Minister praises staff after prison riot

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The Independent Online

Prisons minister Crispin Blunt today praised staff for their handling of riots at an open prison.

Mr Blunt was given a tour of Ford prison near Arundel, West Sussex, following yesterday's rampage by about 40 inmates.

The prisoners turned violent in the early hours after officers attempted to breathalyse them for contraband alcohol.

The rioters set light to buildings during the night and again at lunchtime, causing extensive damage to six accommodation blocks, a gym, mail room and snooker and pool rooms.

It has been claimed there were only two prison officers and four support staff on duty for a prison population of 496 when the trouble started.

About 150 inmates had to be taken to other prisons because of the damage to the accommodation blocks.

Mr Blunt said there would be two investigations into the events, an internal one by the Prison Service and a criminal inquiry by the police.

He said: "I have spent the last two hours visiting Ford prison, getting briefed by the governor and the prison officers and talking to some of the prisoners who remain at Ford prison.

"Unanimously they are appalled and disgusted by what happened yesterday.

"That goes for the prisoners that remain there, it's their community facilities that have been destroyed and the actions of the prisoners who took part in the incident have therefore absolutely damaged the interests of all the inmates of the prison.

"There are now going to be two inquiries, a Prison Service internal inquiry and there will be a number of issues which will have to be addressed during the course of that.

"I also anticipate that there will be a police inquiry which may lead to criminal prosecutions.

"I hope and expect there will be full co-operation by everyone in Ford prison to make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice."

Praising the prison staff, he said: "The prison officers were exemplary. They were able to re-establish control of the prison without anyone getting hurt which is an important achievement."