Prison Service Riots Teams Call Outs At Record High

Prison Service 'Tornado' Riot Officer
Prison Service ‘Tornado’ Riot Officer

The prisons specialist tactical response ‘Tornado’ team that attends serious incidents was called out more times in the first eight months of this year than in the whole of 2012, prompting Labour to warn of a growing crisis in prisons.

Tornado Teams from the National Tactical Response Group (NTRG) was called out 132 times in the first eight months of 2013, compared with a total of 129 callouts over the whole of last year, official figures showed.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan claimed prisons have become more overcrowded and dangerous under the coalition Government and warned that convicts still spend as much time in their cells as they did three years ago and so have less chance of being rehabilitated.

By October 1 the NTRG had been called out 151 times, with 19 callouts in September alone. There have been more callouts in 2013 than in any of the last four years.

Nearly half of all prisons (45%) in England and Wales run by both the private and public sectors have had call-outs since 2010.

Mr Khan, who uncovered the figures using a parliamentary question, said: “The true scale of the growing crisis in our prisons on (Justice Secretary) Chris Grayling’s watch is laid bare in this information which I have uncovered. In the first eight months of this year, there had been more prison disturbances severe enough to call out the specialist response team than in the whole of 2012. And if the number of disturbances continue at this level for the rest of this year, there will have been a doubling over the three years of this Tory-led Government.

“All this Government’s talk of a rehabilitation revolution is but a distant memory. Instead, prisons are more overcrowded and dangerous than in May 2010, with prisoners spending as much time festering in their cells as they did three years ago. This means not working or attending training courses which in turn means less chance of being rehabilitated or paying something back to society.

“The incompetence of the Justice Secretary is breathtaking. Given how bad things are getting on his watch, it really calls into question whether Chris Grayling is fit to even be Justice Secretary”

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said the “slight rise” in callouts over recent months was “mainly” due to minor incidents such as prisoners protesting.

Mr Wright, who answered Mr Khan’s question, said there had been no rise in the number of serious incidents being attended.

He said: “The number of callouts has been fairly consistent over the period in question, though there has been a slight rise in the number of callouts over recent months. This is mainly due to minor incidents such as prisoners protesting by climbing onto the netting between landings.

“NTRG staff have the specialist skills required to deal with such incidents which accounted for 68% of all the callouts in the past year and they are frequently called to attend as a precautionary measure.

“Not all callouts result in engagement by NTRG staff, with a number of situations being resolved locally. Of the 151 incidents NTRG attended up to September 2013, 75% were resolved by surrender. There has been no rise in the number of serious incidents being attended.”

Prison reform charity the Howard League for Penal Reform warned of a “creeping pressure” on the prison system which could lead to more disturbances and disorder.

Chief executive Frances Crook called for a focus on probation to reduce reoffending and the cost to taxpayers.

She said: “We are concerned that there is creeping pressure on the prison system and that this will create more disturbances and disorder.

“At a time when the number in custody is rising, the Ministry of Justice is facing a dilemma – either use police cells or cram ever more people into combustible prisons. Either approach is a waste of money and risks lives.

“The grown-up choice is to support successful probation programmes which reduce reoffending, reduce the number of victims and cost the taxpayer much less.”

Prison Disturbances: tip of an iceberg?


Government cuts to prisons sparked a disturbance involving around 40 inmates at a jail in Kent, the Prison Officers’ Association have warned – while another prisons expert said it was the tip of an iceberg.

Police and fire crews had to be deployed to Maidstone Prison when the trouble erupted in one of the wings.

The Ministry of Justice confirmed that it was resolved last night. It is believed to have lasted more than three hours.

A prison services spokeswoman said the incident had been resolved without any injuries to staff or prisoners.

There was no evidence of damage, she added.

“An investigation is under way and the perpetrators will be dealt with appropriately by the prison,” she said.

A second demonstration by prisoners at Rye Hill Prison, near Rugby in Warwickshire, was unrelated to the Maidstone incident, the prison services spokeswoman said.

