Prison officers in Wrexham and Swansea protest over violence

Officers gathered outside the cat

About 150 prison officers have been protesting outside jails in Wales over "unprecedented violence", the Prison Officers' Association has said.

Almost 100 of the officers were outside HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, the UK's biggest prison, where concerns have been previously raised over safety.

About 50 officers took part in Swansea.

The protests around England and Wales were sparked by an inspection report on HMP Bedford in Bedforshire which found inmates had effectively taken control.

Prison staff are banned from taking industrial action, so holding "protest" meetings in car parks or outside the gates, on the grounds that health and safety is being compromised, is the union's way of trying to circumvent the rules.

Image caption A smaller gathering took place outside Swansea prison

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart called the action "irresponsible" and illegal.

One officer protesting outside HMP Berwyn suggested that untrained civilians were now dealing with inmates.

This was refuted by the Ministry of Justice, which said contingency plans were in place to keep inmates safe and secure.

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Media captionChris Bryant says attacks on prison officers must be taken more seriously

While the main protest surrounds the findings at HMP Bedford, issues have been raised at Berwyn where prison officers previously walked out following claims of a "series of assaults" on staff, including being pushed down stairs and spat on.

On Thursday, Rhondda MP Chris Bryant told Parliament he was unhappy assaults on prison officers did not always result in a prosecution, as his bill to protect emergency service workers became law.

It doubles the maximum sentence for attacks on police, NHS employees and others from six months to a year.

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