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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK


Crisis meeting at Scrubs

Wormwood Scrubs is a Victorian jail

Prison officers at Wormwood Scrubs jail in west London are meeting to discuss their response to charges of assault to be made against 25 prison officers at the jail.

The BBC's Jon Silverman: Wormwood Scrubs is in deep trouble
The charges arose out of the biggest criminal investigation yet into a UK jail, which began more than a year ago following complaints of brutality and racial abuse.

The Prison Service is expected to announce later on Wednesday that it will suspend the accused officers.

The prison governor Stephen Moore has already had a meeting of his officials.

In a separate development, a leaked report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, recommends closing the jail as one way of dealing with the institutions problems.

[ image: Head wound: Allegedly inflicted by prison officers]
Head wound: Allegedly inflicted by prison officers
The mood at the Victorian jail - which is designed to accommodate about 1,000 inmates - is angry.

The Secretary of the Prison Officers' Association (POA) at Wormwood Scrubs, Duncan Keys, said he expected the governor to support his staff.

He said none of the charges against his men were warranted and he claimed they were victims of a political conspiracy.

Mr Keys accused the Prison Service of leaning on the Director of Public Prosecutions to make sure someone was charged.

He said he was convinced the 25 staff would have their names cleared and predicted none of the assault cases would even come to court.

The POA Secretary at Wormwood Scrubs, Duncan Keys: "The DPP has been leant on by the Prison Service to bring these charges"
Scotland Yard announced on Tuesday that 25 prison officers from "the Scrubs" were to be charged with assault-related offences on inmates. The Prison Service launched an inquiry into allegations centred on 43 members of staff at the London jail in March, after collecting evidence over a 12-month period.

Solicitor Daniel Machover: "The home secretary must grasp the nettle and announce a public inquiry."
In April 1998, about 100 officers staged a "sick leave" protest over the handling of the investigation. The solicitor representing the alleged victims welcomed the charges.

Daniel Machover urged the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to call a public inquiry to consider the wider implications of the allegations.

The POA's national chairman, Mark Healy, said it was "extremely sad" that the investigation had had to take place.

He said the POA would be supporting the accused men and pointed out that the POA called for police to get involved more than a year ago.

Radical solutions

Former inmate Mark Leitch and Nick Flynn from the Prison Reform Trust discuss the jail's future.
Meanwhile Sir David is reported to have drawn up three radical solutions to the jail's chronic management problems.

The alternatives are:

  • Closing the prison.
  • Removing the entire middle management tier.
  • Privatising the jail.
Channel 4 News, which claims to have seen the report, says Sir David criticised weak management, poor industrial relations and the excessive power of the POA.

In a report two years ago Sir David described the jail as "a flagship dead in the water".

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15 Jun 99 | UK
Scrubs officers face assault charges

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13 Apr 99 | UK
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