An unemployed antiques dealer who was jailed for eight years for handling a stolen copy of a rare first collection of Shakespeare’s plays has died in jail.
Raymond Scott, 55, was pronounced dead after being found unconscious in his cell in Northumberland Prison at about 8.40am today.
Scott, who had a taste for the high life, was jailed in August 2010 after being caught when he walked into one of the world’s leading Shakespeare research centres with the 17th century book, which was recognised by staff.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “HMP Northumberland prisoner Raymond Scott was pronounced dead at approximately 8.40am on Wednesday March 14 after being found unconscious in his cell.
“As with all deaths in custody, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”
A jury at Newcastle Crown Court found Scott guilty in July 2010 of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from Britain.
But he was cleared of stealing the book from Durham University in 1988.
Passing sentence, Judge Richard Lowden said: “You are to some extent a fantasist and have to some degree a personality disorder and you have been an alcoholic.
“It is clear that from the (psychiatric) report you are not suffering from any mental disorder.”
Scott drove a yellow Ferrari and posed as an international playboy despite having huge debts, the court heard.
Staff at the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC recognised the valuable book and called the police, the British Embassy and the FBI.
Regarded as one of the most important printed works in the English language, fewer than 250 copies of the collection survive.
They were first printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death.
Scott always denied stealing the first folio.
But shortly before his conviction, he told his biographer a story about a “lonely man” who once tramped the streets of Durham and sneaked into a library from which he took the book and kept it for 10 years.
He told Mike Kelly, a journalist for the Sunday Sun newspaper in Newcastle: “It wasn’t kept in a bank vault – it was openly kept on a book shelf and lovingly cherished.
“Then maybe the person fell in love and thought it’s time to realise an asset.
“Perhaps this person decided to live one day as a lion rather than spend his days as a lamb. To live life to the full in Havana, London, Paris. You can’t do this without money, without a lot of money.
G4S have announced that one of Britain’s largest – and the newest – prisons will be called HMP Oakwood when it opens in Wolverhampton next month.
The contract to operate the prison – previously referred to only as ‘Featherstone 2’ – was awarded to G4S last year by the Ministry of Justice.
HMP Oakwood is named after an oak tree – the so-called ‘Royal Oak’ – thought to have been used by King Charles II to hide from Cromwell’s troops, in nearby Boscobel Wood.
Located next to the existing HMP Featherstone and HMP Brinsford near Wolverhampton, HMP Oakwood will be one of the largest prisons in England and Wales, providing places for up to 1,605 Category C male prisoners.
The first prisoners will be accepted next April, and the prison is expected to be at full capacity by next autumn.
Along with the new name, G4S has also named Steve Holland, former Governor of HMP & YOI Portland as the new Director (equivalent to a Governor in the public sector) of HMP Oakwood.
Steve brings over 20 years of experience in the Prison Service, from his days as a prison officer at HMP Liverpool in 1991, to positions including Governor of HMP Dorchester, Deputy Governor of HMP Blakenhurst, Head of Residence at Styal Women’s Prison, Head of Residence at HMP Long Lartin and Head of Security at HMP Risley. Prior to his time in the prison service, Steve served as a police officer for almost 15 years in both Greater Manchester and Ontario, Canada.
Steve Holland said:
“This is the most exciting role I can imagine and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to lead this project”.
Jerry Petherick, Managing Director, Custodial & Detention Services, G4S said:
“We are delighted that Steve has accepted the position of Director at HMP Oakwood. He has a wealth of experience that he brings to the role and we wish him every success.”
The National Prisoners Newspaper for England and Wales
10th March 2012, 1400hrs – NO Embargo
“Rathband’s Law – Why Exclude Prison Officers”
As the Memorial Service got under way for PC David Rathband with a call for donations to his ‘Blue Lamp Foundation’ that seeks to provide help to those injured in public emergency services, the national prisoners newspaper Converse has asked why once again prison officers who are injured are excluded from the fund.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse said: “Questions from the national prisoners newspaper as to why prison officers are excluded from help by this foundation may seem strange, but we believe everyone in the prison environment has the right to be safe – whatever side of the cell door they may stand on.
“There were 2,856 assaults on prison staff in 2010-11, of which 304 were classified as serious.
“Prison officers fulfil a vital but often unseen role in our society, taking care of dangerous individuals who the ’emergency services’ often pass on to them without recognition – it is time they were acknowledged for the work they do and the terrible injuries they so often suffer in silence.”
