Birmingham Prison – A Troubled History

HMP Birmingham, one of the country’s largest jails, has seen soaring drug-fuelled violence and serious disorder in recent years.

In December 2016, while run by G4S, the category B prison was rocked by the worst outbreak of rioting at an English jail in more than two decades.

Inmates caused widespread damage after seizing control of four wings and releasing 500 prisoners from their cells during the disturbance – which lasted for more than 12 hours.

Riot squads had to be deployed to the prison after reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells and destroying paper records.

One man, believed to be in his 20s, was taken to hospital with a facial injury as well as cuts and bruises, but no prison staff were injured.

Some 240 prisoners were moved out of the prison as a result.

Seven men were later convicted of prison mutiny for their role in the rioting.

The city centre jail, formerly known as Winson Green, can hold up to 1,450 inmates and was taken over by G4S in 2011.

A June 2017 inspection found it had been gripped by drug-fuelled violence, with many inmates feeling “unsafe” behind bars.

The first official report since the riot concluded there was too much fighting on wings, often triggered by easy access to “problematic” new psychoactive substances.

Half of the prisoners surveyed also told inspectors it was “easy to get drugs”, with one in seven reporting they were getting hooked on drugs while in the jail.

The inspection also found the use of mobile phones and drones to arrange and deliver contraband, such as the highly addictive Spice, over the Victorian jail’s high walls was also “a significant threat”.

Three months later staff were involved in another stand-off with inmates following a disturbance.

A number of prisoners refused to return to their cells at the end of an evening.

Specially trained prison staff resolved the incident, which lasted almost seven hours, with no injuries to staff or prisoners.

The prison made headlines again earlier this month after nine cars were torched during an arson attack on the staff car park.

Two masked men used an angle grinder to cut their way into the parking compound before dousing vehicles in flammable liquid.

Further damage was prevented after the men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, were confronted by two prison staff.

The incident came as an unannounced inspection of the prison was carried out.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons later wrote to the Justice Secretary to raise the “significant concerns” about the state of HMP Birmingham.

Peter Clarke took the step of issuing an urgent notification to David Gauke about the jail, warning it had “slipped into crisis” following a “dramatic deterioration” in the last 18 months.

On Monday it was announced HMP Birmingham was being taken back under Government control.

HMP HAVERIGG – Some progress but safety needs to improve

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There was a real prospect of improvement at HMP Haverigg but it still had some way to go, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in west Cumbria.

HMP Haverigg is perhaps the prison service’s most isolated prison. It had weathered the uncertainties of budget cuts, prison closures and new policies better than most prisons. It had maintained its performance, there was a real sense of momentum and realistic plans were in place to tackle some long-term weaknesses. Nevertheless, outcomes for prisoners were still not good enough in some crucial areas.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most prisoners said they felt safe, significantly more than at the last inspection and more than at comparable prisons;
  • support for men at risk of suicide or self-harm was consistently good;
  • staff-prisoner relationships were generally very good and mitigated some of the weaknesses in the prison;
  • health care had improved;
  • most prisoners were out of their cells for a decent amount of time during the day;
  • there was a wide range of work, training and education opportunities on offer which were linked to employment prospects in the areas to which most prisoners would return;
  • the ‘smokery’ produced and sold smoked food and provided a very realistic working environment; and
  • practical resettlement services, such as helping prisoners to find accommodation or a job on release, were generally good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • a minority of prisoners were subject to gang and debt-related bullying;
  • staff supervision was made difficult by the layout of the prison, with many prisoners accommodated in ‘billets’ or huts, poor external lighting and limited CCTV coverage;
  • not all incidents of violence were identified or investigated and support for victims was poor;
  • the use of segregation had increased, the use of force was high and some incidents were poorly dealt with;
  • the prison needed to improve its equality and diversity work and had little idea of the identity and needs of prisoners with protected characteristics;
  • there were too few work, training and education places available and allocation processes were inefficient; and
  • almost one-third of the population had an out of date or no OASys assessment.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Prisoners who kept their heads down, made the most of the opportunities on offer and whose needs were typical of the prison’s population as a whole would probably do reasonably well at Haverigg. However, those who needed more support or whose needs differed from the majority might have a less positive experience – sometimes to an unacceptable degree. Progress is being made and a positive, experienced staff group have created the foundations for further progress, but some processes need to be significantly improved and managers need to give close attention to ensuring that poor practice is challenged and improved.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the progress being made at Haverigg during a period of real change.

