Wormwood Scrubs: 12 are charged

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The Independent Online
TWELVE PRISON officers at Wormwood Scrubs were yesterday formally charged with assault following the biggest criminal investigation into a British jail.

The men were among 25 officers recommended by the Crown Prosecution Service to face charges of systematic beatings and abuse at the London prison. Scotland Yard revealed that the officers were charged at West End Central police station with actual bodily harm against present and former inmates.

The men, aged between 24 and 39, were bailed and are due to return to West London magistrates court over three days in August. More officers are due to be charged today. The Chief Inspector of Prisons revealed that governors, managers and even a former director general of the Prison Service spent years "turning a blind eye" to alleged bullying at Wormwood Scrubs.

Sir David Ramsbotham stunned MPs when he told Parliament that officials "at the very top" of the Prison Service knew about the abusive regime at the London prison. Sir David, the author of a scathing report into alleged "evil" abuse meted out to inmates at Wormwood Scrubs, said that there existed a "culture" within the service that approved of rough treatment and racism. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, ordered a radical overhaul of the prison on Monday after a damning inspectors' report and has threatened to close the institution unless major improvements can be made in its regime.

Sir David told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that he placed the "major blame" on senior staff who failed to excercise leadership to stamp out abuse. "They were completely aware of it," he said. "The governor must have known, the area manager, the director general. It was management turning a blind eye to something that was perfectly obvious."

He added that there were many other "mini Wormwood Scrubs" around the country, where prison governors had failed to tackle staff attitudes that condoned abusive treatment. All too often it was staff with negative, obstructive attitudes who had taken control of Prison Officers' Association committees in many jails.

Prisoners, visitors and the official watchdog, Board of Visitors, were all aware of the allegations.