“Who else could have atacked four peole and got off so lightly?” – Converse Prisoners Newspaper
MP Eric Joyce was spared jail today for beating up four politicians while drunk and telling police “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP”.
He also called officers “c****” after going berserk and headbutting Tory MP Stuart Andrew and councillor Ben Maney.
The suspended Labour party member was warned he could face prison for the attacks.
But chief magistrate Howard Riddle fined him £3,000 and ordered him to pay £1,400 to victims after he entered early guilty pleas.
Joyce was also given a 12-month community order – banning him from entering pubs and licensed premises for three months – and imposed with a curfew order from Friday to Sunday.
Joyce also attacked Tory councillor Luke Mackenzie before turning on Labour whip Phillip Wilson.
The politician – who accepted he was “hammered” during the brawl – expressed his “shame and embarrassment” through his barrister, Jeremy Dein QC, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
“He is unreservedly apologetic for what occurred on the night in question,” Mr Dein said.
The 51-year-old accepted that the fact that he was drinking was not an excuse “for the dreadful scenario that unfolded”.
Joyce launched into a frenzied attack after shouting that the Strangers’ Bar “was full of f****** Tories”.
Having attacked two MPs and two councillors he then wrote in a police officer’s notebook: “We are a Tory nation, that cannot be forever… good cops unite.”
Witnesses to the brawl said “he was very angry, drunk, angrier than anyone”, prosecutor Zoe Martin told the court.
One onlooker said his “eyes looked like nobody was home” while another said his “eyes looked dead”.
Violence flared after the £65,000-a-year MP for Falkirk started singing “very loudly”, drinkers said.
Joyce, while sobering up in the cells. told police of one of his victims: “I think he was a silly fat Tory MP. He was pushing like a girl and giving me a bearhug.”
A barman had told officers there was a “happy and friendly” atmosphere before Joyce “flipped” on February 22.
Prosecutor Ms Martin said: “Mr Joyce started to sing very loudly… that was noticed by several people in the bar. Nobody seemed bothered by it.”
Joyce then approached Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke, saying: “Don’t look at any of my guests like that again.”
MP Andrew Percy walked past and asked Joyce to move.
Joyce replied: “No, you f****** can’t”, Ms Martin said.
Witnesses said Joyce then shouted: “There are too many Tories in this bar” and later: “The bar was full of f****** Tories.”
Mr Andrews protested, saying: “You can’t behave in that way” before Joyce launched into a string of attacks.
Mr Riddle told Joyce: “What you have done has not only brought physical harm (and) shame on yourself… but it has also damaged the place where you work, the place where laws are made.”
He took into account Joyce’s previous conviction for drink- driving but gave the defendant credit for his early pleas.
Speaking afterwards, Joyce said he was “deeply apologetic” for his actions.
Outside court, he said: “Clearly it’s a matter of considerable personal shame.
“I’ve been duly punished today. I’ve been lucky to avoid prison. I’m very ashamed, of course.”
He said he wanted to apologise to a “long list” of people he had let down, including his constituents and fellow MPs.
But he said he did not intend to stand down as an MP before the next election.
“It would be easy but I was elected in 2000 and I will continue serving,” he said.
Asked if he thought he had a problem with alcohol, he told reporters: “I think drink was an aggravating factor, that’s something I have to deal with personally. Not everyone who drinks gets involved in fights.”
Labour Party sources indicated that any decision on Joyce’s future in the party would not be made until after he was sentenced.
A spokesman said: “Eric Joyce was immediately suspended. There will be a full party investigation pending the end of the legal process.”
Joyce’s guilty plea does not necessarily mark an end to his career as an MP.
Under the Representation of the People Act 1981, MPs are disqualified from the House of Commons only if they are convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to 12 months or more in jail.
Joyce has already said that he will stand down from Parliament at the next general election, expected in 2015.
Joyce – who had been drinking with friends at a table in the bar – flew into a rage when Mr Andrews said: “You do not treat an MP like that in a place like this.”
After the first fist was thrown, Mr Mackenzie became involved, moving between the two.
Joyce “punched him with a glancing blow to the nose” before being restrained, Ms Martin told the court.
“He then proceeded to punch Mr Mackenzie in the mouth, causing a small cut to his lip and swelling,” she added.
