Monthly Archives: February 2012
The way women are treated in prisons will leave England and Wales “aghast and ashamed” in years to come, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said today.
Nick Hardwick said the terrible levels of self-mutilation and despair in one women’s unit “kept me awake at night” and the responsibility lies squarely at the door of successive governments.
In a highly-critical lecture, he said the circumstances of the women held in the Keller Unit of Styal Prison in Wilmslow, Cheshire, were “more shocking and distressing than anything I had yet seen on an inspection”.
“We can’t go on like this,” he said.
“Prisons, particularly as they are currently run, are simply the wrong place for so many of the distressed, damaged or disturbed women they hold.
“I think the treatment and conditions in which a small minority of the most disturbed women are held is – in relation to their needs – simply unacceptable.
“I think – I hope – we will look back on how we treated these women in years to come, aghast and ashamed.”
He added he wanted to be “clear where responsibility lies”.
“It does not lie with the officers, staff and governors on the ground – many of whom are simply humbling in the dedication and care with which they approach their work – or the officials and others trying to improve things in the centre,” he said.
“This is a responsibility that lies squarely at the door of successive governments and parliament.”
Mr Hardwick was reflecting on the lack of progress in women’s prisons since the 2007 Corston Report which outlined “the need for a distinct radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach”.
Giving a lecture at the University of Sussex tonight, he went on: “The fact of the matter is that the recommendations Baroness Corston set out would be an effective response to this scandal.”
But without the “strategic recommendations for smaller prisons and greater visible senior leadership” she recommended, “further progress will be very limited”, he said.
Mr Hardwick insisted he did not want to minimise the harm caused by women offenders, or suggest they were all victims, saying it was “a much more complicated picture than that”.
But he said: “I have seen a lot of pretty grim things in my working life but what I saw at the Keller Unit kept me awake at night.
“The levels of self mutilation and despair were just terrible.”
If men were as repeatedly violent to other prisoners in the way women prisoners were to themselves, it would be treated as “a national responsibility” whereas in the case of women, local prisons were left to manage as best they could, he said.
“If nothing else, for pity’s sake, something should be done urgently to try and provide a proper place and care for these lost souls.”
Women make up only 5% of the total prison population, but account for almost half of all self-harm incidents in prisons, he said.
And he questioned why the only dormitories he had seen were in women’s prisons.
“It is a historical legacy I suppose but I suspect that if the same proportion of men were accommodated in dormitories, it would have been treated as a much greater priority,” he said.
He added that a “long chain of men”, from male wing officers and male governors to male prison chiefs and a male chief inspector, “may not be the best structure to respond to the physical and emotional needs of some very troubled women”.
And while East Sutton Park, in Maidstone, Kent, and Askham Grange, in York, were good examples of women’s prisons, others were “increasingly becoming multi-functional”, taking on new roles “and holding women further away from home”.
A “very high level of unmet mental health needs” also lay at the “heart of the issue”, he said.
“A very significant part of the women’s prison population need a level of care that a prison simply cannot provide and indeed, common sense would suggest that a prison was likely to make their condition worse,” he said.
“The different needs and circumstances of men and women prisoners remain as stark today as they did when Baroness Corston wrote her report – little has changed.”
Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse said:
“There are around 4,200 women in our prison system, many come to jail after a life time of emotional, sexual and physical abuse – despite representing just 5% of the prison population they account for well over 50% of incidences of self-harm.
“Five years ago the Corston Report outlined the need for a distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach to women in prison, it has largely been ignored and its central recommendation, that all women’s prisons be closed and their occupants transferred to distinct wings in male prisons, has even failed to be debated – does it really need to take a riot in a female prison before Ministers sit up and take notice?”
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust campaign group, said Mr Hardwick’s speech “highlights the failure of successive governments and parliament to ensure effective accountability and oversight of women’s justice”.
“As the chief inspector makes clear, without proper measures to ensure women are a priority for government they will continue to be a neglected minority in the justice system,” she said.
“The cost of this neglect can be counted in a depressing litany of wasted time, lives and money.”
Ms Lyon went on: “With peers set to debate amendments to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill to reform women’s justice, the Government has the opportunity to put an end to this damaging legacy of neglect and make good the extraordinary omission of women from the Bill.”
