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NEWS: Prison officers’ access to body worn cameras

Prison officers can access to a body-worn video camera while on shift to help keep them safe and cut violence, the new Lord Chancellor has announced.

Alex Chalk KC confirmed 13,000 new and improved cameras are now available across public sector prisons, as he met staff at HMP Isis in London to mark his first week in post.

It doubles the total available to be used every time an officer is on duty, capturing challenging prisoner behaviour and how staff have dealt with it, helping to stop false accusations from prisoners.

It means staff can be more confident in the actions they take to de-escalate tricky situations and a pilot study published in 2020 found they can improve trust between staff and prisoners.

These new devices also offer superior image and audio quality, leading to improved evidence gathering which can speed up prison adjudication processes, support criminal prosecutions and potentially halt lengthy legal action – saving taxpayers’ money and courts’ time.

False allegations

They also help reduce the need to pay unnecessary compensation to prisoners paid who have made up allegations.

For example, body-worn cameras recently proved their worth when a prisoner’s claim to have been assaulted while resisting a transfer to HMP Rochester was thrown out by police. Footage worn throughout the incident found prison staff used reasonable force.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said: “These new, improved video cameras are proving highly effective at preventing vexatious claims by prisoners, calming volatile situations, and keeping our dedicated prison officers and our prisons safe.

“Other security measures including synthetic pepper spray, x-ray body scanners and airport style security are helping turn prisoners away from crime and towards purposeful activity.”

The new cameras are the latest measure, building on our £100 million investment to improve safety in prisons and protect frontline staff, adding to the roll-out of PAVA spray and police-style restraints rolled out in men’s prisons in recent years.

Tougher sentences

It follows the government toughening prison sentences for assaults on emergency workers – including prison officers, by raising maximum sentences to 12 months in 2018 and again to up to 2 years, through last year’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

Jade Turner, Custodial Manager at HMP Styal said: “As prison officers, sometimes we have to deal with difficult situations and I have found body worn cameras help make my job safer, while reassuring prisoners we will work with them openly and transparently.

“Our game-changing X-ray body scanners have thwarted almost more than 28,000 attempts to smuggle drugs, phones and weapons.”

And in December we went further, striking the Crime in Prisons Referral Agreement with Counter Terror Police and the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure more offences by prisoners are dealt with in the courts – toughening sentences for those guilty of crime behind bars.