Notts family's agony as James 'trapped' in prison for decade on minor crime

CONVICTED: James Ward has served 10 years after initially receiving a 10-month sentence at a time when prisons are overcrowded and the government calls for more measures to make jail time a last resort.
CONVICTED: James Ward has served 10 years after initially receiving a 10-month sentence at a time when prisons are overcrowded and the government calls for more measures to make jail time a last resort.
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'We have to see him in prison and walk away from him, leaving him there to rot for something silly he did 10 years ago.'

The family of the Sutton man who has been imprisoned for over a decade on a low-level charge have told of their pain to see him trapped in jail - calling the system 'disgusting'.

James Ward was only 18 when he made a terrible mistake and attacked another person. He was handed a 10-months sentence in 2006 but has been in prison for over 10 years now under a draconian law which has now been abolished.

Ward, now 31 and serving his 11th term after the initial crime got him locked up, was given imprisonment for public protection - an order created under Tony Blair and since abolished in 2012 by Nottinghamshire MP Kenneth Clarke - the then Justice secretary.

Read more: Sutton woman campaigns to free her brother who has served 10 years for a 10 month sentence

But the victim of James's initial crime which would ruin his entire adult life has called for him to be released - his own father, Bill Ward of the Leamington Estate in Kirkby.

Mr Ward, 68, told the Chad: "When he was young he kicked me in the face and I reported him to police. They arrested him and he was charged with ABH. He went to a young offenders prison to serve his time and while he was there he set his bed on fire, so when they released him they 'gate arrested' him and put him back in on an IPP."

James struggled with some mental health issues as a young man, including ADHD, depression and a personality disorder, according to his parents.

Mum Chris Ward said: "He had trouble growing up, he got into the wrong crowd when he went to big school he was a bit of a monkey -

He was getting into trouble all the time, and then he did that to his dad it was even worse.

"We had a family dog and he always said that little dog was his and he loved it. Anyway we had a row and I kicked him out of the house, and he took the dog with him. When Bill went to go and fetch the dog, hi kicked off and my husband came back with blood all over him.

But despite some behavioural issues, the family were quick to forgive him for what he did.

"We all think the world of him," she added. "When we go to see him he seems well. He wishes he was coming home. He does get annoyed with being in there and it's not doing him any good, it's making him worse. He gets his heart set on coming out whenever there's a parole hearing, and he doesn't have a sentence length so we have no idea how long he's going to be in there. They're supposed to assess him every 10 months but they're only doing it every three years."

James hasn't responded well to being inside. With his mental health issues it's no so surprise that frustration with being trapped in the prison system on an order which no longer exists has led him to react.

He's shown ongoing disobedient behaviour, setting fires, and even dirty protests.

James's sister April, 28 told us: "He's not some kind of monster, he's a nice boy that got a long sentence and he's struggled with prison life.

"The prison system isn't equipped to look after James - has has a string of mental health issues. It's making it worse when he should be receiving proper mental health care," added the full-time mum.

The family are now awaiting his next parole hearing which should be due soon, and Bill went on to outline how the past 10 years of separation from his son has affected him.

"Since our Jimmy went to prison I haven't been myself," he added. "At one time when we used to have him we were always out doing things, playing games. I never go out now. I just feel awful. It's emotional. We go and see him regularly and it's not nice seeing him in prison and having to walk away from him and leave him there to rot. We've been doing that for 11 years, and all for something silly he did a decade ago."

The horrendous situation affects many others in James's position. The IPP order was invented to provide protection form the very worse offenders, and even since it was abolished there are still over 6,000 inmates held under them, sometimes for offences as small as stealing a mobile phone.

It shows how outdated our prison system still is, say the wards, when so many people serving sentences could have been kept out of jail if they had adequate mental health care.

Bill added: "They're human beings and they're not being treated like human beings. I'm mad with the system. I've maybe got another 10 years left in this world and I've missed the last decade I could have had with him. I don't want to lose the next 10 years."

"I think it's disgusting," he continued. "It's scandalous what they're doing to him and others in his position."

The dad is now making a plea to the parole board who keep James in prison, at HMP Garth in Lancashire.

"I love him to bits. It should be my responsibility. It should be up to me, and I've long since forgiven him.