New Unit to Target Prison Corruption

Prison staff who smuggle drugs into jails or have affairs with inmates will be targeted in a new anti-corruption drive.

Ministers have established a specialist unit to root out activity that causes “chaos” and violence behind bars.

The taskforce, which began work earlier this month, aims to “proactively pursue” those suspected of corruption in prison and probation services in England and Wales.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Our prison staff are overwhelmingly dedicated and honest and do their best to instil safety and order in our jails.

“We have seen from recent criminal prosecutions, however, that a small minority continue to engage in corrupt behaviour in our prisons – damaging both the integrity of the system and their profession.

“This unit underlines our determination to stamp out criminality in prison in all its forms and will make sure we are closing the net on the individuals driving this, allowing the focus to be on safety and rehabilitation and ultimately keeping the public safer.”

The Counter Corruption Unit is comprised of 29 personnel, including expert intelligence analysts, split into a national team and five regional teams.

Officials emphasised that the taskforce will serve to protect the vast majority of prison and probation staff who are honest and hard-working.

It will take action to “counter the chaos and violence caused by the few who smuggle illicit items into our jails or impede our ability to supervise offenders in the community effectively”, the Ministry of Justice said.

Potential examples of corruption the teams could investigate include cases where staff have inappropriate relationships with prisoners or bring in drugs and other banned items for individual inmates or crime gangs.

The taskforce will work with law enforcement agencies to investigate and disrupt criminality and bring more prosecutions against those “causing harm” behind bars, the MoJ said.

The unit has been set four main aims – to protect against corruption by building an “open and resilient organisation”; prevent people from engaging in corrupt activity, strengthening professional integrity; to pursue and punish those involved in corruption; and to prepare prisons to minimise the impact of corruption when it occurs.

Police will also join the effort as authorities attempt to stop “criminal kingpins” using corruption to continue their illegal activity from their jail cells.

It is the latest in a series of moves designed to help stabilise the prison system after much of the estate was hit by surging levels of violence, drug use and self-harm.

Stopping the flow of contraband into jails is seen as a key plank of efforts to tackle the safety crisis.

In 2017/18, there were 13,119 incidents where drugs were found in prisons in England and Wales – an increase of 23% compared with the previous 12 months.

Mobile phone finds also went up, by 15%, to 10,643.

In January, a senior police officer told the BBC he “strongly suspects” gangs are getting their associates or family members jobs in the prison service with the intention of smuggling contraband in, although it was difficult to prove.

Appearing at the House of Lords Constitution Committee earlier this week, Mr Gauke emphasised the need to stop inexperienced officers being manipulated and entrapped by “sophisticated” criminal gangs.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook,  writes:

The reality is that our prison system today helps manufacture its own corruption, the new Offender Management in Custody – OMiC – model being introduced now and fully operational by September is a double-edged sword.

On one hand it ensures prison officers now fully interact with prisoners in key worker roles, which is welcome and necessary, but equally with lots of inexperienced staff that interaction can lead to the professional line being crossed almost imperceptibly and that is the danger area.

Prison staff must remain alert, must know where that line is at all times, and have the skills to recognise when they are approaching it in their relationships with prisoners, and possess the ability to do something about it.

If they don’t then the chances are at some point the CCU will catch up with them and they’ll find they’re quickly on the wrong side of the cell door themselves.

Personally I would like to see an Amnesty for prison officers involved in corruption, they represent an intelligence goldmine. That said, although it makes a lot of sense my information is that, politically, its unsellable.

That is a shame, if Ministers had more courage to implement an amnesty it would provide the CCU with a store of real-time intelligence and allow for the retention of staff who were likely caught up in corruption due to their inexperience and interaction with highly sophisticated criminals.

[View: Prison Corruption Tables 2013-2018/]

Prison Staff Caught Smuggling – Up 58%

The number of prison staff caught smuggling contraband items into jails in England and Wales has increased 58% since 2012, it has been reported.

More than 340 people have faced either disciplinary or judicial proceedings for bringing drugs, mobile phones or other banned items into prisons in the last six years, according to The Observer.

