Sunday, 18 December 2016

Chickens Come Home to Roost

I guess there's really only one topic to cover today. This article from the Daily Telegraph:-

240 prisoners moved out of HMP Birmingham after 'worst riot since Strangeways'

Around 240 prisoners are being moved out of HMP Birmingham following the "worst prison riot since Strangeways" more than 25 years ago. Four wings at the privately-run Category B prison were overrun by inmates on Friday during the incident, which lasted for more than 12 hours. Riot squads were deployed while photographs taken ­inside the prison by inmates and then shared on social media showed some of the ­alleged rioters wearing ­prison officers’ uniforms and showing off sets of keys.

On Saturday morning, a Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed 240 prisoners were being transferred from the prison following the "serious disturbance", which resulted in serious damage in two of the wings. "The prison remains calm and ordered with additional staff on site to offer support," the spokesman added. The Prison Service will continue to work closely with G4S to manage the prison safely over the coming days."

The decision was announced as the head of the National Offender Management Service suggested violence in prisons was on the rise due to legal highs. Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Michael Spurr said there had been a number of "underlying problems" at prisons across the country in recent year, including closures and reductions in staffing.

But he added: "At the same time, there have been external factors that have really impacted on the way we run our prisons. 
"There is more gang-related violence, much more serious violence from prisoners who come into prison now than previously and that has been fuelled also by psychoactive drugs, so-called legal highs Mamba and Spice, that have been sent and pushed into prisons, supplied into prisons that have really changed the dynamic."

Trouble erupted at HMP Birmingham, which is operated by G4S, shortly after 9am on Friday when prisoners overpowered staff and managed to wrestle keys from them. The disorder spread ­quickly amid reports that some of the ringleaders were ­attempting to reach the wing where ­vulnerable prisoners, including sex offenders, were ­being held.

Last night, specially-trained prison guards, known as "Tornado" squads, were backed up by about 25 riot police as they moved into the jail. Beyond the walls, banging, barking dogs and firecrackers could be heard. It was not clear what prompted the disturbance, but former prisoners claimed there were ­major problems with drugs and difficulties with staff. But one report suggested trouble flared during a row over a lack of access to television.

Alex Cavendish, a prison ­affairs academic, described it as “probably the most serious riot in a B category prison since ­Strangeways went up” in 1990. He said he had spoken to an inmate who ­described how they had begun by smashing lights, but violence had ­escalated quickly. Mr Cavendish said: “The ­officers were then – as they are ­instructed to do – trying to get as many ­prisoners locked in their cells as ­possible to ­contain it.

“While one of the officers was putting a prisoner in the cell, he was threatened with what appeared to be a used syringe.” Mr Cavendish said while this officer was distracted by the threat “another inmate came up behind, snatched the keys from his belt and snapped the ­security chain”.

The disturbance was ­initially contained in two wings, but by lunchtime had spread into other ­areas, with reports emerging that the rioters were in charge of the gymnasium, pharmacy and the security equipment store. HMP Birmingham was built in 1849 and can hold 1,450 adult ­remand and sentenced male prisoners.

On Friday, Jerry Petherick, managing director for G4S custodial and detention services, said: “All staff have been ­accounted for. “Additional officers have arrived on site and we have ­deployed canine units within the prison. West Midlands Police helicopter is also in ­attendance. We are working with colleagues across the service to bring this disturbance to a safe conclusion.”

A specialist riot squad known as the “Tornado Team” was deployed to quell the trouble, with support being sent from other prisons in the Midlands.

Jerry Petherick, managing director for G4S custodial and detention, said the inmates behind the trouble "showed a callous disregard for the safety of prisoners and staff". He added: "Our teams have worked tirelessly throughout the night to assess the damage caused, start the process of clearing up and capture any evidence that could be used by West Midlands Police for any subsequent prosecutions."

The riot represents the third serious disturbance in English prisons in less than two months. On Nov 6, a riot at category B Bedford Prison saw up to 200 inmates go on the rampage, flooding the jail’s gangways. Days earlier, on Oct 29, a ­national response unit had to be brought in to control p
risoners during an incident at HMP Lewes in East Sussex.


It's interesting to reflect on what former Noms boss Phil Wheatley said on Monday in the Guardian:- 

Prisons brought to brink of collapse by Tory lord chancellors, says ex-boss

The last three Conservative lord chancellors have been blamed for “bringing the custodial system to the brink of collapse” by the former head of the prison and probation services in England and Wales.

Writing for the Guardian Phil Wheatley, the former chief executive of the National Offender Management Service and director general of the prison service, said it would “take years to put right” but the role of successive Conservative justice secretaries needed to be openly acknowledged and understood “if there is to be any chance of recovering from the current disaster”.

