Smith defends inmates painting home
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 MP 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. Offenders should work on projects which help the whole community. The scheme has been suspended while a full internal investigation is undertaken."
Speaking on radio station LBC, Ms Smith said she wanted "to set the record a little bit straight" and accused The Sun newspaper, which ran the story on its front page, of "having a go at me".
"Well, just to set, I hope, the record a little bit straight, these are guys that were working with a local community organisation in Redditch, a community organisation that actually gives work experience opportunities to prisoners as they come towards the end of their sentence," she said.
"On one day, when actually they didn't have anything else on, they did come to my house and do three hours-worth of painting, for which me and my husband made a donation to the community group."
Ms Smith added: "I think it's a bit hard on the community organisation because I think they were doing a really good job - in fact, the sort of things I think that prisoners should do as they come towards the end of their sentences.
"Get out and about, get a bit of work, get used to getting back into the community. But I know that when it's anything to do with me, the papers like to put probably the very worst spin they possibly can on it and in my view, that's what The Sun has done today."
A spokeswoman for Batchley Support Group said staff were not aware of restrictions on what kind of work the offenders could be given, but accepted that the arrangement "may not have been the best use of prisoners' time".