Jailed sex offender embroiled in divorce court money fight

A child sex offender serving a 14-year jail term is embroiled in a divorce court fight over money with his estranged wife more than a decade after they separated.

Dominic Purvis, who has been convicted of string of offences including sexually assaulting children, wants a pay-out from Sharon Purvis.

Detail of Purvis’s cash claim has emerged after a judge analysed preliminary issues at a family court hearing.

Mr Justice Mostyn oversaw the hearing in private in London early this month.

But the judge has named Purvis, and his estranged wife, in a written ruling published online.

The judge has described Purvis as a “dangerous sex offender” in the ruling and says he will remain in prison for “many further years”.

He said Purvis’s claim for “financial remedies” had to be seen “in that context”.

The Purvises had lived in Taunton, Somerset – and Davenport, Florida, USA – where they ran a cafe, when together, the judge said.

Mr Justice Mostyn said in 2006, Purvis was convicted of possessing indecent images of children, following a hearing at Bristol Crown Court, and jailed.

In 2015, he had been convicted of a number of crimes, including eight sexual assault offences against three children, following a hearing at Exeter Crown Court, and given a 14-year prison sentence.

“The applicant, Dominic Purvis, is a dangerous sex offender,” said Mr Justice Mostyn, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

“He is presently in prison and will remain there for many further years.

“His claim for financial remedies must be seen in that context.”

The judge said the pair had married in early 2004.

He said technically they remained married, because a decree absolute had not been granted, although their relationship had broken down by the end of 2005.

Purvis said they had begun a relationship in 1992.

Mr Justice Mostyn said he imagined that the judge who oversaw any divorce court trial would “want to consider the question of (Purvis’s) conduct”.

He also said the “staleness” of Purvis’s claim would be relevant.

The judge gave no detail about the amount of money at stake.

High Court Judge strongly criticised for ‘hostile’ treatment of claimant by Appeal Court Judges

A High Court judge has been strongly criticised for being “hostile” and using “bullying” language towards a man who represented himself in a libel claim.

Mr Justice Robert Jay QC was leading counsel to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press from 2011 to 2012, and was appointed a High Court judge in June 2013.

Following a week-long trial in London in 2017, Mr Justice Jay dismissed a claim for damages brought by 67-year-old businessman Jan Tomasz Serafin, who complained about an article in a Polish language magazine.

But his decision was overturned on Friday by three Court of Appeal judges, who said Mr Justice Jay’s interventions during Mr Serafin’s evidence were “highly unusual and troubling”.

Lords Justice Lewison, McCombe and Haddon-Cave said in a ruling that the judge had acted in a “manifestly unfair and hostile” way towards the claimant, who was not represented by lawyers during the hearing.

The judges said: “On numerous occasions, the judge appears not only to have descended to the arena, cast off the mantle of impartiality and taken up the cudgels of cross-examination, but also to have used language which was threatening, overbearing and, frankly, bullying.

“One is left with the regrettable impression of a judge who, if not partisan, developed an animus towards the claimant.”

They said the judge’s conduct towards Mr Serafin, a Polish national who has lived in London since the 1980s, was “all the more surprising and troubling” given that he was acting as a litigant in person and English was not his first language.

The judges added: “In our view, the judge not only seriously transgressed the core principle that a judge remains neutral during the evidence, but he also acted in a manner that was manifestly unfair and hostile to the claimant.

“Not all departures from good practice render a trial unfair … nevertheless, we have carefully considered and reflected upon this matter and are driven to the conclusion that the nature, tenor and frequency of the judge’s interventions were such as to render this libel trial unfair.”

In appeal documents, Mr Serafin’s lawyers said that at one point during the trial Mr Justice Jay had “threatened the claimant with prosecution and imprisonment for forgery”.

His barrister, Alexandra Marzec, also said the judge “appeared to regard hearing from the claimant in any capacity as a waste of time”.

She said that, halfway through the trial in response to defence lawyers, the judge had said: “I would not even bother … I think we have got to assume every point is lies.”

Ms Marzec added: “It was to the claimant’s credit that he managed to continue to present his case in the face of this show of contempt for him by the bench.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook – the definitive annual guide to the prison system of England and Wales – said the Judge should resign.

Mr Leech said:  “Robert Jay should resign following the trenchant and frankly unheard of criticism of the Appeal Court.

