Monthly Archives: August 2012
Body scanners similar to those used in airports are to be trialled at a Northern Ireland prison next month in a bid to find an alternative to full body searches.
The Millimetre Wave equipment will be tested at Magilligan Prison in Co Londonderry on a three-month pilot scheme.
Republican prisoners in the region’s high security prison – Maghaberry in Co Antrim – are engaged in a long-running protest campaign to have so-called strip searches replaced.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) had committed itself to finding an alternative to the body searches in the wake of an independent report, but the move toward installing the scanners has been hit by delays.
One month after the technology is installed at Magilligan, the new method of detecting contraband items will also be trialled at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast.
NIPS Director General Sue McAllister, who announced the roll out of the pilot schemes, said a range of technological options as a possible alternative to full body searching were examined.
“Earlier in the year the (Justice) Minister (David Ford) announced that we were planning to take two pilot schemes forward, and I can now announce that these trials are to begin,” she said.
“A pilot scheme at Magilligan Prison will commence following the installation of equipment and staff training, which are planned for late September. A second pilot scheme at Hydebank Wood will commence in mid October.”
Mr Ford welcomed the introduction of the search technology.
“Unfortunately, a number of practical and logistical matters have taken longer to resolve than was originally anticipated,” he said.
“However, NIPS is now in a position to confirm that the first of these two pilots will commence next month.
“It is important to recognise that progress cannot be made at the expense of prison security and the pilots will test whether the technology can offer the same, or even enhanced, safeguards as those provided through the current procedure of full body searching.
“Full body searching is not ideal, whether for prison officers or prisoners.”
The minister said the move marked another step in the drive to modernise the Prison Service.
Two jails, including one near Wolverhampton and another in Liverpool, will be recategorised to hold almost 600 prisoners including killers and violent offenders who will be allowed into the community on temporary licences, the Prison Service has said.
Some 256 prison places at the category C Featherstone jail near Wolverhampton will also be changed to make way for category D prisoners.
While the physical security and make-up of the two jails will not be altered, the category D prisoners will be able to be released on temporary licence, the Prison Service said.
Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt said: “Where prisoners have been assessed as suitable for open conditions, wherever possible they should be accommodated in appropriate conditions to progress their reintegration into the community.”
He added: “Our first priority remains the protection of the public, and I am committed to ensuring that robust risk management accompanies these projects given the importance of retaining public confidence in the effective rehabilitation of offenders.”
Some of the prisoners who will be held in the new category D places are being held in higher-security conditions than they require and moving them will help cut costs, the Prison Service said.
No significant reductions of staff are expected at either Kennet or Featherstone, but “any limited reductions” will come from natural wastage and redeployment or, if necessary, voluntary exits, a spokeswoman added.
The changes, to start immediately, will affect indeterminate sentenced prisoners set a minimum term they must serve before being considered for parole, including those sentenced to life in prison with a minimum tariff, but neither jail will hold sex offenders under current plans.
In changes to be completed early in the next financial year, Featherstone jail will offer 256 category D places, increasing its operational capacity by 16 to 703 as it continues to offer 447 category C spaces.
Some 300 prison places brought in to private sector jails to cope with the demand generated by last year’s riots will also be removed, saving almost £4.5 million a year – including 32 at the Serco-run Lowdham Grange prison in Nottingham.
Inspectors criticised the “unnecessary and unacceptable” practice of cutting off women’s clothes when they are forcibly strip-searched in jail following a report on a prison in West Yorkshire.
Responses to women whose behaviour caused concern are “excessively punitive”, said a report on New Hall Prison in Wakefield which holds 356 women and two babies.
In one instance, a woman who arrived from another jail and refused to hand over clothes she had been allowed to wear there was held down as they were forcibly cut off her.
The practice is unacceptable and women prisoners should only have their clothes removed “using officially approved control and restraint techniques”, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said.
The newly arrived prisoner from Peterborough jail refused to hand over open-toed sandals and a strappy top which were allowed at Peterborough.
She was then “restrained, relocated to the segregation unit and had her clothes cut off her as she was forcibly strip-searched”, Mr Hardwick said.
Describing the use of force as neither necessary nor proportionate, he said that a manager’s approval was not obtained and that there was no attempt to resolve the issue in other ways.
