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3.7.4 Child Contact With Adult in Custody

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This Procedure provides information and guidance about assessing the level of contact between a child/young person and their parent/carer or other significant person who are convicted or not, who present an identified risk of harm.

The over-riding principle is that the child's welfare is paramount - and that any contact should be in the "best interests" assessment for the child in order to decide what form of contact is appropriate. Contact includes correspondence, telephone calls, use of ICT and visits.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Multi-Agency Assessment Procedure
  3. Monitoring
  4. Identification
  5. Reviews


1. Introduction

1.1 Agencies have a duty to ensure that prisoners who represent a risk to children do not have contact with children prior to the completion of a full risk assessment. Contact with a child includes correspondence, use of ICT, prisoner's telephones or social visits. Telephone contact will include any access to office telephones where permission has been granted. It will also include any contact with children indirectly ie through a mediator/intermediary and those who have been invited to visit the prison or secure unit/hospital as part of a group.
1.2 There are a number of prisoners in custody who present a risk of harm to children. In many cases the potential risk is initially determined from the index offence or from previous convictions. In addition, a number of prisoners will be identified as presenting a risk because of their behaviour or actions whilst in custody.
1.3 Contact with children will only include contact with the prisoner's own immediate family or children, and/or the children of the partner, provided the prisoner and the partner were living together as partners in an enduring family relationship prior to imprisonment. Included within this definition are stepchildren, adopted children and foster children. A prisoner must not be permitted to have contact with any other child unless the Governor (or Director of contracted out prisons) agrees that such contact would be in the interests of the child and after a full multi-agency risk assessment has been carried out. Grandchildren will be considered if there is a substantial case for contact and the contact is in the interests of the child. Should the victim of the offence fall within this group, contact must not be permitted unless a risk assessment has been carried out and it is considered to be in the interests of the child.
1.4 The definition of a child is person under the age of eighteen years. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 identifies a new offence of "Grooming" up to the age of 16 years and other offences that are primarily designed to protect young people aged 16 or 17 years in circumstances where they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. These include offences designed to protect children from abuse within the family unit.
1.5 The rights of a child to be safeguarded and protected from harm must take priority over an offender's right to family life as set out in the 1998 Human Rights Act if the offender's right would mean that contact could place a child at risk. It is therefore appropriate that incremental restrictions are employed where required in the interests of the child.
1.6 Section 325 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 imposes a "duty to co-operate" with the MAAPA ( Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements ) responsible Authority (police, prisons and probation ) including councils with Children's Services responsibilities.
1.7 Details on the Information Sharing Protocol between Professionals including the Caldicott Principles Code of Practice can be located on Lincolnshire Children website and the Children's Services manual.


2. Multi-Agency Assessment Procedure

2.1

Prison establishments are required to identify prisoners who have :

  • Been convicted or are charged with a sexual offence against a child; or
  • A previous conviction for a sexual offence against a child; or
  • A conviction or charge of murder or assault against a child; or
  • A charge or conviction involving domestic violence where a child was involved; or
  • A charge or conviction involving where emotional abuse or neglect of a child was involved;
  • Displayed any behaviour whilst in custody indicating the prisoner presents a risk to the child;
  • Information has been received from other agencies about the risk that the prisoner presents.
2.2

A risk of harm is defined on the following categories:

  • Low - no significant, current indicators of harm;
  • Medium - there are identifiable indicators of risk of harm. The offender has the potential to cause harm but is unlikely to do so unless there is a change in circumstances, for example, failure to take medication, loss of accommodation, relationship breakdown, drug or alcohol misuse;
  • High - there are identifiable indicators of risk of serious harm. The potential event could happen at any time and the impact would be serious;
  • Very High - there is imminent risk of serious harm. The potential event is more likely than not to happen imminently and the impact would be serious.
2.3 Cases assessed as High risk of harm are normally dealt with at divisional meetings organised and hosted by the Probation Provider.
2.4

The Procedure for permitting contact with children provides guidance that   prison establishments should follow. The main points are:

  • Prisoners are aware of procedures;
  • Request made for contact;
  • A record is maintained;
  • Parental Support for contact;
  • A multi-agency assessment is carried out;
  • The Governor's (Directors's) decision - based on the best interests of child;
  • level of contact decided;
  • Frequency and degree of Monitoring is decided;
  • Identification of children entering the establishment;
  • Decisions restricting contact reviewed;
  • Appeals process.
2.5 A letter will be sent to the Parent/Carer of the child asking whether they support the contact or not. In cases where the parent or carer do not support contact Children's Services will be informed.
2.6

If the parent or carer do support contact the following agencies must then be contacted to gather information before an assessment of risk can be made:

The Police (via the Police Liaison /Intelligence Officer).

The establishment Police Liaison/Intelligence Officer (PLO) will be provided with the details of the prisoner and the child or children. He or she will then make contact with the Police Child Protection Team in the area where the child lives and information will be sought about risk to the child or further information about the prisoner.