“He has obviously failed to make the essential transition from partisan QC – which he was exceptionally good at – to impartial High Court Judge which he is clearly appalling at; this is real life, with real people and real consequences – not an episode of Judge John Deed.”

Doing Your Bird on Chicken Wing!

It gives new meaning to “doing bird” – inmates are looking after chickens as part of a new prison activity scheme.

Eggs produced at HMP Leeds’ “Chicken Wing” are used in the kitchen or sold to staff.

Under the supervision of staff, prisoners help tend to around 50 free-range chickens.

The birds are located in an outdoor area within the prison’s grounds, with sheds used to house them at night.

The initiative was revealed in the annual report of the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).

It said that “2018 saw the introduction of chickens into the prison (the ‘Chicken Wing’) and the eggs that are produced are sold to staff and also used in the kitchen”.

The IMB’s chairman Barrie Meakin said the idea was for prisoners to learn about animal husbandry.

“It’s a matter of looking after the chickens and keeping the place clean,” he said.

“It’s just another added activity, another added interest.”

In another “purposeful activity” scheme, the prison has introduced a small mushroom farm, with the produce sold to a commercial user, the report said.

It added: “Both the Chicken Wing and mushroom farm are popular with prisoners, who state that they feel that these activities give them a sense of achievement.”

Another popular programme is the “fusion kitchen”, where prisoners are taught how to cook Asian food.

The IMB report, which covers January to December 2018, said: “It is hoped that in 2019 an Asian restaurant will open in the prison for staff use.”

HMP Leeds, a category B prison for men, had a population of 1,050 as of the end of last month.

The availability and use of drugs known as new psychoactive substances posed “particular challenges” last year, while the number of mobile phones found in the prison was “of concern”, the IMB’s report said.

It welcomed the introduction of a scanner and extra sniffer dogs to detect drugs at the prison as part of a Ministry of Justice scheme to boost security and standards at 10 jails.

Mr Meakin said: “In a difficult operational environment and despite significant staffing constraints, we believe that, overall, prisoners at HMP Leeds are treated with humanity and respect.

“However, much more needs to be done by the prison and the wider Prison Service to tackle the availability of drugs and the widespread use of the ‘mini’ mobile phones which are smuggled in to support the distribution network.”

Probation Service to supervise all offenders after flawed privatisation

Supervision of all offenders in England and Wales is being brought back in-house after a part-privatisation was dogged by controversy and criticism.

The public National Probation Service (NPS) will take over management of low and medium-risk cases, which are currently handled by private providers.

Under the existing system, high-risk individuals are supervised by the NPS, with all other work assigned to community rehabilitation companies (CRCs).

Changes to be unveiled by Justice Secretary David Gauke will see all offender management brought under the NPS after CRC contracts end in December 2020.

Under the new model, the Government will provide up to £280 million a year for probation “interventions” from the private and voluntary sectors.

Each NPS region will have a dedicated “innovation partner” responsible for providing unpaid work and accredited programmes.

Mr Gauke said: “Delivering a stronger probation system, which commands the confidence of the courts and better protects the public, is a pillar of our reforms to focus on rehabilitation and cut reoffending.

“I want a smarter justice system that reduces repeat crime by providing robust community alternatives to ineffective short prison sentences – supporting offenders to turn away from crime for good.

“The model we are announcing today will harness the skills of private and voluntary providers and draw on the expertise of the NPS to boost rehabilitation, improve standards and ultimately increase public safety.”

Probation services manage more than a quarter of a million offenders in England and Wales, including inmates preparing to leave jail, ex-prisoners living in the community and people serving community or suspended sentences.

Under a programme known as Transforming Rehabilitation, 35 probation trusts were replaced in 2014 by the NPS and 21 privately-owned CRCs.

The overhaul, introduced under then justice secretary Chris Grayling, was designed to drive down re-offending.

But it has been heavily criticised by MPs and watchdogs.

Earlier this month, the Public Accounts Committee accused the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of taking “unacceptable” risks with taxpayers’ money when rushing through the shake-up at “breakneck speed”.

An inspection report previously revealed thousands of offenders were being managed by a brief phone call once every six weeks.

Chief inspector of probation Dame Glenys Stacey, who earlier this year described the model delivered by Transforming Rehabilitation as “irredeemably flawed”, said she was “delighted” at Mr Gauke’s decision.

