Norfolk

Norwich's prisoner-run Cafe Britannia set to close

Britannia Cafe
Image caption Britannia Cafe began at Norwich Prison in 2013

A cafe run by prisoners and ex-offenders is set to close after six years.

Cafe Britannia opened at a former barracks at Norwich Prison in 2013 under a social enterprise scheme with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Prison governor Declan Moore said it did not receive money from the cafe and could not foot the bill for its upkeep.

The BBC understands Britannia Enterprises, which did not wish to comment, is closing the cafe on Friday.

The cafe offers work for inmates as part of their rehabilitation.

Two online petitions have been set up urging the MoJ to reconsider the decision.

Supporters described the cafe as a "fantastic opportunity" for offenders and said the closure was "completely unfair".

Rebuilt my life

Mr Moore said: "I'm as disappointed as anyone that Café Britannia is having to close, I know how popular it has been in recent years.

"Unfortunately the building requires significant investment and, as the Prison Service receives no money from the cafe, it would leave taxpayers having to pick up the considerable bill - which we simply cannot justify."

He said ex-offenders would be kept on at Britannia Enterprises' other sites, including cafes at the Guildhall and at Norwich Crown Court.

Ex-offender Simon Stokes, who has worked in the cafes for four years, said: "It's helped me rebuild my life.

"It's prepared me for getting released, it's helped me save to get married, to put a down-payment on a house and get my life in the right direction."

Norfolk Police said it had questioned a man in his 60s under caution earlier this month regarding a suspected fraud at the cafe in 2018.

But a force spokesman said its investigation was not connected to the closure of the cafe.

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