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Prison governors too afraid to make controversial decisions in wake of John Worboys case

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 24/05/2018 By Anna Mikhailova, Political Correspondent
John Worboys, David Gauke posing for the camera © Provided by The Telegraph

Prison governors are too afraid to make controversial decisions in the wake of the John Worboys case, the former governor of Belmarsh has said.

 John Podmore - who ran Brixton, Belmarsh and Swaleside prisons - said the decision to sack the head of the Parole Board for initially granting Worboys early release will make prison governors wary of following new Government plans to allow more prisoners out early to take up jobs.

Professor Nick Hardwick quit as chairman of the Parole Board in March after being told by David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, that his position was untenable.

Nick Hardwick wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Telegraph

Mr Podmore said: “Part of the problem as you say is one secretary of state after another, they don’t stay around very long. It is about risk aversity.

“One of the things that caused Chris Grayling to put the kibosh on release on temporary licence was a release, it wasn’t a serious offence, but it had a high media profile.

“Now, Mr Gauke is saying yes, we should have more people on temporary release but a governor has to make a decision, has to take a risk and a governor releasing people on licence, I have to say this, he will look at the ruthless and brutal sacking of Nick Hardwick, the head of the Parole Board, and he was sacked on the basis that something got controversial.

Philippa Kaufmann QC, senior council for two victims relating to the black cap rapist John Worboys , Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for two of black cab rapist John Worboys' victims and Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women speak at a press conference in central London this morning in relation to judges granting an appeal against the release of John Worboys. © Press Association Philippa Kaufmann QC, senior council for two victims relating to the black cap rapist John Worboys , Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for two of black cab rapist John Worboys' victims and Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women speak at a press conference in central London this morning in relation to judges granting an appeal against the release of John Worboys. “Well, prison governors will look at what Mr Gauke did there and they will worry that anything they do that is controversial he will lay down their career for his.”  

Mr Podmore's comments on BBC Radio 4's Today programme came as Mr Gauke was set to unveil his plans to make prisoners ready to start a job on the day they leave jail to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Mr Gauke will give prison governors greater freedom to decide on the classes offered to inmates so they can be given skills tailored to the needs of local employers.

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for two of black cab rapist John Worboys' victims and Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women speak at a press conference in central London this morning in relation to judges granting an appeal against the release of John Worboys. © Press Association Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for two of black cab rapist John Worboys' victims and Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women speak at a press conference in central London this morning in relation to judges granting an appeal against the release of John Worboys. The Government is also keen for more prisoners getting out early into the workforce and teaming up with employers, by being granted release on temporary licence.

It is trying to recruit major employers to a scheme to offer work to ex-offenders, following the example of Timpson and Greggs.

However, Mr Podmore's comments suggest prison governors may be reluctant to grant release on temporary licence in the wake of the Worboys case.

Mr Gauke wants to see governors commission “bespoke” training schemes tailored to the needs of inmates and the jobs market.

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