She said: “Probation is a complex social service and it has proved well-nigh impossible to reduce it to a set of contractual requirements.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the Tories “have been forced to face reality and accept their probation model is irredeemably broken”.

He added: “The Tories didn’t want to make this U-turn and had been desperately trying to re-tender probation contracts to the private sector. It is right those plans have been dropped and that offender management is to be brought back in-house.”

Unison national officer for probation Ben Priestley described the move as “a long-overdue step in the right direction”, adding that the union is “convinced probation services are best delivered locally, rather than from the one-size-fits-all centralised model which is the National Probation Service”.

Speaking on behalf of Interserve, MTC, Seetec and Sodexo – companies responsible for 17 CRCs – CEO for Sodexo Justice Services in the UK and Ireland Janine McDowell said: “We are disappointed by this decision.

“As well as increasing cost and risk, this more fragmented system will cause confusion as offenders are passed between various organisations for different parts of their sentence.

“We will now work closely with the Government to minimise risks as the cases we manage are transferred to the National Probation Service.

“The Government has recognised our track record of innovative, evidence-based initiatives to tackle knife crime, stalking and alcohol-related offences and we remain committed to working with them to drive down re-offending.”

The MoJ said the reforms announced on Thursday are designed to build on the “successful elements” of the existing system, which led to 40,000 additional offenders being supervised every year.

The ministry will now run a period of “market and stakeholder engagement” to finalise the proposals in order for the new model to come into effect in spring 2021.

Offender management in Wales will be integrated on a quicker timescale, by the end of this year.

G4S should be banned from running jails say Labour

Security company G4S should be banned from running prisons after a number of failings were identified, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has said.

The opposition frontbencher made the call during a debate on prisons and probation, as Labour called for no new contracts to be handed out to private contractors.

But Justice Secretary David Gauke hit back, saying the scheme had been a success overall, and attacking his opposite number’s “dogmatic” speech.

Mr Burgon said problems at HMP Birmingham, which was run by G4S before being taken back into the public sector, are not localised.

He added: “G4S has in fact failed across the justice sector. It has been forced to give up youth prisons after abuse allegations.

“Horrific treatment at its immigration detention centres has been exposed and the security giant is still under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for its role in an electronic tagging scandal that included charging for dead people.

“Let’s be honest, its role in our justice system should be suspended and should have been suspended there and then, but the Government actually appears to be in hock to it and no wonder given that it has £5 billion of Ministry of Justice contracts.”

Labour’s opposition day motion is non-binding on the Government and simply expresses the opinion of the Commons.

It calls on the Government to end its plans to sign new private probation contracts and contracts for new privately run prisons.

Mr Burgon accused the Government of “throwing more good money after bad”, adding: “Just how bad does it have to get before the Conservative Party ends its obsession with the private sector?

“Private firms could be deliberately understaffing prisons to boost their profits. It’s clearly in the public interest that the staffing levels in private prisons are routinely published just as they are routinely published in publicly run prisons.”

He also called for an independent inquiry into whether privatisation has increased violence in prisons.

Mr Burgon finished by saying: “The Conservatives promised that privatisation of our justice system would lead to better services and lower costs. The evidence is now in, it has achieved neither.

“Instead of savings we’ve had bailouts, instead of improved safety there’s disproportionate violence, instead of accountability we’ve had secrecy.”

Mr Gauke said it was right to discuss the use of the private sector in prisons, but the Labour frontbencher’s speech was “simplistic, dogmatic and bombastic”.

He acknowledged that HMP Birmingham was a “failing prison” and standards were “unacceptable” during a 2018 inspection.

But he said the Government stepped in “at no extra cost to the taxpayer” and showed “when it is right to step in, we will step in”.

He added there are lots of other privately run prisons which have been a success, praising HMP Bronzefield, which has pioneered the use of in-cell phones for inmates, citing it as an example of the private sector “getting there first”.

Mr Gauke finished by saying: “We will always work to put the public first, in reducing reoffending, protecting the public and building a stronger justice system.”

Labour MP Mohammed Yasin (Bedford) said publicly run prisons are being “deliberately run into the ground and deprived of adequate funding”.

He added: “Marketisation has utterly failed in the prison and probation services and public safety has been compromised.

“It is time the Government listened to frontline workers who know exactly how to turn things around.”

