St Helena Online

Tag: Longwood

Three sites to replace ‘unfit’ prison go before ExCo

Entrance to HMP Jamestown, stone building with blue-painted wooden balcony above barred door
HMP Jamestown dates back to the 1820s and cannot be brought up to modern standards. Picture: John Grimshaw

Three sites near Longwood are being considered for a new prison for St Helena, to replace the “totally unsatisfactory” one in Jamestown.

It comes after former governor Mark Capes was strongly condemned for trying to impose a new prison at Half Tree Hollow, disregarding protests about sex offenders being kept near young families.

The three sites are all at Bottom Woods and all within national conservation areas. The public will be consulted before any site is chosen.

One of the three, next to the meteorological station, is in part of the Millennium Forest where protected trees have been planted. A special licence would be needed to remove them.

Update: on 3 October 2017, executive councillors decided the Millennium Forest site was not suitable for the new prison because of its environmental importance. It agreed to put the two other proposed sites out to public consultation. 

Agricultural land further west of the met station offers more space for a level site, but water and sewage services would need improving. Part of the site is leased to a farmer.

The third site, at the goat pen area, is closer to homes but considered to be far enough away to be safe. Choosing this would mean building a road through precious farmland.

Legislative councillors visited the three sites in August and details were put before the prison project board and LegCo in mid-September.

Now the executive council is advised to approve all three for a public consultation at its meeting on Tuesday, 3 October. Both negative and positive views are expected, says the report to ExCo.

The new prison will need about three acres of land to meet international standards, including space for an outside recreation area. Other factors include security,  human rights, and providing for disable prisoners.

A prison farm could be established at a later stage.

All three sites are in the vicinity of the island’s new sport field, but “can be suitably far away.”

They are also all in the airport development area, but this should not be a problem if the building is no more than two storeys high.

The sites offer enough space to ensure Category B prisoners can be kept secure. A specialist from overseas would have to be brought in to install specialist security systems and doors.

They are close to wirebird and conservation sites, but this is not expected to present problems with planning approval.

The new prison would be close to the airport haul road, which would be used for the 35-minute drive from the police station and court house in Jamestown.

Three other possible prison sites have already been rejected, including one next to the batteries at Ladder Hill Fort, because there are still hopes of creating a five-star hotel there.

The island shooting range was dismissed because it is in a sensitive area for wirebirds, and another site at Bunker’s Hill, overlooking Rupert’s Valley, was ruled out because of cost.

The current building in Jamestown, dating from 1826, has repeatedly been declared unfit by visiting inspectors. Inmates’ human rights cannot be upheld in the cramped conditions.

Funding for a new prison at Sundale House, above Half Tree Hollow, was set aside in 2012. It was expected that inmates would move there by 2015.

When legislative councillors refused to endorse the plan in the face of vigorous public protests, Governor Capes disbanded the council and then waited the maximum three months to hold an election.

The reason for shutting down democracy was revealed in the 2015 Wass Report into governance on the island, which criticised him for disregarding concerns that convicted sex offenders would be allowed out of Sundale to exercise, close to homes.

But Mr Capes told Sasha Wass’s inquiry panel that he needed to address the human rights failings at HMP Jamestown.

He said councillors “had an attitude that prison is meant to be uncomfortable and unpleasant and there are other things to spend money on.”

In 2011, chief of police Peter Coll had repeated warnings about the “unsafe” pre-Victorian building. “Anyone who is under the impression that serving a prison sentence is a soft option is not aware of the conditions,” he said.

The prison had no fire exits, and arrested prisoners had to use toilets in full view of inmates and staff – male and female. Cells became very hot in summer, especially when there were three or four people in a cell – a regular problem.

The new proposals have been made public as part of St Helena Government’s new policy of openness. They are set out in the first set of Executive Council agenda reports ever to be made public, a major step in ending excessive secrecy.

However, the expected costs of the three sites have been blanked out. The report says the UK’s Department for Internation Development would be asked to pay for the new prison.

SEE ALSO: 
Democracy on St Helena: councillors opposed prison move – so ‘Enforcer’ Capes sacked them
Unfit prison ‘will move’ to Half Tree Hollow, says planning chief
‘Unfit’ prison to close by 2015 amid human rights failings

Not for sale: the shirt worn by ailing Bonaparte on St Helena

A French court has stopped the auction of the shirt that was worn by Napoleon just before he fell into his final coma on St Helena, reports The Guardian.

The sweat-stained garment was one of a number of souvenirs taken back to France by Achille Thomas Archambault, a former horse-breaker who became a member of the fallen emperor’s domestic staff at Longwood.

