Beith backs more powers to protect prison officers

MP Sir Alan Beith has voted in the House of Commons to make possession of a knife in prison a criminal offence, removing a loophole in the law.

Section 75 of the Serious Crime Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, makes possession of any article that has a blade or is sharply pointed an offence punishable by additional prison time.

Sir Alan said: “This loophole in the law must be closed to make sure there is a clear deterrent for prisoners thinking of acquiring a knife.

“At a time when prison officers are under so much pressure, the law must be clearly in place to provide as much protection as possible.”

Speaking about the recent report published by HM Inspector of Prisons after an unannounced inspection at HMP Northumberland, Sir Alan added: “This report, based on an inspection last September, gives a more balanced picture of HMP Northumberland than some of its critics, and it includes many favourable comments, but it shows that the new Governor and the hard-pressed staff have a challenging job ahead.

“The prison houses far too many prisoners from outside the North East, some of whom create trouble because they want to be relocated nearer home; there is a large number of sex offenders without a clear strategy for their regime, and too many non-sex offenders housed with them as vulnerable prisoners; this is a training prison, but it needs more work for prisoners, which was one of the key points in Sodexo’s successful bid to run it.

“The Governor needs to press ahead with the recommendations to improve safety and to continue recruiting additional staff, and prison service management should stop using HMP Northumberland as a location for large numbers of prisoners from the Manchester and Liverpool areas, which adds to safety problems.”