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Prison officers say 3m investment in security ‘no replacement for staff’

The Prison Officers Association has told Sky News equipment is “no replacement for staff,” as the Government unveils a 3m investment in new technology to protect prison guards. The investment comes amid an increase in violence against prison officers and disturbances inside jails. Two million pounds will be spent on 5,600 body-worn cameras which will be made available to prison guards in England and Wales, following the successful roll-out of the cameras among 22,000 Metropolitan Police officers last October. Plans announced by the Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah also include 1m for new police-style handcuffs and restraints, which will reduce the need for staff to use physical holds to control aggressive prisoners. Four prisons – HMP Wealstun, HMP Risley, HMP Preston and HMP Hull – will also trial PAVA incapacitant spray, similar to pepper spray, to boost officer safety.

Image: Two prison officers were seriously injured last year at Wormwood Scrubs in west London

Mr Gyimah said: “Prison officers do an incredibly hard job . Assaults on prison officers are up 34% in the last year . Of course prison officers have got to be professional at all times but where these cameras could make a real difference is with prosecutions and also deterring assaults against prison officers.

“I am absolutely determined to tackle head-on the issues that undermine the safety and security of our prisons and to ensure our dedicated officers have the tools they need to do the job.” The Prison Officers Association welcomed the introduction of the new safety measures, but told Sky News the central issue remains the number of guards. In a statement, the union said: “Whilst we welcome protective measures such as PAVA spray and body worn cameras nothing can replace correct and safe staffing levels.

“The 30% cut to staff since 2010 and the increase in violence and riots during that period still has to be addressed and equipment is no replacement for staff.” The Government says 1,290 extra prison officers have been recruited, but admits that number is below its own target of 2,500. Former convict John Hirst told Sky News there needs to be a more widespread reform of the prison system.

He said: “What they need to do is improve conditions . Some of the prisons are still Victorian and they still use Victorian prison rules. “If you keep dehumanising prisoners when you put them into the system in the first place, how do you think they are going to behave?”

The Government says 10m has already been given to priority prisons to ramp up additional security measures including 24-hour patrol dogs, CCTV cameras, mobile phone detection technology and metal detectors.

Police to review Conservative security after Prime Minister prank

Police are to work with the Conservatives to review their conference security after a well-known comedian was able to hand the Prime Minister a mock P45 unemployment notice. Interrupting Theresa May’s keynote speech to Tory members in Manchester1, Lee Nelson – real name Simon Brodkin – approached the podium to hand the Prime Minister the fake document before being led away. Conservative MPs voiced their concerns over the prank, as party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin and Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised a full inquiry. “There should be some very serious questions – that could have been a terrorist,” said Tory MP George Freeman, the head of the Prime Minister’s policy board. A Conservative spokesman said: “In light of the arrest during the Prime Minister’s speech we are working with the police to review the accreditation process and security arrangements for party conference.”

Mr Brodkin, who has a history of interrupting high-profile events, was arrested “to prevent a breach of the peace” after being escorted out of the conference hall, but was later released. He was revealed to have had legitimate accreditation for the Conservative conference, believed to be a two-day delegate pass costing around 700. Greater Manchester Police chief superintendent John O’Hare said: “The man had legitimate accreditation which granted him access to the conference site.

“In light of this we will be reviewing the accreditation process with the Conservative Party. “Even with accreditation, everyone at the conference goes through airport-style searches before being allowed entry to the site.”

Security firm G4S defended themselves, using their Twitter account to reveal they were not the security provider for inside the auditorium but only the conference perimeter, entrances and exits. Mr Brodkin was given a conditional caution in March 2013 after warming up alongside Premier League footballers ahead of a Manchester City game at Everton. He was also arrested, but later released, when he threw money at world football boss Sepp Blatter in July 2015. A month earlier, Mr Brodkin stormed the stage during Kanye West’s set at Glastonbury festival.

References

  1. ^ Theresa May’s keynote speech to Tory members in Manchester (news.sky.com)

Israel metal detectors row was about sovereignty, not security

They came in the dead of night with heavy equipment to remove controversial metal detectors from outside the gates to the holy sites. It was a sudden climb-down by Israel1 after it stated just 24 hours before that they would stay. The metal detectors had divided Israel’s security establishment, with the Shin Bet security agency and the IDF (Israeli military) arguing they were counter-productive. It seems those voices were part of the reason for the change of tack – but only after days of violent protests. But it is still not clear whether the removal of the magnetometers will defuse the current crisis. Israel says they will be replaced with high-tech cameras equipped with facial recognition.

The Waqf – the Jordanian religious trust that governs the holy esplanade – has put together a committee to look at the new security measures. It wants the area returned to how it was before the metal detectors were installed; if it is not, it claims the “status quo” will have changed and that is unacceptable. The current crisis was triggered when Israel installed the metal detectors after three Israeli Arabs killed two Israeli policemen2 at the Lion’s Gate in the Old City. Israel maintains the measures did not alter the “Status Quo” agreement and were a necessary measure to prevent further attacks. But at the moment the boycott remains in place. Muslim worshippers are still refusing to pass through the gates to the holy sites and are instead praying outside in protest.

A lot depends now on what goes on behind the scenes and whether or not the Waqf can be convinced that what Israel has done, or is doing, is not changing what they consider to be the status quo. And if the boycott is not lifted there will inevitably be further violent clashes. The fundamental problem is the lack of trust between the two sides. Israel claims the Palestinians use al-Aqsa to incite terror . The Palestinians claim Israel exploits the issue of security as a way of consolidating its illegal occupation. The sites are of course of great religious and national importance to both Jews and Muslims. The area is called the Temple Mount by Jews and is the holiest site in Judaism.

Muslims refer to the al-Aqsa compound as the Noble Sanctuary and it is the third holiest site in Islam.

The argument then was never about the metal detectors: the argument was always and still is about sovereignty.

References

  1. ^ sudden climb-down by Israel (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ three Israeli Arabs killed two Israeli policemen (news.sky.com)