Key Links



Death Penalty


Justice System





Practitioner Links

Domestic Violence

Mental Disorder

Restorative Justice

Sex Offenders

Substance Misuse



News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

October 20, 2009: Prisoner Transfer: Napo's Response

Probation union Napo has responded to the publication of a report into the transfer of prisoners immediately prior to inspections.

The Governors at two large London prisons, Wandsworth and Pentonville, have been charged with gross professional misconduct, following allegations that small numbers of disruptive prisoners were transferred out on the eve of inspections by HM Inspectorate to a neighbouring prison, and then sent back once the inspection was over. Both Governors have recently moved jobs, one to become Head of Custody for Wales and the other to run HMP Whitemoor.

In addition the Deputy Governor at Wandsworth and two middle managers, one at each prison, have also been charged with gross misconduct. It is also thought that the Wandworth Governor may be charged with negligence which led to the death of an inmate. It is understood that the governing Governor at Wandsworth was aware of prisoner movements out of the jail during mid-June 2009, but was unaware that the same prisoners were moved back several days later. Given the size of both Wandsworth and Pentonville it would be unrealistic to expect a governing Governor to know or recall exact details and names of all prisoners moved out of the jail, because of the frequency of such movements.

It appears to have been established that in June this year prisoners were sent from Wandsworth to Pentonville to help improve the chances of a positive inspection. At the same time a prisoner was sent from Wandsworth to court and was wrongly sent back to Pentonville. It was decided to keep him in Pentonville over the weekend because the transport had already gone, and he was subsequently sent back to Wandsworth the following day. Twenty-four hours later he committed suicide. The same prisoner had previously attempted to take his own life while in Pentonville.

Prison Governors are known to be highly critical of the number of inspections and audits that they have been subjected to in the recent past. One large London prison had 15 audits or inspections during the last 40 months. There is therefore tremendous pressure to try and ensure that the audit and inspection is positive. A negative inspection can lead to the removal of a Governor and the threat, or reality, of privatisation as prisons are currently subject to performance league tables.

There has also been criticism of the expansion of the number of senior managers who do not have direct dealings with prisoners but are responsible for setting targets, measuring performance and auditing outcomes. Currently there are over four thousand staff employed at headquarters in National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and over 600 in the regions.

There has also been criticism in the recent past from the Inspectors that the reports are either not acted upon or dismissed and are not given the status they deserve by headquarters in NOMS. Governors report that hundreds of prisoners are moved each week and that although there may be a link between the moving of prisoners in June to better inspection performance this is not surprising because of the massive pressure on governors to constantly perform well.

There have been a number of serious incidents in London prisons since 1 April. A prisoner escaped from Pentonville by concealing himself under a van; two prisoners swopped identify at Brixton, with one escaping; a prisoner disappeared in Holloway for a whole weekend by hiding in a cupboard; and a prisoner was sprung from a prison van after leaving Feltham after arranging for the said escape on his phone. In addition a visitor was murdered in the car park at Wandsworth during the summer.

Recent audits have also complained about mandatory drug testing figures being doctored and regime activities being exaggerated in order to obtain positive inspections. This did not lead to charges.

Now there will be an investigation into the misconduct charges with the most likely outcome that the individuals will be disciplined. ACAS advice states that dismissal should not be automatic after a finding of gross misconduct and that it should only happen if the person’s presence could not be tolerated in the workplace. However this tends not to apply in employment tribunals if the person is of senior grade. if the matter, is proved the individual affected could be demoted, given a final warning or moved to other duties or dismissed.

The Governors at Wandsworth (Ian Mulholland) and Pentonville (Nick Leader) are both highly regarded. Indeed Wandsworth is used as a model of a good regime with MPs, journalists and others frequently sent there on visits. The Governor at Wandsworth has invited prisoners to inspection debriefs, which is unique, and the Governor at Pentonville has allegedly been shortlisted for a civil service leadership award for equality and diversity. Both Governors were seen as having a progressive approach with an emphasis on rehabilitation and care of prisoners rather than warehousing. The action taken against the Governors is bound to have a detrimental effect on progressive ideas within the prison estate and could set matters back a decade.

Napo Assistant General Secretary Harry Fletcher said:

“Reports in the past have highlighted children being excluded from school prior to Ofsted inspections, patients being left in ambulances to meet A&E targets at hospitals, Cafcass staff stopping all work with children to ensure files are updated by the time of inspection and Probation workers reducing the time spent with offenders to less than 20% of their week to meet endless form filling and targets. All these and the prison experience are examples of the public sector striving to meet numerous audits and inspections set by government. Yet it is extremely unusual for the inspectors to have any experience of running the institutions they inspect. This is particularly so with prisons."

"The Prison Service has far too much centralised, repetitive, bureaucracy. There are too many inspections and audits. A modern Governor’s job is extremely difficult and they are constantly checked and monitored. The Governors at both London prisons have a good reputation in the rest of the criminal justice system and their loss to the service will have a severe detrimental affect on morale and progressive ideas.”

“The alleged transfer out of prisoners before an inspection is clearly regrettable but is understandable given the pressure that prisons are under to produce excellent inspection after inspection after audit. There should be an independent enquiry into the affect on all criminal justice agencies of the number of audits and inspections."

"In respect of prisons, the investigation should examine whether there is any evidence of manipulation of mandatory drug testing figures following prison inspections, whether prisoners on drug-free wings are the subject of mandatory drug tests, the frequency of inspections for local, training and secure prisons in both the private and public sectors and, as a result of inspection, how many establishments have been found to over-report, under-report and accurately report their activity hours for prisoners, and what action was taken. The investigation should also examine how illegal drugs and mobile phones are transported into prisons and what research has been done to evaluate the methods”.

TThe Chief Inspector’s report into the incidents at Wandsworth and Pentonville will be published on Tuesday 20 October. It is as a consequence of this investigation that the charges have been laid against the five members of staff. It is not known whether this practice has been used in other prisons. The report on Tuesday may offer some guidance.

Jack Straw, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made a written ministerial statement concerning temporary transfer of prisoners prior to inspections.