The paper’s data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the Ministry of Justice, showed that the year with the highest number of staff caught was 2017, where the figure stood at 71. This compares to 45 in 2012.

Centre for Social Justice director Andy Cook told The Observer the figures were “deeply concerning” and said ministers needed to “get a grip”.

He added: “Drugs are at the heart of this, fuelling violence, suicide and completely undermining the likelihood that prisoners will be able to turn their lives around.”

Drugs were found 35 times a day in prisons in England and Wales on average last year, while the number of finds has trebled since 2014, the paper said.

Corrupt Prison Officer Earned 40K From Stories

venables

A News of the World reporter is facing jail after becoming the first journalist to be found guilty of paying a corrupt official for stories in the wake of Operation Elveden, the high-profile police investigation into newspapers – and it can only now be reported that a corrupt prison officer was also convicted earlier in the week.

The case revolved around the activities of prison officer Scott Chapman, 42, who made £40,000 from selling tips to various newspapers about James Bulger killer Jon Venables after he was sent back to prison in 2010 for child porn offences.

The NotW journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted on Wednesday of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office in relation to two stories following the trial at the Old Bailey.

Chapman and his ex-partner Lynn Gaffney, 40, were also convicted of misconduct in a public office, it can now be reported.

But co-defendant Daily Star Sunday reporter Tom Savage, who only knew Chapman as the anonymous source Adam, was cleared of wrong-doing.

In a courtroom packed with journalists and supporters, there were cheers and shouts of “yes” as Savage, 37, was found not guilty, followed by stunned silence as the jury foreman read out the verdict on the second reporter.

Chapman and the NotW reporter were given conditional bail until they are sentenced by judge Charles Wide on a date to be fixed.

The judge warned Chapman that he should expect his jail term to be counted in years, rather than months.

He told the NotW reporter he was conscious that the conviction was on the basis of just two of the stories that Chapman sold but he warned the journalist to be “under no illusions”.

To date, despite the conviction of public officers, the NotW journalist is the first to be found guilty of paying corrupt officials since police launched its multimillion-pound investigation into newspapers in 2011.

During the trial, the court heard that Chapman first contacted the Sun in 2010 after Venables was sent back to jail.

He went on to sell stories to a host of other newspapers including the NotW and the Daily Star Sunday, using Gaffney’s bank account to channel payments in exchange for a third cut of his earnings.

The tabloids then published a string of articles about Venables’ life behind bars which ranged from his efforts to lose weight to his love of Harry Potter books.

A security chief from the prison where he worked told the court that Chapman’s leaks had a “catastrophic” effect on the operation of the prison and left Venables feeling “very suspicious” of staff charged with his care.

But under cross-examination, it emerged that she had formed that view from secret talks with Venables in her search for the source.

The fact that she did not file a report on any of the meetings was a “serious breach of duty”, according to the defence.

In his evidence, Chapman said he first contacted the Sun about Venables because he was unhappy about the way he was given special treatment and then turned to other newspapers in an attempt to stop his Sun contact “pestering” him.

He told jurors he would send images of his prison ID card and a wage slip as confirmation to journalists, although there was no evidence he sent it to Savage.

But prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC queried the public interest of stories he described as “drivel” and “tittle tattle”, and asked Chapman: “Is it important that Jon Venables likes Harry Potter?”

In turn, Savage denied knowing the identity of his source, saying he used Chapman’s knowledge of Venables’ new name as a codeword to check his credibility.

He told the court it never occurred to him that he was in fact a serving prison officer but, if he had known, it would not have mattered “in the slightest”.

The NotW journalist also denied knowing who Chapman was or receiving images of his ID card and wage slip, despite an email to a NotW boss which suggested the opposite.

The defendant went on to insist that it was in the public interest that the newspaper exposed Venables’ “comfortable” lifestyle behind bars.

The journalist said: “This was a public interest story we were writing about Jon Venables, who abducted a two-year-old from a shopping centre, tortured and murdered him.

“He had been taken in by the Prison Service, given millions of pounds for a new identity, then repeat-offended and the Prison Service deal with it by making his life as comfortable as possible.”

