Group 4 'unlikely to lose contract'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE DEATH of a prisoner in Group 4's care is not likely to halt the Government's law and order privatisation programme, or cost the security firm its Humberside prison escort contract, writes Heather Mills.

Home Office sources suggest that ministers remain committed to privatisation and that plans to put out to tender a second prison escort service in London will go ahead - despite claims by the Opposition and prison lobby groups that the privatisation experience so far has been 'catastrophic'.

But the death at the weekend of Ernest Hogg, found collapsed in the back of a Group4 van as it returned to the Wolds prison - also run by Group 4 - has undoubtedly put renewed pressure on ministers.

Mr Hogg, 38, died from brain damage caused by inhaling vomit, apparently after getting drunk while in the security firm's care. His death came at the end of a month when Group 4 was constantly in the news for 'losing' its prisoners.

Humberside Police has launched a criminal investigation into the death; an inquest is expected to open this week; Group 4 has suspended six staff and launched an internal inquiry; and the prison service has ordered an inquiry led by a former Metropolitan Police Commander, Alex Marnoch.