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Prisons: Crimes of Violence

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many prison officers have been assaulted whilst at work in female prisons in each year since 1997; (235502)

(2) how many prison officers have been assaulted whilst at work in male prisons in each year since 1997.

The information is set out in the following table. It is subject to important qualifications. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) incident reporting system processes high volumes of data that are constantly being updated. The numbers provide an indication of overall numbers but should not be interpreted as absolute. Assault data are complex and the numbers need to be interpreted with caution.

The recorded incidents of assaults on prison officers are not completely exclusive to officers; prison recording sometimes includes assaults on other prison staff in this category. The numbers supplied refer to the number of individual assault incidents. The numbers refer to all incidents recorded as assaults; these may also include threatening behaviour, projection of bodily fluids and other non-contact events and allegations.

Ministers, NOMS and the Prison Officers Association are collectively committed to ensuring that violence in prisons is not tolerated in any form. Since 2004, a national strategy has directed every public sector prison to have in place a local violence reduction strategy. From mid 2007, this has also been applied to the contracted out (or private) estate. A whole prison approach is encouraged, engaging all staff, all disciplines and prisoners in challenging unacceptable behaviour, problem-solving and personal safety.

Due to re-rolling of prisons over the years and the fact that some prisons have both male and female prisoners we do not have precise figures in the form requested. The approximate numbers of prisoner on officer assaults are as follows.

Prisoner on officer assault incidents1

Prison type

Female

Male

Total

19972

146

1,564

1,710

19982

174

1,415

1,589

19992

159

1,708

1,867

2000

224

1,705

1,929

2001

246

2,132

2,378

2002

258

2,245

2,503

2003

257

2,265

2,522

2004

257

2,506

2,763

2005

392

2,699

3,091

2006

485

2,640

3,125

2007

373

2,497

2,870

1 Excludes a small proportion of assaults by others such as visitors.

2 There has been improved recording of assault incidents over the years particularly for fights. Figures reported for 1997, 1998 and 1999 are not directly comparable with those reported in later years.

While over recent years both male and female prisoner populations have increased, generally female prisoners make up about 5 per cent. of the total prison population. In the most recent complete calendar year (2007), about 13 per cent. of prisoner on officer assaults occurred in female prisons.