Honiton man helps recapture 700 escaped prisoners

Paul Biddle MBE tasked to help Hatians restore law and order after catastrophic earthquake.

A HONITON man has helped to put 700 escaped prisoners back behind bars in earthquake-hit Haiti.

In six months, Paul Biddle MBE, 54, has overseen the development of two new prisons – the only buildings to go up in Haiti since the January 12 disaster.

He was embedded with the Haitian police after it was discovered 5,400 prisoners escaped from the Caribbean republic’s jails when the buildings were rocked by the catastrophic quake.

The former prison governor was sent to the disaster zone by the UK Stabilisation Unit, which is jointly run by the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“My job was to see if the justice department in Haiti needed urgent assistance – and it did!” Mr Biddle told the Midweek Herald.

“Gangs were reforming and it was having an impact on the delivery of humanitarian aid.

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“Our view was that we had to work within the system and we became the first Westerners to be embedded with the Haitian police.”

Thousands of police officers were killed in the earthquake. In one province alone, 34 out of 38 officers died.

“The entire justice ministry building collapsed and all its records were lost. It really was apocalyptic,” said Mr Biddle.

He was part of a three-man team sent to Port-au-Prince, 16 miles from the epicentre of the earthquake, and lived in a tent while helping the Haitian government restore law and order.

More than 250,000 people were killed and two million left homeless by the earthquake, which had a magnitude of seven.