Three jail officers convicted for assault at Scrubs

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The Independent Online

Three prison officers were convicted on Thursday of carrying out a brutal assault on a prisoner at London's notorious Wormwood Scrubs prison.

Three prison officers were convicted on Thursday of carrying out a brutal assault on a prisoner at London's notorious Wormwood Scrubs prison.

The inmate was cornered in a segregation unit cell, kicked and punched and left to bleed from a serious head wound.

The conviction of the three officers for assault occasioning actual bodily harm yesterday at Blackfriars Crown Court in London means that six serving or former officers from Wormwood Scrubs have been found guilty of assaults at the jail.

The brutality is the worst seen at a British prison in modern penal history.

The court heard that the inmate was put in a neckhold and asked if he knew "how easy it was" to break a neck. He alleged he was warned: "There's going to be another death [in the segregation block]."

The prisoner alleged that in March 1998 two officers forced him to his knees, holding an arm each. He was then kicked in the back. He gashed his head on a wall and was left to bleed for more than two hours without medical help.

The officers have been bailed to be sentenced next month and will almost certainly be jailed. The other three officers, who were sentenced last September after a separate trial, received terms of between 12 and 18 months for assaulting a prisoner after an argument over a rug in 1998.

Passing sentence, Judge Charles Byers told the officers: "Not only did you abuse the trust and authority placed in you but clearly your behaviour disgusted those colleagues who saw what was going on in that cell. No one who heard those colleagues give their evidence could have failed to notice the shock they felt by what they witnessed."

Martin Narey, director general of the Prison Service,said: "I welcome the verdicts of the court. I hope that the very small minority of staff who might abuse prisoners will take careful note. There is no place for staff who assault prisoners and those found guilty of doing so will be sacked." Earlier this year Mr Narey described the attacks at Wormwood Scrubs as"betrayal of the most base kind".

But questions are now being asked over what measures were taken to end the violence.

In 1994, the former chief inspector of prisons, Sir Stephen Tumim, highlighted reports of "terrifying noises" coming from the prison's segregation block. And in 1996, his successor, Sir David Ramsbotham, also saw fit to warn about the violence in the same unit at Wormwood Scrubs. Eventually, police were called in to undertake Operation Mevagissey, which led to 27 former or serving officers of the prison being charged.

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