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Concerns escalated over rat infestation in kitchen at HMP Pentonville

The IMB at HMP Pentonville wrote to Minister Argar this week to escalate its ongoing concerns about a rat infestation in the main kitchen, the management of which it regards as a serious dereliction of duty regarding health and safety and food hygiene.

Rats were first observed in the kitchen at Pentonville in July 2023 and the issue has not been dealt with despite the immediate risks to food safety. The IMB has consistently raised concerns about the shocking and unhygienic state of the kitchen to prison management in its weekly rota reports and during monthly Board meetings (which the Governor attends). More recently it formally escalated its concerns to the Acting Deputy Governor (while the Governing Governor was on annual leave), the HMPPS Area Executive Director for the South, and the London Prison Group Director. In recent weeks Board members have seen large numbers of rat droppings under numerous pieces of kitchen equipment and chewed and spat out ceiling insulation in light fittings above open broilers of food and food workstations.

GFSL are the facilities management contractor at Pentonville responsible for ensuring that priority work that had been identified would be carried out without delay. GFSL sub-contract pest control to Rentokil.

It is, however, clear that neither GFSL or its sub-contractor effectively monitored the situation, and those working in the kitchen did not feel able to raise their concerns, casting serious doubt on the adequacy of the contracts in place and the ability of anyone involved to challenge poor service delivery.

It is also clear that no urgent action was taken by any party until the IMB contacted the HMPPS Area Executive Director for the South and the London Prison Group Director, requesting that the situation be reported to Islington Council’s Environmental Health Service by the end of the following day. As no such report was notified to the Board, the Board itself made contact with Islington Council and outlined events in its letter to Minister Argar, urging him to call GFSL and Rentokil to account at the highest level.

The IMB concludes that neither organisation has provided the service they are paid by taxpayers to deliver. Consequently, they have endangered the health and safety of prisoners, staff and the IMB (whose statutory duty it is to regularly visit the kitchen and taste the food to monitor standards of decency) through their neglect, and shown a shocking lack of respect for those who have paid and entrusted them to perform this vital work.