Penal Reform charity, The Howard League, are ‘out of touch with reality’ said the deputy editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse, after the charity claimed people prefer to go to jail than complete a community sentence.
The claim was made by gaff-prone Howard League Press Officer Sophie Willett (above), a journalist who once claimed the one thing she did not enjoy was reading newspapers.
Peter Johnson, deputy editor of Converse said: “It’s ridiculous to claim people actually prefer to go to jail than have their freedom, Willett should do more research because it seems every time she opens her mouth her brain falls out.
“No one in their right mind prefers jail to freedom and to claim such a position just confirms that the Howard League is as out of touch with reality as many people have come to accept.”
Proceedings against Rebecca Leighton, 27, were discontinued on Friday.
One Sunday newspaper said she was planning to sue police for a six-figure sum, claiming wrongful arrest, and another said she planned to claim £1 million compensation.
Police have vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in their investigation into the deaths of seven hospital patients, promising to interview at least another 500 potential witnesses.
The probe into a number of unexplained deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport is said to be “very much active” with officers working “around the clock”.
Greater Manchester Police is planning to interview around 500 more people, including staff, patients and visitors, out of more than 700 who could have had access to the area during the time the tampering could have taken place.
Two hundred people have already been spoken to as part of the inquiry, compared in size by the force to the 1996 IRA Manchester bomb inquiry.
Ms Leighton, of Heaviley, Stockport, had been facing three counts of causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life and three alternative counts of causing damage being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
After charges were discontinued, she said she had been “living in hell” since her arrest, initially on suspicion of murder.
She will not be able to return to work, as an interim order suspending her from the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register remains in place.
Detectives are investigating the deaths of seven patients – and potentially 40 victims in total – connected with sabotaged saline drips.
Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney said: “To prove a case you need not only to prove guilt but to eliminate the possible involvement of others.
“In this case our further investigation has shown there were over 700 people who could have had access to the area concerned in a tight time period
“A working hospital is a very busy working environment where there are huge numbers of people coming and going and staff trying to look after patients.
“No-one has made any definitive admissions in this case, there is obviously no CCTV of patient treatment and many members of staff had legitimate access to the areas and materials involved.
“This is a unique investigation given the nature of the crime scene, the numbers who had access to it and the complexity of the medical evidence.
“Thousands of items have been subject to examination and we have interviewed hundreds of witnesses, with hundreds more left to speak to. We will leave no stone unturned in our investigation.”
He said there had been no further contamination or related deaths since the initial incidents were reported but police could not rule out further incidents.
A spokeswoman for Stepping Hill Hospital said heightened security measures remain in place and will continue for the foreseeable future.
Reading a statement on Friday on Ms Leighton’s behalf after her return to the family home in Denton, Greater Manchester, solicitor Carl Richmond said: “I have been living in hell and was locked up in prison for something I had not done.
“It was so frustrating for me knowing that the person who actually carried out these terrible acts is still out there.”
A judge has warned a police officer that he may be jailed after being found guilty of assaulting a man he was trying to arrest.
Timothy Allatt, 33, a Nottinghamshire Police constable, was found guilty at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court of assaulting Jake Bramley in the early hours of July 25 last year.
District Judge Diane Baker told Allatt that after hearing two full days of evidence she did not accept that he used reasonable force in detaining Mr Bramley who was being pursued by officers on suspicion of stealing a car.
She said she was satisfied by evidence that Allatt hit Mr Bramley, threw him against a wall and then dragged him face down on to the floor before kicking him in the chest area.
She told Allatt, who sat next to his solicitor and looked down at his clasped hands and up at the judge as she spoke, that in normal circumstances she would hand out a community order for an assault conviction but his case had aggravating factors.
“Those aggravating factors are that this was a sustained assault,” she said.
“It was a sustained assault on a member of the public by a serving police officer.”
She continued: “At this stage I cannot rule out a custodial sentence.”
The judge told Allatt that when considering sentence she would take into account that he was a highly trained authorised firearms officer, that he had received four commendations in his 11 years as a policeman and that he was widely respected.
She told the court it was not said that Allatt caused all of Mr Bramley’s injuries – he was treated as an in-patient at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham for a collapsed lung and facial injuries following the incident – but she could not ignore the seriousness of his conviction and her duty to protect the public.
She added: “This was a gross breach of his position as a police officer.”
She granted Allatt unconditional bail and adjourned his case to September 28 for pre-sentence reports.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Allatt’s solicitor, Damian Kelly, said there would be no comment until he had been sentenced.
