PRISON officers in Wrexham and across England and Wales walked out to protest about ‘unprecedented levels of violence’.

Staff at troubled HMP Berwyn walked out at 7am on Friday and remained outside their workplaces until 1pm when they were instructed by their union to return to their duties.

The Leader:

Around 100 officers gather outside HMP Berwyn. Pictures and videos: Geoff Abbott

The Prison Officers Association (POA) say an unprecedented levels of violence and the failure of the Government and employers to provide safe prisons had been headline news for some considerable time.

After his members had gone back to their duties POA general secretary Steve Gillan said: “Following meaningful engagement with the Minister Rory Stewart and a commitment to instruct the employer to meet the POA and agree a plan of action to address the concerns of the union, the POA has instructed members to return to work.

“The threat of court action against the union has been withdrawn and the union has stated that it will engage with the employer to agree a time-bound plan of action.

“We must take things on face value following the meeting with the Minister but the devil will be in the detail.

“The POA will not allow our members to suffer in silence and the employer must be prepared to meet our demands and provide safe prisons.”

Before the return to work Mr Gillan had said: “The POA has engaged with the employer and Ministers in an attempt to resolve issues, but they are paying lip service to the Health and Safety of my members their human rights, that of other workers in prisons and of course the prisoners in our care.

The Leader:

“Earlier this year the POA commenced legal proceedings due to the Government’s failure to provide safe prisons.

“Bedford with other prisons were placed into Special Measures and commitments made to this union from Government and HM Prison and Probation Service.

“These commitments were not met and we have issued a further Pre-Action Protocol Letter as part of the Judicial Review process because of their failings to provide safe prisons.

“We will now be demanding that the Government provide safe prisons, meet our demands to improve personal protective equipment, reduce levels of violence and overcrowding as set out by Lord Justice Woolf in his report into the riots of 1990.”

Rory Stewart MP said: “I am pleased all parties have been able to bring a swift resolution to this action which, as I have made clear, was irresponsible and placed fellow staff and prisons at risk.

“The priority now must be to continue our constructive dialogue with the safety of our hard-working prison officers at its absolute heart.

“Ultimately our aims are the same – to see safe, secure and decent establishments that provide a positive environment for staff and prisoners.

“I have demonstrated my absolute commitment to bringing about that improvement but it will only happen if all sides work together.”

Mr Stewart added: “We have doubled the prison sentence for anyone who assaults prison officers. We’ve also increased pay, provided tools such as body-worn cameras to increase security...and are investing £40 million to improve the estate.”