Authorities have regained control of one of the country’s biggest jails after a major disturbance involving hundreds of inmates.
Specialist riot squads were deployed to HMP Birmingham to tackle the disorder that lasted more than 12 hours on Friday.
Trouble spread across four wings of the privately run facility, with reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells, breaking a security chain and destroying paper records.
Specially trained prison guards, known as “Tornado” squads, from other parts of the country were backed up by about 25 riot police as they moved into the G4S-run jail, which has a capacity of 1,450 prisoners.
The trouble started at about 9am on Friday and spread from two to four wings by the evening, according to sources, with reports of prisoners burning and destroying their files. It is understood that about 260 prisoners were involved. One prisoner is understood to have received a broken jaw during the disturbances.
Jeering and shouting could be heard into the evening from inside the jail, with smoke rising from the roof, apparently from fires lit inside the building.
Prisoners caught in the middle of the disturbance spoke of their fear they might be attacked by the other prisoners. One prisoner said others had tried unsuccessfully to force their way on to his wing.
Speaking through his solicitor, the prisoner, who is on the jail’s G wing, known as the protected wing for inmates accused or convicted of sex offences, said: “The others have been trying to get in here. We’re terrified.”
All prison officers have been accounted for and none was injured, a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said.
Earlier on Friday evening, the managing director for G4S custodial and detention services, Jerry Petherick, said: “Our teams withdrew following a disturbance and sealed two wings, which include some administrative offices. The disturbance has since spread to two further wings.
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“Additional officers have arrived on site and we have deployed canine units within the prison. West Midlands police helicopter is also in attendance. We are working with colleagues across the service to bring this disturbance to a safe conclusion.”
The situation, in which keys giving access to residential prison areas were taken from an officer, will be investigated thoroughly, the justice secretary said.
Liz Truss said: “I want to pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of the prison officers who resolved this disturbance … Violence in our prisons will not be tolerated and those responsible will face the full force of the law.”
Prison affairs academic and blogger Alex Cavendish said an “inside informant” told him the trouble started with lights being broken and prisoners controlling fire hoses. “The officers were then, as they are instructed to do, trying to get as many prisoners locked in their cells as possible to contain it,” he said. “While one of the officers was putting a prisoner in the cell, he was threatened with what appeared to be a used syringe.”