2.7

Children's Services

Children's Services is responsible for the area in which the child lives. The contact office holders or index of Children's Services may be Child Protection Co-ordinators in England and Wales, Committee Chairpersons and Local Authority Designated Officer.
2.8 The first point of contact should be by letter to the Director of Children's Services and by telephone to the Custodian of the Local Authority Designated Officer. An reply within two working days will be returned to the prison indicating a point of contact. A response form should have a photograph of the child attached to the letter sent to Children's Services.
2.9 Children's Services will carry out an assessment and provide a written report with recommendations within three weeks.
2.10 The views of the child or young person will be an important element of the assessment. When seeking the views of the parent or carer (person with parental responsibility) regarding contact, it is important that the child's views are sought. In the Letter to the child's parent or carer it is emphasised that the child's views should be taken into account.

2.11

Children who are Looked After by Local Authorities.

If during the check with Children's Services it is established that the child or young person is looked after and is subject to an Interim Care Order or Care Order, the LA view about the appropriateness of contact must be obtained in writing; the test, is, as always, whether contact is in the child's best interest.

2.12

The Probation Officer

The seconded, prison based Probation Officer will be provided with the details of the prisoner's application for contact. Where a prisoner will be subject to licence supervision on release or has been recalled for breach of licence for the current offence, the Probation Area with a request will contact the relevant home concerning the prisoner's application for contact. (Where the prisoner applying for contact is a young offender and is supervised by Children's Services or the Youth Offending Service, they must be contacted)
2.13 When prisoners who present a risk to children are released from custody they may or may not be subject to supervision and licence conditions. They may enter into new relationships or return to old ones.
2.14

It is desirable that released prisoners who have committed an offence or offences against a child can live successfully and safely in society where they can be supervised effectively and do not re-offend.

There may be instances in some regions where the NSPCC may be contacted and where an arrangement has been negotiated for this agency to search their database for information relating to a child's risk.

2.15

The Operational Managers Decision

2.16

The Operational Manager will usually be the Head of Resettlement or Through care who has responsibility for Public Protection. When the person with this delegated authority is in possession of all the available multi-agency information, an assessment will be made. This will take into account :

  • The child's needs, wishes and feeling;
  • The capacity of the parent/carer to protect the child from likely harm;
  • The prisoner's risk to the public;
  • The OASys assessment;
  • Static Risk Assessment (Thornton's Risk Matrix 2000);
  • Pre-Sentence Report;
  • Previous Convictions;
  • Custodial behaviour and any other documentation highlighting risk.
2.17

The Operational Manager will decide the level of contact permitted which should be proportionate to the risk identified. The best interests of the child will always be the overriding principle in making these decisions. Contact restrictions should be incremental, one of the following levels of restriction will be applied:

Level One:
Full restrictions apply. No contact with any child permitted. All correspondence and telephone calls will be applied.

Level Two:
Contact permitted only via written correspondence. All correspondence and telephone calls will be monitored.

Level Three:
Contact permitted via written correspondence and telephone. All correspondence and telephone calls will be monitored.

Level Four:
No restrictions necessary. May have contact via correspondence, telephone, visits and family visit (if available). Routine sampling - reading of correspondence, listening to telephone calls, general observation in visits area.


3. Monitoring

3.1 The level and frequency of monitoring will be proportionate to the risk identified.
3.2 Correspondence - monitoring of correspondence will focus on whether the prisoner is attempting to contact children inappropriately and what references about children are made in general correspondence.
3.3 Any evidence of grooming or manipulation of a child, or parent or carer, must be reported to the establishments nominated public protection contact. A Directory of Public Protection contacts is available.
3.4 It is acceptable to photocopy the relevant sections of correspondence where grooming is suspected, which will allow the authorities to manage the risk.
3.5 Monitoring of telephone conversations is acceptable on the basis of recording and transcribing the conversation.
3.6 Prisoners who present a risk to children and who have not been permitted contact with a child must be supervised in such a way that contact is not possible. Governors will wish to ensure that staff in visits are alert to the need for good observation and sensitive seating arrangements.
3.7 Prison establishments are issued guidance on monitoring pre-recorded audiocassettes, floppy discs, CD Roms and other data storage devices that are capable of hiding hidden information.


4. Identification

4.1 It is necessary to take steps to prevent a child with whom a prisoner may have contact being substituted with another, possibly more vulnerable child.
4.2 Children entering the establishment for social visits must be identified from photographs by staff.
4.3 Four passport style photographs of each child will be required from the parent or carer. Prison staff at the establishment may take them such arrangements are in place. The costs of the photos may be claimed from the establishment up to the value of £4.00. The first and second photographs will be sent to the Police Child Protection Team and Children's Services attached to the written request for information. The prison will use the third, the fourth retained on file. Photographs should be returned to the parent/carer if contact is not supported.
4.4 It will be necessary to update photographs annually, or earlier if there is a significant change in appearance. Where the prisoner or parent/carer raises concern about this practice, reassurance should be given that the photographs will be treated appropriately and used only for the purpose of identification.


5. Reviews

5.1 Where a decision has been made to restrict contact, it will be necessary to review the decision when there are reasons to believe that circumstances have changed. Reviews can be made at any time on the initiative of prison staff or at the request of the prisoner. It is good practice to review decisions every six months. Reviews can be included as part of the review of the Child's Plan.
5.2 Any decision to change the level of contact permitted will be based on what is best for the child. The Child's welfare will be paramount at all times. The decision will take into account the views of the police, probation and Children's Services, via the Local Authority Designated Officer.

End