Oral Answers to Questions — Justice: Prison Officer Safety

Mike Wood: What progress the Government have made on improving the safety of prison officers.

 

Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The safety of prison officers is of paramount importance. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I pay tribute to Chris Bryant, who introduced a private Member’s Bill to double the sentence for assaults on prison officers and other emergency workers. There is much more we can do in this area—we are testing pepper spray and looking at body-worn cameras—but fundamentally this is about having the right staffing numbers and a proper, predictable regime in a prison to calm the prison down and prevent these completely unacceptable attacks.

 

Mike Wood: Despite the number of assaults on prison officers, very few offenders are prosecuted. Will the Minister ensure that anyone who attacks an on-duty prison officer faces the full weight of the law and can expect the punishments that those crimes would attract elsewhere?

 

Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Absolutely, and this was debated in this House when we discussed that private Member’s Bill. At the moment, people are getting a sentence of 22 weeks for spitting at a police officer, but it is rare for such prosecutions to be brought for assaulting a prison officer. We therefore wish to work closely with our colleagues in the police to make sure that prosecutions are brought and that prison officers are properly protected. I have been talking to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service to ensure that we can get more police officers into prisons.