The items, including a small walking stick and a lock of the emperor’s hair, were due to go under the hammer at Fontainebleau on Sunday, 23 March 2014.

But the servant’s descendants obtained an injunction preventing the sale shortly before it was to take place, fearing the objects would leave France. The newspaper also quotes the auction house, Osenat, saying that various people claim ownership rights, including a government minister.

Read the full story here.

Wandering dogs prompt ‘zero tolerance’ warning

Police report continuing problems with dogs being allowed to wander loose on St Helena.

Officers had to round up animals roaming in the airport development area at Longwood on 16 October 2012, and complaints have been made on other occasions.

Jeromy Cairns-Wicks, the community beat sergeant, has issued two releases this month warning of costly action against dog owners.

In the first, he said: “Stray dogs are again an increasing problem.

“Over the last few months, St. Paul’s and Half Tree Hollow areas have seen a positive improvement, with a number of dog owners being dealt with for allowing their dogs to wonder uncontrolled. We are now receiving complaints from residents in Bottom Wood and Longwood.

“The action the police will take with regard to straying dogs is a zero tolerance policy. In other words, if a dog is caught straying on public or private land it can be impounded.

“If the owner is identified and there is sufficient evidence for the offence, the owner will be prosecuted in court.”

In the latest release, he said the owners would have to pay for the cost of kenneling.

On 10 October, police also dealt with the owner of goats that had been found trespassing on private property in the Longwood area.

Napoleon seeks Friends

Facebook screen grab
Poor old Boney’s a bit confused: one night in Jamestown was quite enough for him

It had to happen: Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of Longwood, has got a Facebook account. He calls himself Napoleone Buonaparte, but apart from failing to spell his name correctly in English, it’s the same chap.

His profile says he worked at the French Foreign Legion (what’s the French for “hmmm”?), lives in Jamestown, Saint Helena, and knows French and Italian. And when it comes to love: “It’s complicated.”

Strangely, Betsy Balcombe, the girl he befriended at The Briars, doesn’t appear on his Friends list.

SEE ALSO:
Napoleon’s Longwood letter has experts debating
Escape plan put Boney in a barrel

Napoleon’s Longwood letter has experts debating

Alabaster bust of Napoleon at The Briars
Napoleon bust at The Briars on St Helena

A letter written by Napoleon at Longwood – in English – has set commentators off on a debate about whether he was any good at his captors’ language.

The letter is tipped to fetch in the region of £65,000 at an auction in the French town of Fontainebleau on Sunday.

America’s CNN quotes auction house expert Jean-Christophe Chataigner saying the emperor learned English without his captors’ knowledge as a form of revenge.

“I think that French people who learn English today make lots more mistakes than Napoleon at the time, so it’s a letter which is relatively well-written.”

But the BBC quotes lines from the letter, written to his secret tutor:

“It is two o’clock after midnight, I have enow [enough] sleep, I go then finish the night into to cause with you,” he wrote to the Comte de las Cases.

The BBC’s Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield said Napoleon’s pronunciation was “even worse” that his writing:

“The comte said it was like a completely new language, which only he, the teacher, could understand. Still, you have to admire the panache.”

SEE ALSO:
St Helena goes on show – in Australia – Napoleon exhibition

LINKS:
Rare Napoleon letter in English goes on sale – CNN
Napoleon’s halting English on show in auction letter – BBC

Territories vote early on who gets a ticket to Longwood

It’s long been a gripe (for some) that people in British overseas territories don’t have a vote in UK parliamentary elections, while their counterparts in French overseas territories do vote in theirs.

In fact, the citizens of St Pierre et Miquelon and the other French territories get to cast their vote a day earlier than people in the mother country. For them, the polls opened today – 21 April, 2012.

It’s to do with being in different time zones.

The outcome of the French election may not normally be of great interest to many people on St Helena (with one obvious exception), but this time there is a point of small significance.

Island councillors have agreed to invite Her Majesty the Queen and the president of France to St Helena to mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s arrival on the island.

The election in France will decide whether it’s Nicolas Sarkozy or the Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande, who gets the guided tour of Longwood House.

COMMENT:

The idea of the British OTs having representation in the Commons isn’t popular in the Caribbean British OTs.  Many West Indians suspect it would be the first step in the UK imposing taxes on them. And who would this Commons representative be?  I don’t want some corrupt TCIslander or Bermudian representing St Helena. What do they know about Saints and how would that be an improvement over MP Andrew Rosindell and them? We already have all the corruption we need.

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