Wheatley explicitly blamed Ken Clarke, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove for bringing the custodial system to a state of “operational disaster” as a direct result of deep budget cuts and wild swings in government policy.

“This current crisis is a failure of major proportions for the government. Managing prisons is a difficult and highly skilled task that requires adequate resourcing and a stable policy environment. Since 2010 the government has failed on both counts,” he wrote.

He said the current lord chancellor, Elizabeth Truss, deserved credit for quickly recognising that prison staffing levels were too low to maintain safety or security, managing to secure Treasury backing to partially reverse jail staffing cuts by recruiting an extra 2,500 prison officers, and launching a prison safety reform programme.

The unprecedented intervention by Wheatley, who retired in 2010 and was succeeded by Michael Spurr, highlights deep concern that the prison crisis will not easily be put right – with dire consequences for prisoners, staff and the public.

He said when the coalition came to power in 2010, prisons were already dangerously overcrowded “despite advice on the risks, making it necessary for me to refuse outright to comply with their wishes”. He retired and his successor has had to deal with the bigger challenge of cuts to an unprotected budget compounded by “successive lord chancellors introducing their own radically different policies for prisons”.

Wheatley said Clarke, the first coalition lord chancellor, accepted deep budget cuts for the justice ministry on the basis he could reduce the prison population and put public sector prisons out to tender. But two years later David Cameron removed him for not being seen to be tough on prisoners.

Grayling followed with a brief to be a tough justice secretary without cutting jail numbers and no extra funding. Grayling abandoned the prison competition plans and instead announced his own reform programme across prison and probation. Wheatley said Grayling’s plans “threatened the stability and safety of prisons” but were considered essential to deliver the funding cuts without attracting tabloid criticism in the run-up to the 2015 general election.

According to Wheatley, Gove, the third Conservative lord chancellor, “charmed penal reformers by rubbishing most” of Grayling’s policies. But when Gove proposed his own reform vision of more liberal treatment of prisoners and individual freedom for governors, he ignored the predicament prisons were actually in. A third reorganisation of the NOMS in five years was ordered.

“Gove was, of course, gone before he had to take responsibility for the disruption caused both by his abandonment of Grayling’s policies and his abject failure to engage with their consequences,” said Wheatley.

He said the “operational disaster” that Truss inherited was a result of the continued budget reductions and swings in government policy. He said the result has been the loss of experienced prison managers and staff, too few prison officers of any sort, wages that make it difficult to recruit and retain staff, and cuts in prisoner programmes.

“The situation is now so parlous and will only be resolved by a prolonged period of policy stability and investment. It will take years to put right,” Wheatley wrote. He said the current leaders of the prison service had struggled to deliver what was required of them by politicians who, in turn, had been told what risks they were running.

“The responsibility of ministers in bringing our custodial system to the brink of collapse needs to be understood and openly acknowledged if there is to be any chance of recovering from the current disaster,” he warned.


Finally, something different to ponder on. For quite some time it's puzzled me that the second largest audience for this blog by far, after that from the United Kingdom, appears to come from Russia according to my Blogger analysis. This from the Daily Telegraph:-

Russia accused of waging secret warfare against Britain using cyber attacks, espionage and fake news

Whitehall officials have for the first time acknowledged that Russia is waging a "campaign" of propaganda and unconventional warfare against Britain. According to senior figures in Government, Moscow is to blame for concerted attempts to undermine the UK through fake espionage, misinformation, cyber attacks and fake news.

It is understood that intelligence officers and senior civil servants across government voiced their concern about the growing scale of the Russian threat during a high-level meeting at the Cabinet Office two months ago. 
A source with knowledge of the meeting told The Times: "There was an agreement on the need to do more across Whitehall to understand and assess and formulate options on how to respond to Russian activities.”

The Prime Minister is set to chair a National Security Council session within weeks to examine Russian actions towards Britain and its allies and discuss possible responses. It is thought the operations mounted by Moscow agents against Britain are part of a broader drive by the Putin regime to destabilise the West.

Only this week, US intelligence officials disclosed that President Putin was personally involved in a Russian-led hacking campaign to influence the outcome of the American election and assist Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. President Obama yesterday promised to take retaliatory action against Moscow, saying: "We need to take action and we will at a time and place of our own choosing. Don't do this stuff to us, because we can do this to you."

Concerns have now been raised that British companies and institutions have been penetrated by Russian agents, including UK citizens. It emerged last night that several academics at Cambridge University have stepped down from an intelligence forum over fears of Kremlin influence. 
In a sign of how seriously the situation is regarded by Government figures, the head of the armed forces took the unusual step this week of calling for increased efforts to catch moles.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said: "We ... need to pay more attention to counterespionage and counterintelligence to protect our hard-won research, protect our industry and protect our competitive advantage.” Sir Peach did not specify the nationality of the agents, but the number of Russian spies and "agents of influence" - such as British MPs wooed by the Russians - is thought to be higher than even during the Cold War.

