Seven charged over prison riot

Seven men were charged today in connection with a riot at an open prison where buildings were burnt to the ground.

A New Year’s Day mutiny by inmates at Ford Prison near Arundel, West Sussex, saw buildings torched after a bid to crack down on contraband alcohol.

Rioters set light to buildings during the night and again at lunchtime, causing extensive damage to six accommodation blocks, a gym, mail room and snooker and pool rooms.

Today it was announced that Roche Allen, Lennie Franklin, Ryan Martin, Thomas Regan, Lee Roberts and Paul Hadcroft have been charged with arson being reckless as to whether life endangered and violent disorder.

A seventh man, Carniel Francis, is charged with violent disorder, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement.

The seven will appear at Chichester Magistrates’ Court on July 29.

Simon Ringrose, Crown advocate from the South East complex casework unit of the CPS, said: “I have today advised Sussex Police to charge seven men in relation to the mass disturbance at HMP Ford Prison during the early hours of New Year’s Day this year during which a number of inmates were engaged in a concerted attack on prison property and threats made to other inmates and prison officers.

“This decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”

Following the riot, it emerged that justice ministers were warned about staffing concerns at the open prison just weeks before the rampage took place.

During the early stages of the rebellion, just two officers and four support staff were on duty at a centre which holds around 500 inmates.

The guards were forced to retreat as the violence increased. Scores of riot police and specialist prison officers were brought in before authorities eventually regained control.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) delivered a report to Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke on December 16 which warned: “Our concerns regarding night staffing are reported regularly.

“Our main concerns are minimal staff on duty and junior staff, who are only trained to a low level, patrolling alone.

“Whilst there have only been minor incidents in the last year we do not consider that proper control is being exercised at night and are sceptical of the response received in the past that it must be adequate because there has not been a serious incident yet.”

Mr Clarke told the Commons in the aftermath of the riot that lessons must be learned about what happened at Ford.

Amid reports that about 40 empty bottles of alcohol had been found, the National Offender Management Service said it would carry out an investigation.

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