Children who are left behind when a parent is sent to prison are to be supported by a new campaign.
The Left Behind project highlights the needs of 160,000 children whose parents are imprisoned every year, and has received support from Lord Justice Goldring, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales.
It provides guidance helping magistrates to check whether a child or vulnerable adult’s welfare needs will be affected if a person is sent to prison.
Lord Justice Goldring said: “Sometimes defendants are sent to prison without having made proper arrangements for people in their care. The new guidance asks magistrates to check that there are no immediate welfare needs concerning children or dependants after issuing a custodial sentence.
“It is also advised that relevant information be shared with the appropriate agencies where a child might be at risk.”
Left Behind has been created by child welfare charity the NSPCC, the Prison Advice And Care Trust (Pact) which raises awareness of the needs of prisoners’ children, and Action For Prisoner’s Families (APF) promoting fair treatment of families.
Andy Keen-Downs, chief executive of Pact, said: “Prisoners’ children and dependants are the hidden victims of crime, and are all too easily missed when their parent or carer is put in prison.
“We hope this campaign will improve links between the criminal courts, social services and charities so that we can work together to keep children and family members safe.”
posters providing information and a helpline number for anyone who may be left caring for a dependant will be put up in courts in England and Wales as part of the campaign.


The father of a murder victim has handed in a petition at Number 10 demanding a change in the law to help protect women from domestic abuse – but Converse, the national prisoners newspaper commented that it was too one-sided.
Michael Brown, from Batley, West Yorkshire travelled to Downing Street as part of a campaign to introduce “Clare’s Law” so women can find out if boyfriends or husbands have a history of domestic violence.
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.
Mark Leech editor of Converse said: “Its all very well protecting women, and I accept fully they need it, but this law would prevent males from knowing anything about females previously guilty of violence – and like it or not, it does happen.
“Only last June Sally Challen murdered her husband with a hammer and was jailed for 22 years – are we suggesting a future boyfriend of hers should not be told about this incident?
“The suggested law needs to be amended so that either partner can find out about a violence past of the other person in the relationship.”
The so-called “Clare’s Law” frollows in the footsteps of “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, backed by MP for Salford Hazel Blears and Manchester radio station Key 103, is asking the Government to introduce Clare’s Law to help women.
Mr Brown, a former prison officer originally from Aberdeen, handed over the petition today carrying around 1,000 signatures calling for a change in the law.
He said: “I have been campaigning for the last six months and have been pleasantly surprised at the public reaction to the proposed change in the law.
“The interest world-wide is also unbelievable, from America to Australia, to an article in a newspaper in Pravda.
“The world is watching for a lead from the UK’s Government, the cradle of democracy, and I pray that they make the right decision.”
Home Secretary Theresa May last year agreed to open a ‘Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’ to public consultation and is now considering the response.
A verdict of unlawful killing by strangulation was recorded as the cause of Ms Wood’s death and Ms Leeming said she would report back to the Government recommending that people at risk of harm should be given information about their partners’ past so they can make an “informed choice”.
Ms Wood had complained to police of a catalogue of harassment from Wood before her murder.
Police watchdogs at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later ruled Ms Wood had been badly let down by Greater Manchester Police who have now instigated a raft of changes to policy and procedures in the handling of domestic abuse cases.



Jake Hardy (17 years old) was found at HMYOI Hindley in Wigan Friday 20th January and was taken to hospital. He died on Tuesday 24th January 2012. The Prison Service has said he had been identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm. 

 Alex Kelly (15 years old) was taken to hospital from HMP Cookham Wood near Rochester on Tuesday 24th January where he died on Wednesday 25th January 2012.  The Prison Service has said he too had been identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm.

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national prisoners’ newspaper said: “Both of these youths had been identified as being susceptible to suicide – yet both were able to take their own lives.

“It’s a tragic indictment of this Government and the lack of care it provides to those in custody and who it accepts are in danger of taking their own lives.”




Britain’s most dangerous Islamic terrorists are exploiting a security loophole to spread their message of hate from behind barsImage.

