Families 'will suffer if Lincoln Prison is closed'
Since the Echo revealed how Lincoln Prison could close, people across the county have been in touch to share their thoughts on the prospect. Mark Williams reports...
The city's network of solicitors would be devastated by the closure of Lincoln Prison, according to a local lawyer.
Mark McNeil, head of the criminal department at Sills and Betteridge in Lincoln, also warns that hundreds of inmates who have not been convicted of a crime would suffer the burden of not being able to see family and friends on a regular basis.
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A significant proportion of inmates at the Greetwell Road site are on remand – when a defendant is on bail or in custody following the adjournment of a trial.
The Ministry of Justice is currently undertaking a review of the 140-year-old site.
One option is to turn the prison into an immigration removal centre.
The transportation of 738 prisoners to sites in Hull, Nottingham and Peterborough, would mean families of inmates having to spend more money to see their loved ones, many of whom may not be proven guilty.
Mr McNeil told the Echo: "A huge issue is that a significant amount of the inmates are on remand. So they are innocent until proven guilty.
"These people, many of whom could be innocent, will be less likely to see family members who, with economic times as they are, perhaps cannot afford to visit prisons outside of what is a huge county.
"That cannot be fair.
"Often these defendants can be on remand for up to two years.
"Imagine having very limited access to your family and friends over a two-year period. It is not fair, especially if it turns out that they are actually innocent.
"I know many clients whose partners are pregnant when they are put on remand.
"These people will see very little of their newborns if they are housed outside of the county. Their partner has to take the baby on a bus because they are on a limited income.
"None of this makes sense."
Mr McNeil, also a partner at Sills and Betteridge, says all criminal solicitors in the city would be directly affected by any closure.
"This will have a terrible impact on the solicitors in Lincoln," he added.
"The change would surely spell the end of Lincoln Crown Court and, before you know it, the whole process and system we currently use will be destroyed.
"There are around 20 of us that would be directly affected by this.
"A big part of our job is to go into prisons and discuss cases and statements with our clients.
"If we are travelling to Hull or Peterborough, for example, then that is the best part of a day gone.
"The whole process will be far less efficient and it won't suit anyone.
"We often go into Lincoln and discuss cases with four or five defendants in one go. This will be impossible if Lincoln Prison was to close.
"The transport system in Lincolnshire is such that it takes a long time to get anywhere. It just would not work."
Meanwhile, Lindum Group solicitor Lucy Rigby, also Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Lincoln, added: "The idea that a city the size of Lincoln wouldn't have a prison or a crown court does not make any sense.
"They are incredibly important to the local economy and it is vital we maintain both.
"There are far too many repercussions if it closes – and many even if it gets downgraded.
"In a time of bad economic times we need to do all we can to stop job losses.
"There is no need for another immigration centre and we must fight to stop this from happening as far as I'm concerned.
"There is no way we can allow Lincoln Prison to close."