Prisoner probe at docks

A TOP-level investigation was under way today after allegations that prisoners with drugs convictions had been let out of jail to work at Felixstowe port.

A TOP-level investigation was under way today after allegations that prisoners with drugs convictions had been let out of jail to work at Felixstowe port.

The authorities were looking into claims inmates had been sent to the container terminal - the scene of several huge drugs seizures - on day-release as part of a resettlement programme to prepare them for life back in the community.

But, according to reports, some of the men were serving time for drug smuggling and supplying - and while at the port were involved in driving around cargoes identified by Customs officers for drugs and weapons searches.

Today an inquiry was taking place into why the men from Hollesley Bay were sent to work in such sensitive jobs.

Port of Felixstowe corporate affairs manager Paul Davey said that as soon as the port was alerted the prisoners' backgrounds, their employment ceased.

"Rehabilitation of prisoners by putting them back into a working environment is obviously a good thing and we would not be opposed to that, but in this case it didn't seem an appropriate place for them to be working given their backgrounds," he said.

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"The arrangement has now stopped and the men are not here any longer."

It is understood the men were employed as temporary agency staff through an arrangement with a local recruitment company.

But the firm had not told the port of the full details of the men it was sending.

The men were said to be tasked with driving containers identified by Customs officers to a special inspection area where they are searched using a hi-tech multi-million pound X-ray scanning machine.

Customs officers are also said to have been unaware of the background of the men doing the work, or that they were prison inmates.

A spokesman for HM Customs in Suffolk said today that the issue of prisoners working at Felixstowe port was not a matter for the service to comment upon.

No-one was available to comment at Hollesley Bay prison today.

A recent report on the jail said a number of offenders not suitable for open prisons were being sent to it because of overcrowding in other jails.

Despite inspectors identifying a number of areas of concern, it was though praised for it "increased focus on resettlement" and work with prisoners to integrate them back into society on release.

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