‘Two fires a week’ at West Yorkshire prisons

Inside HMP Leeds, where 46 fires were reported in 2016.
Inside HMP Leeds, where 46 fires were reported in 2016.
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Figures from the Ministry of Justice have revealed there were 129 fires in West Yorkshire prisons over the past year - the equivalent of two blazes every week.

Wetherby Young Offenders’ Institution recorded the most incidents in the county, with 54 fires between January and December 2016, followed by HMP Leeds where 46 fires were reported.

Women’s prison HMP New Hall and high security prison HMP Wakefield both recorded five fires, while HMP Wealstun in Thorpe Arch had 20.

Nationally, the total number of prison fires across England and Wales is on the rise - with 2,560 in 2016, up 43 per cent from the 1,935 in 2015.

The increase was described as “extremely concerning” by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who received the figures in response to a written Commons question he submitted earlier this month. The Ministry of Justice said the incidents included both deliberate and accidental fires and most were “relatively minor”.

Mr Farron MP said: “The number of fires in our prisons is extremely concerning, raising questions of safety for both inmates and prison staff.

“Prison staff have faced years of cuts. The government must now make sure that there are enough staff to maintain control of our prisons and ensure that the safety of both staff and inmates is not put at risk.

“The fact that the number of incidents is on the rise shows the need for urgent action.”

Prisons minister Sam Gyimah said the fires cover a “wide range of circumstances”.

He added: “We will never compromise on the safety of those in our care, and staff are trained to respond to emergency situations in a timely, appropriate manner.”

In Yorkshire, HMP Doncaster had the highest number, with 75 fires reported, while Thameside Prison in south east London topped the national table, recording a total of 101 fires. HMP Full Sutton near Pocklington was one of 10 prisons to have just one fire.

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