Some of the “most damaged women” were placed on the prison’s segregation unit for “good order and discipline” but efforts to address the causes of their distress and manage their behaviour constructively were inadequate.
“Punishments were excessive and cellular confinement was used too often. In other instances, prisoners lost all privileges which amounted to cellular confinement but without the safeguards that would normally be required.”
While conditions at New Hall improved since its last inspection in November 2008, “the treatment of a small number of women who combine the most challenging behaviour with the highest levels of need is not acceptable”, he warned.
John Lennon’s killer has been denied release from prison in his seventh appearance before a parole board.
Mark Chapman, 57, was denied parole after a hearing yesterday, the New York Department of Corrections said.
Chapman shot Lennon in December 1980 outside the Manhattan apartment building where the former Beatle lived.
He was sentenced in 1981 to 20 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Chapman was transferred in May from the Attica Correctional Facility in western New York to the nearby Wende Correctional Facility. Both are maximum security. The prison system does not disclose why inmates are transferred.
Those expecting Anders Behring Breivik to spend the rest of his days alone in a cramped cell will be disappointed when the far-right fanatic is sentenced on Friday for killing 77 people in a bomb and gun rampage last year.
If declared insane, the confessed killer will be the sole patient on a psychiatric ward that Norway has built for him, with 17 staff to treat him.
If found mentally fit, he will remain isolated, for now, in the high-security prison where he uses three 86 sq ft (8 sq m) cells – a bedroom, an exercise room and a study.
Officials at Oslo’s Ila Prison say the ambition would be to eventually transfer Breivik to a section with other inmates, who have access to a school that teaches from primary grades through university-level courses, a library, a gym, work in the jail’s various shops and other leisure activities.
It is all about a philosophy of humane prison treatment and rehabilitation that forms the bedrock of the Scandinavian penal system.
“I like to put it this way: he’s a human being, he has human rights. This is about creating a humane prison regime,” said Ellen Bjercke, a spokeswoman for Ila Prison.
Dealing with an unrepentant killer responsible for Norway’s worst massacre since the Second World War puts the system to, perhaps, its most challenging test yet.
During his trial, Breivik, 33, coolly described how he set off a car bomb that killed eight people and injured scores in Oslo’s government district on July 22 last year. Then he unleashed a shooting rampage that left 69 people dead, mostly teenagers, at the summer camp of the governing Labor Party’s youth wing. The youngest victim was 14.
In evidence that was deeply disturbing to the bereaved, the self-styled anti-Muslim militant said he was acting in defence of Norway by targeting the left-wing political party he accused of betraying the country with liberal immigration policies.
Since Breivik’s guilt is not in question, the key decision for the Oslo District Court on Friday is whether to declare him insane after two psychiatric teams reached opposite conclusions on his mental health.
Its ruling will be read in a courtroom custom-built for Breivik’s trial at a cost of 40 million kroner (£4.3 million). A glass partition separates Breivik from relatives of victims attending the hearing. Remote-controlled cameras capture the proceedings, and a video feed is distributed to courtrooms around Norway, where other relatives can watch it live.
Prison officials say the special measures for Breivik are justified because he presents a security risk that Norway’s prison and justice systems previously did not have the infrastructure to deal with.
Some Norwegians disagree.
“To do that for just one person, when there are other things in Norway that need to be taken care of, like elderly care and roads and such things – the money could have been spent on other things,” said Thomas Indreboe, who was removed as a lay judge in the case when it emerged that he had advocated on the internet for Breivik to be executed. In Europe only Belarus still applies the death penalty, according to Amnesty International.
Mr Indreboe stood by his assertion that capital punishment would make sense in Breivik’s case and save “taxpayers from unnecessary expenditures”.
Criminology researcher Thomas Ugelvik, of the University of Oslo, said that would mean creating a totally different society.
“We wouldn’t be Norway,” he said. “We have a general need to offer humane conditions in our welfare state, and the prison is part of the welfare state.”
Ila Prison has prepared itself for every possible outcome on Friday. A psychiatric ward was built just in case Breivik is declared criminally insane. It cost between 2 million and 3 million kroner (£215,000-£323,000), according to Norway’s Health Ministry.
