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Prison staff protest only increases risk of violence in jails – minister

Justice Secretary David Gauke branded Friday’s action wrong and irresponsible, adding that it ‘does nothing’ to help reduce levels of violence.

Nationwide protest action by prison officers “only increases the risk of violence” in jails, the Justice Secretary said, after an agreement was reached to end a walkout.

Members of the POA, the trade union for prison staff, were told to return to work by 1pm following “meaningful engagement” with prisons minister Rory Stewart.

General secretary Steve Gillan said he was “confident a deal is a deal” after the prison service “backed down” over seeking an injunction against the demonstrators.

They were accused of “unlawful action” after they began demonstrating outside prisons in England and Wales from 7am, over “unprecedented” levels of violence and safety concerns.

Members of the POA protest outside HMP Bedford (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But Justice Secretary David Gauke branded Friday’s action “wrong” and “irresponsible”, adding that it “does nothing” to help reduce levels of violence.

He told reporters: “I agree with those who say that the level of violence is unacceptably high and we are determined to bring it down.

“But I think action of this sort does nothing to help that process, and locking prisoners up for 24 hours a day, which may be the consequence of what the POA are doing, only increases the risk of violence.

“It doesn’t help us address it.”

The action had knock-on effects on court cases, with some defendants in custody unable to be transported to hearings.

The union will meet with the prison service on Monday, Mr Gillan said.

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