Shropshire Star

Union calls for investigation after 25 prison staff poisoned with drug spice

Incident happened at men’s high security prison HMP Swaleside in Kent.

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A union representing prison officers is calling for a “full investigation” into the “deliberate poisoning” of staff with the drug spice at HMP Swaleside.

The Criminal Justice Workers Union has said that 25 people were affected in the incident at the men’s high-security prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

It said that five people were taken to hospital, although South East Coast Ambulance service has said only three people were treated in hospital.

Andy Hamlin, trade union official, told the PA news agency that staff were instructed not to discuss the incident on May 9, which he claimed was the management’s attempt to “play down the incident”.

He said: “The Criminal Justice Workers Union are concerned at the reports from HMP Swaleside regarding the deliberate poisoning of staff by prisoners working in the staff canteen with spice.

“Although it is not unusual for prisoners to be working staff canteens, they are expected to be the low-risk (prisoners), which clearly hasn’t happened in this case.

“Spice is a synthetic psychoactive substance, designed to replicate the high of illegal drugs.

“It can cause symptoms such as breathing difficulties, hallucinations, raised heart rate and is extremely dangerous to those with pre-existing illnesses.

“Our members have raised valid concerns, and believe the senior management team at HMP Swaleside have attempted to play down the incident with staff being instructed not to discuss the incident or mention it on social media.

“This has led staff to believe the senior management team are prioritising the establishment’s reputation, over the health and safety of its staff.

“The CJWU demand HMPPS (HM Prison and Probation Service) carry out a full investigation into this incident, which resulted in 25 staff being poisoned, nine South East Coast Ambulances attending, an emergency incident unit being set up within the establishment and five members of staff being admitted to hospital.

“HMPPS and local senior management team at HMP Swaleside must do more to protect the health and safety of its staff.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “A number of staff were taken ill following an incident at HMP Swaleside last week but have all now returned to work.

“There is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

It is understood that none of the staff were in critical condition and all have since been discharged from hospital.

A South East Coast Ambulance Service spokesman said: “I can confirm that South East Coast Ambulance responded to a medical incident at HMP Swaleside in Eastchurch, Sheerness after being called at approximately 2.10pm on Thursday 9 May.

“Ambulance crews attended and worked alongside the prison medical team to assess and treat a number of patients at the scene before three were taken by ambulance to hospital for further checks.”

Kent Police confirmed it attended to assist the ambulance service.

In March, three prisoners and three civilian staff at Lewes prison in East Sussex were taken to hospital with food poisoning.

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