Prison and Courts Bill

Government must put an end to the early release of prisoners who attack staff while behind bars, an MP has warned.

Shipley MP Philip Davies said staff safety must be prioritised as numbers of assaults continue to rise but the additional jail time for those who assaulted prison officers fell to just 16 days on average last year.

He said: “Prison officers have a very hard and, at times, dangerous job. I am sick of hearing about the pathetic additions to sentences for prisoners who assault them. One reason for the breakdown of order in prisons is that prisoners know that no matter how badly they behave, they will be released halfway through their sentence. All that is given for assaults on prison officers is extra days.”

Mr Davies is set to table an amendment to the Prisons and Courts Bill which would end the automatic early release of any prisoner who attacks a prison officer when it returns to the Commons to be debated in its later stages.

Between October 2015 and September last year there were 6,430 assaults on prison staff, 761 of which were serious. This was an increase of 40 per cent from previous 12 months and 82 per cent rise since 2006.

Mr Davies added: “That is completely and utterly unacceptable. I am sure that the Prison Officers Association would welcome the Government saying that if a prisoner assaults a prison officer, their opportunity for automatic early release halfway through their sentence will end, and that their position will be judged on whether they are safe to be released out into the public.”

Mr Davies said ending the automatic release could deter some violence in prisons.

In his speech during he also demanded a limit on the use of fixed term recall, whereby a prisoner on licence reoffends and is only sent back to prison for 28 days, urged Government to increase magistrates powers to sentence people to 12 months rather than the current six months and for women and men offenders to be treated equally when sentenced in the criminal justice system.

He added: “However, we should look after women in the criminal justice system by abolishing Sharia councils, which discriminate against them terribly, although the Government sits idly by and allow that to continue, which is an absolute disgrace.”

He also praised Government for promising to crack down on mobile phones in prisons.

He added: “I am sick to death of seeing pictures of smiling criminals from within prison cells, surrounded by all kinds of creature comforts and ill-gotten gains courtesy of the use of mobile phones in prison. More concerning is the use of phones to intimidate or threaten victims, or to ensure the continuation of crimes, so I welcome the steps the Government are taking to deal with that scourge.”

Mr Davies criticised other MPs for claiming prison did not work, citing Ministry of Justice figures which show the longer people spend in prison the less likely they are to reoffend.