A prisoner serving a life sentence for the murder of a teenager and the rape and kidnap of an estate agent two decades ago today told a High Court judge that he was “now … only a low risk”.

Michael Sams explained to Mr Justice Ouseley, during a High Court hearing in London, how the level of risk he posed to women prison staff had fallen over the past 15 years.

Sams, jailed at Nottingham Crown Court in 1993 for the murder of Julie Dart, 18, of Leeds and the rape and kidnap of Birmingham estate agent Stephanie Slater, then 25 – assessed his risk level as he tried to force authorities to re-categorise his prisoner status.

“In 1995, 1997 I was an extreme danger to female staff,” Sams, who is now past retirement age, told the judge. “In 2005, I was only medium risk. Now I am only low risk.”

He took legal action against Justice Secretary Ken Clarke as part of a fight to be downgraded from category A.

Sams, who has one leg and is a former toolmaker from Sutton-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, complained that prison bosses had refused to remove “inaccurate” information from his files.

But Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed his claim for “judicial review” saying prison officials had made “time-consuming and painstaking efforts” to ensure Sams’ file contained “all that it ought to”.

The judge was told that prison authorities had considered Sams’ case in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and concluded each time that he should be classed category A.

Sams represented himself and appeared by video link from Whitemoor prison near March, Cambridgeshire, where he is held.

He had presented a hand-written statement of claim to the court.

Sams wrote his “detailed statement of facts & grounds” in capital letters and referred to himself in the third person.

“This is a challenge by a life sentence prisoner to a decision by the Ministry of Justice to refuse to remove inaccurate reports from his files,” wrote Sams.

“The claimant is disabled (above right knee amputation) and he is 69 years of age. He has been a ‘cat A’ prisoner throughout his sentence.”


Lindholme Prison Governor, Bob Mullen

A prison governor has ordered all probation staff off the premises after the local probation trust teamed up with a private security firm to try to take over the running of his jail.

Bob Mullen, the governor of Lindholme prison, told South Yorkshire Probation Trust that he was excluding all its staff to protect the commercial confidentiality of the rival public sector bid.

Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse said Mullen was known as ‘a maverick’ prison governor.

“Among prison staff he is known as a ‘Screws Governor’, meaning he always supports his staff, whatever they do, he was awarded the OBE in 2010 for his 30 years service, but he is also known as a maverick and this is an example of that kind of behaviour – his jail is one of eight that the Justice Secretary last year called ‘failing prisons’ which he put out to private tender.”

An internal probation service email published in The Guardian said: “The probation staff in the public sector prisons were effectively marched off the premises and had their identity badges and keys taken away and were effectively locked out of their place of work.”

The jail is among eight run by the public sector, along with one by private security firm G4S, which were put out for competition by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke last year.

But the deal is believed to be the first where the probation trust would run the prisons alongside G4S, rather than simply as a subcontractor.

The internal memos seen by the newspaper said the governor’s decision had come as a “complete surprise” and was seen by probation staff as a “direct consequence of the decision by South Yorkshire Probation Trust (PT) to jump into bed with G4S”.

But a G4S spokeswoman said: “G4S and South Yorkshire Probation Trust have formed a strategic partnership to reduce reoffending in South Yorkshire.

“By teaming up with South Yorkshire PT as well as the respected voluntary sector organisation St Giles’ Trust, G4S is confident it can deliver a better approach to reducing reoffending, one which recognises the importance of community and prison working together to deliver improved outcomes for offenders and society, and the best possible value for money.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Arrangements are in place to ensure that probation staff are able to undertake their duties and we are confident that the situation will be resolved swiftly.

“There is no risk to the public.

“The decision was taken locally and was not made centrally by Noms (the National Offender Management Service).”

He went on: “Competition should be widely applied, with public sector providers allowed to bid where we are competing local services.

“We are working with existing and new providers from the public, private and voluntary sectors, with contracts awarded on the basis of whoever is best placed to deliver our objectives.

“South Yorkshire Probation Trust (SYPT) has been funded to deliver probation services and the trust is fully delivering the required services.

“SYPT has not received additional funding for business development work, though the trust will have some capacity locally to work with others to develop innovative and efficient ways of working which meet local need.”