It is understood that military intelligence officials are working more closely with MI5 on Russian issues, including the need to expose spies. Examples of the new Russian offensive are thought to include state-run news outlets, such as RT and Sputnik; spreading propaganda to influence British audiences, in particular over key issues such as Brexit and the Scottish independence referendum.

They also include suspected cyberattacks against British companies and infrastructure, and the deployment of Putin's only aircraft carrier and a fleet of escort ships directly through the English Channel en route to join the bombing campaign in Syria last month.

An expert in Russian affairs and former adviser to the government told The Times: "They [Whitehall] have just woken up to Russia. They are embarrassed to admit it. They don't really know what to do because the logic is we should increase our defence spending and we should create a cross-governmental strategy for defending ourselves against this."

The threat from Russia will be discussed by Mrs May and senior intelligence, military and other officials at one of the first meetings of the National Security Council next year. The Prime Minister is facing calls from security experts to set up a "war cabinet" to respond to Russia’s activities.

Last year, Putin set up a national defence centre, run by military officers, to bring together hybrid weapons of media, economics, politics, cyber and dirty tricks to ensure all activity is carried out in pursuit of an agreed goal, such as the collapse of the European Union and Nato.


  1. So the Putin regime want to destabilise us. But we have our own government to do that!

  2. 'Elizabeth Truss deserved credit for quickly recognising that prison staffing levels are too low to maintain safety or security.'


    1. ML...I think whoever said that has been on the mulled wine or am I missing something! Yours truly 'snowdog'.

    2. to 1454 - it was Philip Wheatley writing for the Guardian after retiring in 2010- see above. He was former Chief Exec for NOMS and Director General of the Prison service, now taken over by Michael Spurr. He also 'explicitly' blamed Ken Clark, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove, for bringing the custodial system to a state of operational disaster, because of budget cuts and bringing in new policies.

    3. At least he got something right!

    4. What a great shame that Phull O'Weetabix didn't shout about Crass Fayling & MoJ when it mattered. Same old problem with English politics - everyone is wise & sage AFTER the fact, but only AFTER they've made a personal fortune through their consultancy contracts. Phull O'Shit is probably nearer the truth.

    5. In 2010:

      "Trade unions have reacted furiously to news that the former head of the Prison Service is to become an adviser to a private security company bidding for multimillion-pound contracts to run jails.

      Phil Wheatley was until June the head of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), the organisation responsible for overseeing the 260,000 offenders who pass through the prison and probation system each year.

      During Wheatley's time in charge, the Ministry of Justice introduced measures that opened the way for more jails to be run by the private sector.

      From next month, Wheatley will work as a consultant to G4S, the security company that employs 595,000 employees around the world and is looking to bid for a plethora of contracts from the ministry."

  3. The sudden interest in fake news, misinformation and post-truth pronouncements is curious. I thought we were all accustomed to government's spinning, lying and propaganda. From Suez to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the populace have known trickery and deception. Seems to me all this is is new language for old behaviours. We could say that TR was predicated on post-truth, but equally say it was ideology in the absence of real evidence. Just like the extra weekly promise of £350m for the NHS as an inducement to vote for Brexit. Politicians lie - how shocking!!

  4. Just heard scathingly accurate assessment of Liz Truss' failure to get to grips with her ministerial brief from Alex Cavendish (ex prisoner and blogger) on R4 Mark Mardell' s programme 'The World This Weekend'.

  5. So we have spies amongst us! Well, well, well. Presumably they are feeding all this information back to Putin..maybe they were thinking about buying out sodexo or purple futures? Nothing would surprise me in this crazy world. They could ship the prisoners out to Belarus to perform hard labour or maybe sell them on the bkack market. There must be ways of extracting more profits from offenders. Maybe they could cherry pick the best and put them to work? Hello to all the viewers out in Russia.


    1. Looks like this is going to be a riotous end to a truly annus horibilis!

    2. Hull prison is on the brink of riot and has been put on lockdown after CCTV cameras were allegedly set alight by 15 inmates who took part in the large-scale disorder at HMP Birmingham, the chair of the Prison Officers’ Association has said.

      Mike Rolfe said trouble flared after the prisoners arrived at the category B jail from the Midlands. “We understand 15 prisoners were transferred to Hull and one of those prisoners, thought to be involved in inciting the riots along with others at Birmingham, assaulted a senior officer yesterday,” Rolfe told the Guardian.

