One in three people believes that a Royal Marine sentenced to life in prison for executing a Taliban fighter in cold blood should serve no jail time, a poll has found – but 65% said he should have been jailed and over 20% thought the ten years he received wasn’t long enough.
A total of 35% of respondents wanted Sgt Alexander Blackman to serve no jail sentence, 23% believed he should do five years, 20% were in favour of 10 years, while 22% thought he should be imprisoned for more than 10 years, the Mail on Sunday reported.
It comes as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that 11 separate inquiries would be held into cases of Iraqis who died in British custody.
The online poll of 900 people conducted by Survation found that asked a more general question 39% of voters said they disagreed with Blackman’s 10-year minimum life sentence, while 37% were in favour.
Commenting on the poll, Sir Gerald Howarth, a former defence minister and current MP for army garrison town Aldershot, said he agreed the sentence was too harsh.
‘The highest standard of discipline must be maintained in the armed forces and this man obviously committed an offence,” Sir Gerald told the MoS. “But 10 years is too much. Five years would be more appropriate.”
Sir Gerald said that the court should have taken the marine’s “fine record” following several tours of duty into account when handing down his sentence.
But arguing in favour of Blackman’s punishment, former Lib Dem leader and ex-Royal Marine Lord Ashdown said he was content with the judge’s decision to follow the law.
An order banning the naming of Blackman, 39, was lifted by High Court judges after he was found guilty at a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire.
Former senior officers and MPs reacted against that decision, amid claims that he may need protection from Islamists in prison, the Sunday Telegraph said.
Lord West of Spithead, a former first lord of the Admiralty, told the newspaper: “This is a man who has put his life on the line many times. I am not sure due account has been taken of this.”
Blackman, a respected senior non-commissioned officer with 15 years’ experience, was convicted last month following a two-week court martial in which his two co-accused, known only as Marines B and C, were acquitted of murder.
He was also ”dismissed with disgrace” from the Royal Marines.
The killing happened five months into an arduous six-month tour of Helmand province in 2011 with Plymouth-based 42 Commando, known as Operation Herrick 14.
Blackman, a 6ft 3in physically imposing marine, shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol.
Calls for him to be treated more leniently came as the MoD announced that it had began to organise 11 “semi-inquests” into cases of death in British custody in Iraq following a ruling by the High Court.
An MoD spokesman said: “All serious allegations of mistreatment are investigated by the independent Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), who has the power to recommend prosecution where appropriate.
“We do not accept on current knowledge that it will be necessary to hold quasi-inquests into other cases that were not identified by the court.
“The department will be reviewing this position once IHAT has investigated the claims to see what further investigation needs to be undertaken to comply with Article 3.”
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national prisons newspaper for England and Wales said he felt it was ‘absolutely right’ Blackman should have been jailed.
Mr Leech said: “If murder is wrong then its ‘wrong’; right?
“This poll shows that 65% of the public questioned think it was absolutely right he was jailed, I agree with that, and over 20% think a tariff of ten years wasnt long enough – but its about right when the sentencing guidelines are considered.
“The fact is Blackman clearly knew what he was doing, and he knew it was wrong – he said so himself.
“He was in a difficult situation but don’t forget he was convicted by a Courts Martial – convicted by fellow soldiers who know better than anyone what he was going through and they said he’d crossed the line into murder – if anyone should know they should know.”
Here in full are the sentencing remarks of Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett, which were delivered to Sergeant Alexander Blackman during his sentencing at the court martial centre in Bulford, Wiltshire:
“On 15 September 2011, while on patrol near CP Omar in Helmand Province, you shot an unknown Afghan insurgent in the chest and killed him. He had been seriously wounded having been engaged lawfully by an Apache helicopter and when you found him he was no longer a threat. Having removed his AK47, magazines and a grenade, you caused him to be moved to a place where you wanted to be out of sight of your operational headquarters at Shazad so that, to quote what you said: “PGSS can’t see what we’re doing to him.” He was handled in a robust manner by those under your command, clearly causing him additional pain, and you did nothing to stop them from treating him in that way. When out of view of the PGSS (Persistent Ground Surveillance System) you failed to ensure he was given appropriate medical treatment quickly and then ordered those giving some first aid to stop. When you were sure the Apache helicopter was out of sight you calmly discharged a 9mm round into his chest from close range. Your suggestion that you thought the insurgent was dead when you discharged the firearm lacks any credibility and was clearly made up after you had been charged with murder in an effort to concoct a defence. It was rejected by the Board.