Not only have they been able to radicalise fellow inmates, they have also appealed to a new generation of supporters around the world.

Dozens of unrepentant extremists have been exposed as glorying in their fanaticism and encouraging others to consider further atrocities.

Among them are key figures in almost every major terrorist conspiracy of the past decade, including the July 2005 attacks in London. They include hate cleric Abu Hamza, lone-wolf attacker Roshonara Choudhry and failed BA bomber Rajib Karim.

The inmates have been able to voice their hate-filled opinions via a website apparently run by former members of a banned extremist organisation. Some boasted they were studying extremist material.

News of the security breach sparked outrage and one MP called on the prison authorities to tighten up their systems. It comes at a sensitive time for the Government in the aftermath of the decision to release hate preacher Abu Qatada.

Steve McCabe, a Labour MP who sits on the Home Affairs Committee, said some of the material ‘sounds dangerously close to incitement’

He said: ‘If the prison authorities claim they are monitoring and censoring material, then they are clearly not doing it effectively. It’s time the regime was tightened up.’ 

At the centre of the scandal is a website,, which offers to forward letters to more than 50 Muslim prisoners and display their replies. Transcripts of dozens of letters were posted as the website became a key information exchange and networking point for extremist sympathisers. The website offers advice on getting letters and presents to inmates.

One letter is written by Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the ringleader of a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs. Ali, serving a 40-year sentence, hails the Taliban and says Muslims should ‘sacrifice their lives and limbs’ against the West.

The website also includes a list of high-profile Muslim inmates and the prison in which they are held. It is registered to the same address as the East London Mosque, which once hosted lectures by Al Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.

It is said to have been set up by Abdul Muhid, a convicted terrorist and former member of Al-Muhajiroun, a banned group linked to many of the prisoners. He refused to comment last night. The website has been taken offline. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it took the risks posed by extremist offenders seriously and staff were trained to be alert to the signs of radicalism.

nDozens of British Muslim extremists are being trained by militants to join a ‘holy war’ in Somalia, it was claimed yesterday.

Intelligence officials say that up to 50 volunteers may have been recruited to fight for al-Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist group which controls parts of the lawless state.



Recent Home Office research reveals that well over half of all recorded crime is drugs related and that a small number of people on drugs can be responsible for a massive amount of crime.

664 addicts surveyed over a three month period were found to be responsible for over 70,000 offences. So what should we do about drugs and how can we reduce crime as a result?

The coalition of Conservative and Lib Dem, like Labour before it, do not havea rational drugs policy.

They each delude themselves into the belief that making drugs illegal will, as if by magic, solve the problem.

It won’t, and it never will do, until we accept that not all drugs are the same and treat them accordingly.

The real issue is that of addiction. It is the power of the drug to physically addict and the speed and zeal with which that addiction happens, which should be the defining point in our drugs policies.

It is addiction to the drug which leads to crime in order to finance it and it is addiction that causes such a chaotic lifestyle that holding down a job or maintaining a relationship becomes an impossibility. No one is arguing for the legalisation of heroin, and certainly not me, but I do say that we need to look seriously at the whole issue of drugs, accept that we have a problem with our current all embracing prohibitive approach and accept that the solution lies in striking out in a different, and perhaps more radical, direction.

We need to look around, too, at how other countries are dealing with the problems of drugs. Holland, for example, has relaxed the prohibition on cannabis and has, thereby, created an atmosphere in which there has been a toughening of the public acceptance of hard drugs. Whereas we in the UK have again fudged that issue with the government first downgrading cannabis to a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act and then reclassifying it as a Class B drug again – all of which means little other than the production, distribution and pricing of it remain firmly in the hands of the black market.

Not all drugs cause the harm that heroin, cocaine and other opiates create – millions get stoned on cannabis every week without apparent damage, and a brief trip round the clubs on any Saturday night shows how many people – who, during the week, are law-abiding citizens – are happily ‘luvved up’ and dancing the night away assisted by an ecstasy disco biscuit at the week end – and criminalised for doing so by the law of the land.

