Terror reign at women's prison

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Prisoners at a women's jail conducted a reign of terror, leaving staff afraid for their own safety, according to a report published yesterday.

Over the past year there was a series of "serious incidents" - including vicious gang fights between inmates - at Bullwood Hall in Essex, said the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham. In a scathing inspection report he also said he was "shocked" to learn that a male officer was forced to leave the Prison Service after allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman inmate in the segregation unit.

A Prison Service spokesman said the incident was investigated by police but no charges were brought.

Sir David said he was so concerned by conditions at Bullwood Hall - which the Prison Service has declared to be in need of special managerial attention - that he would conduct a follow-up inspection next year. Incidents at the jail had included assaults on staff and other prisoners, at least two gang fights, cell fires, two passive demonstrations over the amount of time spent inmates locked up in cells, and at least one suspected sexual assault by women on other prisoners as part of the illegal drugs trade.