The governor’s ruling on South Yorkshire Probation Trust staff also applies to Moorland and Hatfield jails near Doncaster.

It is understood the reason South Yorkshire probation chiefs teamed up with G4S was because they thought the firm’s bid better reflected probation values than the public sector bid.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the probation union Napo, said: “If this is true it’s an extraordinary insult to the ethos of the public sector.”


PC David Rathband

The policeman who was shot and blinded by crazed gunman Raoul Moat has been found dead at his home in a suspected suicide.
The body of Pc David Rathband was discovered in Blyth, Northumberland, on Wednesday night after officers received a report of concern for his welfare. A Northumbria Police spokesman said no-one was being sought in connection with the incident.
The father of two, 44, lost his sight and was fitted with prosthetic eyes after being shot at close range in July 2010 during the manhunt for fugitive Moat.
Paying tribute, Chief Constable Sue Sim said she was “deeply saddened” by the death of Pc Rathband, a “dedicated officer” who showed “outstanding bravery in what was a terrifying situation”.
Former bouncer Moat was the subject of a huge manhunt as he evaded capture for a week before shooting himself dead after a stand-off with police in the market town of Rothbury, Northumberland. On July 3 2010, he had shot and injured his former partner Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, 29.
The following day, after declaring he was now “hunting for officers”, Moat crept up on armed Pc Rathband as he sat in his marked police car at a roundabout above the A1. Pc Rathband was shot in the face and shoulder but saved his own life by pretending to be dead. He was left with more than 200 shotgun pellets lodged in his skull.
The officer, who joined Northumbria Police in 2000, later announced he was suing the force after he was left “a sitting duck” when gunman Moat declared war on police during his rampage.
After the attack, the policeman launched his own charity, the Blue Lamp Foundation, which aims to help emergency service personnel injured in the line of duty. Pc Rathband announced on Twitter in November that he and his wife Kath were separating permanently.
A spokesman for the Blue Lamp Foundation said: “Since being shot in July 2010, David struggled to come to terms with his horrific injuries and the traumatic effect they had on him and his family and friends. The foundation was started by David to help emergency services personnel injured in the line of duty as the result of a criminal act. It was David’s wish that those who found themselves in a similar position to him could receive the support that wasn’t available to him at the time.”
Former Scotland Yard commander John O’Connor said the consequences of Pc Rathband’s injuries had been “too much for him to live with”, adding on ITV’s Daybreak: “No amount of counselling or compensation can give you back what you’ve lost and that’s the bottom line of it.”


Nick Hardwick - Chief Inspector of Prisons

The way women are treated in prisons will leave England and Wales “aghast and ashamed” in years to come, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said today.

Nick Hardwick said the terrible levels of self-mutilation and despair in one women’s unit “kept me awake at night” and the responsibility lies squarely at the door of successive governments.

In a highly-critical lecture, he said the circumstances of the women held in the Keller Unit of Styal Prison in Wilmslow, Cheshire, were “more shocking and distressing than anything I had yet seen on an inspection”.

“We can’t go on like this,” he said.

“Prisons, particularly as they are currently run, are simply the wrong place for so many of the distressed, damaged or disturbed women they hold.

“I think the treatment and conditions in which a small minority of the most disturbed women are held is – in relation to their needs – simply unacceptable.

“I think – I hope – we will look back on how we treated these women in years to come, aghast and ashamed.”

He added he wanted to be “clear where responsibility lies”.

“It does not lie with the officers, staff and governors on the ground – many of whom are simply humbling in the dedication and care with which they approach their work – or the officials and others trying to improve things in the centre,” he said.

“This is a responsibility that lies squarely at the door of successive governments and parliament.”

Mr Hardwick was reflecting on the lack of progress in women’s prisons since the 2007 Corston Report which outlined “the need for a distinct radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach”.

Giving a lecture at the University of Sussex tonight, he went on: “The fact of the matter is that the recommendations Baroness Corston set out would be an effective response to this scandal.”

But without the “strategic recommendations for smaller prisons and greater visible senior leadership” she recommended, “further progress will be very limited”, he said.

Mr Hardwick insisted he did not want to minimise the harm caused by women offenders, or suggest they were all victims, saying it was “a much more complicated picture than that”.

