Fury at £100 payouts to prisoners

EXCLUSIVEBy Liz HearnshawJAIL bosses have been branded “an absolute disgrace” for giving prisoners £100 cash handouts following a blaze started by an inmate.

EXCLUSIVE

By Liz Hearnshaw

JAIL bosses have been branded “an absolute disgrace” for giving prisoners £100 cash handouts following a blaze started by an inmate.

Appalled prison officers and crime victims criticised last night the controversial decision to “compensate” inmates at Highpoint jail in Stradishall, near Haverhill, following the arson attack on April 4.


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Home Office officials said the payments were only made as recompense for damage to property, but representatives from the Prison Officers' Association claimed the handouts had been given because of the “good behaviour” of inmates and the “inconvenience” caused by the blaze.

Steve Bostock, from the association's national executive committee, said last night: “The Prison Officers' Association expresses concerns over the apparent misuse of public funds.

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“Today, the national executive committee were advised that prisoners were to receive £100 from the governor of HMP Highpoint for good behaviour and being inconvenienced following a life-threatening incident on April 4.

“This follows the kind words of 'thanks' to all the prison staff who remained on duty during the fire and disturbance to ensure prisoners were safe and the public protected.

“The Prison Officers' Association calls for a full public explanation in relation to this gift in kind.”

Firefighters were called to the category C jail, which holds about 800 inmates, at about 7pm on April 4 and spent 90 minutes battling a blaze in a heavily smoke logged cell.

Several prisoners were moved as a result of the fire and police scenes of crimes officers confirmed the blaze was suspicious.

But the decision to give £100 to inmates - which could include the unidentified man who started the blaze - was also criticised by Mick Carter, manager of Unwins Wine Merchants in Bury St Edmunds.

His store in Eastgate Street was targeted by two men carrying a sawn-off shotgun and knife during a terrifying raid last October.

“This is a kick in the teeth and I think it is an absolute disgrace. It is not just what happens at the time of the crime, but is the aftermath,” said Mr Carter.

“I had one girl working with me when it happened and it took her weeks to get over it. This does not send the right message. When you see things like this happen, you wonder who is in the right and who is in the wrong.”

A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed payments would be made, but he could not comment on how many inmates would benefit or how much they would receive.

“We can confirm that prisoners who have suffered damage to their property as a result of the fire will receive compensation payments,” he added.

“Prison officers' property was not affected and therefore they would not receive compensation.”

A spokesman for Suffolk police said the blaze was being treated as arson and added no inmate had been charged or arrested in connection with the fire.

liz.hearnshaw@eadt.co.uk

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