Peterhead prison

A £140MILLION super-jail to replace two of Scotland’s oldest prisons has been likened to “a five-star hotel”. HMP Grampian will replace the grim Victorian jails at Peterhead and HMP Craiginches in Aberdeen. It will be built on the current site of Peterhead prison. There will be a community reintegration unit, landscaped gardens, four all weather football pictures, prisoner allotments, en suite rooms with sea views, no bars on the windows, pool tables, 19 inch flat screen tv’s in every cell and a gym that boasts the very best sports equipment. The new Peterhead Prison is expected to receive its first inmates as early as 2014.

HMP Peterhead has an ignominious reputation. But what was life inside the prison that holds some of Scotland’s most reviled and dangerous sex offenders really like?

It is disarmingly childlike, the small single bed with its Manchester United duvet cover and Playstation controller on the pillow. A television sits in the corner surrounded by bottles of soft drink. But this is no young child’s room.

Prisoners are given blinds for cell windows because early morning sunshine is disturbing their sleep.

On the desk there’s an exercise book containing small neat rows and columns of figures with occasional annotations. It’s a record of income and expenditure. The sums are pathetically small, the few pounds spent on the juice and chocolate visible, toothpaste, other sundries. And the tables stretch back not just weeks and months, but years. Into the previous century.

This is the cell of a sex offender at HMP Peterhead prison. The man who lives inside it has committed a terrible offence, been tried and convicted and is now serving a very long sentence. Yet as the cell shows, he eats and washes and sleeps, just like the rest of us. He follows a football team. He likes to relax by playing video games. He’s careful with his money.

On the surface, he’s just like you and me.

And one day he will be released back into society. That is what makes him so complex and dangerous.

The prison itself has a similar quality, an imposing 19th century facility set on a headland that juts out in to the swelling grey North Sea.

Peterhead convict prison was built around August 1888, and was designed to hold 208 prisoners. It was to be Scotland’s only convict prison Occupancy averaged at around 350 however, until peaking at 455 in 1911. Additional buildings were completed in 1909, 1960 and 1962, bringing capacity up to 362. The first convicts were received at the prison in August 1888.

HMP Peterhead was a specialist centre for sex offenders

A key part of the rehabilitation work the inmates undergo – and all 306 men currently housed at Peterhead have chosen to take part in the specialised sex offender treatment programme, those who refuse to do so serving their sentences in HMP Dumfries – involves discussing their offending behaviour in group situations overseen by a trained professionals

It was previously saved from closure by the decision to concentrate Scotland’s sex offenders there to allow the Stop intervention programmes to be created.

Introduced in 1993, the Stop programme aims to make sex offenders identify mood cycles which result in offences.

Yet almost a quarter of the sex offender inmates have been recalled from Peterhead after release over breaches of supervision. So do the Rehabilitation courses really work ?

The average age has been pushed up by the increase in convictions for what is termed historical abuse – offences committed years, even decades ago, but only prosecuted recently, meaning the offenders are often well into middle age, or even elderly, when incarcerated.

The other thing you notice is that Peterhead is much quieter than other prisons. Where places like Barlinnie sounds more like a football match with continual shouting and announcements over the tannoy, Peterhead is almost silent. 

Violent incidents, attacks on staff and incidents between prisoners, are rare, far lower than in other jails. There is little drug use and no gang culture.

But this does not mean the prisoners are benign. Far from it. It is just that instead of using physical force to gain advantage, they use their brains. Just as the majority of sex offenders will plot and manipulate to create the situations in which they can commit their crimes and then use similar tactics to keep their victims from speaking out, so they use similar tactics once locked up.

A key concern for staff is that prisoners will learn what they are expected to say while undergoing the treatment programme and make every effort to appear to be complying and ‘getting better’ in order to hasten their release date so they can offend again.

Dangerous inmates that have/or are staying in Peterhead prison

Robert Foye was jailed for a minimum of nine years over the rape of a 16-year-old schoolgirl in August 2007.

Gay sex killer William Beggs was jailed for life in 1999 for killing 18-year-old Barry Wallace, whose legs were found in Loch Lomond and his head on an Ayrshire beach, he has gained a reputation as a jailhouse lawyer by advising his fellow cons at Peterhead.

