Double murderer sues government after being attacked by another double killer in prison

·3-min read

A double murderer is suing the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) after he lost an eye in a prison attack by another double killer.

Lee Newell, 52, also suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain injury in the assault by Gary Vinter.

The 27-second assault took place in the exercise yard of HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes in November 2014.

Newell is claiming tens of thousands of pounds in damages, alleging the MoJ negligently failed to protect him.

The High Court heard that Vinter punched Newell to the ground and repeatedly kicked him in the head before shouting: "That is what you get when you mess me about."

It is thought Vinter was trying to engineer a move to another prison.

Newell is serving a whole-life term for the murder of child killer Subhan Anwar at HMP Long Lartin, Worcestershire, in 2013. He committed that crime while serving life for another murder, committed in 1988.

Vinter, who was jailed in 1996 for the murder of a work colleague, was given a whole-life tariff for killing his estranged wife in 2008.

He was then given a third life sentence for attempted murder in relation to the attack on Newell.

Vinter stabbed Roy Whiting, the killer of schoolgirl Sarah Payne, with a sharpened toilet brush handle in prison in 2011 and had "a particular history of attacking other prisoners in order to achieve things he wanted", Newell's barrister Nick Armstrong told the court.

In the weeks before the attack on Newell, the court heard that Vinter made several threats to prison staff.

He warned one officer that if he was told he was not moving prisons, it had better be done "from behind a shield", the court heard.

During the partly remote hearing, Mr Armstrong said Vinter posed "the very highest level of risk of lethal violence against other prisoners" and that "negligent decisions" allowed the attack to happen.

Mr Armstrong added in written submissions that the "obvious safeguard" to prevent the attack was to stop Vinter associating with other prisoners, adding: "Had that been done, the attack could not have taken place."

He argued that Newell should be awarded damages of between £13,000 and £36,000 for the brain injury, £46,000 to £56,000 for the damage to his eye and between £9,000 and £19,000 for facial injuries which may require further surgery.

Jack Holborn, representing the MoJ, said Vinter's threats prior to the attack "were of a general nature, indicating that he might use violence against staff - not prisoners - to get what he wanted".

He added: "There was no suggestion of a threat to prisoners, nor of a specific threat."

Mr Holborn argued that "such generalised threats were a not uncommon tactic amongst violent prisoners... to get what they wanted".

The barrister said both Newell and Vinter were "dangerous and violent men", but that the MoJ could not keep them "permanently locked up and segregated from other prisoners".

He summarised: "Even if there had been 10 officers outside of the door (of the exercise yard), it is clear they could not have intervened in the 27 seconds that it took for Vinter to cause the injuries to Newell."

An award of about £75,000 in damages would be appropriate in the event that the MoJ is found liable to Newell over the attack, Mr Holborn said.

The hearing is due to conclude on Wednesday, and judgment is expected to be reserved to a later date.