Ex-inmates deliberately getting sent back to jail to sell drugs report reveals

Legal-HighsFormer inmates are deliberately getting sent back to prison to cash in on lucrative profits on offer for selling drugs previously known as “legal highs”, according to a new report.

Prices for the substances can jump 33-fold once they cross into jails – providing prisoners with an incentive to go back behind bars to make money, researchers claimed.

A gram of synthetic cannabinoids, which mimic the effects of cannabis, can cost £3 on the outside but can fetch up to £100 when sold in prisons, the study said.

It claimed to have uncovered strong evidence that the licence recall system – under which offenders can be brought back to custody – was “routinely and systematically” abused to bring the drugs into prisons.

The paper, based on research conducted in an adult male prison in England, suggested that recently freed inmates committed minor infractions, such as missing probation meetings, in order to return to jail.

Prisoners reported being able to make £3,000 in four weeks by bringing in an ounce (28 grams) of synthetic cannabinoids.

One prisoner even claimed that another inmate had made £100,000 dealing the substances during a six-month sentence – although the report acknowledged that stated profits could be prone to exaggeration.

It detailed a number of “novel” reported smuggling methods, including via drones or sprayed onto books, letters and children’s drawings.

Lead researcher Dr Rob Ralphs, senior lecturer in criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “It is no exaggeration to say that the synthetic cannabinoid market has exploded and unleashed a series of devastating impacts on prisons, prisoners and prison staff.

“Traditional drugs have almost been wiped out and replaced with these extremely powerful synthetic cannabinoids because prisoners are attracted by high profit margins and their lack of detection in drug tests.

“Our research found that prisoners’ motivation for taking synthetic cannabinoids was to escape the boredom of prison life and to avoid positive drug tests but their impact is extremely serious.”

The study – published in the International Journal of Drug Policy – comes at a time when the state of jails in England and Wales is under intense scrutiny.

New psychoactive substances, which were commonly referred to as legal highs before they were made the subject of a blanket ban earlier this year, have been identified as a “game-changer” as prisons are hit by surging levels of violence.

The government is pursuing a number of measures to tackle the problem under its prison reform plans, including “no fly zones” to stop drones dropping contraband into jails and mandatory drug testing across the estate.

More than 300 drug detection dogs have also been trained to identify psychoactive substances concealed in parcels and on people.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “As the Justice Secretary has made clear, we want prisons to be places of safety and reform and are educating prisoners about the dangers of drugs, especially the risks of new psychoactive substances.

“As part of our strategy to tackle this, we have rolled out new testing and have trained over 300 dogs to detect these substances.

“We have also introduced tough new laws to deal with people smuggling new psychoactive substances into jails and those caught using banned substances will face extra time behind bars.”

Back From The Dead Prison Officer Faces Jail


The back-from-the-dead canoe fraudster, former Holme House prison officer John Darwin (left), from Hartlepool, is facing a return to prison after he left the UK without permission to meet a statuesque Ukrainian in a mini-skirt.

The 63-year-old was pictured in The Sun on a date with a blonde woman in her 20s in the town of Sumy, 1,500 miles from his home.

He was freed early on licence in January 2011 after being sentenced in 2008 to serve six years and three months for fraud.

That meant he was not allowed to leave the UK without Probation Service permission until all of his sentence was served.

A source close to the case said: “He is facing a return to prison for travelling abroad without permission.”

The Probation Service would not speak about individual cases but a spokesman said: “Any offender subject to licence supervision is required to gain permission from probation to travel outside of the UK; permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances.

“Any offender who travels without this permission will be subject to recall to custody.

“In these circumstances the Probation Service works closely with the police to implement the recall.”

It was believed Darwin was still in the Ukraine.

According to The Sun, Darwin and his date, a local woman named Anna, enjoyed a two-hour meal assisted by a translator, but the evening turned sour when he was confronted by a reporter.

The newspaper said Darwin first made contact with the woman over the internet.

He faked his own death in a canoeing accident in 2002 so his then wife Anne (right) could claim hundreds of thousands of pounds from insurance policies and pension schemes.

The couple, from Seaton Carew, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the swindle, which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons Mark and Anthony.