“Although the insurgent may have died from his wounds sustained in the engagement by the Apache, you gave him no chance of survival. You intended to kill him and that shot certainly hastened his death. You then told your patrol they were not to say anything about what had just happened and you acknowledged what you had done by saying that you had just broken the Geneva Convention. The tone and calmness of your voice as you commented after you had shot him were matter of fact and in that respect they were chilling.
“That Afghan man, as an injured enemy combatant, was entitled to be treated with dignity, respect and humanity. Some commentators and members of the public have said that you should not have been prosecuted and that you have not committed a crime because it was killing within a conflict. Some also suggest it is legitimate to kill wounded enemy combatants because, as you said after you shot the insurgent, it is nothing they wouldn’t do to British casualties. Those commentators are very wrong: if the British Armed Forces are not assiduous in complying with the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law they would become no better than the insurgents and terrorists they are fighting. Hearts and minds will not be won if British service personnel act with brutality and savagery. If they do not comply with the law they will quickly lose the support and confidence of those they seek to protect, as well as the international community. You and all Service personnel learn this throughout your training – you demonstrated that you knew that then, because you tried to cover it up, and you know it now.
“This was not an action taken in the heat of battle or immediately after you had been engaged in a fire fight. Nor were you under any immediate threat – the video footage shows that you were in complete control of yourself, standing around for several minutes and not apparently worried that you might be at risk of attack by other insurgents. You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood. By so doing you have betrayed your Corps and all British Service personnel who have served in Afghanistan, and you have tarnished their reputation. In one moment you undermined much of the good work done day in and day out by British forces and potentially increased the risk of revenge attacks against your fellow service personnel. You have failed to demonstrate the self discipline and restraint that is required of service personnel on operations, and which sets British troops apart from the enemy they fight.
“Of course sitting in a court room in middle England is a far cry from the brutality of the conflict in Afghanistan, but you have been judged here by a Board made up of Service personnel who understand operational service because they too have experienced it. That is one of the strengths of the court martial system.
“Many people have expressed views on your sentence in the media demanding a severe punishment on one hand and leniency on the other. However, you are not being tried by the media nor by those who express themselves vociferously. This court martial is an independent and impartial tribunal which will not be influenced by these sorts of statements and we have ignored them. We have reached an independent decision on the appropriate sentence based on all of the evidence we have heard, your plea of mitigation and the legal framework which we are obliged to apply, together with our collective experience of the law and the context and stresses of operations. Board members have served in all the theatres in which you have served.
“Murder has always been regarded as the most serious criminal offence and the sentence prescribed is different from other sentences. By law, the sentence for murder is imprisonment for life and, by virtue of the Armed Forces Act 2006 s217, that is the sentence we must pass on you. There is no discretion to do otherwise. You will remain subject to that sentence for the rest of your life.
“The decision whether to release you from custody during this sentence will be taken by the Parole Board which will consider whether it is safe to release you on licence. We are therefore required by law to set a minimum term that has to be served before the Parole Board may start to consider whether to authorise your release on licence. If you are released, the licence continues, as I said, for the rest of your life and recall to prison is possible at any time.
“This offence is unique and unprecedented in recent history. You were in a tough operational environment where you were legally entitled to use lethal force against the enemy. Whilst carrying out your duty, you came across a very seriously wounded enemy combatant. You were obliged to care for him but instead you executed him. That is a wholly different matter from the cases of murder in the UK normally considered by the civilian courts, but we are still required by law to apply the same law which those courts are required to apply.
“Parliament has set starting points (based on the circumstances of the killing) in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Schedule 21, and we must apply that Schedule when fixing the minimum term. We reject the defence submission that Schedule 21 is not applicable. The drafters of the legislation provided a framework for all offences of murder and it is an unmeritorious argument to suggest that one particular type of murder was outside their contemplation. Schedule 21 provides a framework to assist the court in arriving at an appropriate sentence and there is sufficient flexibility to take into account the exceptional circumstances of this case.
“We have, therefore, identified an appropriate starting point within Schedule 21. From there we have gone on to consider whether to increase or reduce the sentence from that starting point in the light of aggravating or mitigating factors.
“This is not a case where a whole life order is appropriate. The normal starting point for a murder involving the use of a firearm is 30 years. (paragraph 5 of Schedule 21). In the case of R v Jones and Others  EWCA Crim 3115 Lord Phillips LCJ (at paragraph 26) explained why this was the case. He said: ‘We have no doubt that the reason why the seriousness of such an offence is normally considered to be particularly high is that it results from the unlawful carriage of a loaded firearm and that the usual purpose of carrying such a firearm is to be able to kill or cause really serious injury. It is possible to envisage circumstances where this is not the case, but they will be very rare. Where a firearm is carried for the purpose of being used as an offensive weapon, we find it hard to envisage what reason there could be for not following the guidance in Schedule 21 and adopting 30 years starting point.’
