Lib Dems reveal scale of assaults on prisoners and staff in Scotland’s prisons

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has called for support for prison staff as he revealed that more than 1,500 prisoner on prisoner assaults and 265 assaults on staff took place last year.  

A freedom of information submitted by Scottish Liberal Democrats to the Scottish Prison Service has revealed:

• 4,786 prisoner on prisoner assaults in the past three years, including 1,501 in 2022/23.

• 895 prisoner on staff assaults in the past three years, including 265 in 2022/23.

While the number of recorded assaults has fallen since 2019, the Scottish Prison Service have noted that this is “due to several factors including the change in the reporting process for violence incidents across all prisons and the Covid 19 pandemic which impacted on the levels of violence within establishments”.

It was subsequently confirmed that since 2019 the new definition reflects the position that only those incidents that are recorded as having a confirmed Assault, either through an Orderly Room adjudication, and/or a charge that is recorded by Police Scotland are counted. Additionally, where there is more than one assailant, for example in a fight, only one incident will be recorded, as against the previous definition of two assaults taken place.

In June the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics indicated that Scotland has a “very high” number of people incarcerated compared to other European countries and one of the highest rates of suicides among prisoners.

Justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP, pictured above,  said:  “No one should go to work expecting to be assaulted. Huge numbers of people, many of whom have complex problems, are being sent to a place proven to worsen their likelihood of re-offending.

“In turn overworked prison staff are finding themselves with less time to work with individuals to help improve their prospects and are increasingly encountering unsafe situations.

“In particular it’s troubling to see that there has been a rise in assaults in the privately-run Addiewell prison over the past two years. Prisons can be a pressure cooker but the government must ensure that high safety standards are maintained across the entire prison sector.

“These staff need proper support if prisons are to be a safe space that breaks the cycle of re-offending.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want a properly-funded justice system that can deliver robust and credible community sentences where appropriate. It’s time for the Justice Secretary to recognise that a step change is necessary. It’s crucial we strike a balance between punishing, rehabilitating and supporting; that is how we will reduce re-offending and make com

Top picture: Prison officers working with prisoners on a drugs prevention programme. 

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