Eight officers suspended in Wormwood Scrubs inquiry

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The Independent Online
EIGHT prison officers have been suspended and the police brought in to investigate allegations of brutality against inmates at Wormwood Scrubs in what is believed to be the biggest ever criminal inquiry involving jail staff, it was announced yesterday.

A junior governor, who runs the jail's segregation block, has also been suspended, but in connection with disciplinary matters rather than the accusations of violence.

Yesterday's moves come in response to the early findings of a Prison Service inquiry into allegations of systematic violence and racism against eight inmates at the west London jail.

In a separate development, Scotland Yard has set up an inquiry into allegations made by nine prisoners from the jail after solicitors made a formal complaint yesterday.

If any prison officers are found guilty of an assault charge they could face long jail terms.

Since the original accusations were made public about a fortnight ago, the case has snowballed and become one the most serious set of allegations of brutality and mismanagement to face the Prison Service.

Tony Pearson, the Prison Service's director of security, yesterday announced that an interim report he set up had been able to identify most of the prisoners who allege maltreatment. "There are very serious questions to be answered in five cases which the police should investigate," he said. "We have asked the police to do so.

"While the police investigation continues eight prison officers and one senior manager are to be suspended from duty."

He added that two other anonymous allegations were still being investigated and that "immediate action is being taken to strengthen management and supervision within the prison".

Mark Head, national chairman of the Prison Officers' Association, said they would fully co-operate with the police inquiry. "We have made it clear before that we believe the best place to go for these allegations to be investigated is the police."