“There was a passive demonstration at HMP Rye Hill where around 60 offenders refused to return to their cells,” she said.

“This was peacefully resolved within a few hours.”

Prison Officers Association vice chairman Ralph Valerio said the Maidstone Prison riot was in response to new regime changes and staff cuts that resulted in prisoners having to spend more times in their cells.

“Try to put yourself in the shoes of the offender – you find yourself spending more time locked up with less time to be able to call your family and less time to be able to have social interaction with the staff and with other offenders on that wing then it can have a detrimental effect,” he told Sky News.

“As a trade union we have been warning against this for some time.

“The prison system is going through a tremendous amount of change at a tremendous rate of pace and it’s a warning that the rate of change is unprecedented.”

Maidstone, with an inmate population of about 600, is a category C training prison that predominantly houses sex offenders from the Kent and Sussex areas.

The prison also takes in a number of foreign prisoners with more than 18 months to serve.

Rye Hills a category B training prison holding 664 men who have been sentenced to more than four years, and have at least 18 months left to serve.

Criminologist Professor David Wilson said prison guards probably enacted Operation Tornado to bring the latest riot under control.

It is a proven method using specialist officers that has been used many times before, he said.

“These are very well-tested systems and so it will be about trying to bring order back to HMP Maidstone,” he told Sky News.

“In these situations it’s usually a question of being some particular incident that ignites the prisoners who want to take this kind of action and sometimes that action gets out of control.”

Mr Valerio said the staff were well trained to deal with the situation.

“We have a contingency plan, the prison service is very, very good at dealing with these sorts of situations and the staff involved in that

The disturbances come just days after a clampdown on prison perks began to be rolled out.

Under changes to the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, prisoners in England and Wales will have to earn privileges including the right to wear their own clothes.

Certificate 18-rated movies and subscription channels have also been banned from private prisons.

Mr Valerio said the government can expect to see more disruption across all prisons as a result of the scheme and budget cuts which have impacted staffing levels.

“Staff had been warning that unrest was growing among the prisoners at that prison,” he told the BBC.

“We can expect to see that no just at Maidstone but across the prison service in England and Wales.

“Prisons will potentially become more dangerous places as this scheme is rolled out.”

He said contact with staff is crucial for prisoners

A Prison Service spokeswoman added: “All our prisons run a safe and secure regime and are staffed appropriately.

“We are currently introducing reforms to the prison system that will provide better value for taxpayers while protecting the public and improving the chances of prisoners being rehabilitated.”

Mark Leech editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners said reforms being introduced would spark unrest in jails across the country.

Mr Leech said: “The reforms which Grayling is introducing have nothing at all to do with better value for tax payers or increased rehabilitation for prisoners, they are about one thing and one thing only – appearing tough in order to be re-elected.

“Grayling is completely uneducated about prisons, he is risking the safety of prison officers and prisoners in a dangerous game of politics with our prisons and I have a dreadful fear that what we have seen at Rye Hill and Maidstone are just the tip of an iceberg of prisoner discontent across the prison system.”

Legal Aid Cuts Threaten ‘World Renown’ British Justice System – and riots in our jails


Government plans to overhaul legal aid threaten to destroy the “world-renowned” British justice system, barristers have told ministers – and prison experts have said the measures threaten such a level of national unrest inside our jails that they could eventually cost far more than any potential savings would ever hope to save.

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has published its response to the Ministry of Justice consultation on legal aid reform, which includes paving the way for lawyers to compete for contracts.

The 150-page response said price competitive tendering (PCT) promotes the “lowest possible quality of service” and will result in further changes to civil legal aid, hitting society’s most vulnerable people.

Other changes will see criminal defendants living in households with a disposable income of £37,500 or more stopped from automatically accessing legal aid, while prisoners’ rights to the support will also would be curbed.

Maura McGowan QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: “There is no avoiding the simple fact that these proposals would move us from having a justice system which is admired all over the world, to a system where price trumps all.

