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Prisoner Talked Into Releasing Hostage

30 Dec

Trained  negotiators  spoke  to  William  Lobban  for thirteen  hours  before  he  released  prison  guard  Terry  O'Neil unharmed



herald-logoPrisoner talked into releasing hostage

Friday 24 July 1992


SCOTTISH Prison Service negotiators yesterday talked an inmate into releasing a hostage prison officer and then into giving himself up after nearly 14 hours of defiance.
The prison officer, Mr Terry O'Neill, 37, from Dunfermline, was unharmed after the incident at Perth Prison.
William Lobban, 23, a Glasgow man serving a six-year sentence for assault and robbery, is being questioned in connection with the incident. It is alleged he had been armed.

Lobban was yesterday taken north from Perth Prison under heavy escort to either Peterhead or Inverness jail. Three days ago, he was assaulted with a last in the cobbler's shop at Perth Prison by a local prisoner and required 17 stitches in a head wound at the prison hospital.

The incident brought to an end 10-months of calm in the Scottish prison system but, amid the satisfaction at the successful conclusion of a difficult night, a warning about rising prison numbers and difficult management-staff relations was sounded by the prison officers' union.

The Perth incident began at lock-up, around 9pm, on Wednesday when the officer was seized in C Hall.
The rest of the prison, which with a capacity of 429 was holding 414 prisoners including a number of selected, long-term prisoners, remained quiet as the dialogue continued throughout the night.

A senior governor from SPS headquarters took charge of the incident as the system's routines for controlling and defusing hostage-takings and disturbances swung into action. Control and restraint teams were moved into place but were not required.

The routine of the prison carried on under the deputy governor and all prisoners in C Hall received breakfast in their cells. As visits for prisoners in the other halls went ahead as normal, the only indications of difficulties were that prisoners were given recreation instead of work and that a number, due to appear in court in Perth, were held back.
Then, at 10.20am yesterday, a Scottish Office spokesman announced the release of Officer O'Neill followed 20 minutes later by the surrender of a prisoner.

Mr Edward Frizzell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said: ''I am delighted this was brought to a successful conclusion and that the officer is safe and well. This reflects the importance of our negotiating process. It is also a tribute to the professionalism of our specially trained teams which are prepared at all times to deal with situations such as this.''
Mr Derek Turner, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Prison Officers' Association, said that, while they were pleased at the Perth outcome, ''we are very concerned about overcrowding and understaffing''.
Both issues had been raised by the union with management. The current prison population is as high as it was three years ago, said Mr Turner, but the vacant accommodation in Scottish jails was mismatched with the categories of prisoners who were overcrowded.

Many prisons are overcrowded, he said, including Barlinnie at 118% capacity, Edinburgh at 152%, Inverness at 158%, Greenock at 136%, and Cornton Vale womens' prison at 106% .
A measure of pressure on staff was the existence of a 9000-hour ''mountain'' of time off in lieu owed to staff which had built up at Barlinnie and a similar figure at Polmont Young Offenders' Institution.

Please read the following interview between William Lobban and Russell Leadbetter, Herald reporer:


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