“A number of witnesses said he was ‘generally lashing out at this stage’.”
Mr Maney then became involved trying to restrain Joyce again.
Joyce “looked straight at him and headbutted him, causing a cut to his inside upper lip,” the prosecutor said.
Witnesses said “Mr Maney stumbled back after the headbutt… looking white as a sheet and shocked,” she added.
One witness described Joyce’s demeanour as looking “possessed and completely out of it”.
Another said his “eyes looked like nobody was home” and his “eyes looked dead”.
Ms Martin said: “Mr Wilson put his hand on Mr Joyce’s shoulder and said ‘Calm down Eric, what’s going on?”
Mr Joyce swung round and punched him in the face.
Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price then intervened, saying: “If you are going to punch my staff, punch me first and you don’t want to punch a lady.”
Police arrived at the scene to find tables and chairs upturned and Joyce smelling “strongly of alcohol and his eyes were glazed”.
As officers tried to restrain him, Joyce head-butted Mr Andrew.
“All of the witnesses describe Mr Andrew at the time to have been placid,” Ms Martin.
Joyce then told police: “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP.”
As he was taken away, he shouted “He deserved it” and swore at the officers.
Joyce, who had been sinking glasses of red wine, then wrote in a police officer’s notebook: “We are a Tory nation, that cannot be forever… good cops unite.”
He then told officers: “I nutted a guy, it was a wee scuffly thing… If people said I was hammered that was probably true.”
Mr Dein – who said his client is likely to stand down as Falkirk MP at the next election – urged Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle to avoid a custodial sentence.
“For the sake of a few seconds, havoc has been wreaked in his life,” Mr Dein said.
The QC added: “He has not just let him and himself down but all of those who he represents.”
Joyce faces expulsion from Labour after the party launched an internal disciplinary investigation.
A Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: “Eric Joyce was immediately suspended from the party.
“He remains suspended following the completion of the legal process and the Labour Party’s disciplinary process will now take place.”
A senior source in the national party said: “This is a process that will lead to his expulsion from the party.”
Mr Andrew said today he does not hold a grudge against Joyce despite the “traumatic” experience of being head-butted.
Speaking outside his constituency office in Leeds, he said: “Following today’s court case I appreciate Eric Joyce’s guilty plea and the remorse he has shown for the serious nature of his actions, as no person should assault another.
“I do not harbour any grudge or ill will towards him and hope that any personal challenges he faces can be overcome in the coming months.
“Indeed this case does raise valid concerns in relation to the level of pastoral support and understanding available to MPs in Westminster who may be experiencing personal difficulties and I hope that this issue will now be addressed.
“I have been advised that I am to be awarded a payment of £350, which I will be giving to charity.”
Mr Andrew also thanked colleagues, constituents and members of the public for “their many kind messages”.
Responding to questions from journalists, Mr Andrew said: “MPs are not above the law – they should be treated in exactly the same way as any other member of the public.”
Asked how he was feeling now, he said: “I’m fine, it’s been a difficult fortnight that’s for sure. It’s been quite a traumatic occasion but let’s get it behind us now and move on.”
Describing what happened on the night, Mr Andrew said: “I tried to defend a colleague who was merely trying to get to his seat, Mr Joyce lost his temper and unfortunately lashed out at a number of us and eventually head-butted myself.”
Mr Andrew said he had not seen anything like this before in the Palace of Westminster.
“This sort of behaviour does not happen – it was out of the blue completely.”
Asked if Joyce should resign from his position, Mr Andrew said: “That’s a matter for Mr Joyce, he has to think now about how best to serve his constituents. Perhaps it will be for the authorities in the House to think about that. That’s a matter for him and for them.”
Ali Dizaei says he now faces becoming homeless for being an ‘outsider’. By Paul Peachey, The Independent
He calls himself a “radical activist” and compares himself to some of the victims of the most notorious miscarriages of justice of the modern era. He paints himself as an outsider of an “old boy’s network” at Scotland Yard and the target of a media witch-hunt. But Ali Dizaei, the most senior police officer found guilty of corruption for a generation, said at the end of the day “I’m just a copper”.
Not for much longer. Dizaei, 49, is expected to be drummed out of the Metropolitan Police after a controversial 25-year career punctuated by conflict, suspensions, some plaudits and, last month, a criminal conviction for attempting to frame a young web designer in a dispute over an unpaid bill.
