THE Justice Minister has said last week’s riot at HMP Long Lartin was ‘not linked to any shortfall’ in staffing levels as he launches an investigation into the cause of the violence.
Sam Gyimah made the comments in the House of Commons in response to Labour’s urgent question on the incident at the maximum security prison in South Littleton.
On Wednesday night prison officers had to retreat from the E wing of the category A prison after 80 inmates used pool balls to attack them.
As a result, 10 ‘tornado’ riot teams were sent into the maximum security prison to deal with the situation. The ‘tornado’ teams are made up of heavily armed specialist officers.
By the following morning the disturbance had been ‘successfully resolved’ and no inmates or staff had been injured, the Ministry of Justice said.
Mr Gyimah announced that a full investigation was being conducted to determine the cause of the incident which could take a ‘number of weeks to report back.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the Justice Minister said: “The incident is, of course, of concern and we will need to properly investigate what drove the actions of a relatively small number of individuals.
“That will take a number of weeks to ensure all intelligence is properly examined and that we learn lessons and apply them to prevent any recurrence.
The Government’s prison policy record has been called into question following the incident after a number of MPs raised the issue of cuts to prison guard numbers in recent years.
But, Mr Gyimah said in his Commons statement that the correct number of staff were on duty on the night of the riot.
“We cannot speculate on the cause of this incident but we know the prison was running a full regime and that this was not linked to any shortfall in prison officer staffing levels,” he added.
Following the disorder 18 prisoners have since been moved to other jails.
The category A men’s prison has a capacity of 622 and houses criminals who are seen as highly dangerous to the public.
Evesham’s MP Nigel Huddleston has said he has been ‘reassured’ by the Justice Minister that lessons will be learnt from the ‘rare’ incident.
“I am relieved that no one appears to have been injured during this incident,” he said.
“I praise the officers and staff for dealing with the disturbance so quickly and was pleased to hear the Minister for Prisons applaud the professionalism of prison staff during his statement today.
“While this is a rare occurrence and the incident was isolated to one wing, I was pleased to hear the Minister’s reassurance in the House of Commons that the investigation will identify any lessons to be learned and he will ensure that, if necessary, these lessons will be applied to prevent any re occurrence.”