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Authorities regain control of HMP Birmingham after major disturbance

Authorities have regained control of one of the country's biggest jails after a major disturbance involving hundreds of inmates.

Specialist riot squads were deployed to HMP Birmingham to tackle the disorder which lasted more than 12 hours on Friday.

Trouble spread across four wings of the privately-run facility, with reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells, breaking a security chain and destroying paper records.

Specially-trained prison guards, known as "Tornado" squads from other parts of the country were backed up by around 25 riot police as they moved into the jail.

Police had earlier closed the road and established a secure cordon around the main gate of the prison.

One prisoner is understood to have received a broken jaw during the disturbances, which spread across four wings.

Broken windows and damaged walls were described as being left in the aftermath of the disruption, but sources said it had been "superficial".

Earlier, inmates were said to have accessed a small amount of equipment which was being stored within a wing.

Beyond the walls, banging, barking dogs, firecrackers and the sound of cheering could be heard as authorities assembled outside.

The situation, in which keys giving access to residential prison areas were taken from an officer and inmates occupied some blocks and exercise facilities, will be investigated thoroughly, the Justice Secretary said.

Liz Truss said: "I want to pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of the prison officers who resolved this disturbance.

"I also want to give my thanks to West Midlands Police, who supported G4S and the Prison Service throughout the day, ambulance crews and the fire service who also provided assistance.

"This was a serious situation and a thorough investigation will now be carried out. Violence in our prisons will not be tolerated and those responsible will face the full force of the law."

All prison staff have been accounted for and none was injured, a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said.

The city centre jail formerly known as Winson Green and run by G4S can hold up to 1,450 inmates, but it is understood around 260 prisoners were caught up in the incident.

Former inmates at the category B jail, where serial murderer Fred West hanged himself in 1995, have said they are not surprised at the disturbances, describing it as something that was "bound to happen".

The latest disturbance is the third in English prisons in less than two months.

On November 6 a riot at category B Bedford Prison saw up to 200 inmates go on the rampage, flooding the jail's gangways in chaotic scenes.

Just days earlier, on October 29, a national response unit had to be brought in to control prisoners during an incident at HMP Lewes in East Sussex.

Mike Rolfe, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association, who last month protested over safety concerns, said the "serious incident" at the prison is "another stark warning to the Ministry of Justice that the service is in crisis".

A spokesman from the Prison Governors Association said the disturbance at the Birmingham jail "comes at a very difficult time for Noms (National Offender Management Service) on the back of recent riots and at a time when the prison estate is already bursting at the seams".

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the disturbances at the Birmingham jail were "hugely concerning" and claimed the Justice Secretary was "failing to get this crisis under control".

Tory chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, Robert Neill, told Channel Four News the Government had been warned by his watchdog group of MPs that a "time bomb was ticking" as prisons were in "crisis".

When it was suggested this could be the worst prison riot in years, Mr Neill said: "Certainly looking that way, yeah, and this is a problem which has happened both in privately and publicly-run systems, so it applies across the piece.

"I think that does indicate that we have got a situation where if people are locked down 22/23 hours a day, as we have discovered, that breeds tension, that breeds violence, and, as you rightly say, we are not actually keeping prisons secure enough to stop contraband getting in."

Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told Channel Four News "private companies should not be involved in taking away people's liberty. Actually, it's clear that G4S don't have the quality of staff to manage a crisis like this".

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