Read the full speech: http://www.prisons.org.uk/Women_in_prison.pdf
A man dressed in court attire to impersonate a lawyer so he could represent a friend he met while in prison, a court heard today.
David Sydney Evans was rumbled when he appeared at Plymouth Crown Court in August 2010 on behalf of cannabis producer Terry Moss – who had twice sacked his legal teams.
The 57-year-old, who also gained access to cells at the court, appeared at the hearing wearing a barrister’s wig and a solicitor’s gown, arousing the suspicion of real lawyers and the judge.
Bristol Crown Court heard Evans allegedly submitted official documents on headed paper stating he was representing Moss and outlining defence applications.
He later appeared before Judge Stephen Wildblood QC who was due to oversee a confiscation order relating to the drugs produced by Moss.
Moss was jailed for four-and-a-half years after he admitted growing £68,000 worth of cannabis at his home in Cornwall.
During a preliminary hearing, Evans, who had no legal training, refused to answer questions put to him by the judge about his qualifications and some basic points of law.
Up until that point everyone in the court had approached Evans on the basis that he was a barrister or a solicitor.
Opening the case for the prosecution, Kenneth Bell told a jury of five men and seven women Evans was not a qualified barrister or solicitor but that was what he was “pretending to be”.
“Mr Evans is not naive by any stretch of the imagination, he knew perfectly well he could not conduct litigation on the part of Mr Moss,” Mr Bell said.
“He knew perfectly well that he was not entitled to go to court, put on a solicitor’s gown, put the collar and bands on, put the wig on and stand in court to represent Mr Moss but he did so.
“At no time did Judge Wildblood know that Mr Evans was unqualified, he only found out after persistently asking Mr Evans to tell him about his qualifications.”
Mr Bell told the court the hearing on August 17 2010 had started but “it didn’t take long” before Judge Wildblood had some “misgivings about Mr Evans”.
He said: “Something was not quite right, mistakes were made about the law, and the case was adjourned.
“During the break the judge made some inquiries of the Law Society and the Bar Council, that cover barristers.
“Judge Wildblood decided he was going to probe David Evans about his understanding of the law and also his legal standing.”
It was after this that Evans was exposed but he was allowed to stay in court to represent Moss as a “McKenzie friend” – somebody who can assist a defendant in representing themselves in court.
Evans, of Culver Close, Penarth, south Wales, denies one count of carrying out a reserved legal activity when not entitled to do so and a count of wilfully pretending to be a person with a right of audience.
It is an offence to hold a “right of audience” – the right to appear before and address a court, including the right to call and examine witnesses – unless entitled to do so.
The jury heard Moss was eventually ordered to pay £70,000 at a hearing in October 2010 – which was not attended by Evans, as he had already been arrested by police.
A man has been charged with helping a prisoner – who was on his way to hospital in Bury St Edmunds – escape in an armed raid.
Garry Cowan, 43, currently from the Thamesmead area of London but also with links to Peterborough, was charged with assisting a prisoner to escape and possession of a firearm.
He will appear at Camberwell Magistrates’ Court via video link.
The charges follow the escape by Andrew Farndon (above), 26, who was convicted of grievous bodily harm after fracturing his victim’s skull in a hammer attack.
He was allegedly sprung from the custody of prison officers as they escorted him to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment on Wednesday evening.
He and four other people were arrested by officers from Strathclyde Police in New Cumnock, Ayrshire.
Cowan, along with Alan Hornall, 23, Karen Legge, 44, both from New Cumnock, and 16-year-old Iain Legge, from Maidens, were charged with attempting to defeat the ends of justice for allegedly harbouring the prisoner.
Farndon was charged with firearms and road traffic offences, while he, Hornall and Iain Legge were also charged with contraventions of the Criminal Law (Consolidation)(Scotland) Act 1995. They were all remanded in custody at an earlier hearing.
It is understood Farndon suffered a knife wound at Highpoint Prison in Stradishall, near Newmarket.
He was being taken to West Suffolk Hospital’s accident and emergency department in a taxi accompanied by two guards when the alleged incident happened.
A jury has retired for a third day to consider verdicts in the trial of six prisoners accused of taking part in a mutiny at a West Sussex prison – which could easily happen again according to the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse.
