Ex-minister Phillip Lee attacks Government ‘cowardice’ over shelved prison boxing plan

Posted On: 
8th July 2018

Former minister Phillip Lee has rounded on the Government for dismissing a report which said prisoners should be taught boxing and martial arts.

Philip Lee said the "slog" of evidence-gathering in government was often wasted
PA Images

The ex-justice minister, who quit last month over Brexit, accused the frontbench of “policymaking through dogma”, after Tory chairman Brandon Lewis circulated a letter which appeared to kill off the idea.

In a scathing attack, Dr Lee said in an article for the Guardian website: “It often feels as though politics rewards the wrong things: headlines rather than hard work.

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“And that the slog of trawling through evidence to work out what really turns people’s lives around is often wasted.”

He continued: “It is no wonder people think there is no integrity in politics. We need to end this culture of governance by cowardice.”

The unpublished report by Professor Rosie Meek calls for pilot schemes to be developed in prisons by groups that have run successful martial arts programmes in communities, the Observer said.

But Mr Lewis reportedly wrote: “I do not believe the public would find favour with the concept of giving combat sports training to those who have been sent to jail for violent conduct, or indeed, to those convicted of sexual offences or robbery.

“Indeed, given a proportion will sadly reoffend, this would invariably result in further crimes being committed – aided by their enhanced combat training.

“I would not want a position where the Government could end up being held responsible for harm to victims, that could be viewed as a consequence of a change in government policy.”

Dr Lee said arts, music or sports-based programmes are often the “most effective” way of reforming the “most difficult-to-engage” prisoners.

“In custody, physical activity can help to lower levels of antisocial behaviour and violence. Outside prison, it becomes an alternative to a life of crime," he said.

“The staff need to have the time and resource to support those activities and they also need the leadership to encourage them to bring in community organisations and provide room in the day-to-day prison routine to support these sport-based programmes.”