HMP Belmarsh – Encouraging trial of body scanner to prevent smuggling of drugs and contraband

An X-ray body scanner being piloted at HMP Belmarsh in south-east London resulted in the discovery of weapons, mobile phones and drugs on prisoners and contributed toward a reduction in drugs-fuelled violence, prisons inspectors found.

Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said an inspection of Belmarsh, one of the UK’s most high-profile prisons, in January and February 2018, noted that incidents of violence had increased since the previous inspection in 2015, and some were serious.

“However, in some important respects, the increase was not as significant as in many other local prisons. The overall level of security at the prison had helped, and the use of illegal drugs was less of a problem than we might have expected.”

Technology, Mr Clarke added, “was being used to support efforts to manage violence and drug use at the prison, for example through the body scanner being piloted in reception. Early results were encouraging, and I was told that staff welcomed the initiative, as did many prisoners who wanted to see the disruptive and dangerous trade in contraband disrupted.”

The report noted: “Staff were trialling a new body scanner in reception, which used low-level X-rays to identify prisoners concealing unauthorised articles. It had resulted in some finds of mobile phones, weapons and drugs, which would not have been identified during a strip-search. The initiative was encouraging and promoted respect and decency – the dedicated search team had decided to use the body scanner instead of requiring prisoners to squat routinely during strip-searches.”

HMP Belmarsh is one of only three high-security local prisons in England and Wales and holds an “extremely complex mix of men”, including young adults and low-risk men, over 100 with an indeterminate sentence, and those in custody for the most serious offences. The high security unit (HSU), “in effect a prison within a prison”, holds some of the highest-risk prisoners in the country. There are also a large number of foreign national prisoners and some with a high media or public profile.

Inspectors, in 2018, found the prison faced several new challenges compared with 2015, some of which were outside the governor’s direct control. For instance, “there was a significant shortage of frontline staff.” This was being addressed, Mr Clarke said, “but (it) had resulted in a severely depleted daily regime and regular redeployment of specialist staff to ensure that even a basic period of daily unlocking time could be given.” This was detrimental to the area of purposeful activity, one of the Inspectorate’s key ‘healthy prison’ tests covering training and education. Time out of cells for prisoners had “declined significantly” since 2015. The funding for education and training was also found to be insufficient and meant the prison could not meet all prisoners’ needs.

Inspectors found “some good work” to identify men who were vulnerable, including those at risk of self-harm. Some men at Belmarsh had “a combination of mental health issues, personality disorders and very challenging behaviour” and “it was encouraging to be told that the high security and long-term directorate (of HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)) was reviewing how these men were being managed and considering what improvements could be made.”

Inspectors, however, were concerned by some of the accommodation, with cases of “claustrophobic and extremely uncomfortable” cells designed for two but holding three men. Mr Clarke said: “We thought that this practice should stop, and that the prison’s operational capacity should be reduced to achieve this.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“In most respects, the prison continued to do a reasonable job managing an extremely complex population. However, some factors outside the control of the local management team were having a negative impact and we would urge HMPPS to give the prison the support it needs to deliver more consistently positive outcomes for its prisoners. At the last inspection, we warned that while we had seen a number of improvements, many had not been embedded. At this inspection, progress had stalled in some of these areas… The influx of new staff offers real opportunities to address these deficits, but in such a complex prison they will need to be supported and mentored to ensure they become the high-quality colleagues that the current leadership clearly want them to be.”

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

“HMP Belmarsh staff continue to manage a complex population with skill and professionalism. A successful recruitment campaign means that staffing vacancies are being filled and staff will receive the support they need to take the prison forward. The good work to tackle drugs is particularly encouraging and we will use learning from this to strengthen our drugs strategy across other prisons.”

A copy of the full report, published on 12 June 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website here: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Guilty! Prison Officer who made £20,000 from selling stories to the press

pizzeyA corrupt prison officer from top security HMP Belmarsh has been found guilty of leaking stories about celebrity inmates to the Daily Mirror over six years.

