Assaults in prison hit record high amid “rife” violence

An inmate on a landing at Norwich Prison Photo: Bill Smith

An inmate on a landing at Norwich Prison Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2009

Violence in Norfolk prisons has hit record highs with more than two assaults every day last year, while drug use is 'widespread'.

Norwich Prison. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Prison. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

May saw the highest number of assaults ever at HMP Norwich, with 55 throughout the month. And in January medics had to attend six times for prisoners under the influence of drugs.

It comes as prison officers warn "violence is rife" in jails and call for a rollout of PAVA spray.

In one incident on October 6 last year Jasper Thomson, 25, refused to leave his cell at HMP Norwich when called out for exercise.

He had responded "in an aggressive manner" and punched the prison officer, who was working alone at the time, breaking his nose.

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In a victim personal statement, the prison officer said it was the second time his nose had been broken working at the prison.

"This whole ordeal has left me feeling unsafe and vulnerable at my place of work, and left me seriously considering leaving this job," he added.

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Thomson was sentenced to a total of 12 months in prison for the attack.

According to the independent monitoring report for HMP Norwich in July, the main reasons for prisoner on prisoner violence is "bullying, debt and issues stemming from outside the prison".

They added: "Despite persistent efforts to disrupt the supply of illicit drugs into the prison, the incidents of drug use in HMP Norwich are widespread. Six incidents in January required the attendance of healthcare for prisoners under the influence of drugs."

National chairman of the Prison Officer's Association Mark Fairhurst called for the rollout of PAVA spray to prison officers. "The under recording of violence is rife so these statistics are actually much worse," he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We know that levels of violence and self-harm in prisons are unacceptably high, but we remain determined to make progress so that our jails reform offenders, reduce reoffending and keep the public safe. Our £2.75bn investment will modernise jails and step up security to stop the flow of drugs and weapons which fuel these issues.

"We have also trained more than 25,000 staff in suicide and self-harm prevention and introduced the key worker scheme to give each prisoner a dedicated prison officer for support."

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