The Iranian-born officer is suspended without pay, but is unlikely to go quietly. He is continuing with what he calls his five-year plan to clear his name following his latest two-week stint in solitary confinement at Wandsworth Prison in south London. He emerged last week wearing an electronic tag.
In a wide-ranging interview with i at his home in west London this week, the suspended senior officer spoke of his time inside prison and his plans to sue News International after learning last year that he may have been a victim of phone hacking.
He also spoke of the threat to his home after being hit with a six-figure bill for prosecution costs.
“They want the costs for putting me in prison,” said the former commander, who once earned £90,000 a year. “They want to make me homeless. This is all I have. They want me to sell my house, so my family is homeless as well.”
Any sympathy is likely to be in short supply at Scotland Yard, where he had been an officer since 1999. His eventful career saw him suspended and put under surveillance during the multimillion pound Operation Helios over allegations that he had corrupt links with criminals and spied for the Iranians. The allegations proved to be unfounded.
Afterwards, Dizaei was at the heart of some of the very public ructions over racism within the country’s biggest force in the aftermath of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. He was finally brought down over a clash with a man who claimed that Dizaei had not paid him for work on a personal website.
He was jailed in 2010 for the wrongful arrest of Waad al-Baghdadi and served 462 days in prison before being freed on appeal after it emerged that his accuser was a benefit fraudster. During his first time inside, he was attacked twice – once being assaulted by six other inmates and having excrement stuffed in his face and mouth, he said.
He was convicted at a second trial last month and spent his two weeks inside in solitary confinement because of the risk of him being attacked by other prisoners. It was a block with some of the most disruptive prisoners at Wandsworth.
He said: “In the cells across from me, they were shouting, ‘f***ing copper, we’re going to get you when you go to have your meals’. The threats were being thrown at me all the time, day and night. They knew I was there because my name was prominently displayed on the door of my cell.”
He said he spent his latest spell inside reading thrillers. Dizaei said his experiences at more than four prisons during his near 16 months on the other side of the fence highlighted failings of the criminal justice system. He said that overcrowded prisons did little to rehabilitate inmates.
“One of the reasons I believe that prison doesn’t work is because for quite a lot of people the initial shock of going into prison wears away after two to three weeks,” he said. “As human beings, we take it in our stride very quickly.
“Prisons are bursting from overcapacity. There were not enough courses for the prisoners to do. The courses that were on offer were not a means to an end. There was nothing to prepare the prisoner and get them match-fit so they could come out and leave crime for a new life.”
Now out, he is preparing a claim against News International after he was told that his phone might have been hacked while he was acting as legal advisor to the national Black Police Association in 2006. He said he was told “it was in a pattern which was consistent with tapping voicemails but they have been generally unhelpful because they don’t like Ali Dizaei”.
He said he does not know what he will do next, but is unlikely to be an officer. “The Metropolitan Police doesn’t warm to radical activists,” he said. “It’s against the nature of the beast.”
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national prisoners newspaper says:
“Ali Dizaei has served his time and now deserves all the help he can get to put his life back on track – in prison he was treated disgracefully.
“Forcing him now to sell his home and make his family homeless is sheer vengeance, not justice; the State has had its pound of flesh and should now leave him alone.”
A fisherman already in prison for causing a man severe brain damage in a street attack is facing a life sentence for murder in what police said was only the second case of its kind since the legal time limit on charges involving deaths was lifted.
Brian Harrison, 31, was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP) in 2008 for the attack in which he repeatedly kicked Neville Dunn in the head as he lay on the ground on New Year’s Eve in 2007, leaving him requiring round the clock care.
Mr Dunn, whom Harrison wrongly believed had raped his then girlfriend, died in 2009 aged 44 from complications caused by his condition.
A jury at Truro Crown Court today convicted Harrison, who was originally jailed for GBH, of murder over the attack in Penzance, Cornwall.
Detectives said it was only the second conviction to be achieved after the introduction of the Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996. The Act scrapped the “year and a day rule” which stated that an action was presumed not to have caused a person’s death if more than a year and a day elapsed between it occurring and their death.
Speaking outside court, Mr Dunn’s ex-partner, Denise Johnson, who was at his side during his 22 months in hospitals and care homes before his death, welcomed the verdict as “justice finally being done”.