“PCT may look as though it achieves short-term savings, but it is a blunt instrument that will leave deep scars on our justice system for far longer. Further cuts to the scope of civil legal aid will limit access to justice for some of the most vulnerable. That is a legacy of which no Government should be proud.”

She added: “The proposals simply do not have a sufficient evidence base on which to attract support. We believe that if these proposals are implemented as they stand, the system will go very badly wrong. Once implemented, these measures cannot be easily reversed.”

Ms McGowan QC said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling should achieve any required reforms “without destroying a world-renowned institution”.

The Bar Council response said that the proposals would destroy the livelihoods of many smaller solicitors’ firms and the criminal defence Bar.

Criminal legal aid costs taxpayers more than £1 billion every year and the proposals should cut the bill by £220 million.

In April, reforms to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) came into effect, removing large areas of law from the scope of civil legal aid.

Some law firms estimated the reforms will reduce the number of people who qualify for legal aid by 75%, meaning around 200,000 fewer cases, while barristers warned the cuts are the biggest to civil legal aid since the system was introduced in 1949.

In its response to the consultation, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the body responsible for regulating barristers, said plans to pay legal aid lawyers the same amount for a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea could lead to defendants being pressurised into pleading guilty.

It said cases where the defendant enters an initial guilty plea are typically shorter and so cheaper than trials to assess guilt.

Setting the same fee for cases where a defendant pleads guilty and for longer trials may create an incentive for lawyers to encourage clients to plead guilty.

Bar Standards Board chair Baroness Ruth Deech said: “These reforms may endanger the ability of our legal system to guarantee everyone a fair trial.

“While we accept that the current austerity measures are a consequence of the financial climate, protecting the public, and ensuring criminal cases are dealt with fairly and justly, remain of the utmost importance.”

Mr Grayling said: “We have one of the best legal professions in the world.

“But at a time of major financial challenges, the legal sector cannot be excluded from the Government’s commitment to getting better value for taxpayers’ money. We believe costs paid to lawyers through legal aid should reflect this.

“Professional, qualified lawyers will be available, just as they are now, and contracts will only be awarded to lawyers who meet quality standards set by the profession.

“Wealthy defendants who can afford to pay for their own legal bills should do so. Our proposal is to introduce a threshold on Crown Court legal aid so that people earning around £100,000 a year are no longer automatically granted legal aid.

“We have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world, with about £1 billion a year spent just on criminal legal aid.

“These changes are about getting the best value for the taxpayer and will not in any way affect someone’s right to a fair trial.”

The disposable income cap of £37,500 per household would impact defendants with six-figure salaries, an MoJ spokesman added.

But Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said those figures were disputed by many prison law experts, and the threatened cuts in legal aid could end up ‘costing far more than the measures would ever save’.

Mr Leech said: “Look, its not rocket science, but history shows there comes a policy tipping point where one cut too much results in a backlash inside our overcrowded powder-keg prisons, which are things that we desperately need to avoid – these things can rapidly spread nationally, caused by cuts that while understandable politically are nontheless, in practice, just one cut too many.”

Mr Leech explaned: “In 1990 the riot at Strangeways prison in Manchester spread within days to 13 other prisons, it cost the taxpayer over ninety million pounds, people died, no one wants to be seen talking these things up, and certaintly not me – but we can’t ignore history nor the facts or the consequences that we know from history are seriously likely to occur.

“The lesson now, before its too late is this: Stop, don’t pick on vulnerable prisoners any more, they’re a soft political target but history also shows that pushed too far they are a formidable resistable force which when unleashed  has an incredible national impetus – try focusing  on the bankers (or ‘Banksters’ as they’ve become known) instead – or at least as a minimum let’s have a rational national debate about its policy.

“It’s not too late – but we really do need to be now all on the same side.”



A star of the Harry Potter films was today found guilty of violent disorder during last summer’s riots in London.

