Jacqui Smith defends inmates painting home

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has defended using day-release prisoners to paint her home, claiming they "didn't have anything else on".

The former Labour MP admitted that two inmates from HMP Hewell in Redditch did some decorating at her luxury property in the Worcestershire town.



A Prison Service spokesman said the offenders were supposed to be doing work to "help the whole community" as part of a scheme run by a local charity, the Batchley Support Group.



He said: "The decision to provide prisoners for this work was taken without consultation with HMP Hewell or the Ministry of Justice and was a mistake.



"Offenders should work on projects which help the whole community.



"The scheme has been suspended while a full internal investigation is undertaken."



Speaking on the LBC 97.3 morning show, Ms Smith said she wanted "to set the record a little bit straight" and accused The Sun, which ran the story on its front page, of "having a go at me".



She said: "You may or may not have seen the front of The Sun but they are having a bit of a go at me today because two prisoners who were coming towards the end of their sentence and doing work experience carried out about three hours' work at my house doing a bit of decorating.



"It hadn't been cleared with the prison authorities in advance and they've now launched an inquiry and The Sun is having a go at me.



"Well, just to set, I hope, the record a little bit straight, these are guys that were working with a local community organisation in Redditch, a community organisation that actually gives work experience opportunities to prisoners as they come towards the end of their sentence.



"They do a whole range of odd jobs and working in the local community - I think a really good scheme and really well done by this community group.



"On one day, when actually they didn't have anything else on, they did come to my house and do three hours-worth of painting, for which me and my husband made a donation to the community group."



Ms Smith, who was standing in for regular presenter James O'Brien, added: "I think it's a bit hard on the community organisation because I think they were doing a really good job - in fact, the sort of things I think that prisoners should do as they come towards the end of their sentences.



"Get out and about, get a bit of work, get used to getting back into the community.



"But I know that when it's anything to do with me, the papers like to put probably the very worst spin they possibly can on it and in my view, that's what The Sun has done today."







Ms Smith made the comments during a phone-in on the Government's new proposals for community sentences to make unemployed offenders work a minimum of 28 hours over four days, with the fifth day spent looking for full-time work.

Referring to the Prison Service investigation, she added: "I'm perfectly happy to answer any questions that might be asked as part of that inquiry."









A spokeswoman for Batchley Support Group said staff were not aware of restrictions on what kind of work the offenders could be given, but accepted that the arrangement "may not have been the best use of prisoners' time".

In a written statement, she said: "Batchley Support Group is a charity and seeks to supplement any funding with earned income to help pay for the work it does within the community.



"It does undertake paid work for individuals who can pay the market rate in order to be able to subsidise work on the homes of those who would otherwise struggle to pay and to pay for projects that will benefit the whole of the community.



"The resettlement to work project was agreed with HMP Hewell before current support group staff were in place.



"The group has not found any documentation stipulating exactly what prisoners can or cannot do as part of the agreement.



"Batchley Support Group weren't aware of the scope of the restrictions and Ms Smith and (her husband) Richard Timney certainly wouldn't have been aware of these.



"However, the group does agree in retrospect that undertaking work on Ms Smith's home may not have been the best use of prisoners' time, though it should be pointed out that the donation made for the work has enabled Batchley Support Group to carry out much-needed work in the community."









Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It's a disgrace that a former Home Secretary has used prisoners as her personal handymen.



"There needs to be an urgent and independent investigation into how this was allowed to happen.



"Prisoners on these schemes are meant to be making amends and paying back the community for their crimes, not tidying up a disgraced ex-MP's backyard.



"It beggars belief that Jacqui Smith ever thought this was acceptable, especially after being booted out of office for abusing taxpayers' money.



"She received a generous salary and perks when she was a minister. If she wants her house painted, she can easily afford to pay for it herself."













PA

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
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

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game