Woodhill lifer admits disseminating IS propaganda

A serving prisoner at HMP Woodhill has admitted disseminating grisly Islamic State propaganda from behind bars.

Abdul-Rehman Gul sent IS videos of shotgun executions in slow motion via a mobile phone in 2017.

While in a young offender institution he also shared an IS manual entitled How to Survive in the West.

At the time, the 22-year-old was serving life with a minimum term of four and a half years for three counts of wounding with intent.

Appearing at the Old Bailey on Tuesday 19th March via video link from HMP Woodhill, Gul admitted five charges of disseminating terrorist publications.

Prosecutor Alistair Richardson said the defendant was currently eligible for parole and was due a hearing soon.

Judge Richard Marks QC adjourned sentencing until April 26.

HMP Woodhill – Prison With ‘Staggering’ Total Of Self-Inflicted Deaths Struggling To Sustain Improvements In Care

HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes – where a “staggering” total of 19 men had taken their lives in seven years – was found by inspectors to be struggling to sustain improvement in care for vulnerable prisoners.

Inspectors also found “chronic and substantial” staff shortages. As a consequence, the prison ran a regime which meant many prisoners were locked up in their cells for long periods every day.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, warned this severely limited regime risked undermining the work to improve care. “Incidents of self-harm remained high. Improvements had been made to the way prisoners at risk of self-harm were assessed and supported, but not all planned improvements had been sustained and we had real concerns that the poverty of regime had the potential to undermine the well-being of those at risk.”

Inspectors found, overall, a “decidedly mixed” picture at Woodhill – which holds just over 600 men as local prisoners, alongside a small number of high-security prisoners. The assessment of respect for prisoners in the jail was “reasonably good”, with mostly good living conditions. Rehabilitation and resettlement work was also “reasonably good.”

However, safety and purposeful activity, the other two “healthy prison” tests applied by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, were both assessed as poor, the lowest assessment. Both these aspects had deteriorated significantly since the previous inspection in 2015.

Mr Clarke said: “Underpinning nearly all the concerns raised in this report, including issues of safety and well-being, were chronic staff shortages and inexperience. This led to poor time out of cell, unpredictable daily routines and limited access to activity. From a staffing complement of 320 officers there were, at the time of the inspection, 55 vacancies, and 20% of officers in post had less than 12 months’ experience. Many prisoners expressed frustration at the apparent inability of staff to help them.

“During the working day we found half the population locked in their cells. Our colleagues in Ofsted judged the overall effectiveness of learning and skills provision to be ‘inadequate’, their lowest assessment and caused mainly by the underuse of available training and education resources owing to staff shortages.”

Inspectors found that Woodhill was “still not safe enough.” Though wings appeared to be relatively calm, nearly a third of prisoners said they currently felt unsafe and over half had felt unsafe at some point during their stay. Many prisoners reported victimisation and violence had increased – to levels greater than inspectors typically see in local prisons. Mr Clarke added: “We were concerned about the high number of assaults that had taken place against staff. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that this was related to the paucity of the regime on offer and the inconsistency of staff in their dealings with prisoners.”

Woodhill’s historical failure to implement recommendations from coroners and following Prisons and Probation Ombudsman inquiries into deaths had been the subject of repeated criticism, Mr Clarke said, “and had led to external scrutiny and analysis.”

Despite this, and work to improve care, “the number of self-inflicted deaths remained a huge concern”, Mr Clarke added. “At the time we inspected, eight prisoners had taken their own lives since our previous inspection in 2015 and, staggeringly, 19 prisoners had taken their own lives at the establishment since 2011. Tragically, a few months after this inspection another prisoner was reported to have taken his own life.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“It was clear to us that some improvements had been made at Woodhill and the governor and her team had expended considerable effort, enthusiasm and commitment to promote a positive culture in the establishment. That said, a disappointingly small number of recommendations from our previous inspection had been achieved. The priorities for the prison were clear: to stabilise the regime through adequate staffing; to devise and implement a clear, evidenced-based strategy to improve safety; and to sustain and embed the work being done to reduce self-harm.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“Woodhill manages a complex and vulnerable population and the governor and her staff have worked tirelessly to improve support and care for prisoners and there were no self-inflicted deaths in 2017. Tragically there has been one self-inflicted death this year, but the prison remains focused on safety and supporting vulnerable men. Staffing vacancies have had an impact but we have a strong pipeline of new recruits which will significantly increase staffing in the coming months. This will improve the regime and mean more rehabilitative activity for prisoners.”

