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Man arrested over prison roof fire

A man has been arrested following a fire on the roof of a prison building at HMP Guys Marsh in Shaftesbury.

Emergencies services were called to the incident at around 8pm on Friday 10 March.

All prisoners and staff were accounted for and a total of 64 prisoners were evacuated from the affected area by prison staff.

Credit: ITV News

One prisoner who was reported to be on the roof of the prison building during the incident was brought back down to safety and checked over by paramedics.

Following an initial investigation, a 29-year-old male prisoner has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life and is being questioned by detectives.

– Dorset Police

Police say there was no immediate risk to the public living nearby.

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Two men climb on to roof of prison

Two males, believed to be inmates, have climbed on to the roof of a prison in Dorset.

Two men have climbed on to the roof of HMP Guys Marsh. Credit: ITV West Country

The South West Ambulance Service were called to the Category C prison, HMP Guys Marsh just before 1pm today, after the two males were spotted on the roof.

Crews are currently on standby at the site. They say no-one has yet been treated by the service.

Staff "lost control" of HMP Guys Marsh

A damning report into Guys Marsh prison in Dorset has found managers and staff "all but lost control of the prison".

An unannounced inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in November 2013 found levels of violence at the jail were very high and the violence was driven by the supply of drugs.

The report found that staff had Credit: ITV News

At a time when we are seeing some overall improvement in the system, HMP Guys Marsh stands out as an establishment of great concern.

Regional managers began to take decisive action during the inspection but real risks remain and turning the prison round will take sustained support from the Prison Service nationally.

The failures of the prison at the time of the inspection posed unacceptable risks to the public, staff and prisoners and this cannot be allowed to continue.

– Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons

Report Findings:

  • levels of violence in the prison were very high and many prisoners were frightened.
  • the violence was driven by the supply of drugs, particularly synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice, which led to debts which were enforced by violence or threats of violence to prisoners or their family outside the prison.
  • there had been a number of medical emergencies associated with the consumption of Spice.
  • gangs operated openly in the prison, although security staff and managers were well focused on these challenges and worked hard to address them.
  • there were frequent ‘incidents at height’ where men climbed onto dangerously high structures in the belief that they would then be taken to the segregation unit where they would be safe.
  • some prisoners self-isolated on the wings, hiding in their cells in squalid conditions with abuse shouted through the door.
  • the high levels of bullying and debt were linked to high levels of self-harm, although care for men at risk was generally good.
  • training provision had deteriorated sharply since the last inspection and the overall effectiveness of learning and skills work was inadequate.
  • despite the fact that Guys Marsh was a training prison, only 16% of prisoners were on education or training courses.
  • the overall management of resettlement was disjointed and inadequate; and
  • offender management was exceptionally poor and arrangements for protecting the public from high-risk prisoners after release were weak.

The inspectors said the prison was short-staffed and overcrowded at the time.

The prison has responded saying it is now stable, operating safely.

Inspectors said the prison was short-staffed and overcrowded at the time. Credit: Gareth Copley/PA Wire

Inspectors visited Guys Marsh during a particularly difficult period. Changes in the population combined with a rise in the illegal trafficking of New Psychoactive drugs was fuelling gang-related violence.

The prison was not out of control and action was being taken in response to these threats - but I accept the situation at the time wasn't acceptable. Since the inspection we have worked with the police to provide extra support to the prison to tackle drug supply and gang activity - including moving perpetrators to more secure gaols as necessary.

I visited Guys Marsh myself last month. It is now stable, operating safely, and providing a consistent and decent regime for prisoners.

Staff have responded to the concerns with professionalism and the new Governor supported by his Regional Manager has a robust plan in place to achieve the sustained improvement required.

– Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service