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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Prison riot 'under control'
Riot police
Police moved in after reports of a fire in the prison
Police say Lincoln Prison is back under control after they spent eight hours tackling a major disturbance.

Inmates set fire to parts of the jail and seized control of at least one section of the prison during the riot.

Seventeen people have been taken to hospital in Lincoln.

Director General of the Prison Service Martin Narey pledged a full investigation into the incident but denied poor conditions may have triggered the violence.


There was no excuse for prisoners' behaviour and I hope to see them prosecuted

Prison service director general Martin Narey
He said: "I am proud of the staff. They acted with real bravery and made what could have been a catastrophe something which was manageable."

At one point hundreds of officers and firefighters surrounded the closed prison, attempting to get to grips with an earlier fire in the newly-refurbished C wing.

Trouble started in A wing of the prison, which houses remand prisoners, just after 2000 BST when a guard was attacked by an inmate.

Mr Narey said: "A number of prisoners jumped on a prison officer, assaulted him and dragged him into a cell and took his keys.

Click here to see location of riot area

"Other prison officers, with real courage, went to his assistance but they were heavily outnumbered and had to retreat.

"For a while prisoners had keys and were able to take control of the prison."

Conditions criticised

About 150 inmates were released and among their targets was a laundry room where a fire was started.

Mr Narey also said most of the injuries were caused by the inmates own actions.

He said:"A number of prisoners broke into the pharmacy and have taken a cocktail of drugs - that has made them ill."

The prison, home to disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer until last week, has been criticised recently for being overcrowded and in poor condition.

During the night, smoke was seen rising from the building, windows were smashed and onlookers heard shouts from prisoners in the block.

The Prison Service would only say "considerable damage" had been caused to the jail.

Lincoln Prison
Lincoln's cells are seen as cramped and outdated

Lincoln Hospital said it had dealt with 17 casualties and described some as "poorly".

On arriving, shortly after 2100 BST on Wednesday, BBC news reporter Laith Abou-Ragheb said smoke was billowing out of C wing.

Mr Abou-Ragheb said: "As soon as we arrived we could see smoke pouring out of the vents on the roof.

"We couldn't see flames but it was obviously on fire. Just before that there had been the sound of banging, as if firecrackers or fireworks were being let off."

On several occasions one inmate had even appeared at a bay window and goaded police through the glass, he added.

No excuse

About 300 police from Lincolnshire, Humberside and Cambridgeshire were involved in securing the perimeter of the jail.

The Victorian Lincoln jail, a Category B prison, has about 500 remand and convicted prisoners, an excessive number according to its board of visitors.

In September, the board said overcrowding was affecting prisoners and staff, with one wing in desperate need of refurbishment.

However, Mr Narey insisted: "I visited the prison a couple of weeks ago. It was well managed with good staff.

"There was no excuse for prisoners' behaviour and I hope to see them prosecuted."


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"Inmates could be seen throwing debris"
Director general of the Prison Service Martin Narey
"Prisoners jumped on a prison officer, assaulted him and took his keys"
Brian Katon, Prison Officers Association
"It's not unexpected"

Click here to go to Lincolnshire
See also:

24 Oct 02 | England
24 Oct 02 | England
19 Sep 02 | England
04 Feb 02 | UK
Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.


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