HMP Parc staff allegedly bringing in drugs

HMP Parc from overhead
Nine have died at HMP Parc in two months. [BBC]

Staff are allegedly bringing drugs into a privately-run prison where nine people died in two months, a Conservative MP has said.

Stephen Crabb said a prisoner had claimed that drugs are "everywhere" at HMP Parc.

The House of Commons was told that of the deaths, four have been linked to substance misuse.

A spokesperson for the prison said the "vast majority of our staff are hard working and honest", and that a range of tactics were used to "tackle the ingress of drugs".

Conservative prisons minister Ed Argar said 400 members of staff had been trained to use an anti-opioid medicine amid concerns over a lab-made drug.

He said the government was looking "very carefully" at nitazenes - which was blamed for dozens of deaths in the UK last year.

Two MPs said they had heard from the parents of prisoners who feared for their safety at the Bridgend prison, run by G4S.

Labour's Nick Smith said a prisoner from his area of Blaenau Gwent had described inmates "walking around with shanks" - a handcrafted bladed-weapon - "just to feel safe".

His party colleague Jessica Morden, from Newport East, said a parent told her on Monday: "Every day I expect a phone call fearing the worst, is my son going to be another statistic?"

Mr Argar expressed his condolences to the families and friends who had lost loved ones at HMP Parc, where nine have died since March.

He said he had to be a "little careful" not to pre-empt investigations by the prisons and probation ombudsman, and coroner's inquests.

While he said two recent deaths at the prison in May were "not currently linked to substance misuse", he said the issue should be considered "in the wider contest of the threat synthetic opioids pose" to prisons and the country "more widely".

"There have been extensive searches of prisoners and staff. Any suspicious substances are tested on site with rapid scan," he said.

Mr Crabb, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, told the Commons there had been "multiple allegations of the staff themselves bringing in illegal substances into the prison".

He said a current prisoner had written to the Welsh Affairs Committee, which he chairs.

Reading the prisoner's evidence to MPs, Mr Crabb said: "Drugs are everywhere in prison - from cannabis to heroin, and so called spice. Dribs and drabs may enter through visits, and some by way of drone. But let us not confuse the issue - far more comes in by people employed in prison."

He asked why no staff were currently searched using x-ray body scanners.

Mr Argar replied that the "vast overwhelming majority of the staff that work in [HM Prisons and Probation Service - HMPPS] do so honestly and with good intent".

The prison service does not have legal powers to use x-ray scanners on staff.

The minister told the Commons the body scanners were in use for "visitors and others", and handheld detectors had been rolled out to track down drugs or locate drugs in a "much more effective manner".


The minister was responding on Monday to an urgent question from the Labour MP for Ogmore Chris Elmore.

Giving his condolences to the families of those who died, Mr Elmore raised concerns from the public about the use of the drug spice within and around the prison.

However, he urged caution on what he said was an "absolute wild west assumption" on social media about what is happening inside the prison.

"One of the concerns is that the prison is a catalyst for spice being transferred in and out of the prison," the MP said.

He urged the minister to do what he could to try and bring "calm" to the prison estate and the wider community in Bridgend.

Mr Argar said they had significantly increased the number of staff at the prison: "I do recognise a number of those staff are new in post. There's a need to ensure that they are supported by experienced officers."

Labour Shadow minister for justice Ruth Cadbury said it was "shocking" that the prison ombudsman had to warn prisoners at HMP Park to "throw away drugs immediately due to the serve risk that those particular ones posed to public health".

The Conservative MP for Bridgend Jamie Wallis said social media speculation was not just a case of some "irresponsible people".

"There is genuine concern and genuine worry there about what it means for the communities, what it means for the town".

Asked who was responsible - G4S or the Ministry of Justice - Mr Argar said it was a "shared responsibility between G4S, HMPPS, the council, the health board, the police and others".

"Because this is a challenge for both the community and the prison".

While prisons are the responsibility of UK government, health care services are managed by the devolved Welsh government.

Liz Saville Roberts, of Plaid Cymru, said: "The nine deaths at HMP Parc in less than three months highlight how prisoner welfare in Wales is fragmented, with responsibilities split between the Welsh government and the [Ministry of Justice]."

She called for deaths in prisons to be the subject of scrutiny in the Senedd as well as the UK Parliament.

Safety is 'number one priority'

An HMP Parc spokesperson said: “The safety of prisoners and staff is our number one priority, and our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those who have died recently at HMP Parc.

“The vast majority of our staff are hard working and honest. As with every other prison in the country, we work closely and effectively with the Police and the HMPPS counter-corruption team to crack down on the small number who may break the rules.

"We use a range of tactics to tackle the ingress of drugs and reduce demand.

"This includes robust security measures for staff, visitors and prisoners as well as substance misuse support to those in our care.

“Tough sanctions are imposed on prisoners found to be involved in drugs, including referral to the police for criminal investigation.

"Targeted and random mandatory drug testing is undertaken, as is the case in all prisons in England and Wales.”