General News, Articles and Information from The POA North of the Border:


The Next Challenge for the POA in Scotland


Welcome to the first POA (Scotland) newsletter of 2009, and that being the case all at Calder Road wish all our members and their families the best of wishes for the year ahead.

It may be a new year but I suspect the challenges facing our members will be the same as other years with a few new ones to add. This newsletter will attempt to highlight some of those issues and to update you all on what the current position is on some of the work that has been carried out nationally in Scotland in recent months.

One subject that has been continuous in recent years has been the topic of savings and no doubt this year will be the same; however everyone should be re-assured that we will not place the health and safety of our members at risk just to make savings. We will continue to work in Partnership with Management and we will continue to talk positively with the SPS and the Scottish Government, however we have a responsibility to ensure that we look after our own position and every member should be assured that we will not allow the line in the sand to be crossed when it comes to defending our position.

Working in partnership isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and it does produce its own, sometimes unique, difficulties, however partnership isn’t about saying yes all the time, far from it, its about working together to do what’s best for those within the SPS and for the POAS to do what’s best for the membership. Sometimes the decisions that are made are not always looked upon as popular but it may well be that it is what is considered the best under the circumstances, taking into account what other options are being faced as alternatives.

Some of the topics on the table are difficult for us to accept and agree to, such as the needle exchange scheme, which is on the agenda for 2009, and in this newsletter the Scottish Chairman Dave Melrose will highlight the concerns we have and why.

John Speed
Scottish National Committee


Obituary - Keith Denchfield Chairman, Perth Branch

It is with great sadness, that after a long and brave battle against terminal illness, we have to announce the passing of the branch Chairman at HMP Perth. He died at home, in the comfort of his family on 1st December 2008.

Keith joined the Scottish Prison Service in 1988 and has been a member of this union throughout his service. He was someone who both staff and managers recognised as being very committed and professional in his dealings with them, and whose character and personality were very easy to both like and relate to. In 1998, Keith was elected to the position of branch chair in HMP Perth, never having served in any committee post before, and without a committee to speak of at the time. He quickly identified colleagues around him who he felt could make a contribution, and from there built up the branch membership in Perth. The staff within Perth very quickly recognised Keith’s strengths and abilities, and have been extremely supportive of him throughout his time in office. One of his biggest strengths was his instinctive sense of fairness and justice, and his dogged yet professional pursuance of both.

Keith was someone for who the staff had a lot of trust and respect, but equally a great deal of warmth, due to his very amiable calm nature. He was someone staff felt completely comfortable in approaching for assistance and trusted his judgement. He was always able to deliver both good news and bad, in the same calm understanding manner, and always with a sharp sense of humour, when situations required it.

The biggest testimony to his character and inner strength was the way in which he responded to his diagnosis of terminal cancer. It is two years since he was diagnosed, and at that time was given three months to live. Never one to shirk a challenge, Keith has spent the last two years refusing to give in to his illness and battled against it every one of those days since.

In 2007, Keith was presented with the Malky Still Memorial Award at Scottish conference, for his services to the POA and SPOA over the years. In presenting the award Phil Fairlie said of Keith;

“There are many staff who owe Keith a debt of gratitude for assistance over the years, and many managers who have a deep respect for the manner in which he conducted himself in the role. Never the most vocal or likely to go in for grandstanding on an issue and certainly never one to feel the need to thump tables to make his point – but equally, never one to shy away from having himself heard and arguing his corner on behalf of his members. He was someone whom you could always go to for an honest opinion and often as not, a suggestion of a way forward through a perceived brick wall at a time when no-one else could see it.

He, like many others in this union, spent many hours of his own time in the company of members, offering assistance and support to them in times of need. I know how personally he has taken their cases, and how much he personally becomes involved, not because he has to, but because he cares”.

The most poignant moment came in Keith’s response where, extremely ill by this time, stated that, ”he hoped to be able to return the following year to hand the trophy on.“

His incredible resilience and dogged determination meant that Keith did in fact manage to attend conference 2008, and the delegates were both amazed and delighted to see him.

Keith is survived by his parents Ron and Rose, his sons Gary and Steven, and his partner Karen. He always gave the credit to his family for helping him find the strength to battle as hard as he did.

Keith’s funeral took place in Dundee crematorium and the response from prison staff and friends alike, meant that there were people who were unable to get in to the service. Keith’s family were overwhelmed with the warmth and support demonstrated to Keith, and say that it will forever provide them with a source of comfort during the hard times ahead. The size of the crowd was a very compelling indication of both the respect and genuine warmth that Keith had generated over the years, and without doubt, is someone who will stay long in the memory of those of us fortunate enough to have known him.

Martyn Herbert
Branch Secretary, HMP Perth