Friday, 1 June 2018

MoJ Put On Notice

I was struck by how much of last night's Ch4 News was taken up by the disasters that have Chris Graylings fingerprints all over them - first the ongoing rail crisis and then HMI Chief Inspector Peter Clarke on the prison crisis. It was also noteworthy that Grayling has 'gone to ground' with all requests for interviews refused. Lets hope that when everything finally unravels at transport and heads have to roll, one will surely be his. 

Meanwhile, this from the Guardian on the mess he created in the prison system:-

Prisons inspector takes emergency action over HMP Exeter

The chief inspector of prisons has taken emergency action to improve conditions at an “unequivocally poor” jail with soaring levels of violence and self-harm. Peter Clarke has put the justice secretary, David Gauke, on notice that he must explain how conditions at HMP Exeter will be improved using an “urgent notification” protocol for only the second time since the power became available.

It also emerged that Bedford prison had been placed into special measures on Wednesday by the Prison Service meaning additional support would be brought in. An unannounced inspection at Exeter in May discovered high rates of self-harm and suicide, including six self-inflicted deaths, increasing numbers of assaults against prisoners and staff, and high levels of drug use. 

In his letter to the justice secretary, Clarke said: “During the inspection we saw many examples of a lack of care for vulnerable prisoners which, given the recent tragic events in the prison, were symptomatic of a lack of empathy and understanding of the factors that contribute to suicide and self-harm.” Clarke told Gauke the principal reasons for invoking the urgent notification mechanism were that safety in the prison had “significantly worsened in many respects” since the previous inspection in August 2016.

The urgent notification power came into force in November and has been used once previously for HMP Nottingham. Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in Exeter had gone up by 107% since the last assessment, while attacks on staff had risen by 60%.

Clarke reported that there was a “strong smell” of drugs on some of the wings and he saw inmates who were “clearly under the influence” during the inspection. Many cells were in a poor state of repair, with broken windows, leaking lavatories and sinks, and poorly screened toilets. In one case a vulnerable prisoner assessed as being at a heightened risk of suicide was found in a “squalid” cell without bedding or glass in his window.

Clarke said: “The senior management team that is currently in place at HMP Exeter is largely the same as at the last inspection in 2016. “The failure to address the actual and perceived lack of safety, and the issues that contribute to both, is so serious that it has led me to have significant concerns about the treatment and conditions of prisoners at HMP Exeter and to the inevitable conclusion to invoke the UN (urgent notification) protocol.”

Under the urgent notification process, the chief inspector can inform the government of any urgent and severe prison problems found during an inspection. The justice secretary then has 28 days to publicly report on improvement measures adopted at the jail in question.

Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, a charity dealing with deaths in police and prison custody, said: “This cannot be blamed on staffing levels. That serious safety concerns are systematically ignored points to an institutional and shameful indifference to the well-being of prisoners. In any other setting this institution would be closed down.”

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Exeter prison is a grossly overcrowded prison where most prisoners are either not convicted at all or are serving short sentences.”

Bedford, a Category B prison that holds more than 500 male prisoners, was placed in special measures following a riot and “unprecedented levels of violence”, the Prisons Officers Association (POA) said.

Glyn Travis, POA spokesman, said: “Bedford is a low performing prison. There have been issues around the prison for about 15 months. High levels of violence, high levels of rioting and a member of staff was almost murdered.”

The prisons minister, Rory Stewart, said: 

“I am grateful to the chief inspector for identifying the urgent attention required at HMP Exeter – and I am determined that we act immediately. Staffing has increased at Exeter and we expect to see improvements as a result. We will provide all the additional support needed to improve safety and reduce self-harm and we are already conducting a rapid review of conditions to improve the standard of cells.”

Built in 1853, HMP Exeter is a category B facility for male inmates and has an operational capacity of 544. The unannounced inspection was undertaken between 14 May and 24 May.


  1. Press reports never fail to highlight prisoner on prisoner assaults and those on staff, but less or no attention to staff behaviour as a contributor to poor regimes. At least the Inspectorate keep their eye on the ball.

    'Sixty percent said they had been bullied or victimised by other prisoners and 48% said they had been bullied or victimised by staff.

    In light of the high levels of violence at HMP Exeter, it was perhaps to be expected that the use of force should have risen since the last inspection. It had, by some 39%. However, it is extraordinary that our main recommendation on the governance of the use of force has been largely ignored. Since 1 January 2018 there had been 187 recorded incidents of force being used, yet the prison’s own database showed that more than 250 reports relating to those incidents had not been completed by staff, and those that had been completed were not routinely reviewed by managers. There had also been 39 planned uses of force between November 2017 and April 2018, but despite the formal requirement to film and review such incidents the prison was only able to provide us with film from three of them. Body-worn cameras were issued to many staff but these were not used in the majority of incidents and footage was not routinely reviewed'.

  2. I was struck by how I barely bothered to read the HMP Exeter report by the Prison Inspector believing that it was more of the same. Now I have read it my earlier belief proved to be correct. It reminded me of reading Probation inspection reports and after a dozen or so there was some noticeable predictability to them. Is this the new norm, have we reached and gone beyond peak approbrium?

  3. Just with reference to Grayling.
    He's likely to face a grilling again in the Commons again on Monday. He's also got questions to answer at the select committee, and even his own party are furious at him for having to defend him last week when Labour tried to have his salary slashed.
    Theres no doubt that every MP in the country will have received complaints from constituants over the recent time table chaos, so he may find less friends then he would like if he is questioned in the commons on Monday.
    Theres calls from various quarters for him to resign or be sacked, and the chaos he created with the justice system is being referenced more frequently.
    And hats off to the Yorkshire Post who are running a daily campaign to have him sacked.
    Will he go? I personaly think its quite possible. Here's hoping.