Eighty Wandsworth prison officers skipped their shifts on day Daniel Khalife escaped, minister reveals – that’s four out of 10 staff
Eighty prison officers at HMP Wandsworth skipped their shifts on the day Daniel Khalife escaped from the prison meaning just four outr of 10 staff were on duty, a Government minister has said.
Khalife, 21, was remanded in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday after allegedly escaping from HMP Wandsworth on September 6.
He had been working in the prison kitchen at the time of the alleged escape and is accused of strapping himself to the underside of a food delivery lorry.
Justice minister Damian Hinds confirmed the figure, equating to 39% of total expected staff on September 6, in response to a question submitted by Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the Labour MP for Tooting.
However, Mr Hinds said an initial investigation into Khalife’s escape ‘did not find the staffing level to be a contributing factor’.
Khalife was arrested on a canal towpath in west London on Saturday after being pulled off a push bike by a plain-clothes counter-terrorism officer.
Dr Allin-Khan asked how many and what proportion of shift slots at Wandsworth Prison were unfilled on that date, to which Mr Hinds responded on Thursday: ‘On 6 September 2023, 1,594 prisoners were held at HMP Wandsworth.
‘125 Band 3 Prison Officers at the prison attended their shift on that day. This equates to 61% of all staff due to attend.
’80 officers did not attend their expected shift at the prison on that day.’
The Conservative MP for East Hampshire said staffing levels were still above the minimum level required at the prison, and all staff in both the kitchen and gatehouse were on duty on the day in question.
Keith Bristow QPM, former director-general of the National Crime Agency, has been appointed to lead an internal investigation into the escape.
The Ministry of Justice said the investigation will seek to identify shortcomings and ensure lessons are learned to help prevent similar incidents.
It will consider a range of factors, including whether relevant protocols were in place at HMP Wandsworth when the escape happened and how Khalife was given access to materials that might have facilitated it.
Staffing levels and an assessment of relevant security measures, such as checks relating to the lorry, will also be scrutinised before findings and recommendations are provided.
The report on the investigation will be submitted to the ministry’s Lord Chancellor and permanent secretary.
In a statement to MailOnline, the Ministry of Justice denied that a total of 80 officers had unexplained absences the day of the escape, saying that the figure included people on annual leave, training, prisoner escort duty and maternity leave.
‘Staffing levels at HMP Wandsworth have increased by around a quarter since 2017 and there were an appropriate number of staff on duty that day, with almost all absences factored into workforce planning, including staff out for training or on annual leave,’ the statement said.
‘The initial investigation did not find staffing levels to be a contributing factor in the escape. All staff were on duty in the kitchen and gatehouse.’