I am not saying that ecstasy cannot be harmful. I will never forget the gruesome pictures flashed around the world of 17 year old Leah Betts on a life support machine before she died, after popping a pill, but I do say that we have to put this tragedy into context. If for no other reason than the fact that, despite Leah’s death, millions of people around the country are still popping a pill every weekend and risking the same terrible fate.

Putting our head in the sand and insisting ecstasy is not open to debate won’t change that.

The death of Leah Betts was not caused by ecstasy, anyway, but by what the tablet she believed to be ecstasy actually contained. And therein lies the problem with illegal drugs.

Where there is a high demand for a drug which the government insists is illegal but which the public wish to consume, there is no mechanism for checking its content. Nor, as a result, any margin for error.

We have to face up to reality.

Social drugs like ecstasy, that do not cause addiction and are used in a recreational sense without risk to others, are here to stay. We’ve turned a corner in our lifestyle over the last ten years and we must turn a corner in our drugs policies too in order to keep abreast of it – if ever the theory is to match the practice.

What we need is a thorough review of our drugs policies, accept that it is going to mean that we will have to reverse our approach to certain drugs that are currently illegal and harden our approach to others, the use of which we must seriously deter.

Which drugs fall on which side of the line is for others to judge, but draw the line we must, and sooner rather than later.

If we don’t then many will continue to fall into the drug trap, spiraling out of control in a world of increasing unlawfulness.

In that atmosphere, where we do not focus on individual drugs, resources are wasted, with money spent on campaigning, investigating and prosecuting the users of some drugs which ought not to be seen as illegal and, as a consequence, there is less money available to treat the misuse of the most harmful ones which rip our people and communities apart.

Mark Leech FRSA

Editor: Converse, the National Prisoners’ Newspaper (



Amanda Knox, the American cleared on appeal of the murder of Leeds University student Meredith Kercher in Italy, has signed a book deal to “share the truth about her terrifying ordeal” – and she every right to do says Mark Leech, Editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse

Publishing giant HarperCollins has acquired world rights to a memoir by Knox which it has tentatively scheduled to come out next year.

The publisher has not said how much it is paying for the memoir but some reports have suggested the Knox deal is worth four million US dollars (£2.5 million).

Mr Leech said: “Look, we all have our story to tell, and out of these books can come good things – take my own case, it was only as a result of a then Crown Prosecutor reading in my book the horrors of physical and sexual abuse that I went through in what was and still is laughingly called ‘care’ that an investigation started into Cheshire Children’s Homes which ultimately saw those guilty of that sexual and physical abuse of eight year old boys like me jailed for those acts.

“I have the right to tell my story, and others have the right to read it – Amanda Knox has an astonishing journey to speak about, she was taken hostage by the Italian justice system for years and that is a journey I personally would find extremely interesting – but I accept that there are of course others, like Ian Huntley, Rose West or Robert Black whose story many would not want to read.

“But even within these books there is the other side of what are horrendous stories and by trying to understand both sides, not condoning, excusing or mitigating, but understanding the story might just help us to understand why these inexplicable events happen – and at the end of the day if you don’t want to read the story don’t buy the book; but please don’t deny me my right to read it if I want to.”

The news comes two days after it was announced that prosecutors have asked Italy’s highest criminal court to reinstate the murder convictions of Knox and her former boyfriend for the murder.

They lodged the appeal more than four months after an appeal court threw out the convictions of Knox, 24, and Raffaele Sollecito, 27.

Prosecutor Giovanni Galati said he was “very convinced” that Sollecito and Knox were responsible for stabbing to death 21-year-old Miss Kercher, who shared an apartment withKnox in Perugia.

The pair were found guilty in a lower court of killing Miss Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, in what prosecutors described as a sex-fuelled attack, and sentenced to 26 years and 25 years respectively.

An appeals court rejected the conviction, freeing Knox to return home to the United States after serving four years in prison. A court-ordered DNA review in the appeal discredited evidence used to convict Knox and Sollecito in 2009.