“Our lives have been on hold since the day it happened. We haven’t been able to move on, all the time Neville was in care homes and hospitals we have just spent every single day with him. It has been a tragic ordeal for all of us,” she said.
“After the event he was in a semi-conscious state, he couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t recognise anyone.
“I don’t suppose I should say this but I wish he died the day he was assaulted because it was so terrible to have to watch a fit young man who enjoyed life, who enjoyed his fishing, who enjoyed a pint, to just be laid there to nothing.
“So in my opinion I wish he had died that day so he didn’t have to suffer for the 22 months that he did suffer.”
Ms Johnson, from Grimsby, attended court with Mr Dunn’s daughter Kirsty, 21, and stepson Jason Sutcliffe, 38. He has another daughter, 29-year-old Lindsey Johnson, who was not in court.
There was an emotional outburst from the three of them as the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict in under four hours after a week-long trial.
Harrison, who was sentenced to serve a minimum of six years before being assessed for suitability for release under the terms of his IPP, seemed to smirk as the verdict was read out.
He will be sentenced tomorrow.
Last October Leigh Clift was jailed for life with a minimum of six years over the death of a man nine years after he was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver.
Jonathan Barton, from Milton Keynes, was 19 when he was assaulted by Clift outside The Beacon in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, in September 2000.
The teenager sustained serious head injuries and was left disabled. After his death in July 2009, the police investigation was reopened and Clift, who had already served five years for GBH after the attack, was found guilty of murder at Luton Crown Court.
Detective Sergeant Matt Boyling, who investigated Mr Dunn’s murder, said: “This was a highly unusual case and we had to seek the Attorney General’s permission to bring this murder prosecution.
“The assault on Mr Dunn was a violent and premeditated crime and it is clear that his death was a direct result of the injuries he sustained in the attack.
“Mr Dunn suffered a prolonged assault and was left for dead with serious head injuries from which he subsequently died.
“Since the assault, Mr Dunn’s family have suffered a terrible ordeal, but we hope that today’s verdict will go some way towards offering them closure, knowing that justice has been done.”
The Government is expected to announce “Clare’s Law” pilot schemes today that will give women the right to ask police about a partner’s history.
Home Secretary Theresa May is set to reveal that four areas in England and Wales will trial the changes.
It comes after a campaign for a change in the law to help protect women from domestic abuse by the Michael Brown, the father of a murder victim.
Mr Brown’s daughter, Clare Wood, was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, at her home in Salford in February 2009.
Appleton, dubbed the “Facebook Fugitive” then went on the run before hanging himself.
Miss Wood, 36, a mother-of-one, had met Appleton on Facebook, unaware of his horrific history of violence against women, including repeated harassment, threats and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends.
At the inquest into Miss Wood’s death last year, Coroner Jennifer Leeming said women in abusive relationships should have the right to know about the violent past of the men they were with.
“Sarah’s Law” named after Sarah Payne who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000, now gives parents the right to know of any child sex convictions of men with access to their children.
Mr Brown, a former prison officer originally from Aberdeen who now lives in West Yorkshire, said last month the “world is watching for a lead from the UK’s Government”.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Domestic violence is a particularly dreadful form of abuse and we are constantly looking at ways to strengthen protection for victims.
“That is why we consulted on introducing a domestic violence disclosure scheme, often known as ‘Clare’s law’. We will be making a formal announcement shortly.”
Mrs May last year agreed to open a ‘Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’ to public consultation and is now considering the response
Michael Brown, the father of Clare Wood, told BBC Breakfast the law change “certainly can’t harm” women, and stressed that it would also protect men who could be at risk of being victims of domestic violence.
He said: “We have a rising domestic violence situation in this country and we have a lessening police force.”
Mr Brown went on: “With the rate domestic violence in this country is going up, I can’t see that what I’ve proposed or what the Home Secretary has proposed can do any harm in this country at all.”
He said his daughter’s life would have been saved if the law had been in place when she was alive.
“I have said time and time again that, had this been in place and had my daughter had any inkling of what this laddie was capable of, she would have been long gone. There’s no doubt about that at all.”
Asked if a father should also be allowed to find out about his child’s partner’s convictions, he said: “Certainly not in my case. My daughter was 36 years old. She was old enough to make decisions for herself without my interference.”
He added: “I think it’s between partners. The more you widen it, the more you are going to have dissenters. There are people who will not wish this to be passed as a law but I can’t see it doing much harm.”