But Jamie Waylett, 22, who played Hogwarts bully Vincent Crabbe, was cleared of being in possession of a petrol bomb.

The jury took three-and-a-half hours to reach the verdicts at Wood Green Crown Court in north London.



Five men were convicted today of charges relating to a riot at an open prison.

Trouble flared at Ford open Prison, in Arundel, West Sussex, when inmates became angry over alcohol breath-testing carried out by prison staff in the run-up to New Year’s Day last year.

Shortly after midnight, masked inmates torched and smashed up the prison, causing more than £5 million-worth of damage.

Following more than 20 hours of deliberation, a jury at Hove Crown Court found Thomas Regan, Lennie Franklin and Roche Allen guilty of prison mutiny.

Lee Roberts and Carniel Francis were found not guilty of the charge.

Ryan Martin was acquitted of all three offences of prison mutiny, violent disorder and arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered and discharged from the dock.

Roberts, Franklin, Allen and Francis were all found guilty of violent disorder. Regan had already pleaded guilty to the charge.

Roberts was also found guilty of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, by a majority verdict of 10-2.

Regan, Franklin and Allen were found not guilty of the offence.

During the five-week trial, the jury was told that masked and armed prisoners took control of the open prison within half an hour of turning on staff.

The mutiny saw inmates running amok, looting, smashing and torching buildings and property during the early hours of January 1 2011.

Prosecutor Ian Acheson told the court it was a case where violent chaos and arson ruled.

A building resentment had grown among inmates over alcohol breath-testing which took place in the run-up to New Year’s Eve in December 2010.

The tension erupted at the turn of New Year, when the five staff who were in charge were overpowered by the prisoners.

The jury heard that by the time the authorities were back in control of the prison 12 hours later, in excess of £5 million-worth of damage had been caused.

Empty alcohol bottles were found inside and outside the prison and inmates had failed breath tests on previous occasions.

The issue was reinforced to staff who were covering the night shift on New Year’s Eve.

As all five staff made themselves a visible presence as midnight approached, Mr Acheson said one of the defendants, believed to be Roberts, stepped forward and said: “There are 550 of us. There are five of you. We run the prison, what are you going to do?”

About 30 prisoners started to advance towards the staff, making threats, shouting and making “monkey” noises.

Many had obscured their faces by tying clothes around their heads.

The staff retreated to the gate house, leaving the prisoners unsupervised.

One commented that they had “lost the prison”, Mr Acheson said.

Although some buildings survived the chaos during the night, the arson continued into the next day.

Judge Michael Lawson told the defendants that their behaviour as they advanced towards the five staff on duty that night, threatening to kill them and cut them, must have been terrifying.

He said: “Those officers were faced with a frightening situation and were unable to quell what was happening.

“Had they run they would have suffered injury from the crowd who were already aroused, angry and out of control.

“With considerable bravery, they made a controlled return to the gate house.”

He said three of the defendants were billeted in L1, a block where alcohol breath testing had taken place earlier that evening.

He added: “Within an hour and a half the mob that charged against the officers was ready and masked up.

“The alarm went off in L1 at 12.10am. The officers heard the sounds of the crowd amassing around the billet and then between the brick billets.

“After the officers had withdrawn, and with the prison to yourselves, the four of you and Mr Roberts, together with others, went wholly out of control, anarchy reigned and you were rampaging through areas of the prison where your inmates had their homes.

“Many of the residents of the prison were utterly terrified of what they saw and by this behaviour, being wholly out of control. That fear continued throughout the night.

“Those prisoners, like anybody else, were entitled to protection from such utter fear.

“We have heard something of the prisoners’ code and the prisoners’ etiquette. Your behaviour that night makes a total mockery of prison etiquette.”

Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra, from Sussex Police, said: “This has been a complex and challenging investigation, involving over 40 Sussex Police officers and taking over a year from start to verdict.

“It is certainly one of the largest investigations I have worked on in the last 18 years and even more rewarding by virtue of today’s verdict.