Last week the court heard that Allatt, who denied the offence, chased Mr Bramley through Sneinton, Nottingham, as he ran from police after they attempted to stop his silver Ford Fiesta as it was a suspected stolen vehicle.
Pc Daniel Moss, who was on duty that night, told the court that after being chased Mr Bramley was cornered by police and then Allatt assaulted him.
Mr Bramley was punched, grabbed, and kicked in the rib cage by Allatt, according to Pc Moss.
His account was to be believed over Allatt’s, Ms Baker said.
Allatt said Mr Bramley, who was 22 at the time, looked “agitated” and “appeared to be in a fighting stance”, which influenced the former policeman’s actions at the time.
He said he carried out a “palm heel strike” as a distraction blow, which hit Mr Bramley on the left side of his face near his ear, and pushed and pulled Mr Bramley with both arms to bring him to the ground and make a lawful arrest.
He said he did not kick him, drag him, or throw him against a wall.
Mr Bramley was arrested and taken to Queen’s Medical Centre at around 2.30am after he complained of chest pains.
Ms Baker said she did not find Allatt’s account as he was on the witness stand to be plausible, nor did she accept that Pc Moss may have made up the allegation against him because he was derided by fellow officers after the incident for failing to keep hold of Mr Bramley when he managed to grab on to his tracksuit top as he ran past him that night.
Part of Allatt’s evidence was that Pc Moss was not in the position he said he was at the time Allatt came into contact with Mr Bramley and could not have witnessed any alleged assault.
But Ms Baker said she was satisfied from evidence that Pc Moss could in fact have been close to Allatt at the time and could have seen his aggressive behaviour.
Allatt also did not tell the custody sergeant he had struck Mr Bramley when he was booking him in, nor did he record it on the standard police “use of force” forms that all officers have to complete when they have used force to restrain an individual.
During the trial, the court also heard that Allatt was dismissed in April this year after a police tribunal made a finding against him for unreasonable force.
But it was in relation to a separate matter and a different man who, the court heard, Allatt pushed against a wall after he got out of his police vehicle at speed in an aggressive manner.
Allatt has since appealed against the decision, but Ms Baker said it showed “bad character in the form of previous reprehensible behaviour”.
Nottinghamshire Police said Allatt was suspended after an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)inquiry, and while this was ongoing, was dismissed from the force for another matter.
Acting Detective Superintendent Mick Windmill-Jones, from the Professional Standards Directorate, said: “The public rightly expect their police officers to demonstrate in all they do the very highest standards of behaviour, integrity and professionalism.
“When an officer fails to display these qualities and commits a criminal offence, they can expect, like any other member of society, to be prosecuted in a court of law.
“Tim Allatt acted outside the code of conduct set for every officer by using excessive force and causing injury to another person. We referred this to the IPCC and a full investigation was launched.
“Today’s guilty verdict reflects the severity of what Allatt did, and shows the way he abused his position with a total lack of regard for his responsibility to protect the public.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Allatt was dismissed from Nottinghamshire Police in April after a misconduct hearing relating to another alleged assault on a member of the public in Nottingham.
A spokesman said the misconduct proceedings arose from a separate IPCC independent investigation into the allegation that Allatt assaulted a 23-year-old man who was walking home drunk in Woodborough Road on January 16 last year.
The spokesman said Allatt was in a marked police car when he spotted the man walking along the pavement and stopped, grabbed the man and pushed him back into a door before driving off.
The IPCC said the CPS chose not to bring any criminal charge in the case, but the misconduct hearing found that, on the balance of probabilities, Allatt did assault the man and, by leaving him on the street, failed in his duty to make sure the man was safe.
IPCC Commissioner Len Jackson said: “While a police officer is entitled to use force where necessary to defend themselves or members of the public, the level of force used by Mr Allatt on these occasions was unjustifiable and excessive.
“The public rightly has high expectations of the conduct of police officers and this officer clearly failed to meet such expectations.
“As the earlier misconduct hearing ruled, his actions were inconsistent with the office of a police constable.
“I am pleased the force took the appropriate step some time ago, following an IPCC investigation, to ensure he is no longer a serving police officer. His actions do no credit to the considerable majority of police officers who act with suitable restraint and professionalism on a day-to-day basis.”
The prison population of England and Wales has hit a new record high of 86,608 people, with a rise of nearly 700 this week as the courts took the exceptional step of remanding into custody almost two-thirds of those charged with riot-related offences.