“Clearly this is not a ‘normal’ firearms case. You were on duty in Helmand Province where you were undertaking duties on behalf of the British Government. Those duties were dangerous and life threatening and you were required to carry weapons and if necessary use lethal force in the furtherance of Government policy. Your case is one of the exceptionally rare circumstances envisaged by their Lordships in Jones where a firearm was used but where the starting point will be less than 30 years.
“We are also satisfied that this offence does not fall within Schedule 21 paragraph 5A which specifies a minimum term of 25 years for offenders who take a knife or other weapon to the scene intending to commit any offence or have the weapon available and use it in committing a murder. As I have already said, you were armed legitimately and there is no suggestion that you set off on that patrol intent on murder.
“In circumstances where the offence does not fall within the whole life, 30 year or 25 year starting points, the appropriate starting point is 15 years (Schedule 21 paragraph 6) and that is the starting point we have adopted. As I have said we must then apply aggravating and mitigating factors to that starting point.
“We have considered the list of statutory aggravating factors in paragraph 10 of Schedule 21. We do not accept the prosecution submission that the use of a firearm is an aggravating factor. You were armed legitimately and authorised to use lethal force. In fact in this circumstance your use of force was illegal, but it would be wrong to consider the use of a pistol which was carried lawfully in the context of military operations as an aggravating factor. We also accept that there was not a significant degree of planning or premeditation although it is clear from what you said that you decided shortly after you had disarmed the insurgent that you were going to do something to him which you did not want to be seen by your superiors in the headquarters. However, we have taken into account the following statutory and other aggravating factors:
a. The victim was particularly vulnerable because he was seriously wounded and lying helpless and in obvious pain while you considered what to do with him.
b. Your actions have put at risk the lives of other British service personnel. You have provided ammunition to the terrorists whose propaganda portrays the British presence in Afghanistan as part of a war on Islam in which civilians are arbitrarily killed. That ammunition will no doubt be used in their programme of radicalisation. That could seriously undermine the reputation of British forces and ultimately the mission in Afghanistan. As I have already said, committing this sort of act could well provoke the enemy to act more brutally towards British troops in retribution or reprisal.
c. You were in charge of the patrol and it was incumbent upon you to set the standards. Long before you shot the insurgent you should as a Senior NCO have shown better leadership to young and less experienced men. In fact you abused your position of trust by involving the other junior and subordinate members of your patrol in covering up what you had done and lying on your behalf.
“On the other hand, there are a number of statutory and other mitigating circumstances which apply, and which we have taken into account.
a. First provocation: The cumulative effect of the increased kinetic activity, together with the deaths and life changing injuries to fellow marines had an obvious effect on you. You were also affected by the story that the Taliban had hung a British serviceman’s severed limb in a tree, although you did not personally see that. You were also in no doubt that the victim was an insurgent who had been firing at CP Taalanda moments before he was wounded.
b. Second, the stress of operations: This was your sixth operational tour and your second to Afghanistan in under 14 years of service. We accept that you were affected by the constant pressure, ever present danger and fear of death or serious injury. This was enhanced by the reduction of available men in your CP so that you had to undertake more patrols yourself and place yourself and your men in danger more often. We also accept the psychiatric evidence presented today that when you killed the insurgent it was likely that you were suffering to some degree from combat stress disorder.
c. Third your personal mitigation: The recent death of your father, your previous good character and excellent record of Service and the fact that you would never have committed this sort of offence at home in the UK.
“The determination of the ultimate sentence is not a mathematical calculation but a question of balance and we have drawn together our collective experience of the law and of the Armed Forces to pass a sentence which reflects the seriousness of the offence, the context of the offending and your personal mitigation. While we acknowledge your personal circumstances and the immense pressure you were under, we note that thousands of other Service personnel have experienced the same or similar stresses. They exercised self-discipline and acted properly and humanely; you did not.
“It is also very important that this Court sends out a very strong message that while this sort of offence is extremely rare, if not unique, those Service personnel who commit crimes of murder, or other war crimes or crimes against humanity while on operations will be dealt with severely. This is a message of deterrence but it is also to reassure the international community that allegations of serious crime will be dealt with transparently and appropriately. In our view that message is delivered by sentencing you to imprisonment for life. Setting the minimum term reflects the seriousness of the offence while taking account of the unique and special circumstances of this case and your personal mitigation.