The appeal court in October said the guilty verdicts against the pair were not corroborated, and the court had not proved they were in the house when Leeds University student Miss Kercher was killed in 2007.

Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede was convicted in a separate trial of sexually assaulting and stabbing Miss Kercher. His 16-year sentence, reduced on appeal from an initial 30 years, was upheld by Italy’s highest court in 2010.


Sexual abuse victims’ groups have said it is “vitally important” police inform the public if sex offenders escape their watch, after it emerged the country’s largest force has lost track of more than 100 registered criminals.

The Metropolitan Police admitted 123 sex offenders they are meant to be monitoring have failed to keep them informed of their details and their whereabouts remain unknown.

The figure has remained unchanged since 2008 with the majority of those at large being those lost four years ago, while some have been missing for up to 14 years.

Detectives believe that 48 of the sex offenders have managed to flee the country, despite warrants for their arrest being circulated nationwide.

Donald Findlater, director of research and development at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a UK-wide charity dedicated to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused, said: “Every registered sex offender going off the radar is a concern, here are 123 concerns.

“It’s important that if within this 123 there are any sex offenders who pose a likely immediate risk to children, that information needs to be put across to the public.

“If the police don’t know where they are then it is vitally important that police share that information with other agencies and the public.”

He added that the sex offenders register has been modified many times since it was set up in 1997 and criminals now have to comply with strict regulations.

He said: “Many of them fail to keep police informed because they just don’t want to be monitored, not because they’re dangerous.

“The biggest risk to children across the country isn’t posed by registered sex offenders, it’s posed by people not on it at all.”

He said police and other agencies are responsible for monitoring more than 4,000 convicted sex offenders in the capital.

A spokesman for the Met said: “The safety and protection of the public is paramount at all times when dealing with sex offenders.

“We take this matter extremely seriously and officers are proactively following lines of inquiry in order to trace these offenders to ensure that they are dealt with robustly for having breached the terms of their conditions.”

In 2007 it emerged that police across the UK had lost track of 322 convicted sex offenders, with the Met having lost the most.

The sex offenders register contains the details of anyone convicted, cautioned or released from prison for committing sexual offences since 1997.

Those on it must keep in touch with police and update them if they change where they are living.


A former chief inspector of prisons has been appointed as the new chairwoman of the independent police watchdog, the Home Secretary said today – but it has been described as ‘a disaster’ by the editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse.

Dame Anne Owers, who was chief inspector of prisons from 2001 to 2010, is the second person to take up the permanent position at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Dame Anne, who will take an annual salary of £60,000, said: “I am delighted to be joining the IPCC at this exciting time of change and challenge for the commission and the police service.

“The IPCC’s independent investigation and oversight plays a critical role in ensuring public confidence in policing, and I look forward to working with the commissioners and staff as they continue to carry it out.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said she “has considerable experience of criminal justice and a formidable public reputation”.

Dame Anne “will challenge all parties to get to the truth and ensure that the organisation provides a fair, transparent and trusted service to the public and police”, Mrs May said.

Jane Furniss, the IPCC’s chief executive, said: “Dame Anne Owers’ experience of leading organisations based on independence could not be stronger.

“This, coupled with her wealth of knowledge from across the criminal justice system makes for an exciting new era for the IPCC.

“I welcome the appointment and very much look forward to working with her to build upon the last eight years and take the work of the IPCC forward.”

Deborah Glass, the deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, added: “This is timely with the recently launched review of the way that we investigate our most serious cases, the work we are doing on police corruption and the increasingly high number of independent investigations we are conducting.”

Nick Hardwick, the current Chief Inspector of Prisons, was previously the IPCC chairman.

Dame Anne will take over from the current interim chairman Len Jackson and was appointed by the Queen following recommendations from the Home Secretary and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Hardwick said: “This is excellent news.

“Anne did a brilliant job when she was the chief inspector of prisons and I can’t think of anyone better to chair the IPCC.