Mr Brown welcomed the launch of the pilot scheme move, saying it would have given his daughter the chance to make an “educated decision” as to whether to stay with Appleton.
“I believe that, if my daughter had known of the past of her partner, she would have dropped him like a hot brick and scampered out of there,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
However, Sandra Horley, chief executive of the domestic violence charity Refuge, warned that the cost of setting up the scheme could outweigh the benefits.
“It is highly unlikely that she (Miss Wood) was killed because the police didn’t inform her about her ex-partner’s violent history. It is more likely that she was killed because the police did not respond to her emergency 999 call for help,” she told Today.
“We are at a loss to understand why the Government is spending precious time and money – especially at a time of austerity – on this new scheme.
“As the law stands, the public already have the right to ask and the police have the powers to disclose information about a man’s previous history.”
A former BBC and ITV presenter has been jailed for six years after admitting a string of sexual assaults on teenage girls.
Peter Rowell, 53, used his position as a DJ on a local radio station to groom and abuse impressionable young girls.
The father-of-one, from Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to 12 counts of indecent assault following complaints from five women.
The assaults occurred between 1989 and the early 1990s when the women were all under 16 years old, the court heard.
Rowell also admitted six counts of making indecent photographs of children, which range from levels one to four – five being the most serious category.
He also pleaded guilty to the possession of 464 indecent images, found in his possession in January 2011.
Imposing the six-year jail term, Judge David Ticehurst told Rowell that he had a good career, a good income and a family but behind that he hid a “dark secret”.
“You had a life and lifestyle that would have been the envy of many – an apparently successful career in a glamorous and glittering world,” the judge said.
“Behind that public image you were a man that hid a dark secret. You were attracted to young girls, sexually abusing and exploiting for your own gratification.
“You were someone prepared to use the world of showbiz to attract young girls to you to abuse them.
“It is not the case of you involving yourself with a star-struck teenager on an isolated occasion and succumbing to temptation but a series of offences involving five separate girls over a period of five years.”
The judge said that the offences had occurred during the late 1980s and early 1990s when Rowell was in his mid-30s working as a DJ on GWR.
“I conclude that your use of your position in the media world is part of a breach of trust,” the judge said.
“These girls made contact with you as a minor celebrity. You invited them to visit your studio and they believed they were getting an insight into the media world.
“In truth it was enabling you to sexually abuse them.”
The judge told Rowell that his sexual interest in young girls was demonstrated by the indecent photographs and movies found on his computer by police when he was arrested last year.
“The true nature of your predatory interest in young girls was shown by the material found on your computer at the time of your arrest,” the judge added.
However, in imposing the sentence, the judge said he gave the white-haired defendant credit for pleading guilty and sparing his victims the ordeal of having to give evidence during a trial.
The judge placed Rowell on the sex offenders’ register for life and ordered that he be made the subject of an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order banning contact with under 16s.
Five men were convicted today of charges relating to a riot at an open prison.
Trouble flared at Ford open Prison, in Arundel, West Sussex, when inmates became angry over alcohol breath-testing carried out by prison staff in the run-up to New Year’s Day last year.
Shortly after midnight, masked inmates torched and smashed up the prison, causing more than £5 million-worth of damage.
Following more than 20 hours of deliberation, a jury at Hove Crown Court found Thomas Regan, Lennie Franklin and Roche Allen guilty of prison mutiny.
Lee Roberts and Carniel Francis were found not guilty of the charge.
Ryan Martin was acquitted of all three offences of prison mutiny, violent disorder and arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered and discharged from the dock.
Roberts, Franklin, Allen and Francis were all found guilty of violent disorder. Regan had already pleaded guilty to the charge.
Roberts was also found guilty of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, by a majority verdict of 10-2.
Regan, Franklin and Allen were found not guilty of the offence.
During the five-week trial, the jury was told that masked and armed prisoners took control of the open prison within half an hour of turning on staff.
The mutiny saw inmates running amok, looting, smashing and torching buildings and property during the early hours of January 1 2011.
Prosecutor Ian Acheson told the court it was a case where violent chaos and arson ruled.
A building resentment had grown among inmates over alcohol breath-testing which took place in the run-up to New Year’s Eve in December 2010.
The tension erupted at the turn of New Year, when the five staff who were in charge were overpowered by the prisoners.
