1 Jul 2014

Racist murder fears in young offenders institutions

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

Fourteen years on from the racist murder of Zahid Mubarek in Feltham, HM inspector of prisons says there is evidence of racist bullying on a significant scale in young offenders’ institutions.

Zahid Mubarek

The chief inspector of prisons is warning that risks are running too high of another racist murder in young adult institutions.

Nick Hardwick says there is strong evidence that racist bullying is happening on a significant scale, eight years on from a public inquiry into the killing of 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek.

The teenage was battered to death with a table leg by his racist cellmate Robert Stewart in Feltham young offenders’ institution back in 2000.

A judge-led public inquiry in 2006 made 88 recommendations, but a review has found there remain significant weaknesses in the risk assessment of prisoners which are often delayed or “of poor quality”.

‘Unacceptably violent’

In Norwich prison, the inspectorate found that prisoners themselves were risk-assessing new arrivals, a practice that has now stopped.

In a six-month period last year, there were 215 recorded prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in Feltham, which was condemned by the inspectorate as “unacceptably violent”.

Violence in male adult prisons has been rising since 2009 and is now more than 9,000 assaults a year.

‘Tick-box exercise’

Zahid’s uncle, Imtiaz Amin, who runs a trust set up in memory of his nephew, accused the government of false assurances and of engaging in a “tick-box exercise” on implementing reforms which is concealing “gross failures”.

He said one London prison held 75 acknowledged “racists” in its cells. “It’s just a matter of time,” he said “before there’s a repeat of his nephew’s murder.”

He is calling for a meeting with justice ministers. “Race discrimination is no longer on the prison service agenda.”

Mr Hardwick said: “If people thought ‘job done’ (rooting out racist violence in prisons), that certainly is not the case.”