Prison chief in baby row steps down

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The Independent Online
THE PRISON governor who refused a new mother a place in Holloway's mother-and-baby unit has been replaced as head of the jail. Mike Sheldrick, who went on sick leave soon after the controversy flared, cited ill-health as his reason for stepping down as governor. He is expected to remain on sick leave for some time.

Richard Tilt, the director-general of the Prison Service,said Mr Sheldrick had been on long-term sick leave since 26 October and had asked to leave Holloway "at his own request". He said it was "with some sadness" that he appointed a new governor of the jail in north London. David Lancaster will take over from Monday.

David Roddan, of the Prison Governors' Association, emphasised that Mr Sheldrick "has not resigned" and said he would be taking up a position at Prison Service headquarters when he was well.

News of Mr Sheldrick's departure came only a day after the inmate "Miss E", 24, was offered a place in the mother-and-baby unit at another prison in northern England. The offer was made after the former psychology student took her case through the High Court to the Court of Appeal, challenging the right of the prison to separate her from her daughter, born on 3 November.

Mr Sheldrick, acting on the advice of a panel of healthcare and prison officials, told her in September that she would not be allowed a place in the unit because her unpredictable behaviour could have put other babies at risk.

Miss E, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her daughter, is serving a five-year sentence for wounding with intent.

The resolution of the case is expected to prompt a shake-up in the way decisions about housing new mothers in jail are made.

Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, which supported themother, said Mr Sheldrick's departure was evidence that Holloway was unmanageable.

She said: "It's terribly sad to see this happen to someone of Mike Sheldrick's calibre but being governor of Holloway is an impossible job. With 600 prisoners it is simply too big."

Harry Fletcher, of the National Association of Probation Officers, criticised Prison Service headquarters for over- ruling staff at the jail on the woman's exclusion.

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