April 18 2014 Latest news:
Monday, November 12, 2012
A SERVING prisoner has told a court drugs and phones are easily available in Hollesley Bay open prison, and that women stayed at the jail overnight.
The claims were made by Lee Chapman, who was serving a triple life sentence before absconding from the jail by shinning down a drainpipe, catching a bus, and then going on to commit six burglaries.
However, Prison Service officials have strenuously denied Chapman’s assertion that females are permitted to sleep at Hollesley Bay, calling them “totally untrue” – and said any inmate found with drugs or a phone would be referred to police.
During the 34-year-old’s Ipswich Crown Court sentencing, his counsel Charles Myatt said Chapman had been kept in a secure environment for 17 years after being convicted by Peterborough Crown Court in 1996 of arson with intent to endanger life and burglary.
Chapman was moved to Hollesley Bay – a Category D open prison – in September, but feared he would be sent back to a secure jail because he was having problems adjusting.
Mr Myatt said: “It was quite a culture shock for him. He was working towards his eventual release, but he found the rather relaxed attitude of the rules, in many respects, difficult to cope with.” The court was told Chapman said he came out of his cell one morning to be confronted by three women who had stayed the night. One of them was the wife of an inmate and the other two were her friends, he claimed.
Mr Myatt said Chapman had also told him drugs and mobile phones were “rife” within the prison.
On the spur of the moment Chapman decided he had nothing to lose as he believed he would be sent back to a Category C prison, so decided to leave and see his family in Peterborough before it happened.
On October 8, using a bundle of bedclothes to aid his escape, Chapman shinned down a drainpipe and caught a bus to freedom from within Hollesley Bay’s grounds, the court heard.
While making his way back to Cambridgeshire he burgled six homes in Bury St Edmunds in 11 days.
On one occasion a householder caught Chapman eating a chocolate bar he had taken from the fridge. When confronted Chapman apologised, returned a house key he had found, and fled the property.
Chapman was eventually found by police sleeping rough in Peterborough on October 29.
He pleaded guilty to escape from lawful custody and burglary, for which Judge David Goodin jailed him for a total of two years to be added to his existing sentence.
After the case a Prison Service spokeswoman said: “It is a criminal offence to be in possession of drugs or a mobile phone in prison and any prisoner found in possession will be referred to the police.
“We take this issue extremely seriously and staff work hard to keep all prohibited items out of prisons, using a range of robust and intelligence-led measures and work closely with partner agencies, including the police.”
In relation to the allegation women had slept over at the jail, she added: “These claims are totally untrue.”