Peter Tobin is a convicted Scottish serial killer and sex offender now serving a sentence of life imprisonment for the murders of three young women. Prior to his first murder conviction, Tobin served ten years in prison for a double rape committed in 1993, following which he was released in 2004. In 2007, he was sentenced to life with a minimum of 21 years for the rape and murder of Angelika Kluk in Glasgow in 2006. Skeletal remains of two further young women who went missing in 1991 were subsequently found at his former home in Margate. Tobin was convicted of the murder of Vicky Hamilton in December 2008, when his minimum sentence was increased to 30 years, and of the murder of Dinah McNicol in December 2009.

Lee Barrass is serving 17 years for murdering Big Issue seller Beth Myles, 19, before committing a sex act over her body.

Grant McQueen, 25, was jailed for six and a half years in 2007 for raping 10 year old girl at a holiday park on Arran.

Thomas Smith was jailed for a minimum of 32 years for raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl and murdering her mother in 2010. The now 28-year-old former soldier was at the time on the sex offenders register after a sexual offence against another 10-year-old girl in Teesside in northern England in 2006.

Serial paedophile Charles O’Neill was jailed for at least 30 years for murdering a mum who tried to expose him and his paedophile friend.  They had preyed on six boys, aged 11 to 15, at a house in Skelmorlie, Ayrshire, and elsewhere, plying them with drink and drugs before raping and abusing them. The boys’ ordeal went on for five years. Both beasts were freed early, in 2002, and O’Neill was soon terrorising children again.He drugged and molested a boy of 14 in Irvine, Ayrshire, after worming his way into the trust of the lad’s family. The following year, when O’Neill and Lauchlan were living in Spain, they abducted a 15-year-old English boy in Benidorm and subjected him to three days of horrendous abuse.

Brian Beattie was jailed for life for the murder in 1996 of 15 year old Celtic Boys’ Club member Lawrence Haggart.

Ryan Yates stabbed the 60-year-old grandmother in an Aberdeen park during an attempt to abduct and rape the children, aged eight and two, in 2009. Yates was jailed in 2010 for a minimum of 10 years.

The dark secrets of the bleak and brutal Barlinnie Prison revealed

IT’S known as the Bar-L or “the big hoose in the east end” or sometimes even by its official name – HMP Barlinnie.

Scotland’s largest prison’s reputation is fearsome to those who live on the right side of the law, as well as those who lead a life of crime.

In its 127-year history, Barlinnie has earned a place high on the list of the world’s most infamous jails alongside Alcatraz, the Bangkok Hilton and the Scrubs.

It saw executions in its Hanging Shed, the shocking squalor of the now-abolished practice of slopping out and one of the most pioneering experiments ever in the treatment of ultra-violent criminals in its SpecialUnit.

And for every popular myth about the Bar-L, there is another story just as shocking or horrifying which is completely true.

Now a new book traces its history from its earliest days as an enlightened bid to relieve overcrowding in existing jails – which swiftly fell to pieces.

Almost from the moment the prison opened, it has been overpopulated, creating powder-keg conditions which haveexploded over the years into riots and violence.

Today, the overcrowding persists and the current governor Bill McKinlay – who jokes the Bar-L is even morefamous than Edinburgh Castle worldwide – is among those who believeit should be demolished to make way for a new prison.

And he certainly is not the first to want to see the back of Barlinnie.

But in the 1880s, when the prison was first planned, it promised some improvement in the horrifying conditions in Scotland’s jails.

The Barlinnie Farm Estate sold the land for £9750 and building began on the structure.

At the time, it was out in the country, far from the teeming tenements of Glasgow that would provide it with a ready supply of inmates. The plan called for a gigantic four-block structure, each holding 200.

It was visionary thinking at a time when the public could not care less about inmates. Let them rot, the popular thinking went.

AHall was opened and took in its first prisoners in July 1882.

The list of what went on in the workshops is impressive. Baking, basket-weaving, blacksmithing, tinsmithing, plumbing, carpentry, shoemaking and mattress-making were just some of the tasks carried out.

Outside, there was labour in the quarry as hammers swung breaking up stone for use in the building of B, C and D Halls.