But he said: “I have seen a lot of pretty grim things in my working life but what I saw at the Keller Unit kept me awake at night.

“The levels of self mutilation and despair were just terrible.”

If men were as repeatedly violent to other prisoners in the way women prisoners were to themselves, it would be treated as “a national responsibility” whereas in the case of women, local prisons were left to manage as best they could, he said.

“If nothing else, for pity’s sake, something should be done urgently to try and provide a proper place and care for these lost souls.”

Women make up only 5% of the total prison population, but account for almost half of all self-harm incidents in prisons, he said.

And he questioned why the only dormitories he had seen were in women’s prisons.

“It is a historical legacy I suppose but I suspect that if the same proportion of men were accommodated in dormitories, it would have been treated as a much greater priority,” he said.

He added that a “long chain of men”, from male wing officers and male governors to male prison chiefs and a male chief inspector, “may not be the best structure to respond to the physical and emotional needs of some very troubled women”.

And while East Sutton Park, in Maidstone, Kent, and Askham Grange, in York, were good examples of women’s prisons, others were “increasingly becoming multi-functional”, taking on new roles “and holding women further away from home”.

A “very high level of unmet mental health needs” also lay at the “heart of the issue”, he said.

“A very significant part of the women’s prison population need a level of care that a prison simply cannot provide and indeed, common sense would suggest that a prison was likely to make their condition worse,” he said.

“The different needs and circumstances of men and women prisoners remain as stark today as they did when Baroness Corston wrote her report – little has changed.”

Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse said:

“There are around 4,200 women in our prison system, many come to jail after a life time of emotional, sexual and physical abuse – despite representing just 5% of the prison population they account for well over 50% of incidences of self-harm.

“Five years ago the Corston Report outlined the need for a distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach to women in prison, it has largely been ignored and its central recommendation, that all women’s prisons be closed and their occupants transferred to distinct wings in male prisons, has even failed to be debated – does it really need to take a riot in a female prison before Ministers sit up and take notice?”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust campaign group, said Mr Hardwick’s speech “highlights the failure of successive governments and parliament to ensure effective accountability and oversight of women’s justice”.

“As the chief inspector makes clear, without proper measures to ensure women are a priority for government they will continue to be a neglected minority in the justice system,” she said.

“The cost of this neglect can be counted in a depressing litany of wasted time, lives and money.”

Ms Lyon went on: “With peers set to debate amendments to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill to reform women’s justice, the Government has the opportunity to put an end to this damaging legacy of neglect and make good the extraordinary omission of women from the Bill.”

Read the full speech:

Rumbled at the Bailey?

A man dressed in court attire to impersonate a lawyer so he could represent a friend he met while in prison, a court heard today.

David Sydney Evans was rumbled when he appeared at Plymouth Crown Court in August 2010 on behalf of cannabis producer Terry Moss – who had twice sacked his legal teams.

The 57-year-old, who also gained access to cells at the court, appeared at the hearing wearing a barrister’s wig and a solicitor’s gown, arousing the suspicion of real lawyers and the judge.

Bristol Crown Court heard Evans allegedly submitted official documents on headed paper stating he was representing Moss and outlining defence applications.

He later appeared before Judge Stephen Wildblood QC who was due to oversee a confiscation order relating to the drugs produced by Moss.

Moss was jailed for four-and-a-half years after he admitted growing £68,000 worth of cannabis at his home in Cornwall.

During a preliminary hearing, Evans, who had no legal training, refused to answer questions put to him by the judge about his qualifications and some basic points of law.

Up until that point everyone in the court had approached Evans on the basis that he was a barrister or a solicitor.

opening the case for the prosecution, Kenneth Bell told a jury of five men and seven women Evans was not a qualified barrister or solicitor but that was what he was “pretending to be”.

“Mr Evans is not naive by any stretch of the imagination, he knew perfectly well he could not conduct litigation on the part of Mr Moss,” Mr Bell said.

“He knew perfectly well that he was not entitled to go to court, put on a solicitor’s gown, put the collar and bands on, put the wig on and stand in court to represent Mr Moss but he did so.

“At no time did Judge Wildblood know that Mr Evans was unqualified, he only found out after persistently asking Mr Evans to tell him about his qualifications.”