Prison governors said that the system now faced “an unprecedented situation” because of the riots, and emergency contingency measures had been agreed with prison service chiefs in case the rise in inmate numbers continued unabated.
The Prison Governors Association said the medium- to long-term measures included opening sufficient new and refurbished jail accommodation to avoid the normal emergency measure of using police cells.
The governors said they were confident the situation could be managed safely.
The record prison numbers are putting the jails and young offender institutions under increasing pressure; there are only 1,485 spare places in the system before prison governors have to put out the “jail full” signs.
Prison service chiefs are expected to outline the new contingency measures on Friday, including increased overcrowding by doubling and even trebling inmates in cells designed for single occupation.
Prison governors had already warned that the riots have put further strains on an already-stretched prison system, with inmates being moved out of London and Manchester to create space for rioters being sent to jail or remanded in custody awaiting trial.
The Ministry of Justice said that its latest figures, up to noon on Wednesday, showed that 1,297 people had appeared before magistrates charged with riot-related offences. A total of 772, or 65%, had been remanded in custody, compared with the “normal” remand rate for serious offences being 10%.
“This is causing massive problems for prisons,” said Harry Fletcher, of Napo, the probation officers’ union. There are so many of them coming through the system, it is causing considerable problems. When people are being held so far from home it causes real difficulties for their families.” He said that Nottingham jail alone had been sent a group of 30 prisoners from London this week.
The total prison population on Friday last week stood at 85,931, which included 607 immigration detainees. As space runs out so the potential for work, education or rehabilitation will be “zero”, claimed Fletcher.
The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, will be hoping that the developing pressures on the prison system are purely temporary, otherwise they have the capacity to derail his plans to stabilise the jail population and bring in his “rehabilitation revolution”.
The normal pressure valve for the prison system when it comes close to capacity is to put into effect Operation Safeguard, which involves emergency use of police cells to house prisoners. But that option is now closed off as forces stay prepared for any further disturbances.
In the medium-term the prison service might be able to add portable accommodation within the perimeters of existing jails, and no doubt in the longer-term the prospect of finding a new prison ship could be raised.
The prison service has already announced plans to close two small jails, Latchmere House, in London, and Brockhill prison, at Redditch, Worcestershire, next month. One option could be to postpone these closures if the pressure on jails continues to rise at the current rate.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said that there were enough places for those being sent to prison, including in young offender institutions, following the riots: “There is substantial capacity in the prison system. We will provide prison places for those committed to custody by the courts. We are developing contingencies should exceptional pressure be placed on the prison estate.”
The National Prisoners Newspaper for England and Wales
16th August 2011, 15.35hrs – NO Embargo
Plans to force former prisoners into work on release from jail are is welcome in principle, but it comes at the wrong end of the sentence said Mark Leech, Editor of Converse the national prisoners newspaper.
The plan was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as part of the measures to end the “dismal cycle of repeat crime.”
Mr Clegg said that those released from jail from March next year would be “met at the prison gates” by providers in the Work Programme and put through a “tough process so that they find work and they stay on the straight and narrow”.
However “Clegg has it the wrong way round” Mr Leech said.
“Instead of meeting them on the last day of their sentence and trying to instil a work ethic, he should start from the very first day of that sentence, ensuring they get up each day, attend meaningful work, at realistic wages, and with a proportion of that pay being paid to victims of crime.
“Leaving it to the end of the sentence is meaningless, they will just come out, stick two fingers up, and go on their way.”
“I welcome anything which is aimed at reducing crime, but this scheme is knee-jerk and ill-thought-through.”
Converse: 08450 660011
London’s Wandsworth Prison was in lock down today after staff at the prison received a Bomb Scare.
All prisoners were locked in their cells as education, training, workshops and morning visiting sessions were all shut down.
A Prison Service spokesperson said:
“On 11 August staff at Wandsworth prison investigated an alleged bomb threat.
“All necessary procedures and checks were carried out and no suspect packages were found.”
CONVERSE: The National Prisoners Newspaper for England and Wales
Press Release: 11th August 2011 – No Embargo
GOVERNORS ARE WORRIED – PRISONS WON’T BE ABLE TO COPE WITH LARGE RIOTER NUMBERS
An already over crowded prison system will not have the capacity to cope with any more than about 800 rioters said Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national prisoners newspaper.
Speaking as Parliament was recalled and the Prime Minister promised ‘touch sentences’ Mr Leech said: “The truth is that the penal reality may not match the political promise.”
