Uncivil war breaks out over alleged ‘coup’ on Hollesley Bay prison’s monitoring board

Hollesley Bay Colony

Hollesley Bay Colony

A war of words has broken out amid allegations of a ‘disgraceful coup’ aimed at ousting the chairman of Hollesley Bay open prison’s Independent Monitoring Board.

Faith Spear

Faith Spear - Credit: Archant

It comes after Faith Spear described herself as a whistle-blower without a whistle as she lifted the lid of the difficulties facing prison monitors all over the country.

Now Mrs Spear is currently clinging on to the title of Hollesley Bay open prison’s Independent Monitoring Board chairman, despite an attempt by her fellow board members to force her resignation.

The ‘coup’, which has provoked a vehemently denied allegation of bullying, comes after the 51-year-old wrote an article for The Prisons’ Handbook.

Using the pseudonym Daisy Mallet, Mrs Spear highlighted – in her view – how the prison monitoring system needs to change if it is to be worthwhile.

Hollesley Bay open prison

Hollesley Bay open prison - Credit: Archant

Mrs Spear, from Ipswich, claimed the system has barely moved on in 50 years.

She called for a more professional, transparent approach, infused with younger bloodlines, if true progress was to be made in the rehabilitation of prisoners.

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However, when her board discovered Mrs Spear was Daisy Mallet they took a dim view of her opinions.

Mrs Spear said she was asked to explain the article at a meeting and had to field questions from each of her fellow members.

A request was then made for her to leave the room.

When invited back she was told the other board members no longer had confidence in her as chairman.

She subsequently received a letter from her vice-chair Christine Smart which read: “Further to the meeting of the IMB at HMP and YOI Hollesley Bay on 19 April, 2016, this letter sets out the unanimous decision of the board.

“…the unanimous decision of the board was to request you to resign as the chairman of the IMB at HMP and YOI Hollesley Bay. You should also note that should you decline to step down as chairman, the board unanimously agrees that it will not attend meetings under your chairmanship.

“I have been asked by the board to forward this letter to you. I would be grateful if you could acknowledge its receipt and let me have your decision by 26 April, 2016.”

Mrs Spear said she feels bullied but is refusing to resign.

“I feel very let down. I haven’t slept properly. I haven’t eaten properly. I don’t want to step down. Why should I?

“What kind of message is that to send to people? I have got to make a stand.”

She insisted she did not have a grudge against anyone when she wrote the Daisy Mallet article, and did so only because important issues needed raising.

Mrs Spear was shocked at the turn of events on April 19 and was not prepared for the response she received.

She said when she went to a meeting scheduled for April 26 she was the only board member to attend.

Mrs Spear has replied in writing to what she sees as an ‘ultimatum’ over her position asking “since when have the IMB board members been both prosecution and jury”?

In the letter, she claims during the April 19 meeting… “the comments made to me got quite personal and centred on my published views about the recruitment of the board.

“Amazingly there were no questions about the more serious issues I raised facing the independent monitoring of prisons or issues facing prisoners.

“In short I felt bullied by the IMB.”

Mark Leech, Editor of the Prisons Handbook claimed the meeting on April 19 was a “disgraceful coup d’etat”.

In response the board has strenuously denied any accusation of bullying Mrs Spear.

A spokesman for the Hollesley Bay IMB said: “The board categorically denies that bullying, in any form, occurs at the IMB.”

It is understood the board’s view was that no approval had been sought for the Daisy Mallet article and that it reflected poorly on HBIMB. It is further understood the board did not accept much of the content as accurate.

Asked for the Ministry of Justice’s view, a spokesman said: “As the Prime Minister and Justice Secretary have said, our prisons badly need reform.

“That is why we have a vision for a more modern, effective and 21st century prison system and we are investing £1.3billion over the next five years to transform the prison estate and design-out the dark corners that facilitate bullying, drug-taking and violence.

“We are also introducing a range of new measures, such as better drug detection, and giving governors and those who work in prisons the tools they need to rehabilitate offenders more effectively.”

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