Investigation underway after riot officers regain control at HMP Birmingham

Credit: PA

An investigation is underway after rioting at HMP Birmingham which has been described as the worst since the infamous Strangeways riot in 1990.

Some 240 prisoners are being moved out of the facility following the disturbance.

Around 260 inmates are believed to have been caught up in the riot, which broke out across four wings and lasted over 12 hours.

Riot squads were deployed to the category B jail to restore order after reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells, breaking a security chain and destroying paper records.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss paid tribute to the bravery and dedication of the officers who resolved this disturbance.

"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," she said.

Riot police restored order to the jail late on Friday evening. Credit: PA

One prisoner was been transferred to an external hospital to be treated for a broken jaw and eye socket, managing director for G4S Jerry Petherick said.

Mr Petherick said it was an "immensely challenging day" for staff who he said "showed great resilience and courage".

"The prisoners behind today’s disorder showed a callous disregard for the safety of prisoners and staff and we will work hard to identify them and support West Midlands Police to push for the strongest possible sanctions in court," he added.

Some of the prisoners inside appeared to take selfies. Credit: ITV News

The Prison Officers Association (POA) initially confirmed two wings of HMP Birmingham were affected, but later confirmed the trouble had flared to two further wings.

"Tornado" squads from different parts of the country including HMP Preston and Strangeways prison, in Manchester - as well as police in riot gear from West Midlands' operational support unit, were sent in to stop the trouble.

The POA said: "It's understood a set of keys giving access to residential areas was taken from an officer and that offenders have since occupied some blocks and exercise facilities.

"No keys to perimeter access points were taken."

The POA also said all staff were accounted for and none had suffered any injuries.

A source told ITV News the dispute began over TVs not working.

Emergency services arrive at HMP Birmingham. Credit: PA

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the incident is "hugely concerning."

The Victorian category B prison is run by G4S and can hold 1,450 adult remand and sentenced male prisoners.

A G4S spokesman said the Prison Service had taken over the management of the incident.

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

There were no injuries among prison staff, the Ministry of Justice said.

Nisar Khan, who is the brother of an inmate, recalled the scene that his sibling described to him.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said they were called to the prison at 12.23pm and bought in a hazardous response team at the scene.

Prison affairs academic and blogger Alex Cavendish said a source inside the prison told him the trouble started with lights being broken and inmates controlling fire hoses.

Mr Cavendish said an inmate had snatched a set of keys from a prisoner officer while he being put in his cell, as is procedure during an emergency.

The prison officer was threatened by what appeared to be a used syringe and the keys were taken while he was distracted.

Mr Cavendish described the incident as "probably the most serious riot in a B category prison since Strangeways went up" in 1990.

The incident involved prisoners across two wings. Credit: PA

A Prison Governors Association spokesman said: "It would appear, on the face of it, that the private sector has now been infected with the same disease that has had such a debilitating impact on the running of public sector prisons.

"The prison service is around 800 uniformed staff short and the cavalry of the promised additional 2,500 staff are months and years away from arriving."

G4S has run HMP Birmingham prison since 2011 Credit: PA

G4S has run the prison since 2011 when it became the first public-sector jail to be privatised.

Rodger Lawrence, chairman of the Birmingham prison independent monitoring board, said its last report to the Government had recommended a review of the number of staff needed for the contract.

"We believe things have significantly changed since the contract was drawn up, and they doactually need more staff in prisons,"

He said the violence did not "come as a complete shock".

"There's been a feeling and a build-up in the prison of frustration, both on behalf of the prisoners and the staff, about the way conditions were," he added.

Up to 200 inmates rioted at HMP Bedford in November. Credit: ITV News

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

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.