HC Deb 31 October 1995 vol 265 cc167-8W
Mr. Madden

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) for what reason Patrick Kelly and Michael O'Brien, prisoners, are(a) detained in the special security unit at Whitemoor prison, (b) refused reading material and (c) kept in cells which have no heating; if, the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) talked to either prisoner when she visited Whitemoor prison; what complaints she received about their detention; and if he will make a statement; [40449]

(2) if he will release Patrick Kelly, currently detained in the special security unit at Whitemoor prison, and arrange for his early transfer either to Northern Ireland or to the Irish Republic; and if he will make a statement. [40447]

Miss Widdecombe

[holding answer 30 October 1995]: Patrick Kelly is serving a sentence of imprisonment of 25 years for the attempted murder of a police officer and conspiring to cause explosions. Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, consideration cannot be given, save in exceptional circumstances, to Mr. Kelly's discretionary release until May 2005.

Mr. Kelly's recent request for transfer to Northern Ireland was refused on the grounds that he does not meet the criteria for transfer. He has no known links with Northern Ireland and he was not previously resident there before his present conviction. There were considered to be insufficient compelling compassionate factors to justify, exceptionally, granting him a transfer. This decision is currently under review.

Mr. Kelly has indicated his wish to be repatriated to the Republic of Ireland. This will be considered on its merits, in consultation with the Irish Government, when arrangements for the repatriation of prisoners between the two jurisdictions come into force on 1 November.

Mr. Kelly and Mr. O'Brien are both category A prisoners with exceptional escape risk classifications. As such, it is necessary for them to be held in conditions suitable for prisoners of the highest security category. It is normal policy, subject to operational constraints which may affect the availability of such accommodation, to hold such prisoners in special secure units—SSUs.

Mr. Kelly and Mr. O'Brien have not been refused reading material although, because they are on a dirty protest, they are not, for reasons of hygiene, allowed to have books from the prison library. On 17 October, as part of a disciplinary award for failing to comply with the regime requirements of the SSU, they were not permitted to receive publications from outside sources for seven days. They did, however, continue to be provided with daily newspapers. Publications sent to them during that period were stored and given to the prisoners after 24 October.

The cells in the SSU are heated. There were some technical problems when the heating was first required after the summer, but since the middle of October there have been no reported problems. The heating is now operated automatically by a temperature control located within the unit.

I recently visited the Whitemoor SSU, but did not see either prisoner.

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