Grant Pizzey, 50, made nearly £20,000 from the tabloid for tips about “notorious” prisoners including Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs, hate preacher Abu Hamza and serial killers Steve Wright and Levi Bellfield.

He also passed on information to journalist Greig Box Turnbull about life at the high security jail which resulted in stories about Easter eggs, a laptop for a terror suspect and higher prices in the prison canteen, the court heard.

Pizzey was on trial at the Old Bailey charged with misconduct in a public office, with his wife Desra Reilly, 48, who was accused of aiding and abetting him.

The couple, from Widecombe Road, Eltham, south east London, denied wrongdoing but were found guilty after the jury deliberated for eight hours and 40 minutes.

The pair shook their heads as the foreman of the jury delivered the majority verdicts.

Using Reilly as the go-between, Pizzey passed confidential information to Mr Box Turnbull between December 1 2005 and January 31 2012.

Reilly first contacted both The Sun and the Daily Mirror in December 2005 with a story about So Solid Crew rapper Dwayne Vincent, stage name Megaman, being found with a mobile phone after he was attacked in Belmarsh.

In a message to The Sun, she wrote: “I have information regarding a security lapse at Belmarsh. Anyone interested?”

Sun journalist James Clothier got back to her, only to be told that the Mirror had been first, the court heard.

Reilly told him that she did not know how much she would be paid by the Mirror and that it would depend on who she dealt with in future.

As well as the “exclusive” about Megaman, she handed over another tip to the Mirror about a smuggled pen gun security scare at Belmarsh, the court heard.

Mr Clothier responded by promising to “top any offer for stories, particularly from the Daily Mirror”, jurors were told.

But Reilly went on to receive cheques and transfers to her bank account from the Mirror on 47 separate occasions.

Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said some were for stories while others were to keep the source “on side” and encourage more tips in the future.

The relationship developed to the point where Mr Box Turnbull could use Pizzey to confirm information he had heard elsewhere, such as whether James Bulger killer Jon Venables was at Belmarsh.

Pizzey, who worked as a prison officer at Belmarsh in south east London from 2000, knew he was not allowed to speak to the press, which is why he used Reilly, a railway cafe worker, as the contact.

When the couple were arrested in July 2012, they declined to answer questions in police interview.

The case hinged on whether or not Reilly alone had made money by passing on information she picked up from “casual conversations” with her partner.

Giving evidence, Reilly told jurors that she kept her contact with Mr Box Turnbull a secret from Pizzey after he “poo-pooed” the idea of going to the press.

She said that Pizzey would regularly “let off steam” and regale her with stories about the famous inmates.

The mother-of-four regarded Mr Box Turnbull as a friend who was genuinely interested in her life, but conceded: “Obviously he was just trying to get more information out of me in the end.”

Seeing her stories printed in the Mirror gave the waitress “excitement”.

She said: “When I got the first money, it was like a little bit extra for a couple of sentences and I thought there cannot be much wrong in doing that. It was something on the side. It was excitement in my life that I had never had before.”

Judge Richard Marks refused the couple bail and remanded them in custody until sentencing next Friday.

Afterwards, Detective Superintendent Larry Smith, from Operation Elveden, said: “When public officials behave in this way, they breach the trust and confidence placed in them by the public to act with honesty and integrity.

“In this case the evidence presented to the court showed that Pizzey was aware that in his role as a prisoner officer, selling confidential information obtained in the course of his duties was wrong.

“Using Reilly, he attempted to mitigate this by appointing her as the go-between. Their actions damaged the public trust and merit criminal sanction.”

Prisoner found dead in cell

Richard Walsh
Richard Walsh

A homeless man who was facing trial for the attempted murder of two schoolboys has been found dead in his prison cell.

