26,000 ‘bail jumpers’ on the run

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More than 26,000 suspected criminals, including alleged rapists and paedophiles, have gone on the run after being bailed in the past three years, figures show.

A member of the Prison Officers’ Association said the figures, released to the Daily Mirror newspaper in response to a Freedom of Information request, were shocking and indicated overcrowding in jails is leading to people being granted bail due to lack of space.

The information from the Metropolitan Police showed 26,312 suspects who had disappeared after being released on bail, and covers the London area only.

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association said prison closures and staff cuts have put pressure on the system.

He told the Mirror: “People appear to be getting granted bail to cope with the lack of space inside our prisons. That isn’t right.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “The figures include Crown Court bench warrants, failure to appear magistrates’ warrants, breaches of court orders and orders by other prosecuting agencies that are not issued by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

“The figures also include those individuals who have subsequently been arrested.

“The MPS recognises that pre-charge bail decisions impact on victims, witnesses and suspects.

“We are committed to maximising every investigative opportunity to bring offenders to justice swiftly and we aim to finalise investigations wherever possible during the first period of detention.

“The MPS is committed to finding people who fail to attend court or attempt to evade justice. We will not give up in the search and we will use every means available to find them. Active operations are in place to find wanted suspects and bring them back before the courts.”

Yesterday it was revealed that 77 prisoners have escaped from British jails in the last 10 years without being recaptured.

International drugs traffickers and firearms owners sentenced to life are also among the absconded prisoners who escaped between April 2004 and March 2014 and remain unlawfully at large, the Ministry of Justice data showed.

Justice minister Simon Hughes, who released the list, said the number of escapes has reduced by 80% over the last 10 years.

Legal Challenge – but is there really a ban on prisoners having books?

Prisoner reading a book

The government’s so-called ban on prisoners receiving books is facing a legal challenge, with one prisons expert asserting there is no ban on books at all.

The Ministry of Justice and secretary of state Chris Grayling have been criticised over the Earned Privileges Scheme, which sees prisoners banned from receiving books and other items in the post.

Now a female inmate, known as BGJ, has decided to challenge the ban, according to the BBC.

BBC Newsnight’s political editor Emily Maitlis said: “She [the prisoner] is an epilepsy sufferer, very highly qualified and she has said her life is in despair without access to these books, which have really been taking her through this life sentence that she will serve.”

The MoJ says the legal challenge comes outside of the three-month window for appealing against a new policy, as the scheme was introduced in November.

The BBC said the lawyers would press ahead with the challenge, arguing that the policy had been brought in at different times in different prisons and that BGJ had only been affected in the past 10 days.

Authors and human rights groups have condemned the policy, which Grayling has previously defended as a measure to stop illicit materials being smuggled into prisons.

Writers including Carol Ann Duffy, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Mark Haddon have protested against ther ban, but Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said there was no ‘ban on books’ just a restriction on where they could come from.

Mr Leech said: “Anyone who reads Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 30/2013, which brought in the new Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme, can see there is no ban on books at all – just a general restriction that they cannot be sent in from family because of cases where pages have been doused with liquid drugs which are then cut up and sold to prisoners – but even then Governors have discretion to allow it [para 10.4].

“For example page 46 of PSI 30/2013 states ‘Specialist products including.. books.. may be purchased by prisoners for their own use’.

“Page 56 states Prisoners are allowed a maximum of 12 books in possession for their own use, and page 62 says that Governors may not prevent unconvicted prisoners from having supplied to them at their own expense..books.

“Where is this ban – I am a publisher and we send around 100 books a week in to prisoners, none of which have been withheld.

“I believe that any legal challenge is destined to fail, it would be bizarre if the Secretary of State could not make restrictions on security grounds which limit potential souces of abuse, and the courts have a long history of being reluctant to look behind ‘security grounds’ advanced as reasons for policy.

“Its unlikely that any challenge will get off the ground anyway because the PSI came into force on 1st November 2013 and the rule is that any legal challenge to it must be brought ‘promptly’ and, in any event, not later than 3 months after the grounds to make the claim first arose infact there have been cases brought within the three month time limit which were nonethless ruled out of time because they were not brought ‘promptly’.” (CPR Part 54.5 and ex.p Finn-Kelcey)

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Prisoner Vote Decision Delayed Again

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A decision over whether prisoners should be given the vote could delayed until after the next general election, the Justice Secretary has indicated.

Chris Grayling said complex recommendations made by a cross-party committee about how to deal with the controversial issue had caused delays, and refused to rule out kicking the issue into the next parliament.

The Tory last year published a draft Bill offering MPs three options – giving the vote to prisoners serving less than four years or less than six months or keeping the blanket ban.

After the recommendations were set out, a committee of MPs and peers recommended that voting rights should be given to prisoners serving short sentences or approaching the end of their time behind bars.

They said it would be ”wholly disproportionate” for the UK to defy a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which has said Britain’s ban on votes for those behind bars is a breach of their human rights.

The committee called on the Government to table a Bill granting the vote in local, general and European elections to those serving less than 12 months or within six months of release, with exceptions for those convicted of serious crimes.

Prime Minister David Cameron has made clear he does not want to extend votes to prisoners, telling MPs it would make him ”physically ill”, and a House of Commons vote in 2011 saw MPs vote by an overwhelming 234 to 22 to preserve the ban.

Quizzed by the House of Lords Constitution committee about the Government’s progress, Mr Grayling said the committee’s recommendation was the reason for the “slightly slow response”.

He said: “The position we are in at the moment is we are still considering the response from the committee, and the reason that we are taking a bit of time over this is not that we have moved away from our earlier position but because the option that the committee recommended – which was to provide, or to be considered, providing votes for prisoners in the last few months of their sentence – actually is quite complex.

“So, we need to take quite a careful look at what the viability is of doing that. Obviously, I would wish, in whatever measures in due course are brought before the House, to be able to reflect the views of the committee, but it is not something where you can simply tick the box and say ‘yep, fine’.

“It’s actually quite different to anything that has previously been envisaged. It does require some careful analysis.”

Asked if the delays meant the matter would probably be pushed beyond the end of the parliament, Mr Grayling replied: “I couldn’t say that for certain yet. But it certainly wasn’t a straightforward recommendation because, as you can imagine, we have got people at different stages of their sentence, we have got people who are on indeterminate sentences, and so looking at how exactly you deal with that, and of course, people who are subject to parole board release as opposed to automatic release again causes a logistical issue for us.”

Mr Grayling told the committee it was Conservative policy to replace the Human Rights Act but insisted the details of how that would be done would be set out in the party’s manifesto.

Muslim Accused Of Intimidating Prisoners To Convert To Islam

Jude Odigie

A Muslim jailed for his involvement in the killing of a woman at a christening party has been accused of bullying and intimidating jail inmates to convert to Islam, it was revealed today.

The accusations, which also include gang activity in prison and possessing a home-made weapon, came to light as the High Court in London rejected Jude Odigie’s challenge to his transfer from a private prison to a high security jail.

Odigie, 24, was a teenager when he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced at the Old Bailey in February 2007 to detention “for public protection” and ordered to serve a minimum period of seven years, three months, eight days.

He was part of a gang which invaded a christening party at a community centre in Peckham, south London, and stole mobile phones and handbags.

A shot was fired by another member of the gang and hit a woman, who was holding a baby, in the head. The baby was unharmed but the woman, Zainab Kalokoh, 33, died later in hospital.

Odigie was sentenced on the basis that he was involved in the “joint enterprise” attack on the christening party, although he did not personally fire the gun.

Odigie was held at various prisons until he was moved in June 2012 to Lowdham Grange, a Category B training prison for men operated by Serco Ltd in the East Midlands.

His cell was searched on October 12 2012 and a tin opener was found which came apart, with one handle sharpened to a point. A plastic handle was also found wrapped in bootlaces into which the sharpened point could fit to make a weapon, the High Court heard.

The following day, at a specially convened hearing at the prison, he said he had borrowed the tin opener quite innocently, and the plastic handle was something he used in the course of his weight training.

Odigie was told he was being segregated due to intelligence suggesting he was involved in bullying and intimidating other inmates and being in possession of a home-made weapon.

He was then moved to Full Sutton high security prison.

He launched a High Court challenge and asked deputy judge Philip Mott QC to quash the transfer decision and return him to Lowdham Grange on the basis the move was procedurally unfair and an abuse of power.

Julian Coningham, his solicitor advocate, argued at a one-day hearing in November that the prison authorities failed to follow proper procedures and did not wait for the result of an adjudication on the allegations against Odigie before the transfer took place.

Today, Judge Mott said Odigie’s application for judicial review “fails on all grounds”.

The judge said a gist of the accusations against him “does set out a consistent pattern of information pointing to pressure being put on other prisoners to convert to Islam, and the use of threats to those who do not comply”.

The cell search was “prompted by intelligence, and proved to be absolutely justified”.

The judge added: “The discovery of a home-made weapon in his cell appeared to substantiate this intelligence.”

He ruled: “In my judgement the undisputed facts and background were sufficient to justify action being taken without waiting for the result of the adjudication.

“The finding of the weapon was a serious matter. The background of perceived threats and bullying clearly had to be borne in mind also, but was not needed to justify taking action.

“In those circumstances, any difficulties in judging the reliability of the security information do not undermine the decision to act.”

MoJ Fined £140,000 For Prisoner Data Blunder

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The Ministry of Justice is to be fined £140,000 by the data watchdog after the personal details of all 1,182 prisoners at a jail were mistakenly emailed to inmates’ families.

A spreadsheet containing sensitive information including names, ethnicity, addresses, sentence length, release dates and details of the offences by all inmates at HMP Cardiff was sent to three families, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said.

The breach was only discovered when one of the recipients contacted the prison on August 2, 2011 to report they had received an email from the prison clerk about an upcoming visit, which included the file.

The ICO found there was a clear lack of management oversight at the prison, with the clerk working unsupervised despite only having worked at the prison for two months and having limited experience and training.

ICO Deputy Commissioner and director of data protection David Smith said: “The potential damage and distress that could have been caused by this serious data breach is obvious.

Disclosing this information not only had the potential to put the prisoners at risk, but also risked the welfare of their families through the release of their home addresses.

“Fortunately it appears that the fall-out from this breach was contained, but we cannot ignore the fact that this breach was caused by a clear lack of management oversight of a relatively new member of staff.

“Furthermore the prison service failed to have procedures in place to spot the original mistakes.

“It is only due to the honesty of a member of the public that the disclosures were uncovered as early as they were and that it was still possible to contain the breach.”

A lack of audit trails also meant that the disclosures would have gone unnoticed if they had not been reported by one of the recipients, the ICO added.

And the investigation also found problems with the manner in which prisoners’ records were handled with unencrypted floppy disks regularly used to transfer large volumes of data between the prison’s two separate networks.

An internal investigation was launched and the same error was found to have occurred on two previous occasions within the previous month, with details sent to different inmates’ families.

Police and a member of the prison’s staff were sent to the recipients’ home addresses and checks were made to ensure the files had been deleted.

The penalty was imposed on the Ministry of Justice as the National Offender Management Service, which is responsible for commissioning and delivering prison and probation services across England and Wales, is an executive agency of the department.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We treat the security of information very seriously and took immediate steps to recover the data as soon as the loss was reported to ensure that it went no further.

“These types of incidents are extremely rare but this does not mean that we are complacent.

“A thorough investigation was held by the prison who immediately altered their procedures, and further changes were implemented across the prison estate.”

Cameron Challenged on In-Cell TV Costs

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Hospital patients pay £41 extra a week compared to prisoners to watch television, a Conservative MP said as he urged David Cameron to justify the cost.

Conservative Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said he was surprised to learn it cost his brother £6 a day to watch television in hospital in Doncaster while he understood prisoners paid £1 a week.

Mr Davies, addressing Mr Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions, said: “Can you justify why it costs hospital patients £42 a week to watch the television when it only costs prisoners £1 a week to watch the television?

“And if you can’t justify it, can you tell us what you are going to do about it?”

Mr Cameron replied: “As someone who has spent a lot of time in hospitals I absolutely share his frustrations.

“It was the last government that introduced these charges on televisions in hospital in the year 2000.

“Many an hour I have spent battling with that very complicated telephone and credit card system that you have to try and make work.

“These are, I’m afraid, devolved decisions local hospitals can now make but in terms of prisons the Lord Chancellor is doing something.

“He’s taking the unacceptable situation he inherited from the Labour Party where you could take out a Sky subscription when you’re in prison and say you can’t do that any more and making sure prisoners pay if they use the television.”

Mark Leech editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said the issue was not about prison in-cell TV but the extortionate costs of providing televisions in hospitals.

“Prisoners have always paid for the privilege of having access to an in-cell television, and its a privilege that can be removed if a prisoner’s behaviour warrants it.

“The government has introduced powers to make prisoners pay for any damage caused to televisions and no public sector prison has ever allowed access to satellite TV although some private sector prisons have done so.

“In-cell television has a positive effect on custodial behaviour, it keeps prisoners occupied when budget cuts mean other aspects of their regime have been obliterated – the real problem here is about the extortionate costs of NHS television provision and the Prime Minister should focus on reducing that rather than focusing on the soft target of prisoners.”

Prisoner ‘Disembowelled’ in Frankland Cell


Two inmates have been charged with murdering a convicted child rapist found “disembowelled” in his cell at an English prison.

Mitchell Harrison, 23, who had been jailed for the rape of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, was discovered dead in his cell Sunday 2nd October by staff at HM Prison Frankland in Durham, north-east England, Sky News reported.

He was convicted of child rape last year and given an indefinite prison sentence.

The Daily Mail reported that Harrison had been disembowelled by makeshift weapons, believed to be razor blades melted into toothbrush handles, apparently after boasting about his sickening crime. The newspaper said the two suspects turned themselves in to prison officials.

The alleged killers, aged 32 and 23, are due to appear in court tomorrow. A third man who was arrested by detectives is no longer being held in connection with the incident.

The cell where Harrison was found was cordoned off pending a full forensic examination.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Chapman said, “we are carrying out a full investigation into the circumstances leading to this man’s death and are working closely with the prison service”