Hundreds of prisoners freed from cells during riot with stolen keys, court told

More than 500 prisoners were freed from their cells using stolen keys during a 15-hour riot at HMP Birmingham, a court has heard.

The trial of four inmates at the jail was told staff were sprayed with fire hoses after keys for "key" doors and gates, including some leading outside the prison, were taken from a senior prison officer.

Four inmates, John Burton, 39; Luke Mansell, 24; Carl Brookes, 33, and Ross Queen, 30, are standing trial accused of taking part in a prison mutiny at the jail in Winson Green on December 16 last year.

Opening the case against the men at Birmingham Crown Court, prosecutor Simon Davis said pictures of prisoners in riot gear were posted on social media during the disorder.

Mr Davis told jurors: "The events started early that morning and they started soon after the doors to a number of cells were opened by prison officers.

"A number of prisoners climbed on to the suicide netting on one of the prison wings.

"Keys to key doors and gates were stolen from a prison officer - the cells of maybe upwards of 500 prisoners were opened by other prisoners."

The theft of the keys, the court was told, forced staff to evacuate areas of the jail as they "lost control" of four wings of the prison.

Telling jurors they would be shown video footage of several incidents during the disorder, Mr Davis added: "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 to prevent the prisoners with the keys getting through.

"While holding one particular gate, prison officers were pelted with pool balls, paint and sprayed with water from fire hoses."

The disorder occurred on the L, M, N and P wings of the jail, which are adjacent to an exercise yard.

After outlining the geography of the wings, Mr Davis told the jury: "On levels two and four of each wing there is a netting fixed in place over the landings and stairwells.

"As you will see, the netting is a little like a trampoline. It features in this case right at the start of the disorder.

"It was of some considerable concern that keys were stolen from a senior officer who had access to a number of different areas to the prison, including doors to the outside."

The trial was told it was necessary for the prison to summon help from specially-trained Tornado Teams to restore order.

Mr Davis told jurors that four other men had pleaded guilty to their part in the disorder.

"There was a prison mutiny, you can take that as read," Mr Davis told the panel.

"It will be up to you to decide whether these particular defendants were involved or not."

Brookes and Queen also deny a second count of failing to submit to lawful authority during the disorder.


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