Suffolk

Prison watchdog chairman Faith Spear sacked over reform concerns

Faith Spear Image copyright Faith Spear
Image caption Mrs Spear, of Ipswich, said the situation had "just escalated" since she wrote of her concerns about prison reform

The chairman of a watchdog has been sacked after voicing concerns over prison reform under a pseudonym.

Faith Spear was chairman of Hollesley Bay prison's Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) when she wrote an article for the 2016 Prisons Handbook.

Writing under the name Daisy Mallet, she raised concerns about the way monitoring boards operated.

Identified as the author during an IMB meeting last April, Mrs Spear, of Ipswich, was initially suspended.

She has now received a letter from prisons minister Sam Gyimah informing her that her role as IMB chairman has been "terminated" and she has been banned from sitting on any IMB for five years.

Image copyright Mike Page
Image caption The prison near Woodbridge has capacity for 434 inmates who are considered to be low-risk

In her article, she claimed members of IMBs were effectively "gagged" from raising concerns about the prisons they were responsible for monitoring.

The letter said she had "repeatedly disclosed official, classified and other information" and said she had "failed to comply with the standards expected of public appointees".

Mrs Spear said the letter was a "shock and upsetting", but added: "It is not going to stop me, the issues are still there."

She said while she was suspended there had been issues in a number of prisons, including a riot at HMP Birmingham and disturbances at HMP Swaleside and HMP Bedford in the past three months.

"The IMBs have to change," she said. "It has to be part of the reform process.

"If people monitoring are not allowed to speak out about what they see, but are effectively shut down, then I think that is very dangerous.

The Ministry of Justice has yet to formally comment on the case.

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