 

Richard Walsh, 43, was accused of stabbing the two children, aged 12 and 13, in a street in Havant, Hampshire, last month.

He appeared in court last month and was remanded in custody to Belmarsh Prison in south east London.

Jail staff found Walsh unresponsive in his cell this morning. Staff and paramedics battled to save his life but he was pronounced dead.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “HMP Belmarsh prisoner Richard Walsh was found unresponsive in his cell on Sunday 19 July. Staff attempted CPR but paramedics pronounced him dead at 11.07am.

“As with all deaths in custody there will be an investigation by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”

Walsh, who was also charged with assault and robbing a bicycle, had been due to appear at Portsmouth Crown Court tomorrow

 

Belmarsh much improved but more to do

The Prisons Handbook 2015 – out now  /  Home Page  /  Converse Prison Newspaper

 

belmarsh

HMP Belmarsh was much improved, but progress was not yet embedded and some major challenges remained, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the high security core local prison in south east London.

HMP Belmarsh held men serving a range of sentences. Some were relatively low risk prisoners with the range of needs typical to other local prisons, but a significant minority had been sentenced to long, determinate sentences, and over 100 men were serving indeterminate sentences or life. The high security unit (HSU) held a small number of the most high risk prisoners. The prison had recently begun to hold remanded young adults who would previously have been held in young offender institutions. This was a complicated population to manage.

The last inspection in 2013 found that stringent security arrangements were impacting disproportionately on all prisoners held, regardless of the risks they posed. At this inspection it was encouraging to see that the prison had made significant progress in striking a better balance between security required to manage risks presented by prisoners, and running a safe and decent establishment that could provide purposeful and rehabilitative opportunities to reduce the risks they posed after release.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • arrangements and support for prisoners at reception and in their first few days at the prison were good;
  • the safer custody team and chaplaincy ensured good support for prisoners vulnerable to self-harm;
  • the segregation unit environment was much improved;
  • problematic drug use was low and substance use support services were very good;
  • relationships between staff and prisoners were much improved;
  • resettlement work was strong, with some excellent practical support;
  • time out of cells had improved; and
  • public protection work was strong and a good range of offending behaviour programmes was offered.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although levels of violence were not high, many prisoners still reported feeing unsafe and victimised;
  • young adults were disproportionately involved in violent incidents;
  • Muslim prisoners and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were more likely to report that they felt unsafe and the prison needed to do more to understand and address this;
  • many men still lived and ate their meals in poor, overcrowded double cells which held three people;
  • further improvement was required to develop learning and skills to an acceptable standard;
  • the HSU remained a limited environment and more thought needed to be given to managing those men on the main wings; and
  • some aspects of offender management work needed to improve.

Nick Hardwick said:

“HMP Belmarsh had much improved since our last visit. Outcomes were better in all key areas and this had been achieved without compromising security. Prisoners and staff we spoke to were positive about the changes that were being made. However, many of the improvements were recent and not yet fully embedded, and some major challenges remained. The prison needed to do more to understand levels of violence and fears about safety, especially among minority groups. Although learning, skills and work was improving and a new provider was starting work, there was much to do, particularly in terms of expanding the range of activities to meet the needs of the population. Similarly, while deficiencies in offender management had been recognised and were being addressed, improvements were still at a very early stage. The role and function of the high security unit needed a fundamental review. We found that the prison had credible plans to address all these issues and embed the progress that had already been made. We hope this report will assist with that process.”

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

I am pleased that the Chief Inspector highlights the significant progress made at Belmarsh over the last 18 months.”

“The prison holds some very dangerous individuals but the Governor and his team have worked hard to improve outcomes for prisoners whilst maintaining the security levels necessary to prevent escape and keep the public safe.”

“As the report makes clear, there is more to do – particularly in expanding purposeful activity and improving education outcomes.”

“The Governor has clear plans in place to further develop the prison and will use the recommendations in this report to support that process.”

Read the Report here