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Health and Safety Prison officers demand better protection as crisis gets worse

PRISON officers are demanding better protection after a guard suffered severe head injuries following an attack at HMP Bedford.

Guards’ union POA said the officer was drafted in from another centre because of staff shortages.

“A fight broke out between prisoners, and he tried to break it up,” a union spokesman said. “The prisoners turned on him.”

The union said the officer’s head was repeatedly stamped on in the incident on Saturday. The attack is the latest incident in a catalogue of violence in Britain’s under-staffed, overcrowded prisons.

It prompted the POA to call for officers to be issued with a hand-held spray called PAVA.

POA national chair Mark Fairhurst said: “We are now demanding that all staff are given the tools to keep them safe and we now insist that PAVA spray is rolled out nationally without delay.”

PAVA is stronger than CS gas sprays, causing temporary pain and blindness, but POA says it is less dangerous than electric tasers, which can cause permanent damage and even kill.

Mr Fairhurst said: “The time for excuses from HM Prisons and Probation Service has now passed.

“It needs to act immediately to prevent the crisis in our prisons from escalating. I do not wish to be announcing the death of an officer because our employer failed in their duty of care towards staff.”

In the 12 months to September last year there were 28,165 assaults in prisons — a 12 per cent increase — including 7,828 assaults on staff.

POA official Glynn Travis said the officer injured was trying to protect prisoners who were being assaulted when he was attacked.

Mr Travis said: “Despite fine words from the government and the employers, the chaos and violence continue. We are calling for action from the employers.”

The escalation of violence in prisons was debated in the House of Commons today.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “The Conservatives have nothing to offer to address the scale of the crisis in our prisons.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “No prison officer should go to work in fear for their safety, simply for doing their job.

“That is why we are giving officers the tools they need to manage violent offenders, including body-worn cameras for all officers, new-style handcuffs and piloting PAVA incapacitant spray.”

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