Inmates smashed and torched buildings, putting people’s lives at risk and causing more than £5 million damage at Ford Open Prison, near Arundel, after the authorities lost control for more than 12 hours on New Year’s Day last year, Hove Crown Court was told.
Tension had been building before the rioting broke out over the breath-testing of prisoners, leading to the five staff in charge at the time being overpowered, the five-week trial heard.
Riot police and specialist prison officers were drafted in to help bring peace to the Category D prison before the authorities eventually regained control.
Lee Roberts, 41, Thomas Regan, 23, Ryan Martin, 25, Lennie Franklin, 23, Roche Allen, 25, and Carniel Francis, 25, all deny a charge of prison mutiny.
Five of the men have also pleaded not guilty to a charge of violent disorder. Regan has pleaded guilty to the charge.
Roberts, Regan, Martin, Franklin and Allen also deny a further charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
The riot at Ford could easily happen again said Mark Leech, the Editor of national prisoners newspaper Converse.
Mr Leech said :
“No one wants to support or talk up these dangerous incidents, but by the same token we cannot ignore the pressures created in a prison system when prisoner numbers go up and up, and budgets go down and down – its undeniable riots can happen again and its dangerous to pretend these are isolated incidents because they’re not.
“In an atmosphere where prison spaces become difficult to find it is inevitable that the wrong kind of prisoner is sent to the wrong kind of prison, that can have a destabilising effect and lead to the kind of destruction we saw at Ford a year ago.”
In the light of revelations by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers that Prison Officers among others have accepted payments from the press, the Editor of national prisoners newspaper Converse has said this is well known – and the price that is paid when Government Press Office’s conceal information.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse said: “I know more than one prison officer who have been paid over a thousand pounds for information by journalists, in fact I know one serving prison governor who received a new car to conceal payment for his services to the media – but this is what happens when government press offices conceal information rather than provide it.
“We are often told the Press Office won’t comment on individual cases – well why on earth not?
“If Ian Huntley is slashed in the throat, or Rose West attacked with boiling water, surely the public have a right to know how that happened – but because the Press Office won’t comment journalists instead have to pay prison officers to ‘stand up’ the story before they can publish it.
“It’s time Government Press Offices focused on providing information instead of concealing it behind weak excuses.”
A man today admitted starting a massive fire which destroyed a family-run furniture shop during the riots last year.
Gordon Thompson, 33, pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London in August last year.
The shop had stood at the site since 1867, before it was razed to the ground by the fire.
He also admitted one count of burglary for stealing a laptop from the shop on the same night.
Thompson’s trial for starting the blaze, which was so fierce that buildings on the opposite side of the road caught fire, had started at the Old Bailey earlier this week.
But at the end of the prosecution opening he decided to admit certain charges.
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the court that he had consulted with members of the Reeves family about accepting the guilty pleas.
Thompson had already admitted burglary of two shops in Croydon – Iceland and House of Fraser – on the same evening.
Jurors were ordered to find him not guilty of two other charges of violent disorder and arson with intent to endanger life.
Judge Peter Thornton QC warned that he will face “a long sentence of imprisonment”.
The court had already heard that Thompson, of Waddon Road, Croydon, “ran riot through the streets” that day.
When he saw other rioters smashing the front window of Reeves, he climbed into the shop to steal a laptop, and after he left, decided to burn it down.
Mr Glasgow said: “On leaving the store, he asked another of the rioters for a lighter and, as soon as he was given one, went back to the shop and set fire to a sofa inside the shattered window.
“The ensuing fire razed the building to the ground. Such was the ferocity of the blaze that embers and heat from the flames set fire to property on the other side of the road and numerous residents were forced to flee their homes for their lives.
“Indeed one young woman became trapped inside her flat and was forced to jump from a first-floor window into the arms of rescuers waiting below.”
A photographer captured a dramatic image of Monika Konczyk as she hurled herself from the building to escape the fire.
Thompson will be sentenced on April 11.
Speaking outside court, Maurice Reeves said that the blaze was so traumatic “parts of me have died”.
“It’s difficult to describe because it’s been such a traumatic time for us. The building’s been there all my life, I worked in there every day and when I go into work now the building’s not there.
“You can appreciate it’s still sinking in and today brings all the memories back.”
He added: “It’s with tears in my eyes when I think about it.”
