PRT comment: HMP Hull

02/11/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (2 November) report on conditions at HMP Hull by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“At the very start of the pandemic, the government took a secret decision to accelerate the rollout of ‘PAVA’ spray—a chemical incapacitant weapon—to all closed adult male prisons. When challenged in court, the prison service gave repeated undertakings about the central scrutiny that would be applied to make sure that PAVA was properly used. But yet again, the inspectorate have found that PAVA has been used without justification and that local safeguards are not working. PAVA use has been unnecessary, disproportionate and unsafe, and it’s taken the independent inspectorate to notice.

“The prison service is not in control of the weapon it’s put into officers’ hands. The rollout has to stop, and PAVA must be withdrawn from the prisons where the standards promised just aren’t being met.”


Paragraph 3.19 of the report highlights that inspectors found:

The incidence of the use of force was similar to that at our previous inspection and had not fallen despite restrictions in the amount of time out of cell during the pandemic. Handcuffs had been used in more than 80% of incidents and we were not assured that oversight of the use of force was always examining whether force was warranted. For example, camera footage of planned incidents had not been reviewed...and recordings of spontaneous incidents were not reviewed at all. PAVA incapacitant spray had been used three times in the previous six months and two incidents had involved the use of a baton. Managers reviewed all incidents that had involved PAVA spray and batons, but our review of corresponding records and video footage indicated that the use was not necessary and was sometimes not proportionate or safe. Body-worn cameras were not used consistently, staff did not demonstrate good de-escalation techniques and there were examples of staff using abusive language. We conveyed our concerns to leaders and processes were immediately put in place to improve the scrutiny. (See key concern and recommendation 1.34.)”