Widespread failure of prison service to investigate violent and sexual assault

By staff writers
June 3, 2010

The Howard League has revealed today (3 June 2010) that the prison service has failed to investigate 1,443 recorded incidents of violent and sexual assaults in prisons.

The charity reported that out of 1,481 allegations of serious assaults in prisons in 2008, the prison service only investigated 124, and that out of 119 allegations of sexual assault in prison in the same year, only 33 investigations were conducted.

The news comes on the same day that the inspectorate report into Brinsford prison exposed the inability of the prison that holds 518 teenagers to provide a "sufficiently safe and purposeful environment" for the young people sent there. The report also criticised "serious weaknesses in the collection of data and the investigation of violent incidents".

The Howard League says its legal team has dealt with hundreds of young people in custody who have been victims of violent and sexual assaults.

The Howard League recently represented a young man who was raped by his cellmate. He had been receiving round-the-clock care in the community from his local authority and was known to have learning difficulties and autism. When he was remanded into a private prison he was placed on the vulnerable prisoners’ wing with convicted sex offenders. The young man attempted to commit suicide in prison following the attack and he is now in a psychiatric unit. The Howard League’s lawyers have supported the young man and his family for two years.

Following an investigation by the prison and probation ombudsman into the case, Stephen Shaw concluded in his report, "This is by no means the only occasion when I have found that the prison authorities have considered their own duty to investigate discharged by a police investigation that has not been continued." He then went on to remind prisons of "their obligations under PSO (Prison Service Order) 1300 in respect of independent internal investigations even when the police decide there is insufficient evidence to proceed".

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform said: "Brinsford's damning inspection report is one of many that demonstrates just how badly our prison system is failing to protect teenagers. The state sends thousand of young men and women into these institutions each year but fails to protect them from assault and violation. The prison service has a duty to investigate systematically such assaults so that lessons are learnt and young people are protected."

The Howard League wrote to the prison service two months ago to discuss the disparity between the number of alleged assaults and the number of PSO 1300 investigations. The prison service has failed to respond.


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.