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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"It was a maticulously planned jail-break"
 real 56k

Friday, 2 March, 2001, 13:45 GMT
Jailbreak prisoners win damage claim
Whitemoor: Jailbreak was thwarted by warders
A former republican prisoner and an armed robber who sued the Home Office over injuries suffered during a failed jail breakout have won their claim for damages.

Danny McNamee - now a free man - and Andrew Russell alleged they were subjected to "excessive force" by prison officers during an attempted escape from Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire in September 1994.

The Home Office had denied liability and had argued the injuries resulted from the prisoners' actions during the escape attempt or from reasonable force used to arrest them.

The men had each claimed at least 50,000, but Mr McNamee was awarded 5,000 and Mr Russell 2,500. A similar claim by a third person, convicted IRA man Liam McCotter, failed.

Danny McNamee: Freed under Good Friday Agreement
The three received legal aid to bring the action, which is likely to cost the taxpayer more than 500,000.

Mr McNamee, 40, was convicted for the Hyde Park bombing in 1982. He was freed as part of the early release scheme under the Good Friday Agreement and his conviction was overturned two years ago.

Mr McCotter, 37, was jailed for 15 years in 1988 for conspiracy to cause explosions, and has also now been freed.

Mr Russell is not due for release until next year. He made headlines in 1987 as one of a gang which hijacked a helicopter for a failed jailbreak at Gartree in Leicestershire.

Prison security lapses

Twenty-seven prison officers were named in the legal action.

An investigation by the police and Prison Service at the time ruled that warders had not used undue force.

The night-time breakout from Whitemoor revealed extraordinary lapses at what was supposed to be England's most secure prison.

It makes a mockery of justice and turns logic and decency on their heads

Brian Caton
Prison Officers' Association
Besides two smuggled guns, the escapees had wire-cutters and a 17ft rope ladder which they made in the prison's workshops.

Four of the six escapees were captured almost immediately, although not before prison officer John Kettleborough, 33, was shot by a prisoner he spotted on top of a wall.

The two others were on the run for almost two hours before they were captured by police using dogs and a helicopter with infra-red gear.

Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, said he was "appalled" by the ruling.

"The response of the Prison Officers' Association is one of disgust," he said.

"As always at these times - and it is not the first case of its type - the actual victims are forgotten and criminals are rewarded for illegal activity.

"I think the public will be suitably appalled because people who break lawful custody, shoot a prison officer and then escape are apparently rewarded for doing so.

"It makes a mockery of justice and turns logic and decency on their heads."

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