Manhunt after prison officer stabbed and inmate escapes

Derek Brockwell
Derek Brockwell

A manhunt is under way for a notorious prisoner after he allegedly stabbed two prison officers and fled from a hospital in Ireland.

Derek Brockwell, 53, was being taken to Tallaght Hospital in south Dublin from high security Portlaoise Prison for a medical appointment when he made his reportedly violent escape.

One of the prison officers accompanying him was stabbed with a knife in the stomach and is undergoing emergency surgery for his serious injuries, according to a spokesman for the Irish Prison Service.

Another officer was stabbed in the hand and possibly the face or neck during the incident at around 3pm.

A third prison officer was unharmed but left badly shaken.

It is believed Brockwell, a British national who was handed 22 life sentences in the UK for armed robbery and had appeared as a wanted man on BBC’s Crimewatch show, was picked up by an awaiting accomplice on a motorbike or in a car which sped away from the scene.

The serial criminal was two years into a seven-year sentence for armed robbery after he admitted holding up the Bank of Ireland in Blackrock, south Dublin, in October 2012.

He was also convicted of robbing a post office and a bookmakers as well as for firearms offences in the Irish capital.

Brockwell landed in Ireland after failing to return to Kirkham Prison in England, where he was serving life for a series of offences but had been allowed out on day release for a work scheme.

He had carried out armed robberies on betting shops in London’s Marylebone and Paddington areas during September and October 1999.

Described as being 6ft 3in with brown hair and a broad build, it is believed he has links with London, Glasgow and Ireland.

Gardai have launched a city-wide manhunt and said they were “anxious” to locate the prisoner.

A spokeman for the Irish Prison Service said: “A full investigation has commenced into the circumstances of this escape and the Director General of the Irish Prison Service has said that our thoughts are with our staff who have been injured in this serious incident.”

Later, Jim Mitchell, deputy general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said he was deeply concerned by the incident.

“It is vitally important that the Irish Prison Service thoroughly investigate this incident and establish how such a serious assault could have occurred,” he said.

“It is very evident that prisoners, who are known to be dangerous and pose a serious risk, must be accompanied by appropriate levels of security when being escorted outside the prison environment.

“This, and indeed other incidents where our colleagues have been injured in recent years, raises many serious questions which must be tackled by prison management.”

Mr Mitchell said the association’s thoughts were with the injured prison officers.

Prison Officer Assaults up by 45%

officerfullsutton

The number of serious assaults on prison officers by offenders has risen significantly under the coalition prompting one prisons expert to predict our prisons are on the verge of serious unrest.

A total of 543 assaults by prisoners on officers in jails were referred to the police in 2012, a 45% rise from the 374 assaults referred to police in 2010 when the coalition came to power, official figures showed.

The figure equated to nearly three assaults every two days in 2012.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said that dedicated and hard-working prison officers should not have to face violence at work and blamed the Government for allowing jails to become overcrowded.

Mr Khan, who unveiled the figures using a written parliamentary question, said: “How can ministers expect to rehabilitate criminals if prisons are dens of violence?

“On their watch, this Government have presided over prisons becoming more and more overcrowded and violent.

“We’ve seen call outs by the prison riot squad up sharply, and last year saw the highest number of deaths in custody for over a decade.

“And all the time prisoners are spending too much time idling away in their cells or on landings instead of undertaking meaningful activity like work, education or training.

“It’s not an overstatement to say that prisons are in crisis and the Government are either oblivious or simply don’t care.”

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is reviewing policy for managing violence in prisons.

Replying to Mr Khan’s question, he said: “NOMS takes the issue of assaults on prison staff very seriously. It currently has systems in place to deal with perpetrators quickly and robustly, with serious incidents referred to the police for prosecution.

“It is working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that prisoners who assault staff are charged and punished appropriately.

“NOMS is committed to exploring options to continue to improve how violence is tackled in prisons to keep both staff and prisoners safe. It is currently reviewing the policy and practice of the management of violence.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales said the rise in assaults was largely due to savage budget cuts.

Mr Leech said: “Since 2010 over half a billion pounds has been slashed from prison budgets, resulting in fewer staff being employed and as a result already attenuated regimes being reduced even further.

“You cannot expect prison Governors to do everything with next to nothing, our prisons cannot be run on a shoe-string and while Cameron, Clegg and Osbourne are sitting pretty in their ivory towers our prisons are in increasing danger of exploding – I’d like to see Cameron, Clegg and Osbourne manning the landings at Full Sutton for a day; they’d soon change their tune.”