Liberal Democrat Vera Hobhouse (Bath) said the Government should invest in women’s centres to help reduce reoffending.

She added: “Short sentences target the most vulnerable offenders, especially women, with 72% of women offenders being sentenced for less than a year.

“Sixty-two percent of these women sentenced for less than a year go on to reoffend. Often these months in prison are just enough time for a woman to lose her job, house and children.

“They find themselves released back into society with no safety nets and very little in the way of support.”

HMP LEWES – “Decline while in ‘Special Measures’ suggests systemic Prison Service failure”

Treatment and conditions for men in HMP Lewes in Sussex declined over two years while the jail was subject to HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) ‘special measures.’ The failure of special measures suggested a systemic failure within the prison service, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

The prison was last inspected in January 2016, when inspectors found it to be reasonably good in respect and resettlement, and not sufficiently good in safety and purposeful activity.

Unfortunately, Mr Clarke said, “the findings of this inspection (in January 2019) were deeply troubling and indicative of systemic failure within the prison service. We found that in three areas – respect, purposeful activity and rehabilitation and release planning – there had been a decline in performance.

“In the fourth area, the key one of safety, although performance was not so poor as to drag the assessment to the lowest possible level, it was undoubtedly heading in that direction.

“What makes the decline at Lewes even more difficult to understand is the fact that two years ago HMPPS put the prison into what it described as ‘special measures’.

“I have examined the ‘Improving Lewes (Special Measures) Action Plan’ agreed with senior HMPPS management in August 2018. However, of the 45 action points in the plan, 39 had not been completed and the majority were described as requiring ‘major development’.”

There were, Mr Clarke added, over 50 references to reviewing activity in the plan, “but a noticeable dearth of hard targets.

“The results of this inspection clearly showed that, far from delivering better outcomes, two years of ‘special measures’ had coincided with a serious decline in performance.”

Mr Clarke warned that unless HMP Lewes had strong leadership and a realistic action plan focused on delivering clear, measurable outcomes, it was highly likely that the use of the HMI Prisons Urgent Notification procedure would have to be considered at some point. Inspectors at Lewes found:

  •  Safety – Since the last inspection there had been five self-inflicted deaths, and incidents of self-harm had tripled but there had been an inadequate response to recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO). While levels of violence were broadly similar to 2016, assaults against staff had risen and a quarter of prisoners felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. One fifth of assaults were serious. Illicit drugs undoubtedly sat behind much of the violence. Despite this, devices to detect contraband and drugs had not been working since April 2018. Mr Clarke said: “I was told this was because of ‘procurement’ difficulties. If ‘special measures’ was intended to help the prison overcome this type of bureaucratic obstacle, it had failed.”
  • Respect – Seventy-eight per cent of prisoners said staff treated them with respect and the atmosphere was reasonably calm. “This was an unusually high figure for this type of prison, and added weight to the notion that the problems at Lewes were not insoluble, but did require significant management intervention.” There were “very real weaknesses” in health care in the prison.
  • Purposeful activity – Ofsted inspectors found “no clear strategy” for the delivery of learning and skills, and allocation to activities appeared to be a matter of luck. While time out of cell was good for those attending activities, it was not so good for those not attending, and inspectors found 40% of prisoners locked in their cells during the working day.
  • Rehabilitation and release planning – A lack of leadership meant that there was weak strategic management, and the reducing reoffending strategy was out of date.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This was a very disappointing inspection… The detail contained in this report brings into question the utility of ‘special measures’, if a prison can decline so badly when supposedly benefitting from them for a full two years. It also validates the Inspectorate’s new Independent Reviews of Progress, which are specifically designed to give ministers a report of progress against previous inspection reports at struggling prisons such as Lewes. A new governor had taken up post shortly before this inspection, and she will need support from her own management team and from more senior levels in HMPPS if the decline at HMP Lewes is to be arrested and reversed.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said:

“After the previous inspection in January 2016, the staffing position at Lewes deteriorated and there were a number of disturbances. The prison clearly needed central support to tackle the challenges they faced. In January 2017, it was placed into special measures – a process that has successfully supported improvement at other prisons. Staff from other establishments supported the prison, and although there has been progress in some areas, it has not been as swift or as comprehensive as we would have hoped. Better recruitment meant we were fully staffed in 2018 which has helped to halt the decline. As noted by the inspectorate, assaults have fallen and self-harm has started to reduce too. Safety is the Governor’s clear priority. We are providing extra support from our central safety team to drive further improvements, and the prison has introduced x-ray scanners and netting to combat drugs. The establishment is well-placed to make further progress and will focus on the Inspectorate’s recommendations to do so.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook the definitive 1,600 page annual guide to the prison system of England and Wales ( the 2019 edition of which published in July 2019) writes:

