Private jail tops table for assaults on staff

STAFF at the private Addiewell Prison suffered more assaults by inmates than any other jail in Scotland during the last year, new figures revealed today.

The controversial jail in West Lothian recorded 45 attacks on staff between last April and this month. The same figures showed Edinburgh's Saughton logged just 16 attacks in the same period, while high-security HMP Shotts reported six.

Kalyx, the company which runs Addiewell, said it was "misleading" to compare the jail's assault figures with other prisons because it is subject to a tighter reporting process. But the assaults on staff were today branded "completely unacceptable" and calls were made for violent inmates to be prosecuted to the "full extent of the law".

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Meanwhile, Saughton reported the joint highest total of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults during the period, recording 93 along with Glasgow's Barlinnie jail.

The Polmont Young Offender's Institution in Falkirk topped the league with 180 attacks.

The figures were revealed by the Scottish Government following a parliamentary question by Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown.

Mr Brown said: "It is vital that the staff at Addiewell and Saughton are given protection and support in order to carry out their duties without fearing for their own safety.

"The number of prison staff assaulted in prisons in the Lothians last year is completely unacceptable. Any prisoner that assaults a member of prison staff must be charged to the full extent of the law. Such a zero tolerance approach is required."

Addiewell Prison, which cost 65 million, has rarely been out of the headlines since it opened. There have been two riots involving dozens of inmates.

It was reported that more than 100 inmates went on a rampage in January after they were refused methadone by staff. They were said to have barricaded themselves in two wings and badly injured a warder.

Last October, four staff were injured and a woman guard rushed to hospital when rioting broke out. Sources claimed the incident was sparked by claims of brutality towards inmates.

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In a recent incident, violent prisoner Jonathan Kelly, 30, threw a bucket of excrement over a custody officer at Addiewell then threw the empty bucket at a second officer and whipped him with an electricity cable.

Kelly was ordered to serve an extra four months in prison.

A Kalyx spokesman: "It is misleading to compare private and public prisons due to the differing definitions and reporting processes.

"All staff are trained to deal with aggressive or violent behaviour and are working hard to reduce the number of incidents."

It is understood Addiewell is under tighter scrutiny as a private enterprise, and is required to report incidents which might be overlooked at other jails.

Derek Turner, assistant secretary of the Scottish Prison Officers Association, said: "There are always tensions in a prison because, at the end of the day, you're locking people up and many of them have a propensity to violence.

"We do anything possible to mitigate against (attacks] happening, in terms of training. It's difficult to avoid but we do everything possible to do so."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said: "We treat assaults extremely seriously and follow these up, with the police if necessary."