Prison union calls for Scrubs inquiry

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The Independent Online

Prison officers' leaders demanded a public inquiry yesterday into brutality at Wormwood Scrubs.

The move, which follows a series of reports in The Independent about the often violent regime in the west London prison, increases pressure on David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, to take action.

The Prison Service has so far paid compensation - typically £20,000 - to 25 former or current inmates who alleged that they had been beaten up by officers. Claims by other prisoners are still going through the civil courts.

The Metropolitan Police spent four years investigating more than 100 complaints of brutality by staff at Wormwood Scrubs. Six officers were convicted of brutality, three of whom had their convictions overturned on appeal.

At its annual conference in Southport, the Prison Officers' Association (POA) unanimously passed a motion from its Wormwood Scrubs branch calling for a public inquiry.

A POA spokesman said the union backed the move because it had nothing to hide. He said: "Huge amounts of police resources were spent on inquiries into alleged criminal acts. Ninety-nine per cent resulted in absolutely no action whatsoever against members of staff."

He said that the Prison Service had kept an internal inquiry under wraps and he demanded it be published.

Daniel Machover, of the London solicitors Hickman and Rose, which has represented many of the claimants, backed the POA's call. "Nothing on the scale of what happened in Wormwood Scrubs has occurred in a British prison. But a few lessons from it have yet to been learned. It's getting to several years from the main events and these issues are still pressing," he said.

The Home Office has resisted calls for an inquiry because some legal action was still active. A Prison Service spokesman said: "We have received representations and we are considering them."