Mr Leech said: “Although on paper the prison system has capacity for about 2000 more prisoners, the reality is that these are spread right across the prison estate – in male prisons, female prisons, open prisons, young offender institutions.
“It would take a massive amount of luck for the rioter ‘pegs’ to fit the prison ‘holes exactly – and the chances are they won’t.
“Prison Governors I have spoken to are worried, the prison system is currently a very volatile place, and an influx of large numbers of rioters could see the riots merely being moved from the streets to the jails themselves.”
Shrien Dewani can be extradited to South Africa to stand trial over the murder of his wife while on honeymoon, District Judge Howard Riddle said today.
The Bristol businessman, 31, is accused of ordering the car-jacking and shooting which left Anni Dewani, 28, dead in a taxi in Cape Town last November.
Dewani denies any involvement and has fought extradition proceedings, arguing that he is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and is too unwell to be extradited.
The judge said the “court must consider the strong public interest in honouring our extradition treaty”.
He said he had “no doubt” that Dewani is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and is at high risk of suicide or self-harm.
But he said he was satisfied he would receive the appropriate levels of mental health care at the hands of the South African authorities.
He took more than two hours to read out his judgment at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in south east London, beginning with evidence relating to the serious problems with overcrowding, violence and sexual violence in South African jails.
He said Dewani, whom he described as “good-looking, youthful and physically well-preserved”, would be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse, adding: “There has been some suggestion that he may be gay.”
But although many prisons are ill-equipped to deal with the mentally ill and inmates are at high risk of contracting HIV or Aids, the judge said he was satisfied that Dewani would be held in a prison with a good level of facilities and be kept in a single cell.
Anni’s parents, Vinod and Nilam Hindocha, were in court to witness proceedings, surrounded by their family and friends.
Speaking outside after the hearing, her father Vinod said today’s decision was “one step to closure”.
He said: “I would like to thank the British justice system for the decision, which I believe is a fair one.”
He said it was not about Dewani, but “it’s about my beautiful daughter Anni, not forgetting her.
“I’m sure she’d be very, very happy today to hear the decision.
“I wish Shrien a very speedy recovery so he can now put his head down and help the police and clear his name.”
Anni’s sister, Ami Denborg, added: “Nothing will bring back my beautiful little innocent sister who was killed.
“But getting this decision today at least we will get somewhere.”
Describing the past few months, she added: “It’s been a nightmare. Today we feel very happy about the decision.”
HM CHIEF INSPECTOR REPORTS ON HMP WANDSWORTH
PUBLISHED 10th AUGUST 2011
Our last inspection of HMP Wandsworth in June 2009 was marred by an attempt to subvert the
process by moving ‘difficult’ prisoners between Wandsworth and Pentonville so they were not
present in either prison during the inspection. This action by managers at the prisons
overshadowed the inspection findings at Wandsworth, which otherwise would have reported
on good progress in a prison that had been of concern for some time.
There was no attempt to subvert this follow-up inspection. However, the prison’s progress had
halted and overall outcomes for prisoners were significantly worse than at the time of the last
In particular, the safety of prisoners held in Wandsworth is now a matter of serious concern.
HMP Wandsworth is a large, Victorian, category B prison serving the courts of South London.
There is no doubt it holds a challenging population with multiple problems, many of whom are
held for only short periods. We were told that morale in the prison had suffered after the
progress made by the time of the last inspection was undermined by the prisoner swap.
Nevertheless, Wandsworth compared badly with similar prisons facing similar challenges and
we were concerned by what appeared to be unwillingness among some prison managers and
staff to acknowledge and take responsibility for the problems the prison faced.
The level of self-harm and the number of self-inflicted deaths were high. There had been about
700 ACCT documents opened in 2010, 120 in the first two months of 2011 and 60 open at the
time of the inspection. Typically, there were about 32 incidents of self-harm each month and
about 60 open ACCT documents at any given time. There had been 11 deaths in custody
between January 2010 and the time of this inspection; four of these had apparently been selfinflicted.
Key areas of risk were the inconsistent quality of ACCT procedures and the practice
of moving prisoners who were stabilising from drugs or detoxing from alcohol out of the first
night centre, where they could be closely monitored, before stabilisation was complete. We
were also concerned that poor staff-prisoner relationships, the lack of a predictable regime,
deficiency of association, and insufficient activity contributed to feelings of isolation and
alienation that might have led to self-harming behaviour.