“The success of this investigation into five million pounds worth of criminal damage at FordPrison would not have been possible without the valuable partnership work from the outset from our colleagues at the Ministry of Justice, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and especially to Her Majesty’s Prison Service.

“Both I and my team of officers are very grateful to all of these organisations and especially to Her Majesty’s Prison Service.

“From very early on we had to work at a fast pace to secure enough evidence to make arrests and identify suspects on what was a dark, rainy and confusing night of mass disturbance.

“A number of prisoners, including our main suspects, had to be moved to prisons all over the UK, with the added complication that many were due for release over the coming weeks back into local communities around the country.

“Our most significant witnesses were serving prisoners, who have shown immense courage by coming forward in the first instance and subsequently attending court here at Hove.

“I would like to thank all of our witnesses including the prison staff who were on duty that night, and also all the witness care officers who have worked tirelessly with these people to help bring these offenders to justice.

“The incident at Ford Prison had a huge impact on the local community and Sussex Police is very grateful for their patience and understanding, particularly in those first few days when the prison and surrounding area was inundated with police, firefighters and both local and national media.”

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said: “This is a good outcome after the shocking and violent rioting at HMP Ford on January 1 2011.

“I visited the prison the day after the disturbance and was appalled at the wanton damage and destruction I saw. These tough sentences reflect the seriousness with which society rightly views such actions.

“The convictions are to the credit of the Prison Service, Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service who worked closely to ensure that these offenders were held to account for their criminal behaviour during the rioting.”

Simon Ringrose, CPS reviewing lawyer, said: “This case could not have been prosecuted without the support and evidence from witnesses who were inmates at the time.

“The fact that these men were prepared to give evidence demonstrates the seriousness of this incident and I would like to recognise their courage in coming forward.

“The prosecution team also received the total support of Her Majesty’s Prison Service in putting this case together and this assistance was crucial in ensuring that all relevant evidence was gathered and presented to the court.

“People can be reassured that incidents of this kind are viewed with the utmost seriousness and where there is sufficient evidence the public interest will almost inevitably require a prosecution.”

The riot at Ford could easily happen again said Mark Leech, the Editor of national prisoners newspaper Converse.

Mr Leech said :

“No one wants to support or talk up these dangerous incidents, but by the same token we cannot ignore the pressures created in a prison system when prisoner numbers go up and up, and budgets go down and down – its undeniable riots can happen again and its dangerous to pretend these are isolated incidents because they’re not.

“In an atmosphere where prison spaces become difficult to find it is inevitable that the wrong kind of prisoner is sent to the wrong kind of prison, that can have a destabilising effect and lead to the kind of destruction we saw at Ford a year ago.”


A jury has retired for a third day to consider verdicts in the trial of six prisoners accused of taking part in a mutiny at a West Sussex prison – which could easily happen again according to the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse.
Inmates smashed and torched buildings, putting people’s lives at risk and causing more than £5 million damage at Ford open Prison, near Arundel, after the authorities lost control for more than 12 hours on New Year’s Day last year, Hove Crown Court was told.
Tension had been building before the rioting broke out over the breath-testing of prisoners, leading to the five staff in charge at the time being overpowered, the five-week trial heard.
Riot police and specialist prison officers were drafted in to help bring peace to the Category D prison before the authorities eventually regained control.
Lee Roberts, 41, Thomas Regan, 23, Ryan Martin, 25, Lennie Franklin, 23, Roche Allen, 25, and Carniel Francis, 25, all deny a charge of prison mutiny.
Five of the men have also pleaded not guilty to a charge of violent disorder. Regan has pleaded guilty to the charge.
Roberts, Regan, Martin, Franklin and Allen also deny a further charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
The riot at Ford could easily happen again said Mark Leech, the Editor of national prisoners newspaper Converse.
Mr Leech said :
“No one wants to support or talk up these dangerous incidents, but by the same token we cannot ignore the pressures created in a prison system when prisoner numbers go up and up, and budgets go down and down – its undeniable riots can happen again and its dangerous to pretend these are isolated incidents because they’re not.
“In an atmosphere where prison spaces become difficult to find it is inevitable that the wrong kind of prisoner is sent to the wrong kind of prison, that can have a destabilising effect and lead to the kind of destruction we saw at Ford a year ago.”