Mr Bell told the court the hearing on August 17 2010 had started but “it didn’t take long” before Judge Wildblood had some “misgivings about Mr Evans”.

He said: “Something was not quite right, mistakes were made about the law, and the case was adjourned.

“During the break the judge made some inquiries of the Law Society and the Bar Council, that cover barristers.

“Judge Wildblood decided he was going to probe David Evans about his understanding of the law and also his legal standing.”

It was after this that Evans was exposed but he was allowed to stay in court to represent Moss as a “McKenzie friend” – somebody who can assist a defendant in representing themselves in court.

Evans, of Culver Close, Penarth, south Wales, denies one count of carrying out a reserved legal activity when not entitled to do so and a count of wilfully pretending to be a person with a right of audience.

It is an offence to hold a “right of audience” – the right to appear before and address a court, including the right to call and examine witnesses – unless entitled to do so.

The jury heard Moss was eventually ordered to pay £70,000 at a hearing in October 2010 – which was not attended by Evans, as he had already been arrested by police.

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A man has been charged with helping a prisoner – who was on his way to hospital in Bury St Edmunds – escape in an armed raid.
Garry Cowan, 43, currently from the Thamesmead area of London but also with links to Peterborough, was charged with assisting a prisoner to escape and possession of a firearm.
He will appear at Camberwell Magistrates’ Court via video link.
The charges follow the escape by Andrew Farndon (above), 26, who was convicted of grievous bodily harm after fracturing his victim’s skull in a hammer attack.
He was allegedly sprung from the custody of prison officers as they escorted him to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment on Wednesday evening.
He and four other people were arrested by officers from Strathclyde Police in New Cumnock, Ayrshire.
Cowan, along with Alan Hornall, 23, Karen Legge, 44, both from New Cumnock, and 16-year-old Iain Legge, from Maidens, were charged with attempting to defeat the ends of justice for allegedly harbouring the prisoner.
Farndon was charged with firearms and road traffic offences, while he, Hornall and Iain Legge were also charged with contraventions of the Criminal Law (Consolidation)(Scotland) Act 1995. They were all remanded in custody at an earlier hearing.
It is understood Farndon suffered a knife wound at Highpoint Prison in Stradishall, near Newmarket.
He was being taken to West Suffolk Hospital’s accident and emergency department in a taxi accompanied by two guards when the alleged incident happened.


A jury has retired for a third day to consider verdicts in the trial of six prisoners accused of taking part in a mutiny at a West Sussex prison – which could easily happen again according to the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse.
Inmates smashed and torched buildings, putting people’s lives at risk and causing more than £5 million damage at Ford open Prison, near Arundel, after the authorities lost control for more than 12 hours on New Year’s Day last year, Hove Crown Court was told.
Tension had been building before the rioting broke out over the breath-testing of prisoners, leading to the five staff in charge at the time being overpowered, the five-week trial heard.
Riot police and specialist prison officers were drafted in to help bring peace to the Category D prison before the authorities eventually regained control.
Lee Roberts, 41, Thomas Regan, 23, Ryan Martin, 25, Lennie Franklin, 23, Roche Allen, 25, and Carniel Francis, 25, all deny a charge of prison mutiny.
Five of the men have also pleaded not guilty to a charge of violent disorder. Regan has pleaded guilty to the charge.
Roberts, Regan, Martin, Franklin and Allen also deny a further charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
The riot at Ford could easily happen again said Mark Leech, the Editor of national prisoners newspaper Converse.
Mr Leech said :
“No one wants to support or talk up these dangerous incidents, but by the same token we cannot ignore the pressures created in a prison system when prisoner numbers go up and up, and budgets go down and down – its undeniable riots can happen again and its dangerous to pretend these are isolated incidents because they’re not.
“In an atmosphere where prison spaces become difficult to find it is inevitable that the wrong kind of prisoner is sent to the wrong kind of prison, that can have a destabilising effect and lead to the kind of destruction we saw at Ford a year ago.”


In the light of revelations by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers that Prison Officers among others have accepted payments from the press, the Editor of national prisoners newspaper Converse has said this is well known – and the price that is paid when Government Press Office’s conceal information.

