Wednesday, April 08, 2009

From Lord Avebury P0904044

020-7274 4617

April 4, 2009

Dear Jack,

I’m turning to you in desperation, having corresponded unsuccessfully with a series of Home Office and then Justice Ministers on the Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC) forms that have to be submitted by Buddhist Prison Chaplains for the last four years, starting with Paul Goggins in March 2005 and continuing with Fiona Mactaggart, Patricia Scotland, Gerry Sutcliffe, and finally Philip Hunt. We still haven’t got a workable solution to the simple problem of dealing with CTC Application Forms quickly and effectively after much correspondence and hundreds if not thousands of hours spent on it by the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala (of which I have been Patron for some 23 years) and Government Departments. In the hope that it may give you some idea of the intractability of the matter, I attach a pdf of most of the correspondence I have had with all those Ministers.

The CTC forms contain sensitive personal information, yet the processing of them is casual in the extreme, as a few recent examples attached demonstrate. Forms get lost, and not infrequently they are ignored for six months, having then to be re-submitted. It doesn’t seem to be appreciated that Buddhist prison chaplains are providing a valuable service, and treating them in this way is disastrously demotivating. We were assured that the processing of the forms by Shared Servicing was going to solve the problem, but that hasn’t been realised. Maybe there isn’t anything wrong with the process itself, but there should be a very simple additional procedure, that the documents be kept in a file with a cover sheet, which the person responsible would sign and date. This would mean that if an official sat on the file for six months, you could tell who is to blame.

The Rt Hon Jack Straw MP,
Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor,
102 Petty France,
London SW1H 9AJ

Dharmachari Sunanda's experience so far:

June 2005

As part of the paperwork chase prior to a security audit, HMP Birmingham insist he complete a CTC form. He was already covered by the one submitted at the end of 2004, so he refused.

They said he had to resubmit the form as they did not have the 2004 one on file. He replied that they had no reason to keep the CTC form on file and it would be illegal to do so.

The matter was allowed to lapse

June 2007

He was aware that his CTC would expire at the end of 2007 but did not want to submit a form via HMP Birmingham unless they could assure him they were using a secure and auditable method of keeping the forms safe.

He emailed Sue Chapman, his line manager, in June 2007 telling her this. He had no reply, and she retired from the prison service December 2007.

January 2008

His CTC clearance had expired, and he heard nothing from the prison. He kept Ven Khemadhammo, Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy, informed of his status.

February 2008

Ven Khemadhammo received a letter from Head of Prison Service, Phil Wheatley, referring in part to the Buddhist Chaplain at HMP Birmingham. Mr Wheatley said he has asked West Midlands Area Manager Sue McAlister to contact Dharmachari Sunanda, but she has not done so

Approx April 2008

Omar from Personnel asked him verbally a couple of times to give him a fresh CTC form; and indicates that he will personally keep it safe. He said he was waiting for a response from his line management first.

October 2008

Prior to another security audit, HMP Birmingham asked him to complete a CTC form, and he referred them to previous correspondence, especially that with Phil Wheatley.

November 2008

Rev Saido told him of a trial procedure that permits CTC to be submitted directly to Shared Services vetting team. He sent them a form on November 17, 2008, and informed HMP Birmingham accordingly.

December 2008

Shared Services return the form as he had signed it in only one of the two places necessary. He corrected this and sent it again.

February 2009

On February 27, Shared Services telephoned him with a query about the form and he answered, to their satisfaction.

April 2009

As of April 2, he has heard nothing more.

Ven. Phra Maha Sangthong Dhammacaro - Brixton

His completed CTC form and his nomination to be Buddhist chaplain to HMP Brixton was submitted through Brixton in July 2008. In January 2009 it was returned for him to sign again because it was six months old and therefore out of date. There has been no further word on any progress. The former Buddhist chaplain to Brixton resigned on April 27, 2008, after serving as Buddhist chaplain to Brixton for many years. He had been asked to complete a CTC form in 2007 and it had been lost. He complained to the Information Commissioner but with no result. Ven. Sangthong was ready to replace him immediately but it took until July to get his form properly filled in - he is Thai and was not immediately in possession of all the facts asked for - and submitted.

Jean Spinks - Bedford

Her completed CTC form and nomination to be Buddhist chaplain to HMP Bedford was submitted through Bedford in July 2008. It has since been returned for her to sign again because it was six months old and therefore out of date. Jean was also required to appear at the prison with her passport etc to submit to an identity check, this is normal procedure but it had to be on a Friday, because that was the only day that the person responsible for establishing identity since the disbanding of local personnel departments was available to do it. That meant that Jean had to take a day off work. Again, no further word on the progress of this CTC application.

Dh. Jayamitra (Julian Kreeger) - Pentonville.

On January 21st he wrote to Ven Khemadhammo:

Today I received back my CTC from the vetting service people in Newport, to be signed by me and dated again as the signatures are now more than 6 months old.(This is the original; when I went into Pentonville they had `lost` it, so I filled out another copy there). I`ll send it back to them today.

Actually it looks like it hadn't been lost but sent on to Shared Services but the person in Pentonville didn't know that, so now he has filled in another! Pentonville has been a very difficult prison to deal with and get anyone appointed to. To date, no further word.

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