“The wide range of work, training and education is helping to rehabilitate and resettle offenders and the Governor and his staff deserve real credit for the continued improvement.

“They will now use the recommendations in the report as part of their ongoing plans for the future.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 29 May 2014: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Police Do Not Owe A Duty Of Care To Either Victims Or Witnesses

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A former gangster who changed his name has failed in a High Court bid for compensation for “psychiatric damage” after accusing Greater Manchester Police of revealing his new identity to former criminal associates.

The man, referred to as PBD, claimed the police’s actions forced him to enter a witness protection scheme in December 2010 that caused him depression and anxiety because he had to spend a period separated from his partner.

He accused Greater Manchester Police of breaching a duty of care they owed him after he had given evidence “against another member of the Manchester criminal fraternity” in the USA and had been shot and wounded.

Mr Justice Silber, sitting at the High Court in London, said he had no doubt that PBD, the former member of a criminal gang, was “terrified of being attacked” and believed there was a contract out to kill him.

But the courts had already ruled that the police “do not owe a duty of care to witnesses and victims”.

The judge said it was not possible to see why PBD, who was a suspect in a money laundering offence, “should be owed a duty of care when a witness and a victim does not have such a duty owed to him”.

In any event, PBD had not been “forced” into witness protection but was “keen” to join the scheme.

The judge also rejected a claim by PBD’s partner for damages. She claimed the police had breached an agreement to pay her £1,500 per month for six months as compensation for giving up her job and eventually joining him in witness protection.

The judge said he could not accept her evidence as credible.

The cases were heard at a private hearing in October, but the judge publicly announced the outcome.

The judge said PBD had claimed a duty of care because of three factors. First, he had co-operated with police and as a result received a reduced prison sentence in 2004.

Second, he had given evidence against another member of the Manchester criminal fraternity in the US and this had led to the man being jailed for over 20 years, and in return he had received immunity from prosecution.

Finally, an attempt had been made on his life. He had been shot and wounded by a person who was still at large and a contract on his life had been offered by other members of the criminal community.

Drug Gang Jailed For 167 Years

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Members of drugs gangs, who worked together to peddle over £1.5m of heroin and cocaine across Lancashire and other parts of the country, have been jailed for a total of 167 years one month.

36 people have now been sentenced as a result of Operation Oak, a covert Lancashire Constabulary Serious and Organised Crime Operation into the activities of criminal gangs operating in Blackburn and Preston, as well as other parts of Cumbria, Merseyside, Berkshire and West Yorkshire.

They were arrested in a series of early morning raids in August and September 2011 after a major police operation involving hundreds of police officers from across the northwest. During the various investigations which followed, over £1.5million worth of drugs were seized by police, along with over £200,000 in cash.

Gang leaders Suhail Vohra, 32, of Charnwood Close, Blackburn, Babar Qasam, 34, of Chestnut Walk, Blackburn; Asrer Khan, 29, of Dove Street, Preston; Neil Scarborough, 32, of Moor Hall St, Preston; Brett McWilliam, 22, of St Andrews Street, Barrow in Furness; Gary Rowlands, 28, of Sloop St, Barrow in Furness; Roman Moscicki, 30 of Adam Close, Slough; Rahman Miah, 29, of Azalea Court, Bradford and Jonathon Nicholls, 31, of Oak Grove, Tarbuck, Liverpool – along with their associates – were all sentenced for supplying class A drugs or money laundering offences.

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At a final sentencing hearing at Preston Crown Court on Monday 13 May, Tahier Chand, 34, of Manchester Road, Huddesfield was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin. He is the 36th person to be sentenced in connection with Operation Oak.

Details of the full investigation can only now be made public due to reporting restrictions which were lifted following a hearing at Preston Crown Court last week.

Detective Superintendent Lee Halstead, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Operation Oak has dismantled a network of drugs gangs responsible for the supply of over £1.5million worth of cocaine and heroin across northern England and has resulted in the recovery of huge sums of cash.

“As a result these people, who did not have a legitimate income, led comfortable and in some cases quite affluent lifestyles, acting as negative role models to young people. This was at the expense and misery of other residents in the community, whose lives were blighted by the effects of drug dealing and associated violence in their neighbourhoods.