“We took some of the operational contextual mitigating factors into account in reducing the starting point from 30 to 15 years, but the other mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors we have identified. Having balanced all of these matters we have determined that the minimum term you must serve before you are eligible for the Parole Board to start considering whether you should be released on licence will be 10 years. That will be reduced to 9 years 327 days to reflect the 38 days you have already spent in custody.
“As an inevitable consequence of a sentence of life imprisonment you will also be reduced to the ranks and dismissed with disgrace from Her Majesty’s Service. We consider it necessary to dismiss you with disgrace because a sentence of dismissal simpliciter would be inadequate to reflect the gravity with which the court regards your conduct.”
An experienced Royal Marine says he is “devastated” at being handed a life sentence for executing in cold blood an injured Taliban fighter.
Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 39, will serve at least 10 years’ imprisonment for murdering the Afghan national in Helmand province in 2011.
The married commando, known to friends and family as Al, said he was “very sorry” for his actions, which were filmed on the headcam of a comrade during the fateful patrol in “the most dangerous square mile in Afghanistan”.
At the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, Blackman, a respected senior non-commissioned officer with 15 years’ experience, was “dismissed with disgrace” from the Royal Marines.
Speaking after Blackman was led away to begin his sentence in a civilian prison, his solicitor Issy Hogg thanked the public for the support they have shown to him and his wife.
“Sgt Blackman and his wife are devastated by the life sentence imposed upon him together with the order that he serve a minimum of 10 years before he is eligible for parole,” she said.
“Furthermore, he has been dismissed with disgrace from the Royal Marines, with whom he has served proudly for 15 years.
“He is very sorry for any damage caused to the Royal Marines. Finally, Sgt Blackman thanks the public for the support shown to him and his wife.”
Miss Hogg added that Blackman, who until yesterday was known as Marine A when judges at the High Court in London ruled he should be named, intends to appeal.
Blackman was convicted last month following a two-week court martial in which his two co-accused, known only as Marines B and C, were acquitted of murder.
The killing happened five months into an arduous six-month tour of Helmand province in 2011 with Plymouth-based 42 Commando, known as Operation Herrick 14.
Blackman shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol before quoting a phrase from Shakespeare as the man convulsed and died in front of him.
“There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us,” Blackman told him.
Blackman, a 6ft 3in physically imposing marine, then turned to comrades and said: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention.”
He told the court martial that he fired his gun out of anger but insisted the insurgent was already dead and explained why he fired: “Stupid, lack of self-control, momentary lapse in my judgment.
“I thought about it over the last year as we get towards these proceedings but I cannot give any other reason than to say that it was poor judgment and lack of self-control. I thought he was dead.”
The court heard a glowing reference from Blackman’s commanding officer who said the sergeant was being considered for promotion.
Lieutenant Colonel Simon Chapman pledged his “full support” to Blackman – describing him as “a normal citizen tainted only by the impact of war”.
“His momentary and fatal lapse of judgment on the battlefield two years ago not only served to end an enemy combatant’s life prematurely, but it has also altered his own life, and that of his family, immeasurably,” Lt Col Chapman said.
“He had so much to behold – a proud career and a promising future. Sadly, this is no longer the case. But, fundamentally, he is not a bad man. In fact, in almost every respect, he is a normal citizen tainted only by the impact of war.”
Anthony Berry QC, for Blackman, called for leniency on the grounds of the “exceptional circumstances”.
“It is no exaggeration to say that sergeants like Blackman in the British Army and the Marines really form the backbone of the individual operations which they are required to undertake,” he said.
But sentencing Blackman, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett said the commando had betrayed the armed services.
“You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood,” the judge said.
“By doing so you have betrayed your corps and all British service personnel who have served in Afghanistan and you have tarnished their reputation.
“In one moment you undermined much of the good work done day in day out by British forces and potentially increased the risk of revenge attacks against your fellow service personnel.
“Your actions have put at risk the lives of other British service personnel. You have provided ammunition to the terrorists whose propaganda portrays the British presence in Afghanistan as part of a war on Islam in which civilians are arbitrarily killed.
“That ammunition will no doubt be used in their programme of radicalisation. That could seriously undermine the reputation of British forces and ultimately the mission in Afghanistan.
“Committing this sort of act could well provoke the enemy to act more brutally towards British troops in retribution or reprisal.