Chapman, 42, and Gaffney, 40, of Corby, Northamptonshire, denied misconduct in a public office. Savage, 37, from south London, and the NotW reporter denied conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

For legal reasons, the convictions on Tuesday could not be reported until today.

ends

New police corruption law ‘unnecessary’ says ex Met Chief

sir-ian-blair

Former head of the Metropolitan Police Lord Blair of Boughton has hit out at new laws aimed at cracking down on corruption in the service.

He described the legislation as a “populist reaction to the wrong target” and said a far greater number of journalists had been arrested than police officers.

The independent crossbench peer, who was commissioner of the Met from 2005 to 2008, said police corruption was “an evil” but the measures to tackle it were “entirely unnecessary”.

But he said there had never been any difficulty in framing charges against corrupt police officers.

“The difficulty was not the charge but finding the evidence in a crime where all the participants do not want to tell anyone about it,” he said.

“Where is the evidence that the existing law is inadequate?”

He said the phone hacking investigation had led to the conviction of six journalists and hackers on a News International newspaper.

An he told the House of Lords: “101 journalists, some very senior, have been arrested, as opposed to 26 police employees, all very junior. Twelve more trials beckon.”

His comments came during second reading in the Lords of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which includes the new powers creating a specific offence of police corruption.

“The oddity of this clause is what if you substituted some other professions,” he said.

“What if you put journalists in this clause? Would the House support that? Or parliamentarians? Would the House support that? Or even NHS dentists, because they can get convicted of corruption?

“The police are far from being without fault and police corruption is an evil thing, but this legislation has no rationale at all and has the feel of a populist reaction to the wrong target.”

Lord Blair also criticised proposals in the Bill to make whole life sentences the starting point for anyone convicted of killing a police officer.

He said there was “simply no evidence” of the judiciary “failing to accord the conviction of a police officer or prison officer on duty with the utmost seriousness”.

He said there had been a campaign after the abolition of capital punishment in 1965 to reinstate it in the case of killing a police officer.

But it was argued by police officers at the time that if a criminal on the run knew he faced hanging, he would “have no compunction in killing other people including other police officers in order to escape”.

“The whole life term is the contemporary version of hanging. This clause is not only unnecessary but capable of risking lives – it is just wrong,” he said.

Two Thieving Cops face Jail

Det Sgt Phillips (L), Det Con Evans (R)
Det Sgt Phillips (L), Det Con Evans (R)

Two senior policemen from Neath in South Wales are facing jail after being caught stealing in a sting operation at a fake “crime scene” – by their own colleagues.

Det Sgt Stephen Phillips and Det Con Jason Evans were filmed on secret cameras taking cash and biro pens planted in the sting house.

A court heard how Phillips, 45, was caught taking £250 when he was called to a house under criminal investigation – not realising it was a set-up by other police officers.

Evans, 44, was also videoed pocketing two pens while he carried out the investigation using a search warrant at the same time.

The court heard the officers thought they were investigating a burglary, but were set up as part of “trust exercise” by suspicious police chiefs.

A team of officers including Evans and Phillips were sent to the house which was filled with “evidence” including Viagra, bags, mobile phones, watches and £21,647 of cash.

But Phillips and Evans did not realise the property had been fitted with hidden cameras and covert microphones – and the woman posing as a resident was an undercover detective.

The pair – who are suspended by South Wales Police – were warned they faced custody after admitting theft.

Judge Bodfan Jenkins told them: “There can be few examples of a graver breach of trust.

“This is a gross breach of trust in relation to the force and what the public expect from the police.

“It’s not about the cost, it’s about the breach of trust and at first blush it appears to me that this is a custody case.”

The officers, who are based in Neath, were part of a team investigating organised crime.

The pair were investigated by South Wales Police’s corruption unit for theft and misconduct.

Cardiff magistrates court heard how the force decided to carry out an “intelligence led integrity test” on the pair.

They pretended they were asked by Greater Manchester Police to investigate a property allegedly linked to a series of burglaries.

