Police surround jail as officer is held hostage

POLICE surrounded Perth's top- security jail last night after a prison officer was taken hostage during a riot, writes Dean Nelson.

The officer was being held in a hall in D wing, which houses long- term prisoners. A Scottish Office spokesman said inmates had caused some damage to the hall but the officer had not been hurt.

The incident began at 4.30pm when the officer was taken hostage. Alan Walker, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), said 120 prisoners were in the hall at the start of the incident, but about 60 came out immediately. Two further prisoners came out later, and one needed hospital treatment for injuries to his face and body.

Negotiations with the SPS's incident command group and Tayside police were continuing last night, but the cause of the disturbance is unknown. Alan Walker, deputy chief executive of the SPS, said: 'Steps are being taken to resolve the incident as safely and quickly as possible. The remainder of the prison is functioning as normal.'

There have been at least seven riots at the jail since 1986 over allegations ranging from brutality to poisoning of food. Four officers have been taken hostage, and damage costing more than pounds 500,000 has been done.