“You have failed to demonstrate the self-discipline and restraint that is required of service personnel on operations, and which sets British troops apart from the enemy they fight.”
The judge added: “It is also very important that this court sends out a very strong message that while this sort of offence is extremely rare, if not unique, those service personnel who commit crimes of murder or other war crimes or crimes against humanity while on operations will be dealt with severely.
“This is a message of deterrence but it is also to reassure the international community that allegations of serious crime will be dealt with transparently and appropriately.”
After the sentencing, the Ministry of Defence released a short statement saying: “Throughout this case the Ministry of Defence has followed the independent legal process and a sentence has now been delivered.
“We respect the authority and decision of the court and it would be inappropriate of us to comment on the sentence.”
A Muslim jailed for his involvement in the killing of a woman at a christening party has been accused of bullying and intimidating jail inmates to convert to Islam, it was revealed today.
The accusations, which also include gang activity in prison and possessing a home-made weapon, came to light as the High Court in London rejected Jude Odigie’s challenge to his transfer from a private prison to a high security jail.
Odigie, 24, was a teenager when he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced at the Old Bailey in February 2007 to detention “for public protection” and ordered to serve a minimum period of seven years, three months, eight days.
He was part of a gang which invaded a christening party at a community centre in Peckham, south London, and stole mobile phones and handbags.
A shot was fired by another member of the gang and hit a woman, who was holding a baby, in the head. The baby was unharmed but the woman, Zainab Kalokoh, 33, died later in hospital.
Odigie was sentenced on the basis that he was involved in the “joint enterprise” attack on the christening party, although he did not personally fire the gun.
Odigie was held at various prisons until he was moved in June 2012 to Lowdham Grange, a Category B training prison for men operated by Serco Ltd in the East Midlands.
His cell was searched on October 12 2012 and a tin opener was found which came apart, with one handle sharpened to a point. A plastic handle was also found wrapped in bootlaces into which the sharpened point could fit to make a weapon, the High Court heard.
The following day, at a specially convened hearing at the prison, he said he had borrowed the tin opener quite innocently, and the plastic handle was something he used in the course of his weight training.
Odigie was told he was being segregated due to intelligence suggesting he was involved in bullying and intimidating other inmates and being in possession of a home-made weapon.
He was then moved to Full Sutton high security prison.
He launched a High Court challenge and asked deputy judge Philip Mott QC to quash the transfer decision and return him to Lowdham Grange on the basis the move was procedurally unfair and an abuse of power.
Julian Coningham, his solicitor advocate, argued at a one-day hearing in November that the prison authorities failed to follow proper procedures and did not wait for the result of an adjudication on the allegations against Odigie before the transfer took place.
Today, Judge Mott said Odigie’s application for judicial review “fails on all grounds”.
The judge said a gist of the accusations against him “does set out a consistent pattern of information pointing to pressure being put on other prisoners to convert to Islam, and the use of threats to those who do not comply”.
The cell search was “prompted by intelligence, and proved to be absolutely justified”.
The judge added: “The discovery of a home-made weapon in his cell appeared to substantiate this intelligence.”
He ruled: “In my judgement the undisputed facts and background were sufficient to justify action being taken without waiting for the result of the adjudication.
“The finding of the weapon was a serious matter. The background of perceived threats and bullying clearly had to be borne in mind also, but was not needed to justify taking action.
“In those circumstances, any difficulties in judging the reliability of the security information do not undermine the decision to act.”
An inquest into the death of a karate instructor who was blasted by gun maniac Raoul Moat has heard that prison officers were warned of his murderous intentions on the day he was released.
Chris Brown, 29, was gunned down in cold blood after starting a relationship with Moat’s ex-girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart, two days after the spurned lover was released from jail in July 2010. Ms Stobbart was also badly injured by shotgun pellets but survived.
Moat went on the run and the next night shot and blinded Pc David Rathband, who was unarmed and sitting in his marked police car.
The inquest at Newcastle Crown Court heard evidence from a witness who was a prisoner in HMP Durham.
The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons and was referred to as N1, said after Moat had been released that he told a prison officer he would end up killing someone.
“It was sort of an off-the-cuff comment, but I believe I said ‘He’s a lunatic and will end up killing someone’,” he said.
He also told the court that Moat was unbalanced and would get angry when talking about Ms Stobbart and the police.
“He indicated that he was going to take some sort of revenge against her and her partner,” he said.
The court heard that Moat had made it clear that he would never return to prison whatever happened and that he had also boasted about having access to a shotgun and explosives.
At the start of proceedings a statement was read out by Mr Brown’s mother, Sally, which said that, since his death, it had been hell for the family.
