Dramatic rooftop prison protest

By Roddy AshworthNEGOTIATORS were trying last night to coax down a prisoner who clambered onto a jail rooftop and staged a dramatic protest.The man, an inmate at Chelmsford Prison, climbed onto a second floor roof at about 2.

By Roddy Ashworth

NEGOTIATORS were trying last night to coax down a prisoner who clambered onto a jail rooftop and staged a dramatic protest.

The man, an inmate at Chelmsford Prison, climbed onto a second floor roof at about 2.40pm yesterday.

It is not known what the prisoner was protesting about, but it is understood that he has issued demands to warders to see his family.


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Police sealed off Sandford Road - which runs alongside the jail - while members of the Prison Service dealt with the incident. Fire crews were also sent to the scene at the request of the jail authorities.

A spokesman for the Home Office said last night: “We can confirm that at 2.20pm today a prisoner at HMP Chelmsford gained access to a second floor roof in the prison.

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“Negotiators are in place and police have been informed. There will be an investigation into the incident once it has been resolved.”

It was not known whether the man conducting the protest was a remand prisoner or a convicted criminal.

David Martin, a member of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Chelmsford Prison, was also at the scene.

Neil Orr, an IMB member and former chairman of the voluntary watchdog, said Mr Martin would be taking detailed notes of events.

“They will have a negotiator talking with the prisoner on the roof trying to coax him down. The negotiator will be extraordinarily professional and patient,” he added.

“The IMB member will stand back and see how the thing works and what's happening. If they decide to make a rush for him with batons and things, they will probably let the IMB member know and know why.

“When the prisoner comes down, the IMB member will be there to see he is treated with respect, taken to a segregation unit and not maltreated. We are there to see that things are done efficiently and with appropriate respect.”

Mr Orr said such protests were uncommon at Chelmsford Prison, which he thought had improved considerably since a series of damning reports in recent years.

“There are really very few incidents like this - they happen very rarely. It is a very well-run and orderly prison at the moment, all the difference in the world to what it was three years ago. It is responsibly and calmly-run,” he added.

David Bill, a spokesman for Essex fire service, said its crews were standing by at the Prison Service's request while negotiations with the prisoner took place.

“We have not taken an active role - they may want equipment such as ladders,” he added.

No-one at Chelmsford Prison was prepared to comment on the incident last night.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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