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Prisoner’s sexual assault on Ipswich Hospital patient raises supervision questions, says Tim Passmore

PUBLISHED: 08:23 19 February 2016 | UPDATED: 08:23 19 February 2016

Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital

The sexual assault of an Ipswich Hospital patient by an inmate at an open prison raises questions about the supervision of offenders in public.

That is the view of Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner after John Smith was jailed for four months for the crime he committed while on day licence from HM Hollesley Bay.

Smith, aged 50, was a serving prisoner at the open prison near Woodbridge when he went to the hospital for cancer treatment on December 14 last year.

While waiting to be picked up by a prison van he sexually assaulted a female patient.

Yesterday PCC Tim Passmore said he had no problem with Smith, originally jailed for wounding, being in a open prison but the situation needed to be looked at.

“When it comes to prisoners having medical appointments that is something they are entitled to do but it does raise questions,” he said.

“Are there lessons to be learned? I would think someone with an offence like that they would need to be properly supervised.”

Mr Passmore said he would be interested to know what the rationale for Smith not being supervised was.

However he added he thought this was an isolated incident and did not want “a knee-jerk reaction”.

“You have got to be a pretty unsavoury individual to assault someone, let alone in a hospital,” he said.

“I think we need to look at each case on its merits but that has to be a judgement call for the prison.”

Ipswich MP and health minister Ben Gummer said: “Clearly something has gone wrong and we need to find out what has gone wrong.

“You have to be able to balance risk and in this instance they clearly did not.”

Smith was sentenced to four months in prison at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday after being found guilt at a trial last month. He had denied sexually assaulting the woman and after his arrest claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.

The court heard he had made sexual comments towards her while she was having a cigarette, touched her leg and put his hand up her hospital gown.

Following Smith’s conviction a Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Open prisons are used to test offenders in the community before their eventual release.

“They are fully risk-assessed before this takes place and in the vast majority of cases, prisoners comply fully with the conditions they have been set and are returned to custody without issue.

“In the rare incidents where these terms are breached or a crime has been committed, offenders will be returned to a more secure prison and reported to the police for investigation.”

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