The jury heard that by the time the authorities were back in control of the prison 12 hours later, in excess of £5 million-worth of damage had been caused.
Empty alcohol bottles were found inside and outside the prison and inmates had failed breath tests on previous occasions.
The issue was reinforced to staff who were covering the night shift on New Year’s Eve.
As all five staff made themselves a visible presence as midnight approached, Mr Acheson said one of the defendants, believed to be Roberts, stepped forward and said: “There are 550 of us. There are five of you. We run the prison, what are you going to do?”
About 30 prisoners started to advance towards the staff, making threats, shouting and making “monkey” noises.
Many had obscured their faces by tying clothes around their heads.
The staff retreated to the gate house, leaving the prisoners unsupervised.
One commented that they had “lost the prison”, Mr Acheson said.
Although some buildings survived the chaos during the night, the arson continued into the next day.
Judge Michael Lawson told the defendants that their behaviour as they advanced towards the five staff on duty that night, threatening to kill them and cut them, must have been terrifying.
He said: “Those officers were faced with a frightening situation and were unable to quell what was happening.
“Had they run they would have suffered injury from the crowd who were already aroused, angry and out of control.
“With considerable bravery, they made a controlled return to the gate house.”
He said three of the defendants were billeted in L1, a block where alcohol breath testing had taken place earlier that evening.
He added: “Within an hour and a half the mob that charged against the officers was ready and masked up.
“The alarm went off in L1 at 12.10am. The officers heard the sounds of the crowd amassing around the billet and then between the brick billets.
“After the officers had withdrawn, and with the prison to yourselves, the four of you and Mr Roberts, together with others, went wholly out of control, anarchy reigned and you were rampaging through areas of the prison where your inmates had their homes.
“Many of the residents of the prison were utterly terrified of what they saw and by this behaviour, being wholly out of control. That fear continued throughout the night.
“Those prisoners, like anybody else, were entitled to protection from such utter fear.
“We have heard something of the prisoners’ code and the prisoners’ etiquette. Your behaviour that night makes a total mockery of prison etiquette.”
Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra, from Sussex Police, said: “This has been a complex and challenging investigation, involving over 40 Sussex Police officers and taking over a year from start to verdict.
“It is certainly one of the largest investigations I have worked on in the last 18 years and even more rewarding by virtue of today’s verdict.
“The success of this investigation into five million pounds worth of criminal damage at FordPrison would not have been possible without the valuable partnership work from the outset from our colleagues at the Ministry of Justice, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and especially to Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
“Both I and my team of officers are very grateful to all of these organisations and especially to Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
“From very early on we had to work at a fast pace to secure enough evidence to make arrests and identify suspects on what was a dark, rainy and confusing night of mass disturbance.
“A number of prisoners, including our main suspects, had to be moved to prisons all over the UK, with the added complication that many were due for release over the coming weeks back into local communities around the country.
“Our most significant witnesses were serving prisoners, who have shown immense courage by coming forward in the first instance and subsequently attending court here at Hove.
“I would like to thank all of our witnesses including the prison staff who were on duty that night, and also all the witness care officers who have worked tirelessly with these people to help bring these offenders to justice.
“The incident at Ford Prison had a huge impact on the local community and Sussex Police is very grateful for their patience and understanding, particularly in those first few days when the prison and surrounding area was inundated with police, firefighters and both local and national media.”
Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said: “This is a good outcome after the shocking and violent rioting at HMP Ford on January 1 2011.
“I visited the prison the day after the disturbance and was appalled at the wanton damage and destruction I saw. These tough sentences reflect the seriousness with which society rightly views such actions.
“The convictions are to the credit of the Prison Service, Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service who worked closely to ensure that these offenders were held to account for their criminal behaviour during the rioting.”
Simon Ringrose, CPS reviewing lawyer, said: “This case could not have been prosecuted without the support and evidence from witnesses who were inmates at the time.
“The fact that these men were prepared to give evidence demonstrates the seriousness of this incident and I would like to recognise their courage in coming forward.
“The prosecution team also received the total support of Her Majesty’s Prison Service in putting this case together and this assistance was crucial in ensuring that all relevant evidence was gathered and presented to the court.
“People can be reassured that incidents of this kind are viewed with the utmost seriousness and where there is sufficient evidence the public interest will almost inevitably require a prosecution.”
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.”