Five members of prison staff suspended following Woolwich suspect injury

Michael Adebolajo lost two teeth in what the Prison Officer Association described as 'necessary restraint'

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The Independent Online

Five members of prison staff have been suspended after one of the men suspected of murdering the soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich had two teeth knocked out while being restrained in Belmarsh high-security jail.

The Prison Officer Association (POA) said that life in the modern prison system is far different from “a sitcom like Porridge”, and said it expected the officers involved to be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Michael Adebolajo, the 28-year-old accused of murdering Fusilier Rigby, was injured on Wednesday, and the POA criticised the Ministry of Justice for its reaction in the immediate aftermath of the incident, claiming it had done “little to avoid sensationalist reporting” of what happened.

A spokesperson for the Prison Service confirmed an investigation was underway, and said: “Five members of prison staff have been suspended while police investigations are ongoing.”

The POA said its officers had used “approved techniques”, adding: “Our members strenuously deny any wrongdoing and the POA will be supporting them legally and emotionally during this difficult time. The use of restraint is only used where necessary when dealing with incidents up and down the country."

It said it will fully co-operate with any police investigation, and expects the officers to be "fully exonerated".

Adebolajo is accused together with Michael Adebowale, 22, of hacking Fusilier Rigby to death near Woolwich Barracks in south-east London on 22 May. They are due to stand trial at the Old Bailey on 18 November.

Peter McParlin, chairman of the POA, repeated the union’s concerns over the Ministry’s conduct again on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He said: "We have spoken to our members and on the basis of what our members have told us they have done absolutely nothing wrong.

“We are concerned that the Ministry of Justice have over-reacted due to the notoriety of this prisoner,” said Mr McParlin, adding that they had failed to “correct false reporting” of the incident at Belmarsh.

He said restraint techniques were designed to minimise injuries to staff or prisoners “but sometimes there are unforeseen consequences in any violent incident”.

Mr McParlin added: “Some people have the idea that somehow it's a sitcom like Porridge. I'm afraid the reality of the modern prison system is far different from that.”