Published: 15:07, 26 November 2020
| Updated: 18:13, 26 November 2020
A judge spared a violent criminal jail today amid a Covid-19 outbreak in a prison where almost 100 inmates have contracted the disease.
Barber Ishaq Ahmed, 24, pleaded guilty at Canterbury Crown Court to wounding fellow hairdresser Bahman Ahmadi following a row over opening a new shop in Ashford.
The court heard Ahmed caused “really serious injury” to his colleague and the attack, which happened in December 2018, “cried out” for a prison sentence.
But Judge O’Mahony said given the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak at the Isle of Sheppey jail, alongside Ahmed’s previous good character, he could “just about avoid” jailing him.
“As I say, this clearly crosses the custodial threshold, however there is a but - I have to take into account other circumstances,” Judge O’Mahony told him.
“You have pleaded guilty now. This happened a very long time ago and things have moved on, the victim has suffered considerably and one must think of him.
“There has been no further animosity and no further trouble.
“Prisoners are not being brought from Elmley because of an outbreak at the prison at the moment and it isn’t a good time to be in prison now.
“It’s simply not possible to have family visits and all judges and I have regard to that.”
Ahmed, who has since moved from Greenfields Lane in Great Chart was on trial for the more serious charge of wounding with intent but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge wounding.
The court heard Mr Ahmadi sustained an “injured leg” after Ahmed “cracked and reached boiling point” over a business deal.
But John Fitzgerald, mitigating, said hostilities flowed “both ways” between the rivals in the lead up to the assault, highlighting aggressive messages sent by the victim.
Ahmed, dressed in a black suit and tie, looked visibly relieved after judge O’Mahony handed him a 12 month sentence suspended for two years.
Meanwhile more than 90 men in the cell block at HMP Elmley at Eastchurch contracted coronavirus this month.
There were unconfirmed reports that a third of the prisoners refused to be tested.
In October part of the prison was isolated after two officers and two prisoners tested positive for coronavirus.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman has been contacted for an update on the HMP Elmley outbreak.
With visits temporarily banned friends and families are advised to keep in touch with their loved-ones by video call and email, alongside cell phones.
In June, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published a strategy for managing the pandemic.
It included quarantining new arrivals, isolating those who show symptoms, shielding the vulnerable and providing staff with personal protective equipment.
Elmley is one of three prisons for men that form the Sheppey Cluster, the other two being HMP Standford Hill and HMP Swaleside.
Swale has the worst rate of coronavirus in England.
A Prison Service spokesperson said:“Our priority is to limit the spread of the virus and to protect the lives of those who live and work in our prisons.
“We have taken precautionary measures at Elmley, Standford Hill and Swaleside following a number of positive cases, in line with public health guidance, and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”