Six Convicted Of Riots At Birmingham Prison

29 September 2017, 19:31 | Updated: 29 September 2017, 19:37

HMP Birmingham riot

Six men have been convicted of being part of riots at Birmingham prison last year.

Luke Mansell, 24 and John Burton, 39, were found guilty of their roles in the trouble which spread to four wings, and saw 500 prisoners let out of their cells.

Four others - Ross Wilkinson, Robert Smith, Nathan Weston and Grant Samed - all admitted a charge of prison mutiny before trial.

Order was only restored at the G4S-run jail after hundreds of specially-trained "Tornado" team prison officers, backed by riot police, were drafted in to quell the riot on December 16 last year.

The two men, who had denied prison mutiny at Birmingham Crown Court, were convicted on Friday after a trial lasting nearly three weeks.

Jurors failed to reach verdicts on a charge of mutiny for two others, Carl Brookes, 33, and 30-year-old Ross Queen, and the six men and six women were formally discharged by the judge.

Brookes and Queen had previously admitted a separate charge of taking an unauthorised photo in jail.

All those convicted will be sentenced next week.

Jurors heard how trouble flared when a group of prisoners climbed onto "suicide netting" on the fourth-floor landing on N wing, shortly before a set of keys was stolen from a prison guard.

An inmate squirted a jet of water at the warder from a fire hose while another prisoner crawled along the floor and snatched the keys, later used to unlock other wings.

Opening the case earlier this month, Simon Davis, prosecuting, said officers then "retreated" from the affected blocks - and were then pelted with paint and pool balls.

Televisions were thrown out of windows and bedding set on fire amid scenes of the ensuing chaos.

It was the worst disorder at a UK jail since the Manchester Strangeways riots in 1990.

Mansell and Burton were convicted of their part - being among those inmates who clambered onto the trampoline-like netting on N Wing.

Brookes and Queen admitted posing for pictures, smiling and wearing riot helmets pilfered from the jail's locked security stores.

The images were widely shared on social media, with police describing the men as the riot's "poster boys".

Mr Davis said the mutineers were all "to a greater or lesser extent" involved in the disorder, which ended at about 10pm.

He said: "Large parts of the prison were subjected to criminal damage which included graffiti, throwing of paint up walls, looting of offices, damage to windows, doors, computer equipment, furniture, and a number of areas were set on fire.

"It was necessary for the prison officers to hold key entrances and exits in order to prevent the advance of the prisoners, doing this initially by double-locking doors and putting chains around gates."

Outlining events at the start of the disorder, Mr Davis added: "Mansell and Burton were among those who went onto the netting.

"Each appeared to have an axe to grind. That does not provide them with an excuse for what happened subsequently, but it does provide you with some information as to why it all started.

"Mansell appeared to be protesting because he said he hadn't been allowed to see a dentist."

Although prison officers tried to reason with the six men on the netting, one allegedly claimed to have a syringe while some of the group "armed themselves" and began smashing lights and windows.

Burton threw a table down a stairwell but had always denied having anything to do with the trouble.

Mansell claimed his presence on the netting was a "personal protest due to lack of dental treatment".

Brookes said he was actively seeking to assist in preventing violence and had only acted as peacemaker while Queen accepted there was a mutiny but denied any involvement in it.

However, jurors unanimously convicted Mansell and Burton of mutiny, who, together with Wilkinson, 24, Weston 23, Samed, 30, and Smith, 34, will be sentenced on Monday for an offence which carries up to 10 years behind bars.

Speaking afterwards, Detective Inspector Caroline Corfield, of West Midlands Police, said: "It was a very serious incident in terms of what took place and the size of the incident.

"It's frightening even to watch on the recorded footage that I have seen, so I can't imagine how it would have felt to be involved on that day.

"When the disorder spread to the other wings and exercise yard, a team of prison officers held the gate to stop the disorder from spreading even further into the prison.

"Those officers were out on a cold December day for many hours, being pelted with pool balls and any debris the prisoners could lay their hands on.

"They had paint thrown over them, fire hoses turned on them and they endured this for hours.

"I have no doubt that the action of those officers stopped this disorder from spreading even further."