Four Jailed Over Ford Prison Riots

Four men have been jailed after a riot at an open prison in West Sussex.

Trouble flared at Ford Open Prison near Arundel when inmates became angry over alcohol breath-testing carried out by prison staff in the run-up to New Year's Day last year.

Shortly after midnight, masked inmates torched and smashed up the prison, causing more than £5 million-worth of damage.

Thomas Regan, 23, Lennie Franklin, 23, and Roche Allen, 25, were jailed for seven years after being guilty of prison mutiny by a jury at Hove Crown Court.

Carniel Francis, 25, received a two-and-a-half-year sentence for violent disorder.

Roberts, 41, Franklin and Allen were also found guilty of violent disorder. Regan had already pleaded guilty to the charge.

Roberts was also found guilty of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered. His sentencing was adjourned for reports to assess his mental health.

Ryan Martin was acquitted of all three offences.

Jurors were directed by Judge Michael Lawson QC to find fellow inmate Paul Hadcroft, 25, not guilty of all three charges part-way through the case because of insufficient evidence.

The mutiny saw inmates running amok, looting, smashing and torching buildings and property during the early hours of January 1, 2011.

Prosecutor Ian Acheson told the court it was a case where violent chaos and arson ruled.

Judge Lawson told the defendants that their behaviour as they advanced towards the five staff on duty that night, threatening to kill them and cut them, must have been terrifying.

He said:

''Those officers were faced with a frightening situation and were unable to quell what was happening.

''Had they run they would have suffered injury from the crowd who were already aroused, angry and out of control.

''With considerable bravery, they made a controlled return to the gate house.''

Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra, from Sussex Police, said:

''From very early on we had to work at a fast pace to secure enough evidence to make arrests and identify suspects on what was a dark, rainy and confusing night of mass disturbance.

''A number of prisoners, including our main suspects, had to be moved to prisons all over the UK, with the added complication that many were due for release over the coming weeks back into local communities around the country.''

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said:

''I visited the prison the day after the disturbance and was appalled at the wanton damage and destruction I saw. These tough sentences reflect the seriousness with which society rightly views such actions.''

The independent monitoring board (IMB) for Ford Prison said one extra member of staff had since been drafted in for night shifts at the prison since the riot on New Year's Eve.

Charles Pinney, chairman of the IMB at Ford Prison, said:

''We had mentioned several times, and in a report in December, that if anything went wrong there were not enough people to control it. But we did not think anything would go wrong. They have since put one extra person in."

Mark Freeman, POA Deputy General Secretary, said:

''We want prisoners to be categorised properly and once they are in the estate, they get one bite of the cherry.

''One extra member of staff on at night is not going to make any difference whatsoever.''