A man today admitted starting a massive fire which destroyed a family-run furniture shop during the riots last year.
Gordon Thompson, 33, pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London in August last year.
The shop had stood at the site since 1867, before it was razed to the ground by the fire.
He also admitted one count of burglary for stealing a laptop from the shop on the same night.
Thompson’s trial for starting the blaze, which was so fierce that buildings on the opposite side of the road caught fire, had started at the Old Bailey earlier this week.
But at the end of the prosecution opening he decided to admit certain charges.
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the court that he had consulted with members of the Reeves family about accepting the guilty pleas.
Thompson had already admitted burglary of two shops in Croydon – Iceland and House of Fraser – on the same evening.
Jurors were ordered to find him not guilty of two other charges of violent disorder and arson with intent to endanger life.
Judge Peter Thornton QC warned that he will face “a long sentence of imprisonment”.
The court had already heard that Thompson, of Waddon Road, Croydon, “ran riot through the streets” that day.
When he saw other rioters smashing the front window of Reeves, he climbed into the shop to steal a laptop, and after he left, decided to burn it down.


Mr Glasgow said: “On leaving the store, he asked another of the rioters for a lighter and, as soon as he was given one, went back to the shop and set fire to a sofa inside the shattered window.
“The ensuing fire razed the building to the ground. Such was the ferocity of the blaze that embers and heat from the flames set fire to property on the other side of the road and numerous residents were forced to flee their homes for their lives.
“Indeed one young woman became trapped inside her flat and was forced to jump from a first-floor window into the arms of rescuers waiting below.”
A photographer captured a dramatic image of Monika Konczyk as she hurled herself from the building to escape the fire.
Thompson will be sentenced on April 11.
Speaking outside court, Maurice Reeves said that the blaze was so traumatic “parts of me have died”.
“It’s difficult to describe because it’s been such a traumatic time for us. The building’s been there all my life, I worked in there every day and when I go into work now the building’s not there.
“You can appreciate it’s still sinking in and today brings all the memories back.”
He added: “It’s with tears in my eyes when I think about it.”
Mr Reeves’ son Trevor said: “It’s a momentous day for everybody in Croydon to know that these people can be apprehended.”
He said it was “heart-warming” to know that they had such strong support from the police.
Detective Superintendent Simon Messinger said: “People across the country were appalled and shocked at the level of violence and destruction that was committed on August 8, 2011. The images of Reeves Corner are probably some of the most iconic from that day.”
He said that in the face of CCTV footage and film clips shot by local residents and eyewitnesses Thompson’s guilty plea was “inevitable”.


Almost 1,000 people have been jailed for an average of more than a year following last summer’s riots.
Some 2,710 people had appeared before the courts by the start of last month following the looting and violence which spread across English cities last August, the Ministry of Justice said.
A total of 945 of the 1,483 found guilty and sentenced for their role in the riots were jailed immediately, with an average sentence of 14.2 months.
This was much higher than the average 3.7-month sentence handed down to those convicted by magistrates but sentenced at any court for similar offences in England and Wales in 2010, the figures showed.
Overall, more than half (53%) of those before the courts over the riots were aged under 20, half (49%) were facing burglary charges, and one in five (21%) were accused of violent disorder.
Justice minister Crispin Blunt said: “The courts, judges and the probation and prison services have worked hard to make sure that those who attacked their own communities during the public disorder last August have faced justice quickly.
“They played a key part in stopping the riots from spreading further by delivering swift and firm justice, and these statistics make clear that the disgraceful behaviour innocent communities endured last summer is wholly intolerable.”