Darwin admitted fraud so received a slightly shorter sentence than Anne, who denied the offences. They have now divorced.

After faking his own death, Darwin continued to live in secret with his wife before they escaped to Panama to start a new life.

But in December 2007 Darwin walked into a London police station claiming he had amnesia and was reunited with his stunned sons.

His wife, then still in Panama, initially also claimed to be surprised – until a photograph emerged of them posing together.


A  man freed on parole following convictions for “Middle East terrorism” offences more than 30 years ago today won a High Court fight after complaining that he had been unfairly returned to jail in the run up to the London Olympics.

Mr Justice Wilkie said the man – given four life sentences in the 1970s – should be immediately released.

The judge heard that the man was re-called to jail less than three weeks before the start of the 2012 games.

He concluded that then Conservative Justice Secretary Ken Clarke had made an “unreasonable” decision.

Mr Justice Wilkie did not identify the man or give details of his crimes, in a written judgment handed down at the High Court in London today.

But the judge said the man had been convicted of murder, attempted murder, causing an explosion with intent to endanger life and possession of firearms with intent to endanger life – and said the offences had been committed “in the context of Middle East terrorism”.

The man claimed that he had been unfairly recalled to jail, four years after being freed on licence, at a High Court hearing in London earlier this month.

Mr Justice Wilkie said the man had been given four life terms with a recommendation that he should not be considered for parole until he had served at least 20 years.

He had been released on licence in 2008 then recalled to prison in July 2012.

Mr Justice Wilkie was told that the man had attended a demonstration in Downing Street during the run-up to the games – which started on July 27.

The judge was told that the man was recalled to jail after probation officials decided that he had breached conditions of his release by “becoming involved in political events”.

But the judge said that “upon reflection” officials had changed their minds, decided that the “risk” posed could be “managed in the community” and asked Mr Clarke to “rescind” the decision to recall the man to prison.

Mr Justice Wilkie concluded that Mr Clarke’s initial decision to recall the man to jail was fair.

But he said the decision not to rescind the prison recall order following the request from probation officials was unreasonable.


Page 2: 16:40

Mr Justice Wilkie said the man had made “progress” in the four years he had been free on licence and on reflection probation officials had decided that a return to prison would damage his “successful rehabilitation”.

And the judge said in the “particular circumstances” of the case Mr Clarke’s decision to refuse to rescind the recall order was not reasonable.

He said officials had reconsidered and thought their “original view” wrong.

“(The) view was that recall would be disproportionate and that the risk could be managed in the community,” said the judge.

“The request to rescind had been properly made as a result of a proper review conducted by senior management.”

He added: “The very clear, and immediate, view expressed by probation was that their initial judgment was erroneous and that recall would cause great damage to the purposes of release on licence, namely the successful rehabilitation within the community of the offender.”

A High Court official said later that a judge sitting at an earlier High Court hearing had made an order preventing  publication of the man’s identity.


Page 3: 17:18

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said later: “Public protection is our top priority. Serious offenders on licence are subject to a strict set of controls and conditions and can be recalled to custody if they breach them. Sometimes they will receive a formal written warning for a breach, where they have not re-offended.

“When released from prison, all terrorist offenders on licence are managed through multi agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA), will be risk-assessed, monitored and supervised by the Probation Service, police and other agencies.

“Terrorist offenders subject to probation may also be required to comply with additional licence conditions to better manage any risk they pose.”


↑ Top of page


A convicted robber on the run from prison in England could be in Northern Ireland, police have warned.

Police in Lancashire have been hunting for Patrick Joyce, 30, since March when he breached the terms of an early release licence.

The breach triggered a recall to prison, which he continues to evade.

Joyce, formerly of James Street in Morecambe, was jailed for six years with an extended licence period of five years at Isleworth Crown Court in September 2008 for a robbery in Southall, west London. He was released from HMP Lancaster in August 2010.

Lancashire Police said he has connections to both Middlesex and Northern Ireland, and speaks with an Irish accent.

He is described as around 5ft 11in and of average build with blue eyes and short light brown hair.

Mark Stott, from the Lancaster & Morecambe Intelligence Unit of the Lancashire Constabulary, said: “We would ask the public to be vigilant and report any sightings to the police – any details could be crucial.”