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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 02:57 GMT 03:57 UK
Race jail death hearings to end
Zahid Mubarek
Zahid Mubarek died days after the assault from massive injuries
A major inquiry into the killing of an Asian inmate in a young offenders' institution is ending.

Teenager Zahid Mubarek was attacked by his racist cellmate in 2000, hours before he was due for release from the prison in Feltham, west London.

During the final hearings, inquiry chairman Mr Justice Keith said he believed complaints of racism in jails were not being properly investigated.

The inquiry began in November 2004. The final report is due in February 2006.

Robert Stewart, originally from Hyde, Greater Manchester and now 24, battered his 19-year-old cellmate - a first-time offender - with a table leg.

Stewart, serving a life sentence for the murder, was later found to be a psychopath.

In the inquiry's second phase, closing on Wednesday, the panel visited eight prisons, including Feltham, and commissioned 14 focus groups with inmates and prison officers. Six seminars involving 56 delegates then followed on key issues.
Robert Stewart
Robert Stewart is serving a life sentence for the killing

In the penultimate seminar on racism and religious intolerance, Mr Justice Keith said he had the "subjective impression" complaints of racism were not being taken seriously.

"More often than not, we found that there was not a witness to what was supposed to have happened," he said.

"The investigator was having to make a judgement as to which of the two (prison officer or prisoner) should be believed. Invariably the response that we got was: 'well, there was not any evidence to support the complaints.'

"When we suggested... what they were really saying was there is no corroborative evidence of the prisoner's complaint, the answer we got... was that it is very difficult to put a prison officer's career on the line simply because of the uncorroborated word of a prisoner."

Mr Justice Keith said he was also concerned about allegations that some prisoners believed they were denied privileges because of their ethnicity.

"At the end of the day I was not convinced that complaints were being investigated, albeit by officers of goodwill who thought that they were doing a good job.

"I just got the impression that there were many cases that were passing them by."

Mental disorders

The final session of the inquiry on Wednesday focuses on how prisons deal with mentally disturbed prisoners.

Stewart's mental condition has been a key part of the inquiry amid allegations that he had been identified as dangerous to others - but neither properly assessed nor classified as such.

In a note to the inquiry ahead of the hearing, Mr Justice Keith said he wanted to hear why the "overwhelming majority" of prisoners with mental disorders were being kept on the same wings as other prisoners, even though they could be a danger to themselves or others without expert supervision.

The chairman said that the increasing jail population was playing a role in this situation and he wanted the Prison Service to tell him what was being done to properly train officers dealing with disturbed inmates.




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