11 Aug MoJ’s own records show assaults on prison staff increased by 247% in past decade, report finds | UK News
The Ministry of Justice’s own data shows assaults on prison staff in England and Wales have increased by 247% in the past decade, a report has found.
Research conducted by Community trade union, which represents many workers in privatised justice services, found the government department’s published records showed 7,979 attacks occurred in 2020 alone.
This is the equivalent to 21 officers being physically assaulted each day, which the union says is “unacceptable”.
Responding to the ‘Keep Us Safe’ report, Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said ministers must act “to ensure those who assault prison workers are punished”.
In the Community survey conducted for justice sector workers in June this year, 86% of 176 respondents said they have been verbally abused in the past year.
Over a quarter reported that they have been abused on a daily basis (26%) and another third state that they have been verbally abused weekly (23%).
According to the report, one in four justice sector workers have been assaulted at work at least once in the past year, and one in 10 have been assaulted twice or more.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “While the latest figures show that assaults on prison staff are down by 24%, we will never tolerate violence against our hard working officers, which is why we’re doubling the maximum sentence for those who cause them harm.
“This is on top of the millions we have already invested in tools such as PAVA to keep frontline staff safe.”
Community is calling on the government to work with staff, employers and unions to develop “a clear and measurable plan to reduce assaults on staff year on year”.
They say “urgent action” is needed, including tougher responses for attacks on staff members, ensuring officers have the equipment they need and increasing staffing levels while retaining experienced members.
Roy Rickhuss CBE, general secretary of Community, described the rise in assaults on justice sector workers as “deeply troubling”.
“Our workers in the justice sector are immensely proud of the hard work and resilience they have shown during the pandemic, but they’re also tired,” he said.
“Too often during the pandemic, prison workers have been the forgotten emergency service.
“The nature of their work has meant they have been unable to work from home, being in close contact with sometimes hundreds of people a day. This has meant a workforce highly exposed to coronavirus, often having to work long shifts to cover for others who are at home isolating or unwell.
“After an exhausting year and a half, the thought of a continuous rise in violence over the past decade is deeply troubling. Perhaps the most worrying revelation in the report is the scale to which assault is being committed against our brave front-line workers with impunity.
“We’re calling for urgent reform from government. We’re asking them to keep us safe.”
Mr Lammy added: “The Conservatives’ disastrous mishandling of the prison service has led to a huge spike in violence against workers who sacrifice so much to keep the rest of us safe.
“The government must act urgently to improve conditions in our overcrowded, understaffed and dangerous prisons, as well as to ensure those who assault prison workers are punished.”