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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Prison security fears over rail plan
Whitemoor Prison
The Prison Service wanted to see embankments built around the jail
Prison officers fear plans for a new rail depot could compromise security at a jail which holds some of Britain's most dangerous inmates.

Network Rail hopes to build an engineering yard on an 18-acre site next to Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire.

But the Prison Service has objected to the scheme, as it is concerned a hijacked train could be used to breach prison wall in an escape bid.

It also says the planned depot could cause inmates sleepless nights.

The Category A jail holds 530 prisoners such as serial strangler Dennis Nielsen, Jill Dando's killer Barry George and M25 road-rage killer Kenneth Noye.

The Prison Service believes restless nights could make the prisoners more difficult to control and compromise security.

The planning application for the rail engineering yard on the outskirts of March is asking for it to operate 24 hours a day.

The prison should be viewed as a hamlet of over 500 permanent residents, some of whom have strong anti-social tendencies
Prison Service letter
A letter has been sent from the Prison Service to Fenland District Council in protest at the plans.

It said: "Any action that could have an adverse or potentially adverse effect on the security of such a prison is unacceptable.

"Whitemoor Prison is a high security prison containing persons regarded as menaces to society convicted of major crimes including murder, and generally prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or to the police or to the security of the state.

"We are most concerned to maintain the highest security for the prison, and limit any possible opportunity to compromise security."

Prison chiefs had asked Network Rail to build an embankment as a further defence against trains being driven at the prison walls, but it has not been included in the latest plans.

Kenneth Noye and Barry George
Kenneth Noye and Barry George are among the inmates
The letter added: "The prison should be viewed as a hamlet of over 500 permanent residents, some of whom have strong anti-social tendencies.

"The prison population is more fractious than the outside community and as such has the potential to cause disruption over a matter that to others seems very trivial.

"Constant irritation because of the noise, particularly if linked with certain weather conditions, could lead to unrest, building damage, personal injury and loss of control by the authorities.

"This risk is unacceptable for a captive audience, some with psychological problems, that is unable to leave the area."

A Prison Service spokesman said: "There are ongoing discussions with Network Rail regarding this."

Whitemoor was the scene of an armed escape in 1994 when six inmates, five of whom were convicted IRA terrorists, fled.

Six inmates smuggle guns into a special secure unit, cut through one fence and climbed over another.

All six were recaptured and there have been no escapes from Category A prisons in England and Wales since.


SEE ALSO:
Top jail hit by escape plot claims
22 Mar 98  |  UK News
Jail changes locks after key find
01 May 99  |  UK News


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