They were completed by 1892 but by then the number of prisoners had soared and another hall was needed.

In 1897, E Hall took Barlinnie.’s notional capacity to 900.

In more recent times, double that number of inmates have been crammed inside the walls, once light sandstone but turned grimy and blackened by the smoke of factories and coal fires over the years.

In the early days, the cost of keeping each prisoner was, in today’s terms, £21.43 a week.

But the prisoners were expected to adhereto the Victorian work ethic – and earned the jail a profit.

Some were not put to work and were destined for the gallows instead.

Barlinnie.’s Hanging Shed only opened for business in 1946 – replacing a gallows at Duke Street Prison – but 10 men went to their death there between 1946 and 1960.

The last man to hang therewas 19-year-old Tony Miller, convicted of what nowwould be described as a “gay-bashing” murder.

Miller battered and robbed John Cremin at the Queen’s Park Recreation Ground. Itwas known to homosexuals as a night-time rendezvous – and to violent young men as a place to find easy prey.

Middle-aged Cremin was battered to death and robbed of his watch, bankbook and £67.

Three days before Christmas 1960, Miller was executed despite a protest petition signed by 30,000.

A few thrown in the death cell did come out alive, including double murderer Donald Forbes, who was no stranger to the Bar-L even before his arrest for killing an elderly nightwatchman in 1958.

The death penalty was commuted after Forbes married his pregnant lover, who he already had a daughter with, in jail.

The son who saved his father’s life only lived a few days and the marriage was over within a year.

Forbes was freed in 1970 but after only a few weeks he killed again.

Crowds outside the courtroom bayed for him to be lynched – but the death penalty had been abolished the year before.

The judge instead said he would go to prison for “a very long time”. And Forbes remained thereuntil 1998, except for a brief escape from Peterhead which saw him branded Scotland’s most dangerous man.

At the age of 68, after only five years of freedom, Forbes was jailed again for dealing drugs.

And in 2008, before he could taste freedom again, he died in hospital with two guards at his bedside.

With the possible exception of the Hanging Shed, the most famous part of Barlinnie was the Special Unit.

For 20 years from 1973, the unit, which dealt exclusively with the worst hard cases, conducted one of the most important and controversial experiments in penal history.

The unit held such infamous prisoners as killers Jimmy Boyle and Hugh Collins, who went on to become respected artists, and TC Campbell, who was convicted and later cleared of the notorious Ice Cream Wars killings with Joe Steele.

Their lives behind bars had been a shocking mix of stabbing warders, assaulting other cons, rioting and dirty protests – urinating and defecating everywhere and anywhere.

For years the unit, which gave the inmates a much morerelaxed regime, was the target of public hostility – labelled a soft home for hard men generously provided bythe taxpayer.

The pub talk that it was five-star luxury in the unit nicknamed the Wendy House or Nutcracker Suite was garbage.

Life was still tough, but in the unit prisoners were treated not as animals but as men with brains.

It did not work for everybody. Larry Winters, who murdered a barman for £5, died of an overdose in the unit.

But the experimental approach had many successes beforethe unit was closed down in 1993, when it was deemed too expensive to run.

In 1987, Barlinnie became notorious worldwide as the site of Scotland’s longest prison siege. Even those who had seen it coming were taken aback by the scale of the riot.

Cons on the roof threw slates at officers.

Concrete blocks prised from floors were dropped on officers in riot gear byprisoners who wrecked large areas of the jail and smashed their way into the pharmacy for drugs.

The cons, alleging they had been victims of brutality, took five staff hostage and started fires in the jail.

Two of the hostages were freed but three wereheld as masked convicts roamed the roof, shouting abuse at governor Andrew Gallagher.

As darkness fell early in the siege, a hostage was paraded on top of B Hall, a knife at his throat and screaming: “They are going to kill me”.

Outside, the wife of a protester turned up with a baby in a pushchair and shouted: “Please come down. Ronnie, I love you. You are going to get hell. Think of the weans.”

He shouted back: “Don’t worry about me. Worry about the weans.”

Eventually, negotiators ended the siege. The wonder was no one had died and no one was seriously hurt.