Mr Reeves’ son Trevor said: “It’s a momentous day for everybody in Croydon to know that these people can be apprehended.”
He said it was “heart-warming” to know that they had such strong support from the police.
Detective Superintendent Simon Messinger said: “People across the country were appalled and shocked at the level of violence and destruction that was committed on August 8, 2011. The images of Reeves Corner are probably some of the most iconic from that day.”
He said that in the face of CCTV footage and film clips shot by local residents and eyewitnesses Thompson’s guilty plea was “inevitable”.
Almost 1,000 people have been jailed for an average of more than a year following last summer’s riots.
Some 2,710 people had appeared before the courts by the start of last month following the looting and violence which spread across English cities last August, the Ministry of Justice said.
A total of 945 of the 1,483 found guilty and sentenced for their role in the riots were jailed immediately, with an average sentence of 14.2 months.
This was much higher than the average 3.7-month sentence handed down to those convicted by magistrates but sentenced at any court for similar offences in England and Wales in 2010, the figures showed.
Overall, more than half (53%) of those before the courts over the riots were aged under 20, half (49%) were facing burglary charges, and one in five (21%) were accused of violent disorder.
Justice minister Crispin Blunt said: “The courts, judges and the probation and prison services have worked hard to make sure that those who attacked their own communities during the public disorder last August have faced justice quickly.
“They played a key part in stopping the riots from spreading further by delivering swift and firm justice, and these statistics make clear that the disgraceful behaviour innocent communities endured last summer is wholly intolerable.”
A killer who was told he would never be released from jail after being convicted of torturing gay men to death almost 20 years ago has died in jail.
Colin Ireland, 57, is presumed to have died from natural causes in the healthcare centre of Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire this morning, a Prison Service spokeswoman said.
He was given a whole-life tariff in 1993.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Colin Ireland died in HMP Wakefield’s healthcare centre today at 9.20am. He is presumed to have died from natural causes; a post-mortem will follow.
“As with all deaths in custody, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”
One of Britain’s worst serial killers, former soldier Ireland admitted attacking and killing five gay men he met in pubs in 1993.
Known as the “gay slayer”, he reportedly posed as a homosexual to be taken to each of his victims’ homes, where he tortured and murdered them after making a New Year’s resolution in 1993 to become a serial killer.
But Ireland, who terrorised London’s gay community, was caught later the same year when CCTV footage showed him with his last victim.
In May 2007, a report by the independent Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Group found that the Metropolitan Police inquiry was “hampered by a lack of knowledge of the gay scene in London and the special culture of S&M bondage”.
According to a Real Crime documentary on the serial killer, the unemployed drifter killed five people in just over three months, including four in just 15 days, all in 1993.
He would meet men at The Coleherne pub in Fulham, pose as an homosexual to be invited back to their homes, and then torture and kill them following sex games.
Speaking to police about his first victim, 45-year-old West End theatre director Peter Walker on March 8, Ireland said: “I think it was something triggered in me some time before. I felt that if I was approached there was a likelihood I would kill.
“We went in a cab to his flat in Battersea. I put on a pair of gloves on the way. My intentions were different to his.”
An avid reader of true crime books and FBI manuals, he would reportedly clean up the murder scene and stay with the body until the morning, to avoid attracting attention by leaving in the middle of the night.
He also demanded money and left with the victim’s credit cards, a pattern he repeated in successive murders.
When he thought his first murder had gone unnoticed, Ireland, then of Southend, rang both the Samaritans and The Sun newspaper to tell them what he had done as he sought to achieve his resolution to become famous for being a serial killer.
He went on to kill 37-year-old librarian Christopher Dunn on May 28; Perry Bradley III, the 35-year-old son of a US Congressman on June 4; and Andrew Collier, 33, on June 7, along with his pet cat.
Ireland told police: “I couldn’t stop myself.
“It was building up. I was on an almost sort of rollercoaster kind of thing.”
He added: “I was probably 60%, 70% quite a reasonable human being most of the time, but there is that side of my character that is negative, it’s quite cold and calculating.”
Before killing his fifth victim, 41-year-old Emanual Spiteri on June 12, Ireland called police four times to ask why they had not linked the four murders, telling them he had killed them all.
“I set out to see, because I read a lot of books on serial killers and indeed, you know, I wondered if it could possibly be done and actually got away with it,” he said.
