Figures Reveal 1,300 Prison Officers Guilty Of Misconduct Over Six Years

More than 1,000 prison officers in England and Wales were found guilty of misconduct between 2000 and 2006 for offences including improper sexual relationships and endangering the safety of their jails, figures obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Prisons where guards were disciplined most frequently for bad conduct are Birmingham, Manchester, Risley in Cheshire, and Belmarsh and Brixton in London.

One of the two most common offences concerns guards who put the security of the jail in danger. The other involves officers who have been convicted of a crime. Some officers were sacked, while others received a warning because they had committed only minor crimes.

Other frequent offences include unprofessional conduct, improper sexual relationships with convicts and being absent from duty without leave.

The latest figures, released after months of delay by the Home Office following a freedom of information request, show disciplinary cases at each jail in England and Wales in 2000-06, based on cases reported by prisons to the Home Office.

In total, 1,300 staff were guilty of misconduct, including assaulting prisoners and other staff, racial harassment, falsely claiming sick leave, failing to obey instructions, theft, and being drunk or high on drugs at work.

Fifty-one staff were sacked or given a warning at Birmingham jail, also known as Winson Green.

Ten were found to have jeopardised the security of the jail and nine had been convicted of a crime.

Forty-one staff at Risley were sacked or cautioned. The most frequent offence was breaching security procedures.

Thirty-five staff were dismissed or warned at each of the other prisons: Manchester, Belmarsh, and Brixton. One guard was sacked at Brixton for assaulting a visitor to the jail. At Manchester, formerly known as Strangeways, seven staff were given warnings after being convicted of criminal offences, while six were cautioned for going missing while on duty. One Manchester guard was sacked for taunting an inmate who had killed his stepfather, who abused him as a boy. The officer allegedly asked the prisoner during a strip-search if he had enjoyed being abused as a child.

Another Manchester officer, Howard Lovell, was dismissed for allegedly having sex with a trainee warder at a top-security unit. Lovell, 39, killed himself shortly before he was due to challenge the dismissal.

One guard was disciplined after Bobby Phipps, who had been charged with a series of attempted murders and gun offences, was released from the Manchester prison by mistake.

A leaked report last year by the Metropolitan police and the Prison Service suggested at least 1,000 prison staff were corrupt and that a significant number were responsible for bringing mobile phones and drugs into jail.

Prison bosses believe inmates use the phones to plan escapes, organise the smuggling of banned items and to harass witnesses in their cases.

David Bentley, 38, was dismissed from Risley jail last year after he smuggled drugs and mobile phones into the prison for an inmate inside two bags of crisps. He was jailed for six years.

Four of the prisons with the worst disciplinary records – Manchester, Birmingham, Brixton and Belmarsh – are local jails where prisoners are held for short periods on remand or before being sent to other establishments to serve their sentences.