Paedophile rock singer Ian Watkins will be serving out his jail sentence in a prison that is home to some of Britain's most notorious sex offenders and killers. The former Lostprophets frontman today began a 29-year custodial term for his attempted rape of a baby as well as string of other child sex offences - which a judge said plumbed new depths in depravity.
While on remand he has been at HMP Parc in Bridgend, but his permanent home will now be HMP Wakefield in Yorkshire - the largest high security prison in western Europe and nicknamed "Monster Mansion". Among prisoners serving substantial sentences at the 751-capacity facility include notorious paedophiles such as April Jones' killer Mark Bridger and Steven Barker who murdered 17-month old Peter Connelly - also known as Baby P.
The prison was also where serial killer Dr Harold Shipman hanged himself in 2004. HMP Wakefield will be in marked contrast to the unit where has been on suicide watch during his remand period. As well as being a large distance from the few supporters he has left, he will be coming face-to-face with some of Britain's most serious sex offenders.
Former fans of Watkins - who described his sex attacks on babies as "mega lolz" - said they had no sympathy for the Better Off Dead singer. Scores of them have posted messages on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter predicting Watkins would not last "five minutes inside the Monster Mansion".
One wrote: "I hope Ian Watkins gets what he deserves in Wakefield Prison. I have no forgiveness in my heart for him." Another added: "Mark Bridger was slashed in Wakefield Prison a few months back. Wouldn't suprise me if someone tried to attack Ian Watkins there. "The prison authorities will have their work cut out trying to protect him - especially given his celebrity status."
HMP Wakefield is a high-security prison for men typically in security categories A and B. Originally built as a house of correction in 1594, it is now a main lifer centre with the focus on serious sex offenders. According to the the UK Government's Justice website, the average prison roll is approximately 740 - including approximately 100 Category A and 10 High Risk Category A prisoners.
The Ministry of Justice said it did not comment on indivdual cases - and would not give details on the kind of treatment or environment that Watkins would encouter while in prison. However, as well keeping "dangerous" Watkins behind bars and away from the public, prison officials will try their best to rehabilitate Watkins over the many years of his detainment.
The earliest he will be eligible for parole is in 2031 - when he is 55 years old. If he is to serve the full 29-year custodial term, he will be aged 65. Top criminal psychologist Serena Simmonds, whose research has seen her study the minds of child abusers, said inmates like Watkins have to take part in a sex offender treatment programme.
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She said: "Research tells us that these programmes do make a difference. They don't 'cure' someone as such but they do allow offenders to have more insight into their offences and stop/help to prevent them from future offending. "In my experience, I have found child sex offenders to be the most difficult group to work with. I have found their cognitive distortions to be very deeply ingrained, and the most challenging to positively affect.
"It is not that they can't be helped, as many go on to never offend again, and that is certainly the hope via treatment and rehabilitation programmes. The problem sometimes is in getting them to even see that there is an issue in the first place."
Sentencing Judge Mr Justice Royce said Watkins' lack of remorse was a decisive aggravating factor in his decision to hand Watkins a substantially higher jail term than usual.
The day after he finally confessed to his crimes, while on remand in a South Wales unit, he told a female friend via telephone: "There's a lot of f****** meaningless bullshit being said that I did when I was f****** off my head. I'm going to put out a statement (after being sentenced) just to say it was mega lolz. I do not know what everybody is getting so freaked out about. Nobody got hurt."
However, the now chubby and grey-haired vocalist had lost his cockiness when sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court on Wednesday. He confessed to 13 offences - two counts of attempted rape and sexual assault of a baby, and two counts of aiding and abetting another person to abuse an infant.
Watkins also admitted to owning 90 child porn images - some of which he had made himself - as well as possessing 22 extreme pornographic images relating to animals. Two accomplices, Woman A and Woman B, were jailed for 14 years and 17 years respectively.
Meanwhile, South Wales Police is investigating whether Watkins also committed offences in Germany and America. And a separate probe by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is under way. The IPCC is investigating whether three police forces did not act soon enough on information given to them about Watkins.
South Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and South Wales are being investigated over information received about Watkins before his arrest in December 2012. Three other forces - Essex, West Yorkshire and the Metropolitan Police - also supplied information that they had been given about Watkins for the inquiry but are not currently under investigation.
Glyn Travis, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said that, in the eyes of wardens, Watkins would be treated no differently from any other prisoner. "It is likely he will be at serious risk of self-harming and suicide," he said. "Like any new prisoner convicted of a serious offence and handed a lengthy custodial term, he would present some challenges to ensure his safety.
"He will be checked over by doctors and nurses and a plan will be put in place for any issues relating so any drug problems he still may have. But the Prison Service will deal with him like they would anyone else."
However, Mr Travis said that HMP Wakefield being home to some of Britain's most serious offenders and Watkins' celebrity status could mean that the disgraced singer becomes a target by an inmate "looking to make a name for themselves. Prison staff will be aware of this and assess these risks accordingly," he added.
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