Friday, April 29, 2011


This episode is not concluded. Dave will now return to the internal
complaints procedures and the Ombudsman, requesting apologies and a
chunk of compensation for his lost laptop.

This post-script aside, this chain of events raises many issues
broader than the scope of just one man.  Firstly, the ease with which
the prison can make a serious allegation. As this event took place
outside of the formal disciplinary system, no proof was required. Even
so, a report is entered for the perusal of the parole board, baldly
stating that this guy has been illegally accessing the internet.

Secondly, it raises the sheer futility of the official complaints
process. Every complaint Dave made was brushed aside by merely
repeating the original allegation. That this huge error was not
corrected by the Prison Ombudsmen is particularly unfortunate we
expect better.

The complaints process was borne out of the riots of 1990 Strangeways,
et al. Its purpose is to address what Lord Woolf diagnosed as the
major cause of the riots, i.e. that the prison system had failed to
persuade us that we were being treated justly. There was a total
collapse in legitimacy, which a new complaints process was intended to

And yet, we have little faith in this process. Complaints are mangled,
obfuscated, delayed and denied. Black is certified as being white,
night as day.-anything is used to buttress the age old position that
staff can never be wrong. The creation of the 'independent' Ombudsman
as an external final arbiter should have been the crowning glory of
this whole schema. Dave found them unable to so much as exercise the
wit: to turn on a laptop and check the browser history.

Given the timescale of these events - well over a year now - it can be
appreciated that Dave is extremely persistent, especially when he is
in the right! Yet most prisoners aren't so energetic. And their files
fill up with snide comments and dubious allegations which have never
been proven - and which can now not be dis-proven.

Most of all, this saga reveals the sheer incoherence, ineptitude and
unprofessionalism of prison staff. Once they have read this
elucidation of their misdemeanors, though, 1 wouldn't be surprised if
the Security Department suddenly become very efficient - and begin
kicking my door in again. Watch this space!


  1. Ben your observations are very similar I suspect to the vast majority of people who get caught in a "compaints procedure", especially if it's related to a public service.

    In my experience the simple approach is to test the first level of the complaint procedure and if the outcome isn't favourable use the legal system.

  2. Trying complaining to BT about your broadband and see what a pain in the backside they are...

  3. I reserved comment on the matter until the concluding part had been posted, and indeed my comment will be full of caveats.

    As was said by the first anonymous poster (April 29, 2011 7:48 PM) the failures you detail sound all too familiar when dealing with any complaints process, especially one run by a public authority.

    I'm sure that Ben has provided a very detailed and full account of what has happened to Dave in relation to the allegations about his laptop and illegally accessing the internet from it. Furthermore having knowledge and experience (not from Ben's side of the wall granted) of the prison service I could very well believe the actions Ben describes as having taken place. However, I will refrain from criticising the prison service too strongly as I haven't seen the papers myself and therefore only see one side of the story.

    One would certainly have expected the Ombudsman to have carried out an independent examination of the laptop, or at the very least requested that the applicant had one carried out before she made her decision on the case. Hopefully a second round through the complaints procedure with his independent expert report will sort the issue and if it doesn’t there is always an application to the Information Commissioner for breach of the Data Protection Act.

  4. I think it is scandalous to have an Obudsman who quite obviously is not up to the job!!. Go Dave...