“His friends said he was like Marmite – either you loved him or you hated him,” she said.
“But if you loved him you had a friend for life. He was very loyal, happy-go-lucky and never sat still.
“As soon as he tried karate he said he loved it and was good at it. He enjoyed teaching it and especially teaching children.”
She said in the days leading up to his death he had been in good spirits and they had spoken regularly on the phone.
“It has been horrendous for the whole family, I cannot think of anything worse than burying your own child,” she said.
“I can only think of one word to describe it – hell.”
The court was told that Moat had indicated he intended to commit “suicide by cop”, which meant he would put himself in a position where he was shot by the police.
Evidence was also given that in prison he had described very precisely the outside of Ms Stobbart’s house and said a large green verge would make spying on her difficult.
Witness N1 said Moat had told him that he would “shoot to kill” five people, who were Ms Stobbart, her mother, her new partner, a psychiatrist and a social worker.
The hearing follows the Crown Court trial of two of Moat’s accomplices and an inquest into how Moat shot himself during a stand-off with police in Rothbury, Northumberland.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission and an internal prison inquiry have looked at details of Moat’s release from Durham Prison.
At a pre-inquest hearing, Coroner Terence Carney said those hearings had not allowed relatives of Mr Brown, who was from Slough, Berkshire, to ask questions.
An inquest for Mr Rathband, who was found hanged at his home last year, will be heard next month.
The back-from-the-dead canoe fraudster, former Holme House prison officer John Darwin (left), from Hartlepool, is facing a return to prison after he left the UK without permission to meet a statuesque Ukrainian in a mini-skirt.
The 63-year-old was pictured in The Sun on a date with a blonde woman in her 20s in the town of Sumy, 1,500 miles from his home.
He was freed early on licence in January 2011 after being sentenced in 2008 to serve six years and three months for fraud.
That meant he was not allowed to leave the UK without Probation Service permission until all of his sentence was served.
A source close to the case said: “He is facing a return to prison for travelling abroad without permission.”
The Probation Service would not speak about individual cases but a spokesman said: “Any offender subject to licence supervision is required to gain permission from probation to travel outside of the UK; permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances.
“Any offender who travels without this permission will be subject to recall to custody.
“In these circumstances the Probation Service works closely with the police to implement the recall.”
It was believed Darwin was still in the Ukraine.
According to The Sun, Darwin and his date, a local woman named Anna, enjoyed a two-hour meal assisted by a translator, but the evening turned sour when he was confronted by a reporter.
The newspaper said Darwin first made contact with the woman over the internet.
He faked his own death in a canoeing accident in 2002 so his then wife Anne (right) could claim hundreds of thousands of pounds from insurance policies and pension schemes.
The couple, from Seaton Carew, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the swindle, which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons Mark and Anthony.
Darwin admitted fraud so received a slightly shorter sentence than Anne, who denied the offences. They have now divorced.
After faking his own death, Darwin continued to live in secret with his wife before they escaped to Panama to start a new life.
But in December 2007 Darwin walked into a London police station claiming he had amnesia and was reunited with his stunned sons.
His wife, then still in Panama, initially also claimed to be surprised – until a photograph emerged of them posing together.
A rent boy has claimed the Brighton man he is accused of bleeding dry financially and murdering wanted to marry him, a court has heard.
Ricardo Pisano (r) said Michael Polding (l) not only gave him money to send to his family in South Africa but also offered to marry him in order to sort out his “visa issues” so he could stay in the UK, a jury was told.
Pisano, 36, dubbed the South African Artful Dodger after he fled a New Zealand prison, is accused of murdering 62-year-old Mr Polding at his Brighton flat and going on the run for nearly a year.
Mr Polding’s badly decomposed body was found by police neatly positioned and wrapped up in bedding in his rented two-bedroom flat in St George’s Road on July 16 last year, although he is believed to have died two months earlier from “blunt force trauma” to his chest.
Pisano, formerly of Methuen Street, Southampton, was arrested on May 7. He denies murder and causing grievous bodily harm but has admitted preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body, the jury has heard.
Giving evidence at Lewes Crown Court, Pisano said he met Mr Polding in December 2009 after advertising himself as a rent boy in a gay magazine to get himself out of financial difficulty.
Even though he is not homosexual, Polding paid him for sexual services and they became friends, so much so that Pisano took to calling him St Mikes and eventually moved into his Croydon home when he needed somewhere to stay, he told the court.
