PRISON bosses have rubbished claims Soham murderer Ian Huntley is among the prisoners to have ‘free-rein’ of HMP Long Lartin near Evesham.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) responded to weekend press reports which revealed a third of all prisoners in the UK, including those convicted of murder, rape and terrorist offences, have been handed ‘privacy keys’.
The keys allow a prisoner to open and close their own cell during a designated period in the day when the door would otherwise be open.
However, bosses stressed the keys did not allow prisoners to open other cells or doors and gates to other parts of the prison.
Long Lartin near Honeybourne is one of 70 prisons in the UK to operate the scheme which has been in place since 1991 and now fitted as standard in most prisons.
Huntley was jailed in 2002 for the murder of 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
A MoJ spokeswoman said: “Governors have the authority to operate schemes in which prisoners may hold a ‘privacy key’ to their allocated cells as part of their local regime.
“At all other times the cell doors can only be opened by prison staff who hold security keys which operate a separate cell door lock.
“These locks override the privacy locks at all other times, and ensure that staff have complete control over all cell doors.
“The retention in possession of a privacy lock key by a prisoner does not impact on the overall security of the prison and presents a minimal risk.
“All privacy lock schemes are implemented and managed at a local level and keys are only issued to prisoners whose suitability has been assessed.’
“The responsibility of locking their own cells can also help to prepare prisoners for release.
“The availability of privacy keys to appropriately selected prisoners does not represent a risk to the public and is entirely different from security keys which are used for the perimeter of the prison and controlling internal access and movement.”