The facility, featuring a 100 sq ft (9 sq m) cell with a bathroom, would offer Breivik some recreational and educational options with therapists from a psychiatric hospital, but not the breadth of options available to prison inmates.
The cost of keeping Breivik there is estimated at 7 million-10 million kroner a year (£753,000-£1.08 million).
That is not extraordinary in Norway. Anne Kristine Bergem, the chief physician of the regional psychiatric centre for dangerous and violent patients, said the average annual cost of care on her ward was nearly 6 million kroner (£645,000) per patient.
If found to be mentally fit, Breivik would face a sentence of “preventive detention”. Unlike a regular prison sentence – which can be no longer than 21 years in Norway – that confinement option can be extended for as long as an inmate is considered dangerous to society. It also offers more programs and therapy than an ordinary prison sentence.
While in isolation, Breivik has access to TV and newspapers and a computer, but no internet connection. He has three cells instead of one in “compensation” for not having access to activities offered to other inmates. In addition, prison staff and a priest come see him more often than other inmates, so that he has someone to talk to.
“Isolation is torture,” Ms Bjercke said.
Breivik, like other prisoners, is free to communicate with the outside world with letters, as he has done since restrictions were lifted at the start of this year. His defence lawyers have said he is already planning to write books building on the 1,500-page manual on far-right terror he released before the attacks.
Prison director Knut Bjarkeid would not comment on any special security measures taken to make sure Breivik does not escape. He said someone last escaped from the prison, which does not have armed guards, in 2004, but was caught within minutes.
During his trial, which transfixed Norway with its gruesome details, Breivik insisted his actions were politically motivated and expressed horror at the possibility of ending up in “the madhouse”. His lawyers have said he would appeal against an insanity ruling.
Whatever the outcome, Breivik has already proved to be so dangerous that legal experts say he is not likely to walk free until he is an old man, if at all.
That is more important than the conditions under which he is held, said Christin Bjelland, deputy head of a national support group for victims’ families and survivors.
“Our primary goal is that he should be removed (from society) for all time,” he said.
Former fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir was jailed for 10 years today for stealing millions from his business empire.
Polly Peck International collapsed owing £550 million in 1990 and Nadir went on the run for 17 years in 1993.
He returned to Britain in 2010, confident he would be cleared, but this week an Old Bailey jury found him guilty.
The court heard today that the total stolen was £28.8 million, the equivalent of more than £61.6 million today.
Nadir, 71, of Mayfair, central London, was sentenced at the Old Bailey for the 10 charges of theft between 1987 and 1990.
Judge Mr Justice Holroyde told Nadir: “You were a wealthy man, you stole out of greed.”
A hearing will be held on September 27 to decide on Nadir paying compensation and interest to the administrators of PPI.
The judge will also have to decide on ordering him to pay prosecution costs of £2.5 million, and repaying his legal aid costs.
Nadir was ordered to provide details of his finances and assets under a Financial Circumstances Order before the hearing.
Philip Hackett QC, mitigating for Nadir, said Nadir returned to the UK from Northern Cyprus despite having heart disease.
Mr Hackett said: “He always wanted to return. He eventually did return at the age of 70 and in poor health.”
He asked the judge to give Nadir credit for the 720 days he had been electronically tagged.
Mr Justice Holroyde said: “You remained absent from this country for 17 years, and so delayed for nearly two decades the day of reckoning which has finally arrived.”
The judge said Nadir blamed everyone except himself for his downfall.
He used stolen money to fund an already extravagant lifestyle, he said. It had gone on various businesses and properties from which he had profited – and he even used £1 million to pay a tax bill.
He added: “You have shown not the slightest remorse.
“Your sole concern throughout has been to avoid any acceptance of your responsibility.”
Nadir’s devoted wife Nur, who has been by his side throughout his trial, has already said he was planning to appeal against the verdicts.
Outside court, she said today: “My husband is innocent and, having faith in the British justice system, we will continue with our efforts to rectify the wrongs.”
Nadir was told he would serve half his sentence before being released on parole.
The judge said he had reduced the sentence he would have passed by two years to take into account Nadir being tagged, his voluntary return and previous good character.
After being sentenced, Nadir turned to wife Nur, smiled and said goodbye.