“When I met St Mikes I was at a very low point in my life and I wanted to take my own life. He took me out of it and made me see differently, that I should not worry and that something good would come,” he said.
“He was a very caring person; very caring and understanding.”
William Mousley QC, defending, asked Pisano about his past and how he came to the UK.
Pisano told the court that Ricardo Pisano was not his real name and that he left a daughter, who he would send money to, and an ex-wife in South Africa, neither of whom he has seen since leaving in 2000.
After fleeing prison in New Zealand, where he was jailed for extortion, he lived in Australia for 18 months and then caught a boat to South Africa where he flew to Cape Town and arranged for papers which would get him into the UK illegally, arriving in 2004, the court heard.
He could not stay in South Africa because a “fatwa” was issued against him by controversial vigilante group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) and that he would be “dead within a week”, Pisano said.
Mr Polding knew about some of his past, including that he feared for his life if he was to return to South Africa, Pisano told the court.
Mr Polding offered to marry him, even throwing an engagement party at his Croydon flat, he said.
But even though he felt comfortable with him, describing him as “a trustworthy person who would not sell me out”, he had not wanted to marry him, the defendant told the jury.
Mr Polding decided to sell his share of his home in Croydon and move to Brighton, taking Pisano and the defendant’s friend Emmett Friel, the court heard.
Mr Polding, who had health problems and would often fall over, began drinking even more heavily than normal once he had received money for his share of the Croydon house and they were living in Brighton, Pisano told the jury.
Mr Polding visited his family in Scotland during Christmas 2011 but returned home to Brighton early because they did not agree with the amount of alcohol he was drinking, Pisano said.
He tried to stop Mr Polding from spending so much and made him open a separate savings account where he deposited £20,000 which was eventually used to set up a hairdressing salon in north London, the court heard.
“St Mikes paid for everything. Emmett said he paid for bills when he was living there but that was not true,” Pisano said.
The prisons specialist tactical response ‘Tornado’ team that attends serious incidents was called out more times in the first eight months of this year than in the whole of 2012, prompting Labour to warn of a growing crisis in prisons.
Tornado Teams from the National Tactical Response Group (NTRG) was called out 132 times in the first eight months of 2013, compared with a total of 129 callouts over the whole of last year, official figures showed.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan claimed prisons have become more overcrowded and dangerous under the coalition Government and warned that convicts still spend as much time in their cells as they did three years ago and so have less chance of being rehabilitated.
By October 1 the NTRG had been called out 151 times, with 19 callouts in September alone. There have been more callouts in 2013 than in any of the last four years.
Nearly half of all prisons (45%) in England and Wales run by both the private and public sectors have had call-outs since 2010.
Mr Khan, who uncovered the figures using a parliamentary question, said: “The true scale of the growing crisis in our prisons on (Justice Secretary) Chris Grayling’s watch is laid bare in this information which I have uncovered. In the first eight months of this year, there had been more prison disturbances severe enough to call out the specialist response team than in the whole of 2012. And if the number of disturbances continue at this level for the rest of this year, there will have been a doubling over the three years of this Tory-led Government.
“All this Government’s talk of a rehabilitation revolution is but a distant memory. Instead, prisons are more overcrowded and dangerous than in May 2010, with prisoners spending as much time festering in their cells as they did three years ago. This means not working or attending training courses which in turn means less chance of being rehabilitated or paying something back to society.
“The incompetence of the Justice Secretary is breathtaking. Given how bad things are getting on his watch, it really calls into question whether Chris Grayling is fit to even be Justice Secretary”
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said the “slight rise” in callouts over recent months was “mainly” due to minor incidents such as prisoners protesting.
Mr Wright, who answered Mr Khan’s question, said there had been no rise in the number of serious incidents being attended.
He said: “The number of callouts has been fairly consistent over the period in question, though there has been a slight rise in the number of callouts over recent months. This is mainly due to minor incidents such as prisoners protesting by climbing onto the netting between landings.
“NTRG staff have the specialist skills required to deal with such incidents which accounted for 68% of all the callouts in the past year and they are frequently called to attend as a precautionary measure.
“Not all callouts result in engagement by NTRG staff, with a number of situations being resolved locally. Of the 151 incidents NTRG attended up to September 2013, 75% were resolved by surrender. There has been no rise in the number of serious incidents being attended.”
Prison reform charity the Howard League for Penal Reform warned of a “creeping pressure” on the prison system which could lead to more disturbances and disorder.
Chief executive Frances Crook called for a focus on probation to reduce reoffending and the cost to taxpayers.
She said: “We are concerned that there is creeping pressure on the prison system and that this will create more disturbances and disorder.