      The Prison Officers’ Association claimed that inmates at HMP Hull were under lockdown, with only a few allowed out of their cells at a time. The union said CCTV cameras were set on fire and that some inmates had refused to return to their cells after the arrival of the 15 men.

      Rob Nicholson, chairman of the Hull branch of the Prison Officers’ Association, told the Hull Daily Mail: “It is a powder keg and it’s waiting to go off. They are trying to incite riots and we’ve had a really bad couple of days here. I’ve spoken to very experienced prison officers this morning and they tell me they fear for their safety.”

      Nicholson added: “They were put in one unit, which beggars belief. We wouldn’t have expected the majority of people who have come from a disturbance to be put in the one room, but that was the decision that was taken.

      “For me and my members, it was a ludicrous decision. They set fire to the cameras just after they got here and a senior officer was assaulted by, we believe, one of the main instigators of what happened in Birmingham.”

      A Ministry of Justice source disputed claims that the prison was on lockdown. He said one prisoner had tried to damage a CCTV camera, but denied that several had been set alight. “A few prisoners were unhappy about being moved and there was a minor altercation, but this was dealt with well by the staff,” the source said.

      A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “HMP Hull, like all prisons across the estate, is being closely monitored for signs of potential unrest. That includes managing the transfer of prisoners in the interests of maintaining safe, calm and normal regimes. We have specially trained prison staff available to respond to any disturbances.”

      The disturbance at Hull follows the 12-hour riots at HMP Birmingham on Friday, described as the worst prison riot since Strangeways 25 years ago.

      Karl Turner, the Labour MP for Hull East, said: “I have it on good authority that Hull prison is on the brink of a riot. And clearly, this chaos has been caused by the government, no one else. Since 2010, they’ve slashed the numbers of prison officers by 7,000 and, clearly, the prison system cannot cope. They’re replaced highly experienced prison officers with people who are inexperienced in order to save cash.

      “This chaos has been caused by the government and Liz Truss needs to go more. They need to put money into the prison system urgently and they need to recruit.”

  7. So g4s turned birmingham prison from a loss making organisation to a profit by cutting experienced staff and replacing with staff on £10 per hour with no experience! No bloody wonder this is happening. Now they will have to pay for the damage to the prison from their profits, probably cancelling out any profit! When is this government going to accept that making money out of prisons/ probation is never going to work?

    1. Presumably G4S were operating on the advice of one Phil Wheatley?

    2. The POA will issue an application for a Judicial Review this week relating to the ongoing market test process being conducted by the Ministry of Justice in relation to HMP Birmingham, HMP Buckley Hall, HMP Featherstone 2 and HMP Wellingborough. At the start of the market test process Philip Wheatley was the Director General of NOMS, an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice which is responsible for running the Prison Service.

      In January 2010 Mr Wheatley announced he intended to retire as Director General of NOMS in June 2010. In June 2010 NOMS announced changes to the timetable for the market test process and as a result the announcement would now be made in January 2011. The outcome has now been delayed until March 2011.Everyone thought Mr Wheatley had retired from public life. However in December 2010, it was announced that Mr Wheatley would begin work for G4S plc in January 2011. G4S is and remains a bidder in the market test process.

      Steve Gillan General Secretary of the POA stated:

      “Mr Wheatley’s appointment by G4S as a paid consultant caused the POA considerable concern and therefore I wrote to NOMS on the 9th February 2011 and asked that a determination be made as the continuance of the market test process and the status of G4S plc as a bidder. To the disappointment of the POA, Michael Spurr, Mr Wheatley’s successor, made the decision to allow the market test process to continue and not to exclude G4S plc”

      Oh how very cosy!

    3. So now we have Spurrt & Weetabix whining like fuck that its someone else's fault, whilst they were both fundamental to the trouser stuffing exercise. Lying, disingenuous arseholes.

    4. Come on Jim, POA, Webster et al - enlighten everyone about the cosy netherworld that exists between civil service & private enterprise, aka "consultancy". That mythical place where ex-probation chiefs, disgraced heads of inspectorates, mysterious disappearing heads of national probation, and retiring heads of anything else go to relax in financial grandeur. A place where past misdemeanours or downright abuses of privelege are massaged into obscurity by new, strenuous PR techniques never previously revealed.


  9. "[Phil Wheatley] said when the coalition came to power in 2010, prisons were already dangerously overcrowded “despite advice on the risks, making it necessary for me to refuse outright to comply with their wishes”."

    So he retired, became a consultant & ambassador for G4S, won them the contract for HMP Birmingham (among others) & now condemns those who paid for his house, holiday home & generally all-round very comfortable lifestyle.

    Integrity or treachery?

  10. "My enemy's enemy is my friend", goes the old saying.