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News 2006
News ->Zahid Mubarek Public Inquiry Report Pubished


ZAHID MUBAREK PUBLIC INQUIRY REPORT PUBLISHED
(29 June 2006)

Zahid MubarekThe report of the Zahid Mubarek Public Inquiry was published today (29 June 2006). It lists more than 180 failings that led to Zahid's tragic death, names individuals and makes 88 recommendations for the future. Inquiry Chairman, Mr Justice Keith has considered what led to the murder of the teenager, killed by his cellmate Robert Stewart, and also at what changes could be made to reduce the risk of such an attack taking place in the future.

Mr Justice Keith said "As I said at the beginning of the Inquiry’s hearings, we will do what we can to get at the truth so that Zahid’s family will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that such lessons as can be learned from his tragic death may make our prisons a safer place in which to be. I hope that throughout the process I have been comprehensive, fair and have left no stone unturned." ”

In 2000, Zahid Mubarek, an Asian teenager, was serving a short sentence at Feltham Young Offender Institution. He had not been to prison before. While there, he wrote movingly to his parents, admitting his shortcomings and expressing a determination not to let them down again. He was due to be released on 21 March.

But he was never to get the chance to prove that he had put his past behind him. In the early hours of that morning, he was brutally attacked by another young prisoner, Robert Stewart, with whom he had been sharing a cell for the previous six weeks. According to Stewart, Zahid had been asleep at the time, though some prisoners claimed to have heard screams. What is not in doubt is that Stewart clubbed him several times about the head with a wooden table leg. When help came, Zahid was barely conscious. Such was the ferocity of the attack that his father told the Inquiry that when he saw Zahid in hospital, “his head looked like a huge balloon. He was almost unrecognisable. His face was full of blood with bruising all over it.” He died from his injuries a week later. He had been in a coma and never regained consciousness.

Some months before, Stewart had bragged about committing the first murder of the millennium. He was subsequently convicted of Zahid’s murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. In convicting Stewart of murder, the jury rejected the suggestion that he should be convicted of manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility rather than murder.

Shortly after the attack on Zahid, the police discovered that Stewart had strong racist views. They also learned that he had had a violent past while previously in custody, and that his mental health had been questioned. Much of that had been known to some of the prison officers at Feltham at the time. Not surprisingly, questions began to be asked about how he and Zahid had ended up in the same cell. How had Stewart come to share a cell with someone from an ethnic minority? What exactly had been known about Stewart? Had any information about him been passed to the wing? And had any assessment been carried out of the risk Stewart might have posed to any prisoner who shared a cell with him?

To its credit, the Prison Service never sought to deny that it had failed to fulfil its responsibility to look after Zahid while he had been in its care. On the day of Zahid’s death, the Director General of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, wrote to Zahid’s parents. He frankly stated: “You had a right to expect us to look after Zahid safely and we have failed. I am very, very sorry.”

And at a public hearing held by the Commission for Racial Equality in the course of its investigation into racial discrimination within the Prison Service, Mr Narey said in terms that Zahid’s had been “a preventable death”.

After protracted legal proceedings which went on for a number of years, it was decided that there had to be a public inquiry into Zahid’s death. This published report is the result of that inquiry. It identifies the key stages when, had appropriate action been taken, the tragedy which befell Zahid could have been prevented. It also considers what steps should now be taken to reduce the risk of something like this ever happening again.

Tthe report can be downloaded at www.zahidmubarekinquiry.org.uk

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