Officers were slashed, bitten and strangled in attacks at a maximum security prison

Caption: EXCLUSIVE: Prison Officers Slashed, Bitten and in'Shock' at Belmarsh Credit: REX/Getty

A list of more than 200 violent incidents at HMP Belmarsh includes fights and assaults with makeshift weapons (Image:, file images)

Prison officers at HMP Belmarsh were beaten, bitten and slashed by inmates as violence erupted at the maximum security prison, newly released incident reports show.

According to logs from, key workers have been subjected to more than 60 attacks over a period of 11 months, with several requiring hospitalisation.

These include an inmate who attempted to “strangle and assault” a female officer and many of her colleagues who were punched, kicked, bitten or pelted with liquids by inmates.

An inmate slapped an officer in the face in an unprovoked attack before threatening to murder a staff member if he was not released from Category A prison in south-east London.

In another disturbing case, a female officer spoke of her “terrification and shock” after being inappropriately touched by a prisoner.

The Department of Justice (MoJ) initially refused to release the list of incidents between November 2021 and October last year before appealed to the Information Commission’s office. After the watchdog was turned on, the MoJ released the document in redacted form.

Mark Fairhurst, National Chair of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), said: “These shocking figures reflect the reality of the working conditions our brave officers face on a daily basis in what is undoubtedly the most violent and hostile workplace in Western Europe.

“Prison officers deserve to be safe on the job and the POA will use any means available to ensure staff have the safeguards to deal with cowardly convicts who attack staff.

“We will continue to stand up for the government by insisting that the harshest penalties be meted out to those at fault, while we campaign for our unrealistic retirement age of 68 to be lowered.

“To expect employees in their 60s to work in such unacceptably violent conditions is totally impractical.”


A general view of the inmates in Wing 4 of HMP Belmarsh in Woolwich, London (Photo: Susannah Ireland/REX/Shutterstock)

One of the most serious incidents occurred in December 2021, when an inmate tried to “strangle and assault” a female officer while she was involved in breaking up a protest against the prison regime.

Thirteen inmates had refused to leave a yard when they protested “their perception of what regime they are entitled to,” according to one of the reports released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Ten obediently left, but three stayed, resulting in ‘Zulu’ dog units being called. One inmate was “in a fighting stance” but calmed down after being approached by two female officers. As they led him away from the courtyard, he “raised the anti” and attacked one of the officers, continuing to “strangle and assault” them while he was held, according to the record.

He was handcuffed and transferred to another part of the prison.

The incident followed another the previous month when a prisoner had his TV taken away following a court decision. When the employee took the device away, the inmate slapped him in the face.


Mark Fairhurst, chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association, warned that prisons have become exceptionally violent workplaces (Image: Mark Fairhurst/POA)

Another officer was attacked in January last year while holding a recalcitrant prisoner in a block of flats.

The record states that the prisoner “deliberately seized the officer [redacted]’s testicles and squeezed and twisted them’.

Injuries to officers required hospital treatment in several cases, including an attack the following month.

According to another log, an inmate had become “aggressive and irrational” during a routine cell search. When he was being held, an officer was bitten on the ribs and hand, requiring hospital treatment.

A colleague was also bitten on the hand while another employee was kicked in the face. The prisoner was transferred to a “sterile cell” and searched under coercive measures.


Staff were attacked by inmates at HMP Belmarsh (Image: Channel 5)

In another incident in the same month, a gun was used when an officer was slashed sideways in the face by an inmate. The log does not specify what type of tool was used, but it says the perpetrator was “detained and segregated under compulsory detention” where he was searched.

Another officer described being treated with contempt and abuse by an inmate when she tried to write him a warning for failing to do his job duties and distracting others.

The March 2022 report reads: “He snatched it out of my hand and screwed it up and threw it in my face.

“He refused to leave and kept telling me to fuck off, raising his middle finger and giving a gun sign. Keep telling others it’s all because “I’m into him”. He refused to walk for about 10 minutes.