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“This has been a large scale investigation and we have worked closely with officers from our neighbouring forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. Together, our actions have prevented a significantly large amount of drugs from reaching the streets of Lancashire helping to make the county a safer place.”

Billboard posters and leaflets will now be used to highlight the sentences to the communities who were affected by the gangs as part of Lancashire Constabulary’s Behind Bars campaign.

Det Supt Lee Halstead added: “Our planned ‘Behind Bars’ campaign should now remind everyone that 167 years in prison is proof that crime certainly does not pay.

“It’s incredibly important that people continue to support the police by providing us with information so that we can keep them safe and look for ways to prevent organised crime gangs from operating in the future.

Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate from the CPS North West Complex Casework Unit added: “The fact that 36 individuals have been brought to justice for their involvement in the large scale supply of Class A drugs across the north of England is a testament to the close partnership between the CPS, Lancashire Police, Cumbria Police and other neighbouring forces.

“From the early stages of this investigation, the prosecution team provided guidance and advice to the police and tirelessly worked with them to build a strong case against each defendant.

“As a result we have successfully secured their convictions and dismantled a prominent source of drugs in our region and surrounding areas. The message is clear, we will not tolerate the supply of drugs on our streets and we are wholly committed to prosecuting those responsible.”

Anyone with information or concerns can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Muslim prisoners ‘injured’ after refusing to join Muslim prison gang

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An increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

Hostage incident linked to Rigby murder – Muslim inmates intimidated to join prison gang

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Prison chiefs have linked an attack on a prison officer to the Lee Rigby murder and warned prison staff of an increased risk of threats, according to reports – while an increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

A male prison officer was left with a broken cheekbone after being held hostage by three male prisoners, two aged 25 and one aged 26, at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire on Sunday.

An email circulated to staff in top-security jails and young offender institutions and seen by The Times said: “Three Muslim prisoners took an officer hostage in an office.

“Their demands indicated they supported radical Islamist extremism.

“All staff are reminded to remain vigilant to the increased risk of potential attacks on prison officers inspired by these and last Wednesday’s events.”

Counter-terrorism officers have been brought in to investigate the attack at the maximum security jail, during which a female warder was also injured.

So far, 10 people have been held by detectives investigating the young soldier’s death, including Adebowale and Adebolajo.

These include a 50-year-old man, arrested on Monday, who was released on bail yesterday.

A 22-year-old man arrested in Highbury, north London, on Sunday and three men detained on Saturday over the killing have all been released on bail, as has a fifth man, aged 29.

Two women, aged 29 and 31, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder but later released without charge.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

GUYS MARSH INMATES DEMAND END TO GANG VIOLENCE

A group of inmates at a Dorset prison have signed a petition demanding action is taken to stop violence and attacks by fellow prisoners.

The petition signed by inmates at Guys Marsh in Shaftesbury was sent to solicitor Rhonda Hesling, secretary of the Prison Injury Lawyers Association.

She said they claim two wings at the jail are “out of control” and they are “frightened there will be a death”.

The Prison Service said it did not tolerate violence or intimidation.

The document was signed by more than a dozen prisoners and had been smuggled out of the site, Ms Hesling said.

She said it read: “There is no CCTV here at Guys Marsh, staff are never patrolling or around, we could be killed or injured on the wings.

“There is a high level of assaults here by prison gangs who roam without challenge and bullying makes everyone feel unsafe, please help us.”

‘Out of control’

Ms Hesling, also a senior partner with Hesling Henriques solicitors, said the petition was passed to her by a prisoner who had contacted her after being seriously assaulted inside the prison.

She said two wings in particular were “running out of control” and “there’s an absence of prison officers”.

“It’s clearly not something that is just one prisoner’s view,” she said.

“It would seem there’s a systematic failure in the managing of these wings, which is resulting in robbery by other prisoners upon perhaps those who are more weakened and vulnerable.

“There’s an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, and a real fear of physical violence.

“The weak and vulnerable are being beaten up and they are being bullied.”

The Prison Service said in a statement: “Violence or intimidation in prisons is not tolerated in any form and we take the responsibility of keeping staff, prisoners and visitors safe extremely seriously.

“That’s why we have a violence management system in place to deal with incidents quickly and robustly with serious incidents referred to the police immediately.”

Ms Hesling said the Prison Injury Lawyers Association was investigating the claims and was speaking to all parties involved.