The evidence is now compelling that the well-intended theory of Special Measures needs to be revisited – it has a habit making things worse not better..
The table below shows those prisons that, as of March 2019, are currently in Special Measures and the dates on which they were placed there.
It is salient to note from this table that three of the four prisons that were subsequently the subject of Urgent Notifications all began by being placed into Special Measures – Nottingham, Bedford and Exeter – and according to the Chief Inspector, Lewes Prison is heading the same way.
Piecemeal attempts to fix individual prisons by Special Measures is failing, that much is obvious.
Recommendations that are vital to progress and success are not being implemented, this isn’t due to a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude by prison governors and staff, it is due to the fact that we demand too much of them by way of delivery, with a timescale too often completely unrealistic and  an expectation that they can do it all with a handful of staff and a budget of tuppence ha’penny; they’re Managers, not Magicians. 
What we need is a back-to-the-drawing board approach with our prisons, one that starts with defining exactly what it is we want our prisons to deliver in terms of punishment, deterrence, reform and victim care – and vitally one that then not only identifies the resources needed to deliver it but one that also provides those resources, and then ring-fences them too.

Prisons in Special Measures as of March 2019

You can read a copy of this shocking report, published on 14 May 2019, here: https://www.prisons.org.uk/Lewes2019.pdf

Facts:  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.

HMP Lewes is a medium-sized category B local prison. At the time of this inspection it held around 580 male prisoners, both sentenced and on remand. The prison was last inspected in January 2016. On that occasion we found it to be reasonably good in the areas of respect and resettlement, and not sufficiently good in the areas of safety and purposeful activity. HMP Lewes was built in 1853 as the county prison for Sussex. It has a semi-radial design and is half a mile from the town centre of Lewes. In 2007, a new house block was completed, which created 174 places in two attached wings, plus a new workshop, gym, visits hall, multi-faith centre and several new classrooms. F wing was refurbished in 2012.

Notable features from this inspection: 26% of prisoners were unsentenced; 201 prisoners presented a high or very high risk of harm; the prison held 85 prisoners who were on the sex offenders register; 54% of prisoners were category C.

This unannounced inspection took place between 14 and 25 January 2019.

Why Failure Must Be Explained

By Mark Leech

Yesterday I was taken to task for not being positive enough when I wrote about HMP Garth where, following (unusually) an announced HMIP inspection, it was revealed the prison had high levels of drugs and violence, where in terms of the four Healthy Prison Tests, safety had crept up from 1/4 to 2/4, respect from 2/4 to 3/4 and both purposeful activity and release planning had stalled at 3/4 since the last inspection two years ago.

It was said that I did not give enough credit where it was due.

Well that is certainly one view and one with some value to it, but on the other side of the coin Garth was also a prison where 56% of all the HMIP recommendations made and accepted by the prison two years previously had not been achieved at all.

Its really important that staff are given credit for progress, but those same staff also need to be able to take reality on the chin too – once we start to view a 56% failure rate on implementation as something to be proud of, something for which to quote one member of staff at Garth they should be given a ‘pat on the back’ for, then there is a real danger in my view that we are celebrating failure not success.

Mistaking failure for progress just skews reality; implementing 75% or 80% of HMI recommendations deserves praise, but when that drops to less than half, to just 44% that ought to be viewed as a cause for concern not credit – or the danger is that it becomes accepted as normalised and that must never be the case.

Personally I would like to see every Governor who has failed to implement 50% or more of HMI recommendations being required to publicly explain to the Prisons Inspectorate, in a written document that appears in an Annex to the Report, exactly why in two years they have been unable to do better.

There are two sides to every story and one story is only good until another one is told – if nothing else if provides an opportunity to explain the reasons why more progress wasn’t made and I imagine some would be surprised at the reasons given which currently remain hidden from view.

If the Justice Secretary has to explain publicly what has gone wrong and what he will do to put it right when faced with an HMI Urgent Notification, the same principle of accountability should apply to Governing Governors too: they too have their story to tell – and they ought to be allowed to tell it.

