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Inverness woman, 82, remanded to Peterhead jail 107 miles away

By Neil MacPhail

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Edward Mountain concerned at new prison delay.
Edward Mountain concerned at new prison delay.

A CITY pensioner was locked up in Grampian Prison at Peterhead because there was no bail accommodation for her locally.

Monica Robinson (82) appeared in private at Inverness Sheriff Court last week facing domestic abuse allegations, and made no plea.

The fiscal did not oppose bail, but since Robinson could not return home because of the charges, and there being no suitable emergency homeless accommodation in the city, she was taken to Grampian Prison 107 miles away in Peterhead.

The situation was highlighted Robinson's solicitor advocate Mike Chapman.

He said: "I am concerned and frustrated at the situation and feel this woman has badly been let down.

"The Crown were not opposing bail but because of Covid there was no question of her getting homeless accommodation locally."

This has led to a call for improved facilities for female prisoners in the Highlands.

Porterfied Prison in Inverness is no longer fit to provide female cells, and the closest female facility is now at HMP Grampian.

Mr Chapman made strenuous efforts with Highland Council’s housing and social work departments in a bid to find emergency homeless accommodation as a bail address, but was told all spaces were full because of Covid.

He said: “It was impossible to find a suitable place for this vulnerable 82-year-old. She was driven more than 100 miles away in a place she doesn’t know, away from family and friends. I believe other prisoners there helped her out with toiletries.”

Rhoda Grant seeks special unit.
Rhoda Grant seeks special unit.

Highlands and Highlands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is seeking a specialist unit for female prisoners when the new HMP Highland jail is finally built was very concerned that this was an elderly woman not convicted of anything.

She added: “You’re innocent until proven guilty and therefore to be taken away from your family and friends, is unacceptable, especially for someone of this age."

She said the case highlights the need for a facility in Highland that allows women to be closer to home, and called fora community custody unit where those on remand or coming to the end of their sentence could be held.

“If it has transpired that this woman is in jail because there is no homeless accommodation, then that needs to be sorted," she added.

“We have such a backlog in the justice system and the council has a duty of care to find this woman accommodation if that’s the only thing that’s keeping her in prison.”

Edward Mountain MSP said: “Far too many prisoners from the Highlands are being transferred out of the region because HMP Inverness is not fit for purpose. The Highlands needs a modern prison and I continue to press the SNP Government to fund this shovel-ready project.”

The Scottish Prison Service said they are required to accept those remanded by the courts, and at present the female facility for Inverness and Highland is in HMP Grampian.”

A Highland Council spokesman said: “All Highland women are remanded, where that is the court decision, to HMP Grampian as we have nothing closer. Highland Council is aware of the high numbers of remand across Scotland and would support the use of bail in all appropriate cases.”

Plans for the much-needed new £80million prison in Inverness, next to the Shopping Park have been delayed to make way for other prison projects across Scotland, including replacing Barlinnie in Glasgow.

A recent inspection report revealed almost 300 inmates from across the Highlands were in jail hundreds of miles from the north because the aged Inverness Prison was too small.

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