Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Jacqui Smith: no big deal that I used prisoners to paint my home

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith used day-release prisoners to paint her home when they were doing community work
Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith used day-release prisoners to paint her home when they were doing community work

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has defended using day-release prisoners to paint her home, claiming they "didn't have anything else on".

The former Labour minister admitted that two inmates from HMP Hewell in Redditch did some decorating at her luxury property in the Worcestershire town.

A Prison Service spokesman said the offenders were supposed to be doing work to "help the whole community" as part of a scheme run by a local charity, the Batchley Support Group.

He said: "The decision to provide prisoners for this work was taken without consultation with HMP Hewell or the Ministry of Justice and was a mistake.

"The scheme has been suspended while a full internal investigation is undertaken."

Speaking on the LBC 97.3 morning show, Ms Smith said she wanted "to set the record a little bit straight" and accused The Sun, which ran the story on its front page, of "having a go at me".

Ms Smith made the comments during a phone-in on the Government's new proposals for community sentences to make unemployed offenders work a minimum of 28 hours over four days,

Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It's a disgrace that a former Home Secretary has used prisoners as her personal handymen. There needs to be an independent investigation into how this was allowed to happen."

A Prison Service spokesman later said: "If prisoners have no work, it is made clear that they should be returned to their prison. Under no circumstances should prisoners be taken to work in a private home."

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