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Violent robber in HMP Swaleside on Sheppey found with homemade 'cutting and slicing' weapons stashed in cell

A robber who has not celebrated Christmas or a birthday outside for more than 30 years was found with nine home-made "cutting and slicing" weapons stashed in his cell.

But lifer Mark Smith claimed he had been forced to hide the weapons and three mobile phones by drug gangs inside Sheppey's Swaleside jail.

HM Prison Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey. Picture: Chris Davey
HM Prison Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey. Picture: Chris Davey

Smith was jailed for life in 2002 under a "two-strike" law - a sentence which is no longer enforced.

But Maidstone Crown Court heard he is still inside 18 years later, because when it was later scrapped, it wasn't made retrospective and Smith is still awaiting a parole hearing.

The 47-year-old, told the court none of the weapons found were his but his cell was being used "as an armoury" by others to stash the illegal items in a pillow and in a window.

Smith told Judge Julian Smith: "Swaleside Prison is run by gangs who come to your cell.

"You can't say no to these people as there are usually nine or 10 of them who come into your cell.

Smith claimed his cell was being used as an armoury by other inmates. Stock picture: Chris Davey
Smith claimed his cell was being used as an armoury by other inmates. Stock picture: Chris Davey

"They will kill you if you say no and I would have been hurt."

He also told the judge he is now a reformed character and had a 10-year plan when released to get qualifications to help others.

"If I can save one young person - following the road I have had, " he added.

Smith, who appeared by video link from Swaleside, said: "I deserved to be jailed and for a long time. I was very anti-social, taking drugs and alcohol."

His violent robbery offence, which happened more than 18-years ago was carried out in Bolton, Greater Manchester and put Smith inside for the 'life' sentence as it was his second serious offence.

Smith said he was very anti-social but had now changed his behaviour and hoped to do "motivational speaking" once he is released.

"I am now pro-social and not pro-criminal and now want to benefit the community."

A senior prison officer told the judge that Smith had been given a better security category inside Swaleside and had reported a weapon had been dropped inside the prison and had also assisted an officer being attacked.

Smith said his change in attitude followed him realising that after spending 30 years in different institutions, "I have never had a birthday or a Christmas (outside) since 1989."

He pleaded guilty to possessing the weapons and phones inside prison during the hearing and received a 14-month jail sentence.

Smith told Judge Julian Smith: "Can I thank you for your wise judgment - you are a good man."

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Read more: All the latest news from Sheppey


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