Prosecutor David Roberts said: “Phillips was filmed putting his hand inside a coat pocket and finding £240.

“He removes his hand and leaves the scene – but then returns 20 seconds later when he removes the cash and places it in his pocket.”

Phillips also took £10 from a bedside table. But he did not realise all the notes had been marked with invisible ink and the serial numbers recorded.

Evans was filmed going into the bedroom and taking two pens during the raid in March this year.

The pair then drove up the M5 to meet plain clothes officers from Greater Manchester Police at a service station.

While waiting for the meet Phillips spent £60 of the money on a Monopoly-themed gambling machine.

As they drove back to South Wales they were pulled over by a marked police car and arrested by members of their force’s Professional Standards department.

The court heard Phillips, of Skewen, Neath, claimed he was going to return the money to the woman who lived at the house.

Evans, of Cilfrew, Neath, admitted stealing the pens while he was interviewed under caution.

The pair both pleaded guilty to theft. They were given unconditional bail while pre-sentence reports are prepared.

Phillips and Evans have 26 and 19 years service to their names respectively, and will face misconduct proceedings in due course according to South Wales Police.

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “Police officers take a vow to serve the public and uphold the law with fairness, integrity and impartiality. Any who fall short of those standards or who abuse their position, will face disciplinary action, the prospect of criminal prosecution and dismissal.

“As soon as the officers were suspected of acting improperly, an investigation, supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, was launched which culminated in the dedicated integrity test and their subsequent arrest and suspension.”

“I want to reassure the public that we take this type of behaviour very seriously and continue to work hard to root out any corrupt officers and staff.”

Two Corrupt West Midlands Cops Jailed

westmidscopsanon

Two corrupt police officers caught in an internal sting operation stealing cash and cigarettes have been jailed for 20 weeks.

Mark Davis, 31, and 33-year-old Neil Samuels, had each previously admitted a single count of theft of hundreds of Marlboro cigarettes and £10 cash apiece before appearing for sentencing at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court today.

Jailing the pair, District Judge David Robinson said their crime was “a gross breach of trust” adding the “impact of such offending on public confidence is high”.

The two serving police officers were caught stealing after they were the focus of a targeted integrity check by their employer West Midlands Police’s counter corruption unit, which was acting on a tip-off.

Both Davis and Samuels had previously pleaded guilty in February to theft of 400 cigarettes with each haul worth a total of £179.80, after they carried out what they believed to be a bona fide house search in July 2013.

Davis, of Clent Road in Oldbury, West Midlands, who has been with the police force six years, and Samuels, of Croft Lane, Wolverhampton, who has been employed for 11 years, have been suspended since the allegations surfaced and are now set to lose their jobs following a professional standards process.

Defence barrister Mark Kelly, offering mitigation for the pair, said Samuels had taken the cash to buy a “peace-offering” for his wife as their relationship had been under strain.

He added Davis had been coping with “a mild-to-severe” depressive illness, added to by “difficulties with his ex-partner which has had a significant impact on him”.

Both men, added Mr Kelly, were simply going to share the cigarettes out “with friends” and had not stolen for financial gain.

He also said any jail term would have a big impact of the men, who both had young families to support.

The operation to snare the two, both employed as response officers covering Sandwell in the West Midlands, was launched after information was handed to their employer in April 2013.

Mr Robinson, in sentencing, set out in detail how the two men were caught out.

He said the officers had been briefed that a male suspect had been arrested by officers from neighbouring Warwickshire Police and they were then sent by their superiors to search that man’s home and seize evidence.

“What you did not know was that you were the subject of a covert monitoring integrity investigation set up to record and observe how you behaved,” said Mr Robinson.

The two did seize property for the mock investigation and returned to the police station, before filling out false reports of what they had collected.

Mr Robinson said: “You intended to mislead Warwickshire Police about what had been seized – you were later stopped and arrested.

“It was a joint offence you executed together.

“In my view it was calculated – that is apparent from the discussion recorded together (in the house); the property you decided to take, and the way you equally divided the property.

