Mother Accuses Wandsworth Prison Of 'Massive Cock-Up'

Hammersmith man released six days into a six-week sentence then re-arrested for escape

Stephen Forde with his mother - image: Deborah Forde

Prison bosses have been accused of a “massive cock up” after a man was released six days into a six-week sentence and then re-arrested for “escaping” from jail.

Stephen Forde, 38, was re-arrested yesterday, July 25, when he returned to his mother’s home in Hammersmith, West London, having gone shopping. The gas engineer had just come back from a week’s holiday in Malaga, Spain with his daughter.

He took the holiday shortly after being released from Wandsworth Prison where he had served only six days of the sentence he was given on July 12 for breach of a restraining order, after pleading guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Mr Forde, who lives with his mother, Deborah Forde, in Bridge Avenue, Hammersmith was shocked by the early release, but says he didn’t ask any questions. Yesterday Ms Forde, 54, spoke of her anger after Met officers searched her home and arrested her son on suspicion of “escape from lawful custody”.

Police took him back to Wandsworth Prison where he remains today.

“There were nine police here yesterday morning, and they searched the house before he got back. One of them said they had been watching my house all week, while he was on holiday,” she said. 

“But they released him. We’ve got his discharge papers. How on earth would he have escaped from Wandsworth Prison? On the sixth day in prison they just said he was free. Stephen said he asked if they were joking. And the prison guard told him ‘do you want to stay for dinner?’

“It’s a massive cock up by someone. It’s ridiculous, who’s running the prison?”

In a further complication Mr Forde's arrest at his mother’s house came after he had already been arrested the day before by Essex Police after stepping off a plane at London City Airport.  Release papers from Essex Police show he was wanted on suspicion of “escape from lawful custody” – the same reason the Met arrested him on July 25. 

The release papers say: “Based on the evidence currently available a decision has been made to refuse charge”.

Ms Forde, a special needs teacher, said: “When they arrested him at my house, he told me ‘Mum I can’t cope with this anymore’. 

“His job is on the line and everything. It makes you wonder, a breach of a restraining order is a petty crime. But how many other people have they released early? It’s a joke.”

She said the family are also unsure who issued the second arrest warrant to the Met Police, after Essex Police had already released him: “I rang Westminster Magistrates’ Court, but they said they didn’t issue a warrant. So It must have been the prison,”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the Prison Service did not issue the arrest warrant.
“Our records do not show that he [Mr Forde] was not released in error. He was either released or transferred to another prison,” a spokesperson said.

The Met Police have also been asked for comment.

Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

July 29, 2019