Questions asked over prison riot

HMP Grampian in Peterhead.
HMP Grampian in Peterhead.

As the dust settles after last week’s 14-hour siege, questions are being asked about what the future holds for HMP Grampian in Peterhead.

Police and prison officers in body armour were forced to intervene when more than 40 inmates started rioting in the super jail’s Ellon wing.

Multiple emergency vehicles, including an ambulance, were on the scene on Wednesday morning.

At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, MSP for the North East Alison McInnes, who is also the Lib Dem justice spokesperson, quized Alex Salmond on what the Scottish Government will do to ‘ensure good order is maintained in the future?’

Alison McInnes also expressed concerns about the challenges faced by more than 100 new prison service staff.

In response the First Minister said: “It is not unknown for new prisons to have this sort of incident – it has happened a number of times in the past”.

Mr Salmond also criticised those behind the ‘unacceptable behaviour’.

The incident began when a group of inmates refused to return to their cells and began damaging fixtures and fittings.

Officers sealed off the area and, despite the presence of an ambulance, there were no injuries reported.

Following the rampage Banffshire and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson (SNP) praised the efforts of officers.

He said: “They were aided by the modern design of the new prison which allows areas of difficulty to be closed down, maximising protection of staff and prisoners.

“It’s disappointing that a number of prisoners are determined to ignore the significant opportunities to turn around their lives that the new prison offers.

“I’m sure we are all grateful to the staff at HMP Grampian for their effective and professional response to this incident.”

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has since confirmed that, as of Monday, May 19, 170 inmates have been moved to a ‘variety of establishments’, including Barlinnie in Glasgow, the country’s largest prison.

The riot hit the national headlines and following the incident there were unconfirmed reports ‘illicit hooch’ been at the heart of the ramage and that the cost of the damage could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

However SPS’s communications chief Tom Fox was quick to quash the rumours.

He told the Buchanie: “This is all just speculation.

“The police haven’t finished their investigations yet and we won’t be able to assess the damage or likely cost until we can get in.

“That could take days, possibly weeks.”

This latest incident follows a two-hour stand off between prisoners and guards in April.

Earlier this month the Buchanie reported that the SPS had dismissed reports of stand offs.

HMP Grampian replaced neighbouring HMP Peterhead, site of the infamous SAS raid to put down a riot in 1987.

The new super prison opened in March and is the first in the country to house male, female and young offenders.

The facility can hold 500 prisoners but fewer than 200 are left inside.