Asked why he targeted homosexuals, he told officers they “keep their mouths shut and don’t tell the police things”.
He was caught when, having visited police to explain away his sighting on CCTV with Mr Spiteri, his fingerprint was subsequently matched to one found at the man’s flat. He admitted all five murders.
Ireland was born on March 16 1954 in a former work house in Kent to a 17-year-old mother, who was abandoned by his father, according to the documentary.
Children who are left behind when a parent is sent to prison are to be supported by a new campaign.
The Left Behind project highlights the needs of 160,000 children whose parents are imprisoned every year, and has received support from Lord Justice Goldring, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales.
It provides guidance helping magistrates to check whether a child or vulnerable adult’s welfare needs will be affected if a person is sent to prison.
Lord Justice Goldring said: “Sometimes defendants are sent to prison without having made proper arrangements for people in their care. The new guidance asks magistrates to check that there are no immediate welfare needs concerning children or dependants after issuing a custodial sentence.
“It is also advised that relevant information be shared with the appropriate agencies where a child might be at risk.”
Left Behind has been created by child welfare charity the NSPCC, the Prison Advice And Care Trust (Pact) which raises awareness of the needs of prisoners’ children, and Action For Prisoner’s Families (APF) promoting fair treatment of families.
Andy Keen-Downs, chief executive of Pact, said: “Prisoners’ children and dependants are the hidden victims of crime, and are all too easily missed when their parent or carer is put in prison.
“We hope this campaign will improve links between the criminal courts, social services and charities so that we can work together to keep children and family members safe.”
Posters providing information and a helpline number for anyone who may be left caring for a dependant will be put up in courts in England and Wales as part of the campaign.
The father of a murder victim has handed in a petition at Number 10 demanding a change in the law to help protect women from domestic abuse – but Converse, the national prisoners newspaper commented that it was too one-sided.
Michael Brown, from Batley, West Yorkshire travelled to Downing Street as part of a campaign to introduce “Clare’s Law” so women can find out if boyfriends or husbands have a history of domestic violence.
Mr Brown’s daughter, Clare Wood, was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, at her home in Salford in February 2009.
Appleton, dubbed the “Facebook Fugitive” then went on the run before hanging himself.
Miss Wood, 36, a mother-of-one, had met Appleton on Facebook, unaware of his horrific history of violence against women, including repeated harassment, threats and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends.
At the inquest into Miss Wood’s death last year, Coroner Jennifer Leeming said women in abusive relationships should have the right to know about the violent past of the men they were with.
Mark Leech editor of Converse said: “Its all very well protecting women, and I accept fully they need it, but this law would prevent males from knowing anything about females previously guilty of violence – and like it or not, it does happen.
“Only last June Sally Challen murdered her husband with a hammer and was jailed for 22 years – are we suggesting a future boyfriend of hers should not be told about this incident?
“The suggested law needs to be amended so that either partner can find out about a violence past of the other person in the relationship.”
The so-called “Clare’s Law” frollows in the footsteps of “Sarah’s Law”, named after Sarah Payne who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000, now gives parents the right to know of any child sex convictions of men with access to their children.
Mr Brown, backed by MP for Salford Hazel Blears and Manchester radio station Key 103, is asking the Government to introduce Clare’s Law to help women.
Mr Brown, a former prison officer originally from Aberdeen, handed over the petition today carrying around 1,000 signatures calling for a change in the law.
He said: “I have been campaigning for the last six months and have been pleasantly surprised at the public reaction to the proposed change in the law.
“The interest world-wide is also unbelievable, from America to Australia, to an article in a newspaper in Pravda.
“The world is watching for a lead from the UK’s Government, the cradle of democracy, and I pray that they make the right decision.”
Home Secretary Theresa May last year agreed to open a ‘Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’ to public consultation and is now considering the response.
A verdict of unlawful killing by strangulation was recorded as the cause of Ms Wood’s death and Ms Leeming said she would report back to the Government recommending that people at risk of harm should be given information about their partners’ past so they can make an “informed choice”.
Ms Wood had complained to police of a catalogue of harassment from Wood before her murder.
Police watchdogs at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later ruled Ms Wood had been badly let down by Greater Manchester Police who have now instigated a raft of changes to policy and procedures in the handling of domestic abuse cases.