PETER FROST cannot believe that a disastrous failed privatisation in the Justice system is leading to a privatised 999 service.
Gareth Myatt (below) was a 15-year-old prisoner only three days into a 12-month sentence at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre a privatised young people’s prison run by G4S in Northamptonshire. Gareth was only 4ft 10in tall and weighed just six and a half stone.
After a dispute about a toaster he was forcibly restrained by three large adult guards. The restraint technique they used resulted in Gareth becoming breathless before choking to death on his own vomit.
Eleven years later a damning report in May this year showed that things had not got any better. Rainsbrook,(below) which opened in 1999, is a modern secure complex of buildings near Rugby designed specifically to house offenders aged between 12 and 17.
Ofsted Inspectors rated the unit “inadequate”- the lowest grading – and said young people suffered degrading treatment and that staff were under the influence of drugs. The report also found delays in children receiving essential medical diagnosis and treatment.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is the worst report on a prison I have ever seen because it is a catalogue of abusive practices that have been inflicted on young children who have no escape.
“These child jails run for profit are secretive and should never have been set up in the first place. Rainsbrook should be closed immediately. No child is safe in this jail.”
Now after 16 years of unsatisfactory management G4S has lost the contract. Over those 16 years at least six members of staff, including some very senior managers were dismissed for gross misconduct.
So after this horrendous failure in by G4S in Northamptonshire what has the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds come up with?
He has asked that very same G4S to bid for the privatisation of all emergency 999 calls in Northamptonshire. The same 999 emergency calls that so often are responsible for life or death decisions.
Before Adam Simmonds was elected in 2012 he promised not to privatise police services in Northamptonshire. “I have no intentions of privatising our police force and therefore I would be grateful if you would spread the word that this Candidate for PCC isn’t interested in that agenda.” He told local people.
So just who is Adam Simmonds? (below). He is a Tory and has worked for a Christian advocacy group and as an adviser to the Tory Northampton Council.
Simmonds was elected as the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire in 2012. The election had a turnout of just 20%. Simmonds was 35 years old when entering office, making him the youngest PCC in England.
Within three weeks of his appointment, he was accused of hiring friends including his election campaign manager Kathryn Buckle. Simmonds said that he wanted people who wanted him to succeed.
Those appointed included four assistant commissioners, each on a salary of £65,000. Simmonds has a dozen staff in his office at an annual cost of £729,100.
In January 2014 Simmonds received praise from Home Secretary Thereesa May. She credited him with “looking at innovative ways to bring the blue light services together”.
Now he is doing his bit to implement in advance George Osborne’s comprehensive spending review announcement due on November 25, which is likely to insist all police forces make further spending cuts of at least five per cent.
Simmonds and local police chiefs have already spent £50,000 on a feasibility study working out how the G4S takeover could work. One idea appears to be having these urgent emergency calls outsourced to a call-centre in another country, meaning that any local knowledge would be lost.
Three county forces, Northampton, Nottingham and Leicestershire are looking a combined privatised 999 system.
Local rank and file police officers are horrified as are civilian police employees whose union Unison are leading a campaign against the 999 privatisation.
Unison regional head of police and justice, Dave Ratchford told the Morning Star that the news was “very worrying” and that “justice should not be for sale.
“It is disgusting that we should have businesses trying to turn a profit out of policing. We do not believe that the general public want their policing delivered by a private provider”.
Meanwhile the directors of G4S, The company that failed so miserably to police the London Olympics; the company that was found to have overcharged taxpayers for running electronic tagging schemes by millions of pounds; the company that failed just as miserably to run
Northamptonshire’s Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre are getting ready to make a fortune shipping out local life and death 999 calls to a call centre somewhere half way around the globe.
“Police? Ambulance? Fire? Hold the line please, your call is important to us, we are making a fortune out of it.”
A slightly updated version of this article appeared in the Morning Star 26 November 2015.