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Police Cells (Escapees)

Volume 129: debated on Wednesday 9 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the escape of five category A and two remand prisoners from South West London magistrates court cells on 6 March.

The security of prisoners held in police and magistrates courts cells within the Metropolitan police district is the responsibility of the Commissioner. I understand from the Commissioner that on Sunday 6 March, 12 remand prisoners were being accommodated in court cells at South Western magistrates court, where they were the responsibility of one sergeant and three constables. One prisoner was being returned with an escort from the shower room when several prisoners attacked the police officers and succeeded in overpowering them. Seven of the 12 prisoners then escaped from the premises. The escape was discovered at approximately 10 pm when the night duty police officers arrived to relieve their colleagues. The prisoners who escaped included two who were jointly charged with murder, one who was on remand for possession of firearms, three who were on remand in relation to drug offences and one who was on remand for robbery. No category A prisoner was among those who escaped.The Commissioner tells me that the incident is now being investigated by members of the Metropolitan Police Complaints Investigation Bureau and that all divisional chief superintendents have been instructed urgently to review security in police and magistrates courts cells within their divisional territories. The cells at the South Western district magistrates court will not be used for remand prisoners, pending a full review of the security arrangements.I understand that three men, including the two men who escaped having previously been charged with murder, have now been recaptured.