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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.

Tight security in Barcelona ahead of Catalan independence announcement

Security is tight in a tense Barcelona – with just hours to go until Catalonia possibly declares independence from Spain. Police are guarding public buildings and have closed off a park surrounding the regional parliament – amid concerns that an attempt to break away from Madrid could be met with a harsh response from Spanish authorities. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has not revealed the precise message he will deliver at 6pm local time (5pm UK time), but separatist politicians have said they expect a declaration based on the results of the disputed independence referendum on 1 October. Ahead of the announcement, Barcelona’s mayor said the Catalan referendum is not enough for the region to declare independence from Spain.

Image: Catalan President Carles Puigdemont presides over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning

Ada Colau said the results of the vote “can’t be a guarantee to proclaim independence but are the opportunity to build dialogue and international mediation”. She appealed to Spain’s prime minister and Catalonia’s political leader to “decrease tension on both sides”, adding that “now is the time to build bridges”. Ms Colau also urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to pull out the extra police that have been drafted in to the northeast region as a “gesture of state responsibility”.

Image: Highway management company Abertis is the latest firm to pull out of Catalonia

As many in Spain await what would be a major escalation in the constitutional crisis, more firms have said they are pulling out of the region. Highway management company Abertis and telecoms company Cellnex have joined a growing list of companies moving their headquarters elsewhere. Both are part of Spain’s Ibex 35 index of top listed companies. Abertis and Cellnex said they were pulling out for as long as there is uncertainty about the region’s future.

Image: People have marched for Spanish unity in recent days Image: Hundreds of thousands turned out in Barcelona

They join a slew of companies that are moving, including property group Inmobiliaria Colonial, Banco Sabadell, CaixaBank and energy firm Gas Natural. Publishing house Grupo Planeta also warned it will move to Madrid if independence is declared. Spain’s deputy prime minister earlier warned of a tough response if Catalonia’s political leader, Carlos Puigdemont, decides to announce a split from Spain. Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told COPE radio that “if they declare independence, there will be decisions to restore the law and democracy”. He added: “I’m calling on the sensible people in the Catalan government.. .

don’t jump off the edge because you’ll take the people with you.” The crisis in the region follows an illegal referendum that was condemned by many because of the heavy-handed approach by police. Around 900 people were reportedly hurt when officers seized ballot boxes, fired rubber bullets and forcibly dragged people out of polling stations. Catalonia’s leaders said 90% of the 43% who turned out voted ‘yes’. However, hundreds of thousands of people have turned out for anti-independence rallies, including in Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona1, since the vote. The region’s referendum law states that a declaration would start a six-month process of divorce talks with Spain and regional elections.

  1. Image: Barcelona may be the capital of the Catalan region but thousands gathered there on Sunday in support of unity
  2. Image: Organisers claimed a million people joined the march . Swipe through for more pictures

Mr Puigdemont appeared steadfast on Sunday, saying a ‘yes’ vote necessitated an independence declaration.

“We will apply what the law says,” he told TV3. Mr Rajoy has not ruled out the “nuclear option” of removing the Catalan government and calling fresh regional elections. Pedro Sanchez, leader of Spain’s main opposition party, is also backing the government’s response if an independence declaration is made. Mr Sanchez said “a unilateral declaration of independence doesn’t have a place in a state ruled by law”. He told reporters in Barcelona: “The same way that we are offering our hand for a dialogue, we will also support the state’s response if coexistence among Spaniards is broken unilaterally”.

References

  1. ^ including in Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona (news.sky.com)

Asda shoplifter jailed after chasing supermarket security guard with knife

A shoplifter who chased after a supermarket security guard with a knife when he was caught stealing booze has been locked-up. John Spedding was spotted pocketing a bottle of sambuca from Asda, in Hebburn1, and was followed out of the store by the guard. But when he was confronted outside and asked for the alcohol back, the 22-year-old pulled out a Stanley knife and chased the security guard down nearby Aln Street.

The terrified worker told police his life flashed before his eyes as he feared he would be stabbed if he was caught.

Newcastle Crown Court2 heard Spedding came to within a metre of the guard before stopping his pursuit after he was distracted by someone he knew. The police were called and Spedding was aggressive and violent with officers before biting one of them on the leg, prosecutors said. Now, the thief, of Bishop Crescent, Jarrow, has been jailed for 18 months after he admitted threatening a person with a bladed article, theft and assaulting a police officer.

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Paul Rowland, prosecuting, said Spedding was spotted picking-up the sambuca and leaving the Asda store on the afternoon of September 5 this year. The guard followed him outside and asked for the alcohol back when he discovered him hiding behind a vehicle in the car park. Mr Rowland said: At that point, the defendant placed the bottle on the ground and removed a craft or Stanley knife from his left pocket and the blade was showing and he said f****** come one then .

The security guard was terrified . He simply said to the defendant Keep it, keep it , referring to the alcohol . But, the defendant began to advance towards him .

At that point, the security guard began to run away.

He ran along Aln street to try and get away from the defendant . He did turn around at one point and saw the defendant still chasing him with the knife in his hand about 1m from him.

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The court was told Spedding was then distracted by someone he knew and stopped the chase, allowing the security guard to run back to the store and alert the police. But, officers were already on their way to the scene after being called by a concerned member of public and Spedding was arrested in a nearby park, where he d tried to dump the knife and booze.

Mr Rowland said Spedding then lashed out while being restrained and bit a police officer s leg when he was taken to a cell at the police station. Locking him up, Judge Amanda Rippon said: You were drunk at the time you committed this offence and you not only produced a knife but you chased your victim, who was doing no more than his duty as a security guard, down a public street, in full view of members of the public.

In a victim statement he said this left him shaken up, his life flashed before his eyes and he genuinely believed, not surprisingly, if you caught him, and you got within a meter of him, that you would have stabbed him. Vic Laffey, mitigating, said Spedding was drunk at the time and was now remorseful.

He added; He does not recall an awful lot about the incident because of the alcohol situation .

He has expressed a desire to apologise to those he has caused distress to as a result of the incident.

References

  1. ^ in Hebburn (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ Newcastle Crown Court (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)