Only 58% of prisoners (against the 70% comparator and 73% at the time of the last inspection)
said they had a member of staff in the prison they could turn to if they had a problem. We
observed frequently indifferent and sometimes abusive staff interactions with prisoners.
Prisoners struggled to get assistance with low level domestic issues or answers to simple
queries. The formal application and complaints systems were overwhelmed and ineffective.
Inspectors were inundated by prisoners asking for reasonable help with small things because
the prison staff did not assist. The induction process was poor and many prisoners lacked
basic knowledge about the routines and rules of the prison.
Prisoners with any sort of specific individual need were particularly disadvantaged. We found
prisoners with mobility difficulties located on residential landings which did not allow them
access to showers. One prisoner with a disability had been remanded at the prison for more
than three months and told us he had not had a shower in that time. There was no strategy to
meet the needs of foreign national prisoners. Despite the presence of UKBA staff in the prison,
liaison arrangements did not appear to be effective. Many foreign national prisoners were held
beyond the end of their sentence – one for three years. We were told by the independent
advice service that inaccurate information had led to some detainees being incorrectly held.
Most cells were shared and had inadequately screened toilets. First night cells were not
cleaned of graffiti; some of what we saw was racist. At best, prisoners were locked in their cells
for 16.5 hours a day (but even that was not every day of the week); at worst, prisoners were
out of their cells for just two hours a day. Association was often cancelled and when it did
occur there was little for prisoners to do and we observed little interaction with officers.
Exercise in the fresh air was limited to 30 minutes a day but this was cancelled in bad weather
and recreational use of the PE facilities was poor. The core day was not adhered to. There
were good training opportunities in the workshops but it was disappointing to see the excellent
Timpsons workshop operating at well below capacity.
Victims of bullying behaviour were not adequately protected. Processes to identify and
respond to both individual incidents and patterns of violent behaviour and to support victims
were ineffective. The level of use of force remained high and our examination of records of
incidents showed that de-escalation was not always used. Reviews and records of the use of
force were not sufficiently rigorous and neither we nor the prison could be assured that all use
of force was proportionate and necessary.
The segregation unit lacked direction. The regime was poor and there appeared to be little
attempt to tackle and resolve any of the underlying reasons for prisoners’ behaviour. One
prisoner with obvious communication difficulties, lying in on his bed with a blanket over his
head and an uneaten meal beside him, told me he would refuse to go back to normal location
because he was being bullied. Segregation staff did not appear to be aware of his concerns or
have attempted to resolve them and it seemed all too likely that confrontation would occur
when it was time for him to return.
The prison did not respond adequately to the needs of the diverse population it held. In
addition to the concerns about prisoners with disabilities and foreign national prisoners referred
to above, black and minority ethnic prisoners were disadvantaged in significant areas of the
prison and this needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Performance in other diversity
strands was also weak and diversity was not visibly promoted in the prison.
Health care offered a generally better picture. The Jones Unit provided a high level of inpatient
care in a good environment for prisoners with a physical illness. Mental health services were
good and when transfers to secure mental health units were required they were not unduly
In our survey, 40% of prisoners, against a comparator of 23%, said that the food was good or
very good. We received few complaints about the food.
Resettlement was the best area of the provision and some good resettlement services were
provided. Work on accommodation, education, training and employment and substance
misuse was encouraging but all area of resettlement would be strengthened by a strategy
based on a needs analysis and opportunities for prisoners to engage with resettlement
services earlier in their sentences.
We were told that some resettlement services would be discontinued. It was not clear whether
this was for budgetary or other reasons. This compounded disruptions or cancellations to
many aspects of the prison regime, as described in this report, which were caused by staff
shortages and redeployments.
The treatment and conditions of simply too many prisoners at Wandsworth was demeaning,
unsafe and fell below what could be classed as decent. I did not detect sufficient willingness
in the prison to acknowledge and address these concerns. I hope the Prison Service
management will now act decisively to reverse the prison’s decline.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
As riots across London entered a third night and spread across the UK it is time for the police to use a massive show of force in order to retake the streets said Mark Leech, editor of Converse.
“In no other western European city would police just stand back and watch businesses being looted in front of their eyes – they would call upon a massive show of force to retake the streets and that is what needs to happen here.
“If that involves the use of the army so be it, but happen it must.
“I just wonder how the police would cope if this were to happen in a year’s time, after the Coalition Government has stripped the police of 30,000 officers, and with an Olympic Games to manage?”