Jails chief to face blame over escapes

BY HEATHER MILLS

Home Affairs Correspondent

About 100 Prison Service staff, including Derek Lewis, the director general, have been formally warned that they may face criticism over January's Parkhurst Prison escape.

General Sir John Learmont, who is conducting a review of all prison security, has in a draft report identified weaknesses within the service which allowed three high-risk prisoners to go on the run.

His warning letters - about 40 to staff at Prison Service headquarters and 60 to governors and officers at the Isle of Wight jail - invite comment before his final conclusions are sent to Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, next month.

The number of warning letters - double those sent out following the inquiry into the Whitemoor escape only a few weeks earlier - indicate that far more people will be held responsible.

The former governor, John Marriott, and six other staff have already been removed from their duties by the Home Secretary following an initial inquiry by Richard Tilt, the director of security, pending the outcome of all inquiries. He identified the deployment of inexperienced staff and the failure to check prisoners as factors contributing to the escape.

But Sir John's criticisms of Parkhurst, contained in one chapter of his security report, go much further, focusing on confused management lines and the Prison Service's failure to respond to repeated calls for security alarms on the jail's perimeter. These are provided at all other top security jails and would, he concludes, have prevented the escape.

Sir John's inquiry, set up in the wake of the Whitemoor debacle and extended after Parkhurst, is damning. In his draft report, Sir John says that governors are sometimes prevented from performing their duties because they spend 50 hours a week dealing with a blizzard of paperwork from headquarters.

He concludes that the service should be streamlined and run on fully accountable command lines. Although he favours more devolved powers to governors, he is concerned that the country's 134 jails all operate differently.

For this reason and contrary to government policy, he comes down against jail privatisation - but believes all ancillary services could be put out to tender. He also favours in-cell prison service television.

Yesterday, Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said that while some of the report appeared constructive, he was concerned that a "military model" would not solve the problems of Britain's jails. "Prisoners are not volunteers or conscripts. It must not be forgotten most came from chaotic backgrounds before being sentenced."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'