Attacks on officers at HMP Belmarsh


Detainee tries to strangle officers

A protest by 13 inmates refusing to leave a yard resulted in a prisoner attempting to “strangle and assault” an officer while he was being led away


Officers punched, bit and kicked during the search

One inmate became “aggressive and irrational” before attacking officers, requiring one to be hospitalized


Prisoner hits officer in the face with a gun

A general alarm was raised after an officer was slashed in the face with a gun. Toothbrushes with melted tin splinters were found in the prison.


Death threat to employee after attack

An inmate slapped an officer in the face in an unprovoked attack before threatening to murder an employee


Two inmates injure the officer as she tries to bring the inmate into the cell

One punched her in the face, while another “jumped onto her back and punched her,” according to an incident report.


Officer’s “horror and shock” at inappropriate touch

One officer said he was on a landing when a prisoner began inappropriately rubbing the middle of her back


Officer needs A&E after being repeatedly bitten by an inmate

He suffered severe bites on his right arm, left thumb and the right side of his face while trying to serve the prisoner lunch

Another disturbing incident the following month resulted in a death threat against staff. In one unprovoked attack, an inmate slapped an officer in the face before being tied and handcuffed to the prison’s segregation unit.

The incident log states: “Throughout the search, Mr [redacted] stated he did it because he shouldn’t be in jail and if it’s not sorted he will murder an associate. Mr (REDACTED) was sent home and both seen by health care.

An incident of “terror and shock” was reported to the governor by an officer who had been helping nurses in a block of flats with substance abuse medication.

She said: “While he was standing on the middle landing by the stairwell, the prisoner Mr [redacted] came up behind me unbeknownst to me and began inappropriately rubbing the center of my middle back in an up and down motion. I immediately walked away, startled and shocked because I felt that was very inappropriate.’

The officer told the man, according to the record, “He shouldn’t do this, it was inappropriate behavior and he shouldn’t touch me.”

He responded by stating that he wanted the officer to move, to which she responded by saying he should have asked, the report said.


The Department of Justice has released a catalog of violent incidents in Belmarsh (Image: In Pictures Ltd/Corbis via Getty Images)

One of the most serious attacks occurred in August, when a perpetrator was served lunch in his cell after threatening staff all morning.

As he exited the cell, an officer, fearing being attacked, saw him clench his fists in a fighting stance and restrained him.

The key worker suffered severe bites on his right arm, left thumb and right side of his face. According to the report, he was seen by a nurse, given first aid and “sent home to go to the emergency room.”

The level of violence faced by staff was highlighted again in October when a female officer was attacked by an inmate, who attacked by “grabbing her hair, pulling it out and slapping her across the face multiple times”.

A colleague was also beaten when the man was being held and taken to a segregation unit at Thamesmead Prison.

There have also been several incidents of employees being spat on or having liquids, including toiletries, thrown at them.

In September 2022, an officer described how a detainee “cooked water from his toilet which he threw on me and hit me on the right side of my body, splashing something in my face”. The attacker reportedly “laughed” and asked, “How does my pee taste?”.


Prisoners need more support to ensure they are rehabilitated, commentators say (Image: File Image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A total of 66 attacks on officers and staff are in the database of more than 200 violent crimes released by the MoJ following the call for information surveillance. Many others relate to inmate fights and assaults, including potentially life-threatening incidents.

The MoJ claims violent prisoners face transfer to higher security areas and further prosecution, and recently increased the sentence for assaulting prison officials to up to two years.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “To protect our brave prison officers, we arm them with synthetic pepper spray, police-style shackles and body-worn cameras, help de-escalate violent situations and provide evidence to prosecute those who violate our hard-working.” Employees attack employees.

“Our £125m investment in prison security is also tackling the drugs and guns that fuel prison violence to keep staff safe.”

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Justin Scacco

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