Safety changes to prison’s day release scheme ‘require urgent attention’

Murderer Ian McLoughlin
Murderer Ian McLoughlin

Safety changes made at a prison after an inmate on day release murdered a pensioner are ‘unsustainable’ and ‘require urgent attention’.

An unannounced inspection of HMP Springhill prison by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found staff were stretched to breaking point enforcing more robust procedures put in place following the murder of Graham Buck in Little Gaddesden in July 2013 by Ian McLoughlin, a prisoner released on temporary licence.

Springhill Prison

Springhill Prison

A separate review found there had been a number of failings at the Grendon Underwood prison, including not undertaking a risk assessment on McLoughlin, who had already killed twice before.

In response it introduced a ‘more robust approach’ to handing out temporary licences, but this has ‘led to a substantial additional burden on...limited resources, with ‘substantial extra hours for each member of the offender management team with a knock-on impact on other work’.

The report says that ‘there was no plan to rectify this unsustainable situation’.

Over six months prisoners were released on licence 14,000 times, which is ‘vital in allowing prisoners who were soon to be released the opportunity to reconnect with their families or to become used to real work’.

Forty per cent of the 330 inmates at Springhill are serving between four to 10 years, with 22% on indeterminate sentences. More than 30% of inmates are inside for committing violence against people, 25% for drugs offences and 10% for robbery.

It said ‘while most staff treated prisoners well, especially specialist non-uniformed staff, others were perceived as unapproachable, dismissive and even, at times, intimidating, and we observed some evidence of this’.

Inspectors ‘found insufficient attention was given to helping prisoners develop genuine employability skills’.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said of his visit: “Springhill was still dealing with a disastrous set of circumstances that had struck at its central purpose.

“The prison was, however, well led and while the prison was clearly under pressure, staff were responding positively to the challenges they faced.

“Key staff were working hard to ensure that more robust systems for the assessment of prisoners were in place, and that there were arrangements for ROTL (release on temporary licence) that could command public confidence.

“However, getting this right was difficult, relationships were being impacted and staff in some roles were very stretched.

“The safe resettlement of offenders at the conclusion of their sentences matters, and this work needs to be resourced sufficiently and be done properly.”

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service said: “The tragic murder of Graham Buck by a prisoner on temporary release from Springhill in July 2013 led to a fundamental review and tightening of temporary release arrangements at Springhill and across the prison service.

“I’m pleased that the chief inspector has concluded that procedures are now more robust and that Springhill has responded positively with more intensive risk assessment processes now in place.

“As the chief inspector makes clear temporary release is an essential tool to support effective rehabilitation for prisoners - but public safety is our top priority and we will ensure that Springhill and all open prison establishments have the resources to undertake the more rigorous assessment process we now require.”