December 9 2013 Latest news:
Monday, October 21, 2013
A legal battle to save Blundeston Prison from being axed is now in full flow after injunction papers to try and stop it closing were lodged at the High Court on behalf of a prisoner serving a life sentence there.
In a dramatic development an application for an injunction pending judicial review of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to close Blundeston Prison, near Lowestoft, has been lodged at London’s High Court by a barrister acting on behalf of the prisoner.
The papers argue that Mr Grayling has broken the law by denying the prisoner, who is on an indeterminant life sentence, and other inmates the right to complete a therapeutic community programme they had opted to join for 18 months,
It is argued there is a legal duty to provide therapeutic community for prisoners who have opted into it for a minimum of 18 months and by closing the prison down so quickly, Mr Grayling is breaking the law by denying prisoners the right to complete the programme.
There are also claims the government took the decision to close the prison without waiting for the latest report from the Independent Monitoring Board; and that there was a discrepancy over how much money has been spent or is being spent on the prison.
The High Court challenge to the government follows its announcement in September that Blundeston Prison and its 230 jobs were to go as part of a national programme to save £30m a year from the prison budget.
Since that announcement Bob Blizzard, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, has campaigned to keep the prison open.
As part of his campaign he is in close contact with the barrister acting on the prisoner’s behalf.
Mr Blizzard said: “The application for an injunction pending judicial review of Chris Grayling’s decision to close Blundeston Prison has been lodged in the High Court.
“How ironic, that a prisoner is taking the Secretary of State for Justice to court for breaking the law.
“Local people are so angry with the prison closure announcement that they hope the prisoner succeeds in overturning the government’s decision.
“Prison staff and the local community feel let down by this.
“I hope the prisoner can win his case and force Mr Grayling to rescind a decision that is unfair to prison staff, unfair to prisoners and unfair to our local economy.”
Blundeston Prison is a category C prison.
At the time of September’s announcement it had a capacity for 526 prisoners, a 60-bed wing for life sentence prisoners and employed more than 100 prison officers and a further 130 staff.
It is set to close along with three other prisons to save £30m a year as they are said by the government to be either too expensive to run or need substantial capital investment.
When news of the possible injunction was revealed earlier this month the Ministry of Justice said the decision to close HMP Blundeston was made following a thorough assessment and was based on a range of factors, including the suitability of the accommodation.
Mr Blizzard has said information given to him showed £20m had been spent on the prison over the past two years, including £6.5m on a new laundry and £50,000 on night sanitation.