“You falsified not only the search records but the witness statement, and you did all this believing that or knowing that if circumstances were as you believed them, this could have impeded a critical investigation with all the consequences that might have had to the individual you believed to be in custody, and of course for justice itself.”

Mr Robinson added: “Both of you have suffered recent events in your life that have caused distress.”

He also accepted Davis and Samuels felt “genuine remorse” for what they themselves had described as a “terrible mistake”.

However, sentencing the pair – as relatives in the public gallery burst into tears – he said: “In my view, these offences are so serious that neither a fine, a community order, or a suspended sentence order can be justified.

“For the offence of theft you will each serve 20 weeks – half in prison, and half on licence.”

A legal restriction barring reporting of Davis’ address was lifted after an application by the Press Association.

Former Judge Jailed For Wrongful Murder Conviction

Fornmer Judge Ken Anderson (L) and released Michael Morton (R)
Fornmer Judge Ken Anderson (L) and released Michael Morton (R)

A former Texas judge charged over a wrongful murder conviction when he was a prosecutor agreed to a 10-day jail sentence, accepting the punishment in front of the innocent man he helped put in prisonfor nearly 25 years.
Ken Anderson will also be disbarred and must serve 500 hours of community service as part of a sweeping deal that was expected to end all criminal and civil cases against the embattled ex-district attorney, who was the face of the law in a tough-on-crime Texas county for 30 years.
Anderson, 61, never spoke in his return to the same court in Georgetown where he served as a state judge for 11 years before resigning in September.
Sitting behind Anderson in the gallery was Michael Morton, who was released from prison in 2011 after DNA evidence showed he did not beat his wife to death in 1986.
“It’s a good day,” said Mr Morton, surrounded by family members.
Asked if he felt satisfaction in watching the role reversal – Anderson at the defence table, waiting to be put behind bars – Mr Morton said: “It was one of those necessary evils, or distasteful requirements that you have to do in life.”
He did not dwell on the length of the jail sentence, saying the punishment “or lack thereof” was as much as the legal system could dole out at this time.
Since being freed from prison, Mr Morton has become a visible embodiment of problems in the legal system in Texas, which leads the nation in prisoners set free by DNA testing – 117 in the last 25 years. Earlier this year, the former Republican chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court urged politicians to act on the issue.
Mr Morton was a regular presence at the Texas Capitol this spring and helped push through the Michael Morton Act, which helps compel prosecutors to share files with defence lawyers that can help defendants’ cases.
Anderson entered a plea of no contest to contempt of court. The charge stemmed from a 1987 exchange when Anderson, then the Williamson County district attorney, was asked by a judge whether he had anything to offer that was favourable to Mr Morton’s defence. He said no.
But among the evidence Mr Morton’s lawyers claim was kept from them were statements from Mr Morton’s then three-year-old son, who witnessed the murder and said his father was not responsible. There were also interviews with neighbours who told authorities they saw another man near the Morton home before the murder.
Judge Kelly Moore said the case against Anderson revealed a difficulty in determining justice.”There is no way that anything we can do here today can resolve the tragedy that occurred in these matters,” he said. “I’d like to say to Mr Morton, the world is a better place because of you.”
Mr Morton’s lawyers acknowledged that Anderson could serve as few as four days with good behaviour and time already served. A Texas judge had ordered Anderson’s arrest in in April on the contempt and tampering charges.
He faced up to 10 years in prison if found guilty on the tampering charges, but prosecutors said statues of limitations made it a difficult conviction to pursue.
Anderson has previously apologised to Mr Morton for what he called failures in the system but has said he believes there was no misconduct.
Eric Nichols, Anderson’s lawyer, made it a point to say in court his client “has not been convicted, and will not be convicted, of any criminal offence”.
Mr Morton’s lawyers said later there would be an audit of all cases previously handled by Anderson to look for other instances of alleged misconduct.
Mr Morton said his only goal since being freed was to get Anderson off the bench and make sure he never practised law again.

Corrupt ‘Fit-Up’ Cop Jailed

Daniel-Withnell

A former police officer who accepted a bribe to plant a shotgun in a bid to frame a man has been jailed for four years, police said.

Daniel Withnell, 31, was approached by Claire Smethurst to put the weapon in the man’s car for £19,000 between September 30 and October 30 last year.

He admitted two counts of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing and was today jailed at Manchester Crown Court.

Withnell, of Cranark Close in Bolton, also sent a fake tip-off by text to an officer on March 16, in which he claimed a hitman had been offered money to kill him.

He also used his position to access the force’s database to research a money laundering investigation, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said.

Smethurst, 48, of Westhoughton, Bolton, was found guilty of of perverting the course and was given a 15 month suspended sentence for her role in the plot at the same court on October 9, the force added.

Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley said: “The conduct of former DC Daniel Withnell fell well short of what is expected of a police officer.

“Police officers, staff and the communities of Greater Manchester would be appalled by his actions, which detract from the hard work that our officers and staff do on a daily basis.

“GMP expects the very highest standards of all its officers and staff. They should be honest and act with integrity and should not compromise or abuse their position.

“As soon as this conduct came to light, the Professional Standards Branch carried out a thorough investigation, supervised by the IPCC and as a result Mr Withnell has been convicted of two counts of misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice and Ms Smethurst has been convicted of perverting the course of justice.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said Withnell faced a dangerous time in jail.

“Going to jail as a former cop is dangerous at any time, but going to jail as a former cop jailed for trying to fit up an innocent man and send him to jail marks Withnell out as a man with a price on his head.

“Withnell is the worst kind of corrupt cop, a loathsome individual who was willing to sacrifice the freedom of an innocent man in exchange for cash – a despicable low life whose past criminal arrests and convictions should now be the subject of review lest he has done this before – and got away with it.”

Corrupt cop jailed

James_bowes

A former police sergeant has been jailed for 10 months for trying to sell a story about celebrity Katie Price’s daughter to the News of the World.

James Bowes contacted the now defunct Sunday tabloid newspaper and told a journalist that police child protection officers had gone to the home of Price’s former husband Peter Andre in Brighton.

This followed a report that the couple’s daughter, Princess Tiaamii, then aged two, had been injured in 2010, the Old Bailey heard.

The team found no untoward injuries to the child and the matter was not taken further, the court was told.

But Bowes, who worked for in Brighton for Sussex Police, emailed the newspaper asking for money for the information.

The story was printed with information from another source and Bowes was never paid.

Bowes, 30, from Steyning, West Sussex, pleaded guilty last month to misconduct in public office.

The court heard that he passed information to the Sun newspaper about a child who was bitten by a fox and was paid £500.

And he passed on details of a psychic who had contacted police about a search for bodies in two former Brighton homes in 2010 of serial killer Peter Tobin, but was not paid.

Bowes was charged by officers from Operation Elveden, the Metropolitan Police investigation into police corruption.

Mr Justice Fulford told Bowes: “You have made available to the press confidential information concerning children.

“Your explanation is that it was a foolish attempt by you to be in some part associated with notorious or high-profile cases.”

Bowes had abused his position of trust and undermined the relationship the police had with the public.

Stephen Wedd, defending, said Bowes had now given £500 to the Crimestoppers charity, and had been dismissed by Sussex Police.

Mark Bryant-Heron, prosecuting, told the court that Bowes had access to the police computer to get information about the three reports in 2010.

Andre and Price had separated and there was a report of injuries to the couple’s daughter.

“The child protection team established no untoward injuries,” said Mr Bryant-Heron.

The following day Bowes emailed the News of the World news desk but was told that the newspaper already had the information.

“Clearly, the News of the World had access to other sources for information,” he added.

Bowes had emailed the Sun after a fox attacked a child at a birthday party and was paid after providing the contact details of the parents.

The father told the court he had to move his family away from their home until the fuss died down after the story was printed.

He also contacted the newspaper about the psychic who was later contacted by a journalist.

No story was published and Bowes was not paid, but the psychic said she had lost confidence in the police.

Mr Bryant-Heron told the court the child protection team “established very quickly that there were no bruises or injuries” to Tiaamii.

He said: “Peter Andre has made a statement saying he was hurt and embarrassed by the story.”