The buck stops on their desk and with it credit for success and responsibility for failure too.

Mark Leech is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales @prisonsorguk

HMP SWALESIDE – Safer and more respectful, but weaker on activity and rehabilitation

Published 8th May 2019

The Chief Inspector of Prisons has said that HMP Swaleside, a training prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent holding many men serving long sentences for violent offences, had ‘become safer and more respectful over two years’ – despite the fact that outcomes for prisoners against the safety prison test ‘were not sufficiently good.”

Swaleside prison, which opened in 1988, is located on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. Covering mainly London and the South-East, the South-West as well as Wales, the prison first opened with four wings, adding four further wings between 1998 and 2010. In 2010, a psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) unit was built, along with a pre-PIPE unit for prisoners with personality disorders and very challenging behaviour.

The prison held a complex population, including a psychologically informed planned environment unit, a wing holding prisoners seeking protection, a wing for prisoners convicted of sexual offences and a lifer wing. About a third of prisoners were serving an indeterminate sentence. Eighty-five per cent of prisoners potentially needed multi-agency supervision on release. Seventy-five per cent of the population had been assessed as presenting a high risk of harm. About 60% of prisoners had committed a violent offence. Thirty-five per cent of prison officers had been in the Prison Service for less than 12 months. One hundred and eighty-eight prisoners were employed as wing workers. Two hundred and eight-seven prisoners, about a quarter of the population, were unemployed.

Safety: Early days arrangements were generally good and prisoners were kept safe. The number of violent incidents was high. Innovative work to combat violence was promising but not yet fully productive and required more coordination. Too many prisoners in our survey said that they felt unsafe.

The number of adjudication charges had increased but processes were fair. Levels of use of force were high but oversight was generally good. Prisoners were routinely stripped of their clothing on entering the special cell, which was sometimes used without sufficient justification. The use of segregation was high and some prisoners spent a long time on the unit. Some of the work to help these individuals was impressive.

Security arrangements were generally  proportionate. Levels of self-harm were comparatively low but five prisoners had killed themselves since the previous inspection. there was some good, innovative work to help those with complex needs. The mandatory drug testing positive rate was high, at 25%, but work to reduce the supply of drugs was having some success.  

Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good.”

At the last inspection in 2016 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Swaleside were poor against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of safety At this inspection we found that nine of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and two had not been achieved.

However, progress was assessed as “lop-sided” because the quality of purposeful activity remained insufficiently good since the previous inspection in 2016 and rehabilitation and resettlement work was now assessed as poor, the lowest assessment.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that although the population was comparatively settled “Swaleside is unquestionably a difficult place to run and an institution that presents many risks.”

In 2016, it was found to be “dangerous” and safety was assessed as poor. In December 2018, it still suffered high levels of violence and too many men felt unsafe. But inspectors also found very good work to reduce the supply of drugs, a significant effort to improve safety and some impressive care for those at risk of self-harm. The overall assessment of safety rose from poor to ‘not sufficiently good.’

Relationships between staff and prisoners were generally very good, with over 70% of men saying they thought staff treated them with respect. Many staff were, however, quite inexperienced and some lacked the confidence to challenge poor behaviour.

Most cells were well maintained but the standard of cleanliness “did not correlate with the plethora of supposed prisoner cleaners.” The report noted: “During our night visit, we saw rats in corridors near rubbish bags that had not been disposed of correctly. There was an excessive number of prisoners supposedly employed to clean but the lack of effective staff supervision resulted in little cleaning actually taking place.”

Inspectors found 32% of men locked in their cell during the working day – an improvement on 2016 but still poor. Good standards of work were evident in many aspects of education, skills and work and, for those engaged, the achievement of qualifications was high. This was undermined, however, by poor allocation to activity, under-employment, poor attendance and poor punctuality.

Mr Clarke added: “Core tasks of a prison that manages the type of prisoner held at Swaleside are meaningful sentence management, the reduction of risk of harm and ultimately the protection of the public. In these tasks Swaleside was failing badly.”

