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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Leeds prison abuse inquiry urged
Leeds prison
An inspection report a year ago said prisoners were held safely at Leeds
The Commission for Racial Equality is being asked to set up an inquiry into claims of racially-motivated assaults by prison officers at Leeds Prison.

It has been alleged that Asian and black inmates were verbally abused, unfairly denied access to facilities and punched and kicked by prison staff.

The allegations surfaced in April, after an Asian prisoner, Shahid Aziz, was found dead in his cell at Leeds.

Lawyers for some of the prisoners want the commission to set up an inquiry.

Formal investigation

Ethnic minority inmates said they had been victims of assaults.

Five provided details of alleged attacks by a small number of prison officers.

Solicitor Daniel Machover is representing seven prisoners.

He said he had written to the CRE asking it to conduct a formal investigation into HMP Leeds.

Complaints system

Mr Machover said: "We are concerned that after the publication of a major plan about racism in the Prison Service by the CRE in December 2003, in 2004 we have got this range of allegations by prisoners.

"The complaints system for dealing with them doesn't seem to be picking them up."

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed the force had been asked to look into the allegations.

He said: "We are looking into several incidents alleged to have taken place within HMP Leeds between March and May this year.

Surprise allegations

"Police inquiries are at a very early stage."

The CRE said it had not yet received any letter from the Mr Machover.

The Prison Officers' Association said it was surprised at the allegations.

It pointed to an inspection at Leeds a year ago which reported that prisoners were held as "humanely and safely as possible".

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