Law chief: too many people are locked up

New head of Supreme Court blames Government for overcrowded prisons

Controversial public protection sentences and inadequate penal funding have combined to drive up the record numbers of people being kept in prisons, the president of the new Supreme Court has warned.

Lord Phillips, who next month leads a panel hearing the first case to go before the court, said under-resourcing was "a very serious problem" facing prisons in England and Wales and he renewed his call for a greater use of community alternatives to jail.

This month the prison population hit a record high of 84,442, despite more than 60,000 inmates benefiting from an early release scheme introduced in June 2007.

In an interview with The Independent, Lord Phillips said: "The reasons for the rise in the prison population are quite complex but there is no doubt it has been steadily growing and the forecast is that this trend will continue. Certainly some criminal legislation dealing with sentencing has had the effect of imposing longer sentences or sentences which keep people in prison until they demonstrate they are no longer dangerous."

Of particular concern has been the new indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP), brought in four years ago. Last week the Prison Governors' Association and the Liberal Democrats said that hundreds of convicts who could be released were being held in jails because the Government had failed to pay for enough drug treatment and rehabilitation courses.

Yesterday Lord Phillips said he also had reservations about the IPP sentence which includes a minimum term, after which the prisoner has to show that he or she is suitable for release.

The judge said that he knew the legislation had been changed to meet some of the concerns but that he was not "conversant" with the latest figures regarding prisoners detained beyond their minimum sentence. The Government says a further £3m has been made available to help with resourcing IPPs.

"When I was involved it was apparent there was a resource problem when dealing with IPP prisoners in relation to giving them the rehabilitation that they needed in order to be in a position to demonstrate they were no longer a danger, and also there was a problem with the resources of the parole board in considering whether or not they ought to be released."

He added: "Prisons have to be provided for those who judges send to prison. What governs the overall prison population is a complicated question and legislation dealing with sentencing can increase or decrease a prison population."

He explained: "I have always been in favour of alternatives to custody where that course is open to the judge."

In July, Lord Phillips headed a panel of judges who ruled that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, must publish guidelines on assisted suicide prosecutions after a legal challenge by Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis sufferer. On Tuesday Mr Starmer set out his new policy.

The Supreme Court chief justice said he had only read a summary of the guidance in the newspapers but was satisfied that Mr Starmer had complied with the ruling.

"Our judgment should be left to speak for itself but we did not dictate to him what guidelines he should lay down. What we required was that there should be guidelines to clarify his policy."

Had these guidelines changed the law or merely clarified it? "I don't think I am going to enter into this kind of discussion. It seems to me that the guidelines have done what guidelines are intended to do, which is to clarify the policy in relation to prosecutions."

Lord Phillips has been criticised for expressing a personal view about Mrs Purdy's plight after he had ruled on the case. But he rejects any suggestion that this was evidence of bias on his part.

"I did not make a comment about our original judgment, I was asked point blank for a personal view in relation to a person who commits suicide. I was not making any statement in relation to those who assist suicide; I was expressing sympathy with somebody in the predicament that Mrs Purdy might find herself."

He added: "All judges recognise that they have to be very careful about what views they express in public."

Next month, the Supreme Court will open after a £50m refurbishment of the Middlesex Guildhall in Parliament Square.

The first case concerns a high-profile challenge to anti-terror laws that may have breached the human rights of British citizens who have found themselves financially blacklisted and their assets frozen.

Lord Phillips said the decision to make that the first case was in part his.

"We had discussions about which case we should take as the first case and we wanted to take one that had some general importance," he said.

"It is a case which I think the public will find interesting. It's one of a number of cases which we have had to deal with where there may be a tension of human rights on the one hand and dealing with the challenge of terrorism on the other."

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor