Boris Johnson backs an end to automatic half-way release for sexual and violent offenders – described as ‘nonsense’ by one prisons expert.

Boris Johnson has indicated violent or sexual offenders could remain locked up for longer if he becomes prime minister – which one prisons expert has described as ‘political posturing and sheer nonsense.’

The Tory leadership hopeful said it was wrong that prisoners were routinely let out after serving just half of the sentence handed down in court.

Mr Johnson also said Theresa May had been wrong to introduce curbs on the police’s stop and search powers, and said it was important to “change that balance back” in favour of officers.

But while he struck a tough tone on law and order, Mr Johnson hinted to the Daily Mail he could grant an amnesty for long-term illegal migrants.

Setting out his views on sentencing, the former London mayor told the newspaper: “I’m afraid there are too many people, because of the way the sentencing law works, who have committed serious violence or sexual offences who are being let out, as the law prescribes, after they’ve served only half the sentence that is pronounced in open court.

“This is happening. And I’m talking about serious sexual or violent offenders.

“And I think the public is noticing this, quite properly. They don’t think it’s right, and I don’t think it’s right.”

Mr Johnson promised a “relentless focus” on knife crime and criticised the 2014 measures on stop and search brought in by Mrs May.

“When it comes to stop and search, the fact is that we went wrong when we decided to change the rules on the best use of stop and search.

“We made it more difficult. And I think it’s important that we change that balance back.”

Mr Johnson has already pledged to spend £1.1 billion a year funding 20,000 extra police officers as part of his pitch to Tory members to elect him as their leader on July 23.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

This is political posturing and sheer nonsense of the worst kind, not least because it places prison officers in even greater danger in terms of discipline and control, but because it also assumes Judges know nothing about release arrangements and, what’s more, it totally ignores the reality that the power to issue an extended sentence to sexual and violent offenders already exists.

The fact is there is not a single prison officer or governor who would thank you for imposing a regime where the most dangerous violent and sexual offenders have to serve their whole sentence in custody.

The prospect of early release is one of the most potent weapons they have in their armoury to encourage compliance, removing it would render that weapon impotent and place the most dangerous offenders in a position where they have nothing to gain or lose from custodial behaviour.

Secondly, our judges know exactly that the Criminal Justice Act 2003 means the vast majority of offenders are released at the half-way point of their sentence, and are then subject to strict licence conditions and recall until the end of the sentence.

Judges I have spoken to tell me that, within sentencing guidelines, which confer a wide discretion on sentence length, they determine the amount of time they want a person to serve in custody and, where the law allows, they double it.

Removing that automatic release wouldn’t mean someone sentenced today to ten years would then serve ten years – the reality is that the sentence imposed would simply be halved so the custodial portion of the sentence remains exactly the same.

Finally the reality is that the courts already have the power to impose an extended sentence on dangerous violent or sexual offenders, which may be given to an offender aged 18 or over when:

the offender is guilty of a specified violent or sexual offence;

the court assesses the offender as a significant risk to the public of committing further specified offences; 

a sentence of imprisonment for life is not available or justified; and

the offender has a previous conviction for an offence listed in schedule 15B to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 or the current offence justifies an appropriate custodial term of at least four years.

These sentences were introduced to provide extra protection to the public in certain types of cases where the court has found that the offender is dangerous and an extended licence period is required to protect the public from risk of harm.

The judge decides how long the offender should stay in prison and also fixes the extended licence period up to a maximum of eight years. The offender will either be entitled to automatic release at the two thirds point of the custodial sentence, not the half-way point as Johnson asserts, or be entitled to apply for parole at that point.

If parole is refused the offender will be released at the expiry of the prison term. Following release, the offender will be subject to the licence where he will remain under the supervision of HM Prison and Probation Service until the expiry of the extended period.

The combined total of the prison term and extension period cannot be more than the maximum sentence for the offence committed.

In 2017, a total of 575 offenders were given an extended sentence.

If, as appears likely, Johnson is the next Conservative politician to be crowned Prime Minister, I can only hope that senior Civil Servants will educate him on the reality of the situation which, at the current time he appears to be completely ignorant about.

Mark Leech is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales and tweets under the tag @prisonsorguk

Prison Officer appeals order he must pay $146,000 to prisoners in sex abuse case

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A California prison officer is appealing a federal court’s decision in November forcing him to pay $46,000 to inmates who claimed he molested them while on duty.

Erwin Abanico, an officer, and Benjamin Curry, former warden, were named defendants in a Civil Rights lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court in May 2007. Plaintiffs included Ivan Cleveland, Demetrius Huff, Desmond Jones, Robert Morris and Kenneth Trask, all inmates at CTF.

Terry Thornton, deputy press secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, confirmed Tuesday that Abanico is still employed by the prison system despite the ongoing litigation.

She declined to comment on the pending appeal, which was filed March 25.

All five plaintiffs claimed, in an amended 2008 complaint, that Abanico, “assigned to a hall post, singled them/each out from the traffic of prisoners, and took them to the side, by the wall, for a ‘clothed body search.’”

Each inmate claimed to be familiar with typical clothed body searches, which consist of the guards’ authority to “cup the genital area” and touch the inner thighs to ensure no weapon is hidden.

However, each alleged Abanico’s searches were different and that he groped, fondled and molested them in the course of his duties.

More than 150 inmates agreed in a petition circulated in 2007, according to the complaint.

On Nov. 8, 2013, a jury agreed and awarded a total $146,000 in damages to the inmates. Abanico was made to pay $46,000 while Curry was ordered to pay $100,000.

An anonymous letter to The Californian earlier this week alleged Abanico’s union was keeping him in the employ of the CDCR.

“This man is now working at the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad with all the duties and power of the other correctional officers,” according to the unsigned letter. “I believe this needs to be made public because if he was not a member of this strong union, he would be incarcerated, not given the opportunity to violate again.”

CTF representatives referred comment to Thornton who didn’t specify whether Abanico is still working at CTF.

All except Jones, who has relocated to Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, and Trask, who has relocated to California State Prison, Solano, are still incarcerated at CTF.

Thornton said the CDCR complies with the Prisoner Rape Elimination Act of 2003 and the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act to provide prevent sexual abuse and misconduct within the prison’s walls.

Clifford: From West End To Wandsworth – “It’s inevitable he’ll face attack”

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The celebrity publicist Max Clifford is facing up to two years in jail after becoming the first public figure to be convicted of sexual offences under Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree inquiry.

Clifford, 71, was convicted of sexually abusing four girls following an eight-week trial at Southwark crown court in London, which heard how the PR guru used his celebrity connections to bully starstruck teenagers into performing sex acts over a period of 10 years.

After deliberating for around 37 hours, the jury convicted Clifford on eight counts of indecent assault and cleared him of two further counts. Jurors could not reach a verdict on one additional charge of indecent assault.

The guilty verdicts make Clifford the first conviction under Operation Yewtree, the £2.7m investigation into historical sex offences triggered by the Jimmy Savile scandal in 2012. His conviction will also lift the pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following the recent acquittals of Tory MP Nigel Evans and Coronation Street actor William Roache.

Dressed in a blue blazer and listening to proceedings with the aid of a hearing loop, Clifford showed little emotion as the guilty verdicts were returned. He was bailed and will be sentenced on Friday.

Outside court, he refused to apologise to his victims, whom he labelled throughout the trial as fantasists and liars.

“I’ve been told by my lawyers to say nothing at all,” he said, before being ushered past a battery of camera lenses into a waiting car. His daughter Louise, who was by her father’s side during the eight days of jury deliberations, was comforted by several of Clifford’s supporters, including one friend who nodded his head when asked whether the PR man was the victim of a witch hunt.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he seemed destined for a spell behind the gates of Wandsworth prison.

Mr Leech said: “Adult males convicted and sentenced to immediate custody at Southwark Crown Court go to Wandsworth prison in south London – where as a convicted paedophile and sex offender he will face a very diffficult path indeed.

“It’s likely that he will face a physical attack at some point, which shouldn’t happen but its almost inevitable that it will because he cannot be protected 24 hours a day.

“If sentenced to imprisonment Clifford’s safety is a task that Kenny Brown, the Governor of Wandsworth, will have to manage and I’m sure they are already looking at how they will do that.”

 

Child Pornography Solicitor Struck Off

James-Guy Jacobs
James-Guy Jacobs

Middlesex-based property partner James-Guy Jacobs has been struck off the solicitors roll and ordered to pay costs of £1,500 following a conviction for child pornography offences at Harrow Crown Court in November 2012.

Jacobs was convicted of ten counts of making indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of a child, five counts of taking indecent photographs and one count of possessing an indecent photograph or pseudo photograph of a child.

He was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for seven years.

Jacobs is married and lives in Pinner. He was a partner at Healys at the time the offences and left in May 2013. He then moved to Fletcher Day as a consultant, where he was when the SRA decided to prosecute.

In a case brought by the SRA at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) on Monday (11 February), Jacobs was found to have failed to uphold the rule of law, acted without integrity and in a way which was likely to diminish public trust in the profession.

The SDT noted that despite showing remorse after the event, Jacobs had been oblivious to the effect his behavior had on the children in the photographs.

The tribunal heard that Jacobs had been under a great deal of stress, both at home and at work, and that the events in question were an error of otherwise good judgement.

SRA head of legal and enforcement Jennifer Johnson said: “Any solicitor convicted of sexual offences involving children can expect to be dealt with severely. The public needs to be able to trust solicitors and all those who provide legal services.”

Jacobs has 21 days from the publication of the judgement by the SDT to appeal the decision. It usually takes seven to 10 days from the day of the hearing for a judgment to be written and published.

Ashfield – high levels of violence and use of force by staff

Ashfield Children

Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a report to be published at midnight, says that in his final inspection of HMYOI Ashfield before it is re-roled from a juvenile institution to a category C adult male prison for sex offenders, he found there were high levels of violence, self-harm, along with high levels of force by staff in which two prisoners suffered broken bones.

Check back after midnight for full details of this shocking report.

Police Seek Sex Offender

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Police have warned the public to look out on social networks for a missing sex offender who has a history of violence.

Cleveland Police urged anyone who spots Geoffrey Mark Ball to ring 999 as he is wanted for breach of the notification requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Unkempt Ball, who is originally from Newport, South Wales, was seen last Saturday evening in a Redcar pub. He has lived in the Cleveland area for two years.

Detective inspector Kath Barber from Cleveland Police’s Public Protection Unit said: “He has resided all over the country and has links to other areas, although our search has started in Cleveland as this is the last place he was seen.

“Mr Ball has got previous convictions for violence which is why we would advise members of the public if they see him, not to approach him, but to call police immediately on 999.

“He also has previous convictions for fraud, deception and sexual assault.

“He was recently released from prison after serving five weeks of a ten week sentence for breaching his notification requirements, and he has failed to notify police of his whereabouts.

“I would particularly urge people to be vigilant around social media sites as he uses them to make contact with people he doesn’t know.

“We are concerned because our officers take a proactive approach to managing offenders in the community and it is rare that we do not know where they are.

“We are therefore keen to trace Mr Ball as soon as possible and would ask that anyone with information contacts us.”

 

OVER A HUNDRED SEX OFFENDERS ‘MISSING’

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.