“At a time when the number in custody is rising, the Ministry of Justice is facing a dilemma – either use police cells or cram ever more people into combustible prisons. Either approach is a waste of money and risks lives.
“The grown-up choice is to support successful probation programmes which reduce reoffending, reduce the number of victims and cost the taxpayer much less.”
HMP Kennet was helping prisoners to acquire new skills and to prepare for release, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the resettlement prison near Liverpool.
HMP Kennet is situated next to Ashworth high security hospital in converted former hospital premises. It opened in 2007 as a category C establishment but has recently changed to become a resettlement prison. It is now semi-open with a majority of category D prisoners. Arrangements to achieve this transition had worked well and inspectors found the prison was achieving reasonably good or better outcomes for prisoners across all tests for a healthy prison: safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- Kennet was a remarkably safe prison, with low levels of violence, self-harm and use of force;
- arrangements to address substance misuse were satisfactory and use of segregation was low;
- staff-prisoner relationships were usually good and most prisoners felt respected,
- learning and skills provision was well managed with sufficient activity for all;
- vocational training facilities and learning were impressive;
- work was carried out to commercial standards and there was a meaningful focus on preparation for work and employability;
- good links had been developed that were allowing significant numbers of prisoners to use their skills in voluntary work experience on temporary release; and
- work to support the various resettlement pathways, such as finding prisoners accommodation on release and help with careers advice, was very good.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- the prison’s new function meant significant staff reductions and a requirement for staff to work differently and a few staff had yet to come to terms with the challenges of the prison’s new direction;
- the prisoners’ accommodation was in a poor condition and required refurbishment;
- more work was required to ensure the prison had a fully integrated resettlement strategy consistent with its new role; and
- there were real gaps in the quality of offender management.
Nick Hardwick said:
“Kennet was settling well into its new role. Prisoners were given clear opportunities to use their time purposefully and acquire skills, and to prepare for release. Key priorities should now include further improving the quality of staff-prisoner relationships and developing a culture of consultation and communication with prisoners; improving environmental standards, including more proportionate physical security, and ensuring meaningful offender engagement is at the heart of the prisoners’ experience. Overall, however, the Governor and staff should be commended for running a prison that delivers good outcomes.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“Kennet is a safe and well-run prison that offers good outcomes for the prisoners it holds. I am pleased that that Chief Inspector has recognised the progress being made, especially in addressing substance misuse and providing work and vocational training – both of which help reduce reoffending on release and protect the public.
“The Governor and staff are working hard to adapt to becoming a resettlement prison and I am confident that they will continue to build on this progress.”
Notes to Editors:
- A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 19 November 2013 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/kennet
- HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
- This unannounced inspection was carried out from 17-28 June 2013.
- HMP Kennet is a resettlement prison for men.
- Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.
A former gangster who changed his name has failed in a High Court bid for compensation for “psychiatric damage” after accusing Greater Manchester Police of revealing his new identity to former criminal associates.
The man, referred to as PBD, claimed the police’s actions forced him to enter a witness protection scheme in December 2010 that caused him depression and anxiety because he had to spend a period separated from his partner.
He accused Greater Manchester Police of breaching a duty of care they owed him after he had given evidence “against another member of the Manchester criminal fraternity” in the USA and had been shot and wounded.
Mr Justice Silber, sitting at the High Court in London, said he had no doubt that PBD, the former member of a criminal gang, was “terrified of being attacked” and believed there was a contract out to kill him.
But the courts had already ruled that the police “do not owe a duty of care to witnesses and victims”.
The judge said it was not possible to see why PBD, who was a suspect in a money laundering offence, “should be owed a duty of care when a witness and a victim does not have such a duty owed to him”.
In any event, PBD had not been “forced” into witness protection but was “keen” to join the scheme.
The judge also rejected a claim by PBD’s partner for damages. She claimed the police had breached an agreement to pay her £1,500 per month for six months as compensation for giving up her job and eventually joining him in witness protection.
The judge said he could not accept her evidence as credible.
The cases were heard at a private hearing in October, but the judge publicly announced the outcome.
The judge said PBD had claimed a duty of care because of three factors. First, he had co-operated with police and as a result received a reduced prison sentence in 2004.
Second, he had given evidence against another member of the Manchester criminal fraternity in the US and this had led to the man being jailed for over 20 years, and in return he had received immunity from prosecution.
Finally, an attempt had been made on his life. He had been shot and wounded by a person who was still at large and a contract on his life had been offered by other members of the criminal community.