A copy of the full report, published on 19 June 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

HMP WOODHILL – Some notable improvements but concerns over violence and suicides

woodhillThe provision of work, training and education had improved at HMP Woodhill and its rehabilitation services were good, but violence and a high number of self-inflicted deaths were significant concerns, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the jail near Milton Keynes.

HMP Woodhill is as a core local prison, meaning while the bulk of its population is a mixture of remanded and short-sentenced men with the mental health, substance misuse and other issues typical of local prisons, it also has a high security function for a small number of category A prisoners. The prison also has a Close Supervision Centre (CSC), part of a national system for managing some of the most high-risk prisoners in the system, which is inspected separately. Previous inspections of HMP Woodhill have repeatedly raised concerns about the prison and, in particular, weaknesses in the support of men at risk of suicide or self-harm and the poor provision of work, training and education. This inspection found real improvements had been made but more still needed to be done to reduce the likelihood of further self-inflicted deaths. There had been five more self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, making nine since 2012. This was an unacceptable toll.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • early days in custody are a critical time and five of the nine deaths since 2012 had involved new arrivals who had been in the prison for less than two weeks;
  • reception processes were efficient but the role of the first night centre was undermined because it was also used to hold prisoners difficult to locate elsewhere;
  • some prisoners requiring opiate substitution treatment or alcohol detoxification were mistakenly placed in the first night centre rather than the specialist stabilisation unit, which was particularly dangerous for prisoners requiring alcohol detoxification;
  • too many first night cells were dirty and poorly equipped;
  • recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following previous deaths in custody had not been implemented with sufficient rigour;
  • there were not enough Listeners (prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to prisoners);
  • mental health services had been hit by staff shortages and only 18% of residential staff had received mental health awareness training in the past three years; and
  • although the prison felt calm, a sizeable minority (one in five prisoners) said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and levels of violence were higher than elsewhere and included some serious assaults on prisoners and staff.

 

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • impressive progress had been made in the provision of work, training and education, and the provision of activity for short-term prisoners was an example other local prisons could follow;
  • the quality of teaching and learning had improved and there was good emphasis on helping prisoners to improve their literacy and numeracy;
  • activities were intelligently geared to the labour markets in areas to which most prisoners would be returning;
  • the support given to prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm was often better than the records showed and those prisoners subject to ACCT monitoring told inspectors they felt well cared for;
  • security arrangements were generally appropriate for the population;
  • drug availability was lower than elsewhere, although the prison needed to be alert to the increasing availability of Spice;
  • the environment in the segregation unit had improved and staff worked well with some very complex prisoners;
  • there had been good progress in reducing the backlogs in risk assessments and sentence planning and public protection arrangements were good; and
  • despite the complexity of new arrangements, including two new community rehabilitation companies working in the prison, most practical resettlement services were good.

 

Martin Lomas said:

“HMP Woodhill is an improving prison and its very good purposeful activity and good rehabilitation services are better than we have seen recently in many other local prisons. Good outcomes in these areas help to create a sense of purpose and hope and reduce frustration and tension. Despite this, levels of violence are a significant concern and the number of self-inflicted deaths in recent years has been unacceptably high. The main priority of the prison must be to tackle these two areas.”

 

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector says, Woodhill has made impressive progress in providing work, education, training and support to help prisoners turn their lives around.

“Given the significant operational pressures the prison has faced this is an excellent achievement.

“Tackling increased levels of violence and preventing suicides is the top priority for the Governor and for the Prison Service as a whole. Tragically, as recent incidents at Woodhill have demonstrated, the challenge is considerable – but we will use the recommendations in this report to further develop and improve our approach.”

A copy of the full report can be found at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprison

Prisons Inspectorate’s Thematic Review on Close Supervision Centres published

Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit
Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit

Although clear progress had been made in clarifying the aims and processes of the system for managing the most dangerous prisoners in the country said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a Thematic Review report published today (25/8/2015) on Close Supervision Centres in English high security prisons, prison commentators also made clear there were a number of serious concerns.

The Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system holds about 60 of the most dangerous men in the prison system. Many of these are men who have been imprisoned for very serious offences which have done great harm, have usually committed subsequent very serious further offences in prison and whose dangerous and disruptive behaviour is too difficult to manage in ordinary prison location. They are held in small units or individual designated cells throughout the high security prison estate. These men are likely to be held for many years in the most restrictive conditions with limited stimuli and human contact.

The system is run by a central team as part of the Prison Service’s high security directorate, although day to day management is the responsibility of the individual prisons in which the units or cells are located. A further 14 men who do not quite meet the threshold for the CSC system are held under the ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour Strategy (MCBS) in similar but slightly less restrictive conditions. This is extreme custody and its management raises complex operational challenges and profound ethical issues. The aim of the system was to remove the most dangerous prisoners from ordinary location, manage them in small units and use individual or group work to reduce their risks so they could return to normal or other suitable location.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • leadership of the system as whole was clear, principled and courageous;
  • decisions to select prisoners the CSC system were based on a clear set of published criteria and a robust risk assessment;
  • some good support was provided to staff;
  • staff understood the men in their care well, enabling them to manage problematic behaviour effectively and promote change;
  • despite the significant risks the men posed, the majority of prisoners and staff felt safe;
  • most security restrictions and behavioural management work appeared measured and proportionate; and
  • staff-prisoner relationships were reassuring good, and psychological and psychiatric services were strong.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was no independent scrutiny or external involvement in decision-making, which was particularly important given the highly restrictive nature of the units, restrictions on access to legal aid and the difficulties prisoners had in being deselected;
  • delivery of some important processes varied and a minority of managers and staff did not understand the ethos of the system or embrace their role within it;
  • the use of designated cells in segregation units had often led to prisoners being held there for many months or even years, with poor regimes and little emphasis on progression, which was contrary to the prison rule 46 under which they were held;
  • the centrally managed MCBS units also needed improved governance;
  • more needed to be done to offset the real potential for psychological deterioration by the more imaginative provision of in and out of cell activities;
  • daily living conditions in the small units were cramped;
  • there was a very high proportion of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held, although management had commissioned research to look at the reasons for this; and
  • more work needed to be done on progression and reintegration, which was critical to ensuring the system was not used as a long-term containment option for dangerous men.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Leadership of the system as a whole was clear, principled and courageous. We do not underestimate the risk the men held in the CSC system pose or the complexity of working with them. The overall humanity and care provided to men whom it would have been easy to consign to the margins of the prison system was impressive. The system had a clear set of aims, was basically well run and founded on sound security and psychological principles and sought to contain men safely and decently. There were, however, a number of important issues that needed to be addressed.

“Management arrangements needed attention to ensure consistency and external involvement in decision-making was needed to provide transparency and rigor. The use of designated cells needed far greater control and there needed to be more clarity concerning the MCBS prisoners. Aspects of the environment needed to be improved, and men required greater opportunities to occupy their time purposefully. The reasons why a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic and Muslim men were held needed to be better understood.

“Nevertheless, the CSC system provided a means of managing the most challenging men in the prison system in a way that minimised the risks to others and offered men the basic conditions to lead a decent and safe life. We support the continued commitment to resource and support it and commend many of the people who worked positively within the system, despite some of the obvious risks and challenges.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, and Converse the national newspaper for prisoners, welcomed the report but said there were still serious concerns that must be urgently addressed.

Mr Leech said: “There are five CSC Units located in Wakefield, Woodhill, Full Sutton, Manchester and Whitemoor prisons, with further designated CSC cells in Belmarsh, Frankland and Long Lartin prisons.

“While the CSC, and also the MCBS, systems are not ideal they are a vital way of managing a small number of very dangerous prisoners, often those who have killed other prisoners while in custody.

“The aim always must be the safe, humane and secure custody for CSC prisoners and staff, and it is vital those who manage the CSC system do not lose sight of the longer term aim of returning CSC inmates to normal location when sustained good behaviour and proven lowered risk warrants it.

