Jail head 'misled public over raid'

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The Independent Online

The head of the Prison Service was accused by a Commons committee yesterday of misleading the public over a late-night raid on a model jail.

The head of the Prison Service was accused by a Commons committee yesterday of misleading the public over a late-night raid on a model jail.

The director general, Martin Narey, was brought before the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain why 84 prison officers from various jails had been called in to search Blantyre House prison in Kent, known for its liberal regime.

The raid caused £6,000 of damage after doors were smashed open with metal bars. Mr Narey admitted yesterday: "We did not find what we thought was there."

But on 16 May, 11 days after the raid, Mr Narey had told the same committee of "the quite frightening amount of contraband material we found".

In fact, the official Prison Service report into the search, codenamed Operation Swynford, concluded that apart from a tiny amount of cannabis, three ecstasy tablets and seven items of pornography, "there were no significant finds". All 118 prisoners at the jail were tested for drugs and all were negative.

Yesterday the Tory MP and committee member Gerald Howarth told Mr Narey: "Don't please misrepresent to the public that somehow this raid divulged a substantial quantity of controlled drugs. It didn't."

Earlier the chairman of the committee, the Labour MP Robin Corbett, said he found Mr Narey's explanation of the raid "totally and wholly unconvincing". In evidence, Mr Narey said the operation was authorised after intelligence reports suggested serious security lapses at the jail, which allows prisoners near the end of sentence to take jobs outside the prison.

Earlier yesterday, the chief inspector of prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, told the committee he suspected the raid was designed to remove the prison's liberal governor, Eoin McLennan-Murray.

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