Bristol prison race failings led to attack on inmate, says report

Diane Taylor
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/PA</span>
Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/PA

Serious failings in the handling of race and diversity at a Bristol prison led to a devastating attack on a black Muslim by a fellow inmate who had previously told guards he would only share a cell with a white person, a report has found.

Mohamed Sharif, 43, of Somali heritage, was left so severely brain-damaged by the attack at HMP Bristol that he needs round-the-clock care and supervision.

An independent report commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and published on Wednesday – six years after the incident took place – finds that despite some commendable efforts to engage with the Somali community, insufficient priority was given by the prison to addressing racism, inadequate risk assessments were carried out and the unit was poorly managed.

Rob Allen, the author of the report, has made 54 findings and 31 recommendations, and called for additional scrutiny through an independent public hearing.

Sharif was on remand following an arrest for common assault in June 2014 when the attack happened.

Another inmate, Ryan Guest, who had previously told prison officers he would only share a cell with a white person who was not homosexual – a racist and homophobic remark that was not explored by prison officers – attacked Sharif during an unsupervised session in the prison exercise yard on 26 June 2014.

After Guest kicked Sharif and forced him to the ground he repeatedly stamped on his head.

Guest was in prison after being charged with the murder of his step-grandmother in a care home outside Bristol. He pleaded guilty to this charge and to the charge of attempted murder of Sharif and was detained in Broadmoor in December 2014 following a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

Sharif’s sister-in-law, Ugaso Dahir,said Sharif and the family were still waiting for justice. “The long delay in receiving today’s report has made everything so much worse,” said Dahir.

“We are black and we are Muslim. I don’t think this would have happened to a white person. We are too sad about everything that happened to Mohamed. Our hearts are broken. Mohamed is not dead but it is as if he is dead. He has no life. We thought he would be safe in prison but we were wrong.”

The case has chilling parallels to that of 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek, who was murdered by white racist Robert Stewart at Feltham young offenders’ institution in March 2000. Campaigners say it highlights institutional racism in the prisons system.

Alex Ardalan-Raikes of Stand Against Racism and Inequality, who has supported Sharif and his family since the attack, said: “When are we going to learn from racist attacks like Zahid Mubarek and Stephen Lawrence? Institutional racism is still rife in the prison environment. This was blatant racism compounded by institutional racism.”

Jane Ryan, of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, who is representing Sharif, said: “The family is calling for meetings with those responsible, including the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, so they are listened to and so that no other family has to endure the agony they are experiencing.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “This was a horrendous assault and our thoughts remain with the victim and his family. We have since implemented all recommendations from the Allen report, including increased staffing and CCTV, and are continuing to work closely with HMP Bristol on a range of measures to improve safety for both staff and offenders.”

The Avon & Wiltshire mental health partnership NHS trust, the mental health provider in the case, has been approached for comment.