Woman Freed From 'Squalid' Prison

A 54-year-old Bournemouth woman, jailed for contempt of court, has been freed after a judge was told how being kept in England's best-known women's prison had been a "truly shocking" experience.

Elizabeth Watson, had found Holloway Prison - in Holloway, north London - "squalid, dirty and overcrowded'', Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the High Court Family Division, was told at a High Court hearing in London.

The judge imposed a nine-month jail term on August 22 after concluding that Watson had breached an order preventing reporting of a case involving the care of a child.

He said Watson had sent "aggressive, intimidating'' e-mails to council staff involved in the case which had found their way onto websites and "compromised the well-being'' of the child.

Watson, who has a daughter, today apologised, applied to "purge'' her contempt and asked to be freed.

Sir Nicholas today ordered her release and said the jail term would, instead, be suspended for two years.

Rob Littlewood, for Watson, told the court that Holloway was fuller than normal following widespread rioting in August and said Watson had spent her first three days "crying''.

"The first thing my client said to me was what a shocking experience she has had in Holloway Prison,'' said Mr Littlewood.

"It has been truly shocking for her. It is, for her, a squalid, dirty and overcrowded environment.

"The prison is fuller than it otherwise might have been because of recent rioting.

"She tells me the first three days for her were spent simply crying.''

Watson told the judge: "I am truly, truly sorry. I feel this is a wake-up call to me. I made a serious error of judgment.''

She added: "I am terribly sorry for any distress this caused to (the child).''

Sir Nicholas said he had decided that keeping Watson in jail would serve "no real purpose'' and added: "I am satisfied that Miss Watson has had a very unpleasant experience in prison.''