An East Yorkshire prison run by the private security firm G4S has improved since it was assessed two years ago but still needs to do more to address a number of problems, according to an official report.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said category C Wolds Prison has seen “some improvements” since the last visit in 2010 but said “managers must give their full attention to its very clear weaknesses”.
The jail has been run by G4S since it opened in 1992. The firm is currently rebidding for the contract and a decision is expected later this year.
In 2010 inspectors found problems with its training provision and also expressed concerns about the availability of drugs, a lack of staff confidence in confronting poor behaviour and weaknesses in the promotion of diversity.
The follow-up inspection in April this year highlighted impressive aspects of the prison, including low levels of violence and the use of force, and said time out of cells was good. But it also found levels of illegal drugs in the prison remained high and too little had changed or improved to provide “meaningful employment and training opportunities”.
Mr Hardwick said: “This is a mixed report. Wolds finds itself on the cusp of potentially significant change, with competitive tenders for the management of the prison signalling uncertainty about its future. We noted at our last inspection that Wolds was not designed as a training prison, making the delivery of meaningful activity a challenge.
“Sufficient activity is available, but it needs increased prioritisation and organisation and greater attention to quality. Similarly, some good provision in resettlement needs better co-ordination. The prison has many strengths, but managers must give their full attention to its very clear weaknesses.”
G4S director for HMP Wolds, Cathy James, said: “We are encouraged that this report recognises that while there are challenges to overcome at HMP Wolds, the prison also has many strengths. Few prisoners report feeling unsafe, the levels of violence are low and incidents of self-harm are lower than in similar establishments.
“We anticipate significant improvements to prisoners’ healthcare following our recruitment of new medical staff and our decision to bring the provision of healthcare in-house. We are working closely with the Primary Care Trust to improve both facilities and provision.”
G4S said it had robustly tackled drug use in the prison since this inspection and now had a positive drug tests rate of 2.79% against a target of 11%.
A police force has apologised for systematic failings which contributed to the brutal murders of a woman and her two-year-old daughter.
David Oakes, 50, shot dead his ex-partner Christine Chambers, 38, and their daughter Shania at their home in Braintree, Essex, in June last year.
Oakes is serving a whole life sentence after a court heard he “systematically tortured” Ms Chambers for several hours before the shotgun killings.
Ms Chambers’ 10-year-old daughter fled the house during the ordeal as police outside attempted to negotiate with the killer.
The couple, who had a long history of domestic abuse, were due to appear at a court custody hearing the next day.
Today the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published a report highlighting a catalogue of failings within Essex Police when investigating previous incidents involving the couple.
Incidents involving the couple reported to the force over a two-year period were treated in isolation by officers, with the force not taking Ms Chambers’ fear of her partner into consideration as a motivation for her not pursuing complaints against Oakes, the report said.
An escalation in the number of calls from Ms Chambers in the two months before the murders was also missed by the force, the IPCC found.
Ms Chambers’ father Ken welcomed the report and said he felt the force could have done more to prevent the deaths. However, he praised Essex Police for the way officers investigated the murders.
In a statement he said: “We realise one evil man is responsible for taking Christine and Shania away from us and not having them in our lives any more remains extremely difficult to bear.
“While we understand at times Christine could have been more co-operative with the police, we do feel that Essex Police could have done more to prevent the deaths.
They should have taken greater steps to protect Christine, for instance, we are still of the view she should have had a panic alarm installed at her home which may have allowed her to summon assistance at a crucial time after her phones had been smashed. And we think that officers dealing with ongoing incidents should have been more aware of the history and should have better identified the risks.”
Mr Chambers added: “As a family we would again like to say thank you to all those, including friends and neighbours, who have shown us such support and kindness since the murders of Christine and Shania.
“We have also received marvellous support from the police murder investigation team led by Detective Chief Inspector (Godfrey) O’Toole, from police family liaison officers and the victim support service, and we are grateful to all of them for helping us through such a traumatic time.”
The investigation said inadequate action was taken to arrest Oakes at the earliest opportunity when reports were made of him breaching a non-molestation order.
IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “The deaths of Christine and Shania Chambers are shocking to us all. It is impossible to say with any certainty whether if individual officers or the force had done things differently, Ms Chambers and Shania would still be alive today.