“However there are real concerns over the high proportion of black, minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held in CSCs, the real lack of independent oversight in the decision-making process also needs addressing urgently because of the lack of legal aid to raise challenges, and the legality of holding such inmates in segregation units contrary to Rule 46 for extended period of time must be confronted without delay.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 25 August 2015 at: justiceinspectorate.gov.uk/hmiprisons

“Laughing Stock” Prisons Ombudsman Has Derisory £10 Offer Increased By Judge To Over £800

A triple killer has won £800 in compensation after some of his belongings, including nose hair clippers, cranberry juice and an alarm clock, were lost or broken in prison. – and after he rejected a derisory offer of £10 compensation from the much-criticised Prisons Ombudsman.

Kevan Thakrar, 26, was awarded £500 because prison officers lost “priceless” photographs and personal items – which a judge said was made worse because they did not apologise to him.

Thakrar, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, is serving three life sentences with a minimum of 35 years behind bars after he and his brother Miran were jailed in 2007 for the gangland-style execution of three drug dealers and two other attempted murders.

In March 2010 he maimed three guards at Frankland Prison in County Durham after stabbing them with a broken battle, but was cleared of two counts of attempted murder and three of wounding with intent, a decision which prompted widespread fury.

Following the attack Thakrar was moved from Frankland to Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes and it was during this move that some of his possessions were misplaced.

According to the court judgment, detailed on Thakrar’s Facebook page, he was awarded £224.97 for damage to his stereo, alarm clock and nasal clippers.

He was also awarded £90 after items including a carton of cranberry juice, protein powder and toiletries were lost, which he claimed left him “stressed”.

District Judge Neil Hickman said there had been a “somewhat cavalier disregard for Mr Thakrar’s rights and for his property”, and awarded him a further £500 to compensate him for lost photographs and personal items, making £814.97 in total.

The judge added: “Had the defendants said promptly and sincerely to Mr Thakrar that they deeply regretted the loss of his personal items and understood his distress, the loss of them would not have been aggravated in the way that it has been.

“So far from doing that, the ministry has steadfastly failed even to tender the grudging and belated apology which was recommended by the ombudsman.”

The prison ombudsman had originally offered Thakrar £10 in compensation, but the killer took the case to court last year, and District Judge Hickman ruled that he deserved a further payout.

The judge said there had been an “outrageous delay” of 13 months in the ombudsman paying the proposed £10, which he said had “all the appearance of a calculated gesture on the part of the ministry”.

Following the payout Thakrar boasted about it on his Facebook page, saying that he had hoped to send bailiffs to the Ministry of Justice to ensure they paid his compensation.A prison guard who Thakrar attacked condemned the claim as laughable.

Craig Wylde, who was left with a severed artery and damaged nerves, told the Daily Mail:

“It is another case of the prisoner getting everything and the real victims getting nothing.

“He is always trying it on. This is the sort of person he is. He has to complain about everything and thinks he’s a big man because he’s challenging the system. This latest claim will have cost thousands and thousands of taxpayers’ money. It is just totally pathetic.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “We robustly defend all cases as far as the evidence allows.”

Thakrar was first jailed after he and his brother killed Keith Cowell, 52, his son Matthew, 17, and Tony Dulieu, 33, from Essex, at the Cowells’ house in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire.

The men had met at the house to do a cocaine deal, but Miran Thakrar, a small-time drug dealer, was angry that he had been sold poor quality cocaine previously by the Cowells and was out for revenge.

Miran Thakrar shot the family dog and then lined up Keith Cowell, Matthew Cowell and Mr Dulieu, and shot them dead as his brother Kevan looked on.

The brothers also shot and stabbed Ms Jennings and attacked Ms Evans with a knife as she tried to shield her three-year-old daughter.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners said the case showed why Prisons Ombudsman, Nigel Newcomen, was so often derided by prisoners who had no faith in his alleged independence.

Mr Leech said: “The Prisons Ombudsman is a joke, a laughing stock, a former senior member of the very prison service he now claims to independently investigate prisoners rightly have no confidence in him.

“Kevan’s crimes have nothing to do with this case, the prison service lost or broke his property and he has the right to be compensated for that – the judge’s comments that the Prisons Ombudsman had made a ‘calculated gesture’ show why its vital that Ombudsmen must never have prior involvement with the organisations they investigate, Nigel Newcomen spent 25 years in the Prison Service latterly as an Assistant Director its crazy to expect him to be independent of it.”