Just 200 spaces exist at Category A prisons across England and Wales as hunt for terror suspect continues

8 September 2023, 13:11 | Updated: 8 September 2023, 13:13

HMP Wandsworth where Khalife escaped on Wednesday, is just 11 inmates short of reaching its operational maximum
HMP Wandsworth where Khalife escaped on Wednesday, is just 11 inmates short of reaching its operational maximum. Picture: Alamy
Connor Hand

By Connor Hand

Fewer than 200 spaces exist at Category A prisons across England and Wales, LBC can reveal, as the manhunt for terror suspect Daniel Khalife continues.

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Analysis of MOJ statistics shows that the available capacity at Britain’s maximum-security prisons stood at only 189 spaces in August 2023, with HMP Wandsworth, the facility where Khalife escaped on Wednesday, being just 11 inmates short of reaching its operational maximum.

It comes as the ministers and police officers are questioning why the fugitive was not stationed at a Category A premises.

Speaking exclusively on this morning’s edition of Call the Commissioner on LBC, Head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Mark Rowley told Nick Ferrari that it “seem[ed] odd” that Khalife was positioned at a Category B jail.

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Sir Mark said: “On first inspection… it does seem odd that somebody who’s charged with terrorist offences and offences linked to undermining the state is not in a high security [prison].

“But I have heard Alex Chalk, the Lord Chancellor, being very clear about commissioning an urgent review and looking at what lessons can be learned and how the prison service can be operated differently.”

The escape of Khalife, who used strapping to tie himself to the underside of a Bid Food lorry that departed HMP Wandsworth on Monday, has prompted fresh concerns about the state of the UK’s prison system; figures published this morning that across England and Wales, 98.9% of operational capacity was being used to house prisoners in August.

During Call the Commissioner, Sir Mark also said that Khalife's breakout was "clearly pre-planned" and "unlikely to be something you do on the spur of the moment", before raising the possibility that it could have been an “inside job”:

“We’re going to look at everything. Did he do this on his own? Did anyone from inside the prison help him? It’s a question. Other prisoners? Corrupt guard staff? Was he helped by someone outside the walls? Was it simply all of his own creation?

“It’s extremely concerning that he’s back on the loose. We need to get hold of him as quickly as possible.”

When pressed on the police’s presence at Richmond Park as part of the hunt for Khalife, Sir Mark added: “Richmond park is one of the areas that we’ve been looking. This is a massive operation, well into three figures of officers involved.

"At the moment we are still really keen to get any reports from members of the public.

"Have you seen this man? Don’t approach him yourself - we will follow up."

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