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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK
Racist prison murder 'avoidable'
Zahid Mubarek
Zahid Mubarek was just hours away from being released
The murder of Asian prisoner Zahid Mubarek by a racist cellmate could have been prevented, an inquiry has ruled.

Naming 19 individuals and 186 failings, Mr Justice Keith's inquiry found psychopathic killer Robert Stewart should have been identified as a risk.

Mr Mubarek died in 2000 after being beaten with a table leg in his cell at Feltham Young Offenders' Institution.

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland has written to his family to apologise for his death, their lawyers said.

Family barrister Patrick O'Connor earlier said: "This report is a devastating indictment of our whole prison system."

Inquiry chairman Mr Justice Keith said politicians must fund jails properly or cut prisoner numbers.

In his 700-page report, the judge called for the Home Office to consider whether it should recognise a new concept of "institutional religious intolerance".

He said improper attitudes towards ethnic minority prisoners, particularly Muslims, was a contributory factor to the tragedy.

However, Mr Justice Keith said Stewart "should have stood out" two years before he attacked Mr Mubarek.

Missed opportunities

The report said clues had been scattered around the jail system that were continually missed as prisons or individual officers either failed to recognise their importance or did not take them seriously enough.

Mr Justice Keith
Improper attitudes existed at Feltham, the inquiry found

Despite a record for violence and racism and recorded concern that he was a mental health risk, Stewart was placed in the same cell as Mr Mubarek in early 2000 at Feltham Young Offenders Institution.

It had been the only bed available as the jail struggled with huge numbers of prisoners, demoralised staff and pressure from inspectors to improve its performance.

Had there been effective management from the governor down, and within the wider prison system, the death could have been prevented, Mr Justice Keith said.

"The history of Stewart's management within the prison system before he went to Feltham for the last time reveals a number of missed opportunities," the report said.

"It is easy to be wise after the event, but by the summer of 1998, Stewart should have stood out from the crowd.

"We can only speculate about what would have happened if Stewart's potential dangerousness had been properly addressed."

Officers named

Two of the most senior staff at Feltham at the time of the murder, the then governor, Niall Clifford, and his deputy John Byrd, are among 19 individuals in the prison service named as having failed Mr Mubarek.

Mr Clifford, promoted after the death, was found to have alienated staff despite having arrived to turn around a failing jail.

Mr Byrd was "singularly ineffective" as the jail's race relations chief, said Mr Justice Keith.

Shame on them for what they have done
Mubareks' lawyer Dexter Dias

Prison service officials responsible for monitoring the mental health of disturbed inmates were also heavily criticised in the report for either failing to identify the dangerous state of Stewart's mind or failing to pass on their concerns.

In strongly worded attacks, the chairman described a casual disregard of racism at Feltham, saying some officers were in denial while others simply did not understand the nature of the abuse.

He said prison service staff as well as inmates were subjected to racist abuse during the period surrounding the death.

The report made 88 recommendations for improvement.

Elimination of enforced cell sharing should be a "high priority", Mr Justice Keith said.

If resources are not enough for an increasing jail population "ministers must find the extra money to enable the Prison Service to deliver a proper regime for the prisoners it is required to hold," he said.

'Appalling failures'

Mr O'Connor said: "The judge who has written this report and heard all the evidence was rightly shocked and dismayed by what he found.

"The family have suffered terribly in order to expose these appalling failures."

Mr Mubarek's family maintain his death was "institutional murder".

His uncle Imtiaz Amin said: "The report represents a devastating critique of the whole prison system and it is important that something like this does not happen again."

Home Secretary John Reid said the government already agreed at least in principle to 50 of the inquiry's 88 recommendations.

"The rest will be considered both urgently and carefully," he said.

Zahid Mubarek's uncle speaks out on his death

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