Public protection arrangements were weak and offending behaviour interventions were limited, especially for the prison’s population of sexual offenders. More than 160 men convicted of sex offences were moved to Swaleside at the end of 2016 in an attempt to stabilise the jail.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was much to commend at Swaleside. Managers were energetic, caring and innovative, and staff, though inexperienced, were proactive and helpful. Improvements were clearly to be seen, as reflected in our assessments. That said, many improvements were undermined by failings elsewhere…While there had been some incremental improvements in safety, many prisoners were not fully engaged in the regime and some prisoners’ rehabilitation needs were not being met. Managers need to take a step back and think carefully about how they will not only sustain and integrate their achievements but also take a holistic approach to improving outcomes across all four of our healthy prison assessments.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons at HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), said:

“I am pleased that inspectors recognise the improvements that have been made, along with the energy and care that Swaleside staff put into what is acknowledged as their particularly challenging work. Clearly more still needs to be done to address violence and give prisoners more time out of their cells in education and training. Improved safety procedures have been introduced and the prison will also benefit from the new education framework we have implemented across the country to help offenders use their time in custody constructively.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

Swaleside has a complex and difficult prison to manage population, the improvement in safety and respect is very welcome  but the stalling of purposeful activity and the fall in release planning shows a prison where far too much focus is set around getting basic control.

Swaleside demonstrates a prison that sees itself as a destination and not a journey, its focus is on getting through each day and with the reality of release for many some years away, the end of sentence planning is not in sharp enough focus and it needs to be – focus on release planning should begin right at the start of the sentence, tentatively in these cases but it must be there if light is to seen at the end of each tunnel,

Purposeful Activity: Too many prisoners were locked in their cells during the working day, and prisoners spent far too long in their cells at weekends. The library and gym facilities were good. The leadership and management of education, work and skills required improvement. Too many prisoners were not allocated to activities. The quality of most teaching and instructing was good but there was too little accredited training in workshops. Not enough prisoners improved their employment skills. Prisoners’ attendance and punctuality were not good enough. Outcomes and achievements for prisoners were reasonably good. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were not sufficiently good.

Release Planning: Prisoners now had telephones in their cells, which was appreciated and helped them to maintain contact with families. Visits arrangements were generally good but sessions did not always start on time. The strategic management of reducing reoffending was poor. Too many prisoners did not have an up-to-date assessment of their risks and needs. Offender supervisors had little contact with prisoners, most of which was reactive. Arrangements to protect the public were weak. Categorisation processes were adequate. There were too few places on offending behaviour programmes to meet the needs of the population, and none specifically for prisoners convicted of sexual offences. Not all prisoners were moved to a resettlement prisons before release. Outcomes for prisoners against this healthy prison test were poor.

Read the Report


HMP GARTH – high levels of violence and a daunting drugs problem found at this announced inspection

Published 9th May 2019
Leaders and staff at HMP Garth, a training prison in Lancashire, were commended for their work to reduce drugs and violence since inspectors found it in 2017 to be one of the most unsafe they had seen.

  • Note: For this Inspection, unusually, the prison had been given prior warning of the Inspection and had the been able to prepare for it in advance.

HMP Garth opened in 1988. A category B men’s establishment, it is part of the newly formed long-term and high-security estate directorate, holding a complex population. The population was predominantly made up of convicted adults serving more than four years and those serving indeterminate sentences. In addition to the mainstream residential accommodation, the prison had a number of specialist units: The Beacon Unit, offering the offender personality disorder pathway service; The Building Hope Unit, a psychologically informed therapeutic environment; a substance misuse therapeutic community and a residential support unit.

Almost all prisoners in HMP Garth were serving prison sentences of longer than 10 years and 89% presented a high risk of harm to others. Sixty-three per cent of prisoners had been convicted of serious violent offences and almost a quarter had been convicted of sexual offences. Just over a third of prisoners were serving an indeterminate sentence. In our survey, 60% of prisoners said it was easy to get hold of illicit drugs, and about one in four said they had developed a drug problem while being at HMP Garth. HMP Garth had a nationally resourced offender personality disorder pathway (OPDP) service operating from The Beacon Unit.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said: “It is pleasing to be able to report that in the space of two years [since January 2017] there had been significant improvements at the prison.

  • High levels of violence but slowing

“Although there was still too much violence, it had not risen in line with the overall trend across the prison estate, and credit is due to the staff at Garth for working hard to understand and contain it. There is absolutely no room for complacency, but there were some early encouraging signs of improvement.