“The IPCC role is a tough job and I and all her former colleagues at the inspectorate wish her well.”

But Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse said the appointment was “a disaster” for police complaints.

Mr Leech said: “As pleasant as Anne Owers is as a person the reality of her eight-year tenure as Chief Inspector of Prisons was that she was a failure who achieved nothing positive.

“All that she did as Chief Inspector was to quietly tip-toe what was a vibrant, fiercely independent Prisons Inspectorate back inside the strait-jacket of the Ministry of Justice, silencing the  once powerful voice that her predecessors, Judge Stephen Tumin and Lord Ramsbotham, had fought so hard have heard – and she will do the same to the IPCC.

“It’s a disaster for the independence of police complaints”



Jailed Metropolitan Police Commander Ali Dizaei is eligible to apply for almost immediate release on Home Detention Curfew (HDC), according to Converse, the national prisoners newspaper for England and Wales.

HDC allows anyone serving less than four years, for offences which do not involve drugs, sex, violence or terrorism, to be released extra-early with an electronic tag.

Anyone serving more than 18 months but less than four years, as in Dizaei’s case, is eligible to be released an extra 135 days before they would normally have been freed.

Converse editor Mark Leech said:

“Because Dizaei is now serving a three year sentence, not the four years he was originally sentenced to, he is eligible to apply for Home Detention Curfew – which means that in addition to serving 18 months of that sentence the last 135 days can also be spent on what is known as ‘the tag’.

“Dizaei has already served 15 months, in effect he only has around 90 days to serve – but he is eligible for 135 days on HDC which means he can be released pretty much straight away once the paperwork is completed.”


The ex-governor of a high security jail where three prison officers were stabbed by a triple murderer said today he felt “let down, dismayed and humiliated” after a jury cleared the inmate of all charges.

Kevan Thakrar, 24, admitted stabbing the members of staff at Frankland Prison, Durham, in March last year with a broken chilli bottle but claimed he lashed out in self-defence as he feared he was about to be attacked.

Thakrar, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of previous prison experiences, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

A jury took eight hours and 15 minutes to clear him of two counts of attempted murder and three counts of wounding with intent.

He was serving at least 35 years of a life sentence for the drug-related murder of three men and the attempted murder of two women carried in Bishops Stortford with his brother Miran in 2007.

David Thompson, who retired as governor of Frankland last month and was in charge when officers Craig Wylde, Claire Lewis and Neil Walker were attacked, was deeply upset by the verdicts.

He said officers Wylde and Lewis will not work in the prison service again and that Mr Walker courageously saved Ms Lewis from worse injuries by tackling Thakrar.

Mr Thompson said afterwards: “I should remind everyone that these officers and every member of staff at Frankland and the prison service in general are public servants.

“Their work is out of sight but it requires the highest level of professionalism, courage and conviction.

“It is often unseen and under-reported.

“They deserve better recognition and they deserve better support than we have seen from the outcome of this case.

“Prison officers have to deal with the country’s most difficult and most dangerous individuals and they have to perform those duties within the confines of the law.

“They are not above the law, nor should they be.

“In this case, other criminal justice professionals have been amazed by how professional and restrained they were in dealing with the assailant immediately after the incident.”

Thakrar, who wept as the verdicts were returned and thanked the jury, claimed he was exposed to racism at Frankland.

Mr Thompson said the injured officers were “decent people”.

“They are not the sort of people who deserve to find themselves in this terrible, hurtful situation,” he said.

“Staff at Frankland and elsewhere across the service will feel let down, dismayed and humiliated by part of the criminal justice system in which they serve.

“Colleagues in other professional agencies have expressed their dismay at how a case like this can be conducted in a manner where the victims feel they are on trial, that they have done something wrong, and then for the assailant to be exonerated.”

Mr Justice Simon thanked the jury at the outcome of the case and instructed that they do not have to sit again for 10 years.

He also expressed sympathy to the injured guards, adding: “It was not part of the defence case in any way that they brought their injuries upon themselves.”