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David Lidington's prison woes - it's even worse than it looks

Prison staff are facing a record level of assaults. Credit: PA

The Justice Secretary insisted today that violence against prison staff "will never be tolerated".

That despite figures showing a record number of assaults on staff in jails in England and Wales.

There have been 7,437 such attacks in the past year, up by a quarter on 2016.

But that figure is only part of the story.

The Prison Reform Trust points out that over the past five years, the increase in assaults is a staggering 140%.

The figures are likely to dampen efforts to recruit more prison officers. Credit: PA

Labour claim the violence is a result of staff cuts, which in turn has meant inmates being locked up for longer.

It's a claim backed up by the Chief Inspector of Prisons. He suggested in a report this month that in local prisons, nearly a third of inmates are locked in their cells for 22 hours a day.

The Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon tweeted that there's a violent act in prisons every 20 minutes.

None of this is likely to help the Government in its stated plans to recruit more prison officers.

David Lidington says they've hired an extra 1,290 officers - still less than their own target and certainly nowhere near the numbers that have been axed since 2010 - around 6,000.