  • Drugs: the scale of this problem was daunting

“As with many other prisons, the ready availability of illicit drugs drove much of the violence, and the scale of the challenge in this respect at Garth was daunting. Sixty per cent of prisoners told us it was easy to obtain drugs, 30% were testing positive for drugs and around a quarter had developed a drug habit since entering the prison.” Drugs and violence reduction strategies must be kept under constant review to maintain the progress.

  • Long-term, high risk population,

Garth held just over 800 prisoners, the vast majority serving sentences of more than 10 years and presenting a high risk of harm. Around two-thirds had been convicted of serious violence and a quarter were convicted of sexual offences.

  • Slight improvements in safety and respect

The poor safety assessment in 2017, in a jail in which drugs and violence then dominated the men’s lives, led inspectors to make it subject to one of only a handful of announced inspections. By late 2018, safety had risen from a poor assessment to not sufficiently good. Respect rose to reasonably good and purposeful activity and rehabilitation and resettlement remained at that level.

Mr Clarke said: “My confidence that the prison can continue to make progress was strengthened by what I saw and heard during my meeting with the senior management team. It was very clear to me that they worked together in a highly collaborative way to address the serious challenges faced by the establishment.

Members of the team, from whatever specialised function, were eager to contribute to what their colleagues were trying to achieve in their particular areas of responsibility. It was heartening to see this approach and to experience the obvious enthusiasm.”

  • Serious concerns about cancelled hospital appointments and Public Protection

Although the assessment of respect had improved, there was serious concern about the high cancellation rate for external hospital appointments. Inspectors were also concerned about some weaknesses in managing the potential risks to the public posed by those few prisoners who were released from Garth.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“The leadership of HMP Garth were keen to point out to me that there were early signs of improvement, and it was to their credit that what had been achieved was sufficient to raise our assessments in two of our healthy prison tests. Given the overall context in which establishments such as Garth have been operating over the past few years, this is an achievement that should not be underestimated.

For the future, dealing with the twin scourges of drugs and violence will be the key to making further progress, and I hope that when we next inspect HMP Garth we will be able to report that the momentum we saw on this occasion will have been maintained.”

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Director General of Prisons, said:

“It is extremely encouraging to see significant progress being made at HMP Garth, and I echo the Chief Inspector’s confidence that the hard work of the prison officers in the establishment will maintain this going forward. The prison continues to tackle drugs and violence head on, ensuring that prisoners can focus on rehabilitation, and I’m delighted to see that their efforts are leading to real improvements.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

I’m the first to give governors and staff a pat on the back for progress, encouragement is vital, but so too is reality.

To talk about ‘commendable improvements’ in a prison that still has serious problems with drugs and violence, where self-harm is very high and where less than half of the safety recommendations  made two years ago have still not been implemented, to me is is premature and to value its progress too highly.

Inspectors said:

“At the last inspection in 2017 we found that outcomes for prisoners in Garth were poor against this [Safety] healthy prison test. We made 13 recommendations in the area of safety. At this inspection we found that six of the recommendations had been achieved and seven had not been achieved.”

This was an average report, and I would have expected more progress given that the prison knew of the Inspection months in advance and were able to prepare for it – the fact that they could not do better suggests the prison is fighting a losing losing battle on a number of serious fronts.”

Read the Report 


Raise the age of criminal responsibility says Watchdog

A watchdog has called for the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales to be raised.

Individuals suspected of offences can be arrested and charged from the age of 10 under the existing rules.

This is lower than in many European countries and “inconsistent with accepted international standards”, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

It says criminalising children at the age of 10 or 11 can have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing and development, and risks making them more likely to reoffend as adults.

The EHRC is calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be “significantly” raised.

David Isaac, chairman of the commission, said: “Increasing the age of criminal responsibility is crucial to stop very young children being exposed to the harmful effects of detention and to protect their future.”

Having the age of criminal responsibility set at 10 allows for early intervention in a child’s life with the aim of preventing subsequent offending, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

An MoJ spokeswoman said: “Younger children who offend are often diverted from the justice system or dealt with out of court and, in the last decade, there has been an 86% reduction in the number of under 18-year-olds entering the youth justice system.”

The EHRC flagged up the issue in a wide-ranging submission to a United Nations review.

It also recommended action to address overcrowding in prisons and the introduction of a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.

The Government said it is “committed to ensuring people in custody are treated fairly and appropriately”.