“While individual police officers could and should have done things better, this is not essentially a failure of individuals, but a failure of systems. The investigation identified a lack of adequate training, insufficient resources allocated to domestic violence cases and poor oversight.
“This is a tragic and disturbing case and the investigation has identified several key issues which apply to many other cases where domestic homicide is the outcome.
“Many women are reluctant to pursue criminal proceedings against abusive partners, sometimes even to seek help at all. There are many reasons for this, and often it is fear that they will exacerbate the situation and increase the danger they face.
“Undoubtedly this poses significant challenges for the police and other agencies, but it is essential in these situations that all possible is done to protect the victims and their children.
“Unwillingness to seek help or give evidence against the perpetrator is often due to fear and can be a sign of vulnerability, not culpability, and this must be recognised when a risk assessment is completed.”
Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason offered “our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Christine and Shania Chambers” on behalf of Essex Police.
He added: “Essex Police accepts the findings of the IPCC report, and apologises for the failures identified there.
“Every police officer involved in the case of Christine and Shania is devastated by their passing. I too am devastated by their deaths. I became a police officer to protect the vulnerable, and to put criminals like Oakes behind bars.
“Essex Police is committed to working tirelessly to reduce the likelihood of tragedies such as this from occurring again.”
He added: “The unbelievable inhumanity of these murders led Oakes to be sentenced to two whole-life prison terms – the most extreme punishment which the British judicial system can impose.
“You would think that a man capable of such horror would have a history of violence. Oakes did not: he had no convictions or cautions for violence.
“In fact, the IPCC has found that significant ‘information concerning Oakes’s violence towards Christine Chambers was not available to the police or social services’.
“The IPCC also stated that there was no information that Oakes had access to a firearm. Essex Police acts promptly and decisively whenever it receives credible intelligence about illegally held weapons.”
He said new procedures for sharing information between police forces and other organisations, such as social services, courts and solicitors, should be developed.
A judge has the authority to order an Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage to be forcibly shaved before his murder trial, military lawyers told an appeals court.
The lawyers, in a document filed on behalf of Colonel Gregory Gross, contend that forcibly shaving Major Nidal Hasan would not violate the American-born Muslim’s religious freedoms and said it is similar to “and no more invasive than” a judge’s right to restrain a defendant who is disruptive during a court-martial.
“Forced shaving is not a novel concept in the military,” military lawyers said in the judge’s response filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. They cited no specific cases of other soldiers being forcibly shaved.
“Army regulations expressly authorise non-consensual haircutting and face-shaving for recalcitrant incarcerated soldiers. … If the judge has authority to bind and gag a disruptive accused (soldier), then certainly he has authority to forcibly shave (Hasan).”
Last week that appeals court delayed Hasan’s court-martial, which had been set to start earlier this week with jury selection, while it considers his appeal against being forcibly shaved.
Now that the judge has responded, the court can make a decision or choose to hear oral arguments in the case first.
Hasan has grown a beard apparently to express his Muslim faith. His defence lawyers have said he will not shave since he has had a premonition that his death is imminent, and he does not want to die without a beard because he believes not having one is a sin.
Hasan faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted in the November 2009 attack on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.
Col Gross has banned Hasan from courtroom hearings since he first showed up in court in June with a beard, letting him watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit television in a nearby room.
But Col Gross said Hasan will be forcibly shaved before the trial if he does not shave himself. The judge has said he wants Hasan in the courtroom during the court-martial to prevent a possible appeal on the issue if he is convicted.
The government does not believe that Hasan’s beard is based on a sincerely held religious belief, prosecutors have said.
Even so, Col Gross’ response also told the appeals court that his order does not violate Hasan’s religious freedoms. Army rules prohibit beards, and those who join the military have agreed to give up certain personal interests over the needs of the service, according to the document.
A member of the US Navy Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden has written a first-hand account of the operation, triggering more questions about the possible public release of classified information involving the historic assault of the terror leader’s compound in Pakistan.
US military officials said they do not believe the book has been read or cleared by the Defence Department, which reviews publications by military members to make sure that no classified material is revealed.
The book, titled No Easy Day and scheduled to be released on September 11, comes amid a heated debate over whether members of the military – both active duty and retired – should engage in political battles.