nick Hardwick – Chief Inspector of Prisons

Steps taken by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to prevent prisoners’ phone calls to MPs being listened to or recorded in future have been largely, but not wholly effective, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published a report of the first stage of an Inquiry into prison communications.

On 11 November 2014, Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling asked HM Chief Inspector of Prisons to investigate the circumstances surrounding the interception of telephone calls from prisoners in England and Wales to the offices of Members of Parliament and to make recommendations to ensure that there are sufficient safeguards in place to minimise the risk of such calls being recorded inappropriately in the future.

The first stage of the inquiry was to undertake a review of urgent, practical steps which NOMS are currently taking to minimise the risk of recording or listening to calls inappropriately in the future. The second stage of the inquiry will look at the circumstances of how these telephone calls came to be recorded in the past. The second stage will be completed early in 2015.

Nick Hardwick said:

“I have found that the urgent, interim measures taken by NOMS have been largely, but not wholly, effective in ensuring that prisoners’ calls to MPs are not recorded or listened to. The technical measures that have been taken are effective but depend on the accuracy of the data that is inputted and so human error remains possible. Insufficient action was taken to ensure that one private sector provider, SERCO, who use a different telephone monitoring system to public and other private sector providers, had introduced equivalent measures. I also have some further technical queries that it has not yet been possible to resolve.

“The system depends on prisoners being aware of their responsibilities to identify confidential numbers and I found that more needed to be done to ensure they understood this responsibility.”

Read the report here