UK & World News

  • 7 January 2014, 13:34

HMP Oakwood: Cover-Up Claims After Stand-Off

The full extent of violent disturbances at Britain's biggest prison is being "covered up" by ministers and G4S, the private firm that runs it, it has been claimed.

The allegations follow a nine-hour stand-off between staff and inmates at so-called "super prison" HMP Oakwood that ended in the early hours of Monday morning.

It has emerged the violent outbreak was not an isolated incident but one of a string of disturbances at the prison, which houses 1,600 criminals.

Labour's shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the prison, which only opened in April 2012, had been "plagued" by protests and disturbances.

And he said the Ministry of Justice and G4S, the firm which runs the jail and was recently exposed for overcharging the Government by millions for criminal tagging services, needed to come clean over the problems there.

The category C prison was sharply criticised by prisons inspectors late last year over high levels of violence and the ease with which inmates were able to obtain drugs.

Mr Khan said: "More and more information is coming to light that suggests the Ministry of Justice and G4S are trying to cover up the true scale of the disturbances in the Justice Secretary's flagship Oakwood prison on Sunday night.

"The Tory-led Government needs to come clean and admit what really happened, and acknowledge that there are some very serious underlying problems at Oakwood.

"The prison is not punishing and reforming offenders anywhere near as well as it should, and the taxpayer deserves better.

"This isn't an isolated incident. Since opening the prison has been plagued by rooftop protests, disturbances and a damning Chief Inspectors' Report that revealed inmates found it easier to get drugs than soap. Yet instead of getting a grip, Chris Grayling praises Oakwood as his model for the rest of the prisons system."

In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Justice and G4S dismissed reports that prison staff were taken hostage during the incident, which they said involved only around 20 inmates in one wing of the jail.

The statement said: "The safety of our personnel and those prisoners in our care is our top priority, and we are grateful to our colleagues who were able to help us bring the incident to a close safely and effectively.

"Established incident procedures were followed correctly and worked as they were meant to.

"As an investigation has now commenced into the reasons for this disruption, as well as a criminal investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

HMP Oakwood, which has been dubbed "Jokewood" by prisoners, was originally intended to be a "titan prison" holding 2,500 inmates, but this was downgraded when the titan programme was dropped.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602 and Freeview channel 82.