Suffolk

HMP Blundeston: 'Court challenge' to prison closure

  • 7 October 2013
  • From the section Suffolk

Government plans to close a Suffolk prison are set to be challenged in the High Court, the BBC can reveal.

In September, the government announced HMP Blundeston, near Lowestoft, was set to close by the end of the year.

Lorna Elliott, a specialist prison barrister with EBR Attridge, said there is likely to be a judicial review this week over the plans.

Lawyers will argue the decision was based on out-of-date information, the BBC has been told.

The Ministry of Justice said it did not wish to comment on possible legal action.

Bob Blizzard, the former Labour MP for Waveney, said: "A rushed government decision is often a suspect decision.

"It's being scrutinised and is likely to be tested in the courts. The government said it was closing because modernising was too expensive. What we know is that some of the work mentioned (by the government)... has been carried out and it seems the decision may have been taken based on inaccurate information."

He added: "The decision was a bombshell and it seems it wasn't thought through. On the very day of the announcement there were contractors still carrying out modernisation work on the building itself."

Ms Elliot said: "We are not saying at this stage who could be bringing the action, but it is highly likely. I think the decision to close Blundeston Prison and more particularly the therapeutic community is misconceived and ill advised."

The lawyer told the BBC that the legal grounds for the review would be a claim that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling based his decision on out-of-date information and that the rapid closure of workshops to aid prisoner rehabilitation would be against policy.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "The decision to close HMP Blundeston was made following a thorough assessment by senior managers in the National Offender Management Service.

"It was based on a range of factors, including the suitability of the accommodation, and was not a reflection of the current performance of the prison or its staff.

"We need a fit-for-purpose, modern estate which provides prison accommodation at a much lower cost to the taxpayer and in the right places to deliver our ambition of reducing reoffending.

"Our aim will be to avoid compulsory redundancies by firstly redeploying staff and, if necessary, offering voluntary early departures to staff in affected sites and neighbouring establishments."

The jail is set to close in December with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

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