MP says HMP Northumberland situation is ‘dangerous’

HMP Northumberland
HMP Northumberland

A concerned MP has spoken of the ‘increasingly alarming and dangerous situation’ at HMP Northumberland, after a video emerged showing inmates ‘naked, chained and fighting like dogs’.

Ian Lavery, who represents Wansbeck, has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, calling for immediate action at the Acklington-based jail.

He has demanded that Sodexo Justice Services, which took over the running of the facility in 2013, be stripped of its contract and the prison placed back under Government control.

Mr Lavery says that he has seen two shocking videos in recent weeks, allegedly taken inside the Category C prison.

One shows a pair of prisoners, chained up and scrapping on the floor without any clothes on, while the second captures in-mates mocking a prisoner who is seriously ill from drugs.

His letter to Mr Gauke states: ‘I am writing to you as a matter of urgency regarding HMP Northumberland and the increasingly alarming and dangerous situation which has been allowed to develop without intervention or any sense of responsibility.

‘I have seen no end to the copious amounts of casework my office continues to deal with on behalf of families of prison staff, prisoners and regular concerns raised directly with me, by prison officers themselves.

‘Sodexo has completely and utterly failed in its duties as a Government contractor and its failure to manage this prison now goes beyond incompetency and is now frankly dangerous.

‘Unless intervention is made by the Government immediately in HMP Northumberland, unless Sodexo is stripped of its contract and this facility is brought back into Government control, I truly believe that something disastrous may happen which will be regretted by all parties involved.

‘In the past few weeks I have seen for myself, video footage of two male prisoners, fighting like dogs, naked and chained for the entertainment of others.

‘Another video shows a seriously-ill individual suffering the effects of illegal drugs, collapsed in a corner of a cell while being mocked and filmed by other prisoners.

‘I look forward to hearing what actions you intend to take. In the interests of the safety of all concerned on the prison estate, government intervention is long overdue.’

In relation to the videos, a prison spokesman said that appropriate action has been taken and the police has been notified.

The spokesman added: “Security and the safety of our staff, prisoners and visitors remains our top priority.

“The use of mobile phones, drugs and the rise in violence and self-harm is a challenge across the whole prison estate and we have implemented a number of measures to address these challenges.

“This includes an increase in staffing levels, the recruitment of a new violence reduction manager, implementation of a new violence reduction strategy as well as a revised and strengthened drug strategy which is already starting to produce results.

“We are proud of our staff at HMP Northumberland who do a professional job and work very hard to prevent illicit items getting into the prison.”

It isn’t the first time that the prison has been in the spotlight and come under-fire from Northumberland politicians. In 2017, a shocking BBC Panorama exposé painted a grim picture of life at the prison.

In May this year, the latest Independent Monitoring Board report for the jail was published, stating that improvements had been made, but the use of drugs was still a concern.