A prisons protest is causing huge disruption today at Sheffield Crown Court today, where the sentencing of a major drugs gang has had to be postponed.
Prison workers are demonstrating outside jails around England and Wales today over what one union called the ‘unprecedented levels of violence’ faced by staff.
The most senior judge at Sheffield Crown Court said this morning that the industrial action was causing ‘real problems’, with a number of prisoners not arriving at the court.
Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, the Honorary Recorder of Sheffield, revealed he had to postpone an ’important’ sentencing involving a gang who sold drugs and guns in Hull, which was due to happen today.
The judge said at least two of the six defendants who are in custody had failed to arrive at his court and he had been told that a van waiting to transport at least one of them was stuck outside Manchester Prison.
Judge Richardson said: "Until approximately 45 minutes ago I was blissfully unaware of any industrial action today. The van provided by the transport service is outside Manchester Prison. It cannot get access...
"I have no idea as to the nature of this industrial action - who is taking it and what it is about."
Judge Richardson said he would have to abandon the case and list it for another day.
He added: "That fills me with great displeasure. It's taken a long time to arrange a date when a day can be set aside to deal with sentencing in this important case."
The judge told two who were on bail: "In common with you, I'm profoundly disappointed that I cannot proceed to sentencing today."
The POA trade union said its general secretary Steve Gillan had called for all members in England and Wales prisons to protest outside their workplaces from 7am today until instructed otherwise.