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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Prison chief's horror over raid
Sir David Ramsbotham
Ramsbotham "horrified" over prison raid
The chief inspector of prisons has expressed horror over a late night raid by prison officers at a "model jail" that caused thousands of pounds of damage.

During evidence to the Commons' select committee, Sir David Ramsbotham said the search at Blantyre House, Kent, did not reflect the direction that the prison service's director general, Martin Narey, wished to go in.

My staff felt he [Tom Murtagh] at times publicly humiliated me

He said once in front of people that I was 'wired up to the moon' implying I was naive

Eoin McLennan-Murray
The search, which happened on 5 May involved 84 officers from nearby prisons and cost 26,000 - including 6,000 in damage after doors were smashed down with sledgehammers - but only recovered three illegal mobile phones, six items of pornography and 40 in cash.

The prison's governor, Eoin McLennan-Murray, was removed from his post just hours before the search, of which he knew nothing.

Sir David also appeared to criticise the prison service area manager Tom Murtagh, saying that it was a "fair supposition" that if another manager had been in place at the time there would not be a need for an inquiry now.

Mr McLennan-Murray, who also appeared before the all-party committee, said he felt "bullied" by Mr Murtagh, a fact he blamed on a difference of opinion over the liberal regime at the prison.

Governor 'humiliated'

Mr McLennan-Murray said: "My staff felt he [Tom Murtagh] at times publicly humiliated me. He said once in front of people that I was 'wired up to the moon' implying I was naive."

He also accused Mr Murtagh of winding him up with a story that a national newspaper was about to run an expose story about a prisoner - a claim that subsequently turned out to be untrue.

On Tuesday, members of the committee visited the prison and heard evidence from staff and the board of visitors.

Director general Mr Narey - who is also due to give evidence to the select committee - justified the search at the time by saying that among the items recovered there were illegally held credit cards, some forged passports, cameras and escape equipment.

Prisons Minister Paul Boateng also faces a grilling over whether he personally authorised the raid.

Earlier this year, the progressive nature of Mr McLennan-Murray's regime won plaudits from shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe and Labour chair of the home affairs committee, Robin Corbett.

The former governor now works as a deputy governor at another prison.

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