Situation labelled ‘catastrophe waiting to happen’

31 July 2017

Fire safety in prisons has been labelled “a catastrophe waiting to happen”, reports the Independent.

A Freedom of Information request by Mark Leech, the editor of the Prisons Handbook, revealed every prison inspection in England and Wales in 2016 resulted in a non-compliance order.

All of the 19 inspections resulted in a red-flag, known as a non-compliance notice, and in some cases Statutory Enforcement Notices were then then given to prison governors who failed to take action within 28 days.

There were 2,580 fires in prisons in England and Wales in 2016.

Mr Leech, who published his findings on, said he decided to investigate because “Grenfell changed everything.”

He told the Independent: “I actually hadn’t thought much about fire safety in prisons until Grenfell, even though I have been involved in prison campaigns for years.

“When I got the results and every single [inspection] was a failure, it was a real shock, even to a campaigner like me who is used to failings in the system. It’s a catalogue of decay and collapse and of course, we urge the Government to take action urgently.”

He added: “It is a catastrophe waiting to happen, but what I want is for that catastrophe to be averted. The last thing I want is to be the person saying, ‘I told you so’. It can be prevented and that’s what I want.”

A Prison Services spokesperson told the Independent: “We take fire safety extremely seriously. All nineteen prisons have undertaken immediate action to address the recommendations made by the inspection group.

“Every single prison across the estate has a mandatory annual fire risk assessment, carried out by a fire safety specialist, and individual fire strategies in place which are closely monitored.”

Original source

The Independent