Mark Leech, editor of Converse said: “I know more than one prison officer who have been paid over a thousand pounds for information by journalists, in fact I know one serving prison governor who received a new car to conceal payment for his services to the media – but this is what happens when government press offices conceal information rather than provide it.

“We are often told the Press Office won’t comment on individual cases – well why on earth not?

“If Ian Huntley is slashed in the throat, or Rose West attacked with boiling water, surely the public have a right to know how that happened – but because the Press Office won’t comment journalists instead have to pay prison officers to ‘stand up’ the story before they can publish it.

“It’s time Government Press Offices focused on providing information instead of concealing it behind weak excuses.”


A man today admitted starting a massive fire which destroyed a family-run furniture shop during the riots last year.
Gordon Thompson, 33, pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London in August last year.
The shop had stood at the site since 1867, before it was razed to the ground by the fire.
He also admitted one count of burglary for stealing a laptop from the shop on the same night.
Thompson’s trial for starting the blaze, which was so fierce that buildings on the opposite side of the road caught fire, had started at the Old Bailey earlier this week.
But at the end of the prosecution opening he decided to admit certain charges.
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the court that he had consulted with members of the Reeves family about accepting the guilty pleas.
Thompson had already admitted burglary of two shops in Croydon – Iceland and House of Fraser – on the same evening.
Jurors were ordered to find him not guilty of two other charges of violent disorder and arson with intent to endanger life.
Judge Peter Thornton QC warned that he will face “a long sentence of imprisonment”.
The court had already heard that Thompson, of Waddon Road, Croydon, “ran riot through the streets” that day.
When he saw other rioters smashing the front window of Reeves, he climbed into the shop to steal a laptop, and after he left, decided to burn it down.


Mr Glasgow said: “On leaving the store, he asked another of the rioters for a lighter and, as soon as he was given one, went back to the shop and set fire to a sofa inside the shattered window.
“The ensuing fire razed the building to the ground. Such was the ferocity of the blaze that embers and heat from the flames set fire to property on the other side of the road and numerous residents were forced to flee their homes for their lives.
“Indeed one young woman became trapped inside her flat and was forced to jump from a first-floor window into the arms of rescuers waiting below.”
A photographer captured a dramatic image of Monika Konczyk as she hurled herself from the building to escape the fire.
Thompson will be sentenced on April 11.
Speaking outside court, Maurice Reeves said that the blaze was so traumatic “parts of me have died”.
“It’s difficult to describe because it’s been such a traumatic time for us. The building’s been there all my life, I worked in there every day and when I go into work now the building’s not there.
“You can appreciate it’s still sinking in and today brings all the memories back.”
He added: “It’s with tears in my eyes when I think about it.”
Mr Reeves’ son Trevor said: “It’s a momentous day for everybody in Croydon to know that these people can be apprehended.”
He said it was “heart-warming” to know that they had such strong support from the police.
Detective Superintendent Simon Messinger said: “People across the country were appalled and shocked at the level of violence and destruction that was committed on August 8, 2011. The images of Reeves Corner are probably some of the most iconic from that day.”
He said that in the face of CCTV footage and film clips shot by local residents and eyewitnesses Thompson’s guilty plea was “inevitable”.


Almost 1,000 people have been jailed for an average of more than a year following last summer’s riots.
Some 2,710 people had appeared before the courts by the start of last month following the looting and violence which spread across English cities last August, the Ministry of Justice said.
A total of 945 of the 1,483 found guilty and sentenced for their role in the riots were jailed immediately, with an average sentence of 14.2 months.
This was much higher than the average 3.7-month sentence handed down to those convicted by magistrates but sentenced at any court for similar offences in England and Wales in 2010, the figures showed.
Overall, more than half (53%) of those before the courts over the riots were aged under 20, half (49%) were facing burglary charges, and one in five (21%) were accused of violent disorder.
Justice minister Crispin Blunt said: “The courts, judges and the probation and prison services have worked hard to make sure that those who attacked their own communities during the public disorder last August have faced justice quickly.
“They played a key part in stopping the riots from spreading further by delivering swift and firm justice, and these statistics make clear that the disgraceful behaviour innocent communities endured last summer is wholly intolerable.”