Jury retire in prison riot trial

A jury has retired to consider its verdicts in the trial of six inmates accused of taking part in a New Year’s Day mutiny at a jail.

More than £5 million damage was caused at Ford Open Prison in West Sussex when the authorities lost control for more than 12 hours as masked inmates ran amok, smashing and torching buildings and putting people’s lives in peril, jurors were told.

Tension had simmered in the run-up to trouble flaring over breath-testing of prisoners, leading to the five staff in charge at the time being overpowered, the five-week trial at Hove Crown Court heard.

Riot police and specialist prison officers had to be drafted in to help bring peace to the prison, near Arundel, before the authorities eventually regained control of the Category D prison on January 1 last year.

Lee Roberts, 41 Thomas Reegan, 23, Rian Martin, 25, Lenny Franklin, 23, Roche Allen, 25, and Carniel Francis, 25, all deny a charge of prison mutiny.

Five of the men have also pleaded not guilty to a charge of violent disorder. Reegan has pleaded guilty to the charge.

Roberts, Reegan, Martin, Franklin and Allen also deny a further charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Roberts has pleaded guilty to a simple charge of arson.

Jurors were directed by trial judge Michael Lawson QC to find fellow inmate Paul Hadcroft, 25, not guilty of all three charges part-way through the case because of insufficient evidence.