Severely mentally ill Belmarsh prisoners wait a year for psychiatric transfers

PUBLISHED: 11:54 10 January 2013 | UPDATED: 11:56 10 January 2013

Belmarsh prison

Belmarsh prison


Severely mentally ill prisoners are waiting up to a year for transfer to high-security psychiatric hospitals like Broadmoor, according to a report released yesterday.

The findings, by the Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Belmarsh, also found healthcare at the category A men’s prison in Thamesmead was below par because the jail can not attract doctors and nurses.

There is currently a 21 per cent vacancy rate for healthcare staff, which the monitoring board calls a “worryingly high figure” but an “improvement” on over 60 per cent in February 2011.

Belmarsh has housed some of Britain’s most notorious prisoners such as Abu Hamza and Ronnie Biggs.

It was nicknamed the British Guantanamo Bay after detaining several people indefinitely without trial or charge under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act between 2001/2.

Discontent over healthcare accounted for 17 per cent of prisoner complaints to the board.

It also found delays in inquests following deaths in custody. Eight people who died between 2008/2010 are still awaiting inquests, with just one from 2008 and one from 2009 scheduled for 2013.

The report states: “There seems to be very little improvement from last year in the expedition of these cases despite the appointment of a second coroner. It is unfair on families and prison staff for cases to exceed 18 months, as a maximum guideline, from the death in custody. There are seven coroners’ inquests from previous years to be heard between August and December.”

Prisoners also complained to the board that prices for canteen items have increased and detainees’ wages are not rising in line with inflation.

The Ministry of Justice has been asked for a comment.

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