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Suggs backs bid for women’s centre on Holloway Prison site

Domestic violence victims could seek help at former jail, says Madness singer

23 November, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Suggs told the meeting: ‘Doing something for women on the site is a great thing’

MADNESS frontman Suggs has praised a campaign which is pressing for services for victims of domestic violence to be based at the Holloway Prison site.

The jail in Camden Road, which closed in 2016, is at the centre of a row over what should happen to land that could be lucrative for private homes developers.

After putting it up for sale, the Ministry of Justice has been repeatedly urged to ensure that the site is kept for public good, rather than being replaced by luxury flats.

Suggs, who lives nearby, supported the idea that women’s charities and services could be reserved spaces when he spoke at a meeting on the future of the prison site on Tuesday evening.

He referred to his involvement with Pimlico Opera, which puts on productions in women’s prisons.

“I was there the other night in some women’s prison and 70 per cent of the women in there had suffered domestic violence,” he said. “That’s just a fact, so the idea you can do something for women on the site of Holloway Prison is a great thing.”

The meeting, held at Williamson Street Community Centre, had been due to hear from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Islington North MP, but he was delayed by parliamentary business.

Holloway Prison ‘provided a lot of services to women in great need of assistance’

Mr Corbyn told the Tribune earlier this month: “Under a Labour government sites like Holloway Prison will be offered to public bodies first.”

A coalition of community groups, formed in response to the prison’s closure, is pushing for council and affordable housing, open space and a dedicated building with services to help women.

Niki Gibbs, from Reclaim Holloway, told the meeting: “Whatever its faults, Holloway Prison provided a lot of services to women in great need of assistance. Since its closure there is now no central source of services in London for women who become involved with or are at risk of becoming involved with the Criminal Justice System.

“In case after case when a woman is handed a custodial sentence it’s not just the woman but the family and especially children that suffer.”

Islington Council has already set planning guidance for any would-be buyer, warning that it will not accept less than 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes on the site.

A buyer was due to be revealed in the spring but at a meeting this month the MoJ claimed this would not now happen until at least the beginning of next year. In the meantime, pressure has also been building on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to intervene to ensure the land remains in public hands.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said his team had worked closely with the council earlier this year on the planning brief. An MoJ spokeswoman said: “We continue to work towards the sale of the site and will always seek best value for taxpayers.”

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