– and fears grow over notorious tattooed enforcer locked in isolation
- At least 60 prisoners at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Remand Centre rioting
- Rioters seen covering their faces, bashing doors and carrying large sticks
- Unrest believed to be protest against ban on smoking set to be introduced
- Notorious Australian bikie enforcer Toby Mitchell being held at the prison
- Corrections Commissioner said the ‘perimeter of the prison is secure’
- There have been reports of up to 100 inmates still rioting inside the prison
- Up to two fires are reportedly burning inside of the building
Prison riot: Corrections Victoria regains control of Melbourne Remand Centre after police storm facility
Corrections Victoria has regained control of the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Melbourne’s west, after a 15-hour riot that started around noon yesterday ended overnight.
Heavily armed police carrying shields stormed the maximum security prison around 3:00am in a bid to quell the rioting prisoners.
In a statement, Corrections Victoria said it was a difficult operation conducted under the cover of darkness to protect prison staff, Victoria Police and prisoners.
I think it’s fair to say that I am deeply relieved that no-one was seriously hurtWade Noonan, Victorian Corrections Minister
Several prisoners were hurt in the riot and were treated by medical staff.
A wall was knocked down, fires were lit and windows were smashed during the violence, involving up to 300 inmates, some of who covered their faces and carried sticks.
The riot is widely believed to have been sparked by the imposition of a smoking ban which came into effect today at the remand centre at Ravenhall.
Two staff members suffered minor injuries but “these were not as a direct result of interaction with prisoners” the department said in a statement.
This morning five fire trucks returned to the centre after a fire alarm was triggered due to a minor fire at the premises.
A statement from the Justice Department said there was no risk to prisoner or staff safety.
Two ambulances were also seen going into the centre and Ambulance Victoria said one man was being treated for chest pain.
Ambulance officials could not say if it was it a prison staff member or an inmate.
About 200 staff were evacuated from the facility and all of the state’s prisons went into lockdown as a precaution.
A large number of prisoners were transferred to other facilities as authorities assessed the damage to the prison.
Corrections Victoria will hold an internal review to the handling of the riot and Victoria Police is also investigating.
Victorian Corrections Minister Wade Noonan called the incident “unacceptable” and “dangerous”.
“This behaviour will not be tolerated,” he said.
“I want to assure the Victorian people that there will be a thorough investigation into what caused this riot, how this major security breach happened and the response to it.
“This criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.
“I think it’s fair to say that I am deeply relieved that no-one was seriously hurt and this is in no small part due to the efforts of our brave men and women in Corrections Victoria and Victoria Police.”
Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard said all prisons across the state would remain in lockdown for the time being.
She said the smoking ban probably was the reason for the riot but that the ban would still be enforced from today.
Ms Shuard could not put a dollar figure on the amount of damage inside the centre but said prison cells, windows and units were damaged.
She said work had already begun to assess the damage and make repairs.
All 802 prisoners were accounted for.
Ms Shuard said most prisoners returned to their cells on instructions from police and corrections officials.
Police used capsicum spray to subdue those refusing to cooperate.
“I would say by the time we got to the end of the exercise there was around 50 prisoners out and about that we had to bring back under control but that took a long time,” Ms Shuard said.
“The numbers decreased as the day went on.”
Most prisoners returned to cells voluntarily
Ms Shuard said they were enacting a prison recovery plan to fix the damage and secure the prisoners in their cells.
“So we’ll go to a restricted regime for a period of time and then when we assess its safe to do so we will start moving back to a normal regime but it’ll take a while,” she said.
“Those people that might be involved in these incidents don’t get the same freedom of movement that they would’ve had previously.
Every Victorian should be in no doubt that those who have acted in a criminal way will feel the full force of the law.Daniel Andrews, Victorian Premier
“There are very restricted regimes for people that cause disruption to the prison system.”
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said police took their time, planned the operation to regain control of the prison and then executed that plan.
“It took several hours to give the prisoners who didn’t want to be involved in any confrontation with police and corrections staff an opportunity to return to their cells.
“The vast majority of prisoners on the night returned to their cells and as they were confronted during the evening the remaining prisoners surrendered and were accounted for.”
Assistant Commissioner Leane said some of the inmates involved would probably face new criminal charges.
“I think there’s quite a few of them [who] will be thinking that they may be doing some more time than they weren’t planning on doing, yes,” he said.
Ms Shuard also promised a wide-ranging review of the handling of the incident.
“If criminal acts have occurred within our prison that would be a matter for Victoria Police to pursue any charges,” she said.
Mr Noonan praised prison staff, police and emergency workers for their “bravery in a difficult and dangerous situation”.
“I want to assure the Victorian people there will be a thorough investigation into what caused this riot, how this major security breach happened and the response to it,” he said in a statement.
Premier angry about riot, promises independent inquiry
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said what happened at the remand centre was “completely unacceptable” and that criminal behaviour would be investigated and prosecuted.
“We’ll investigate what went on and how it was allowed to happen,” he said.
“The circumstances around this will be fully and frankly investigated with independent oversight.
“We’ve got to learn from this and ensure that everything that can be done to avoid it ever happening again is done.”
Mr Andrews said “very significant damage was done” that will come at “considerable cost” to the Victorian taxpayer.
“Every Victorian should be in no doubt that those who have acted in a criminal way will feel the full force of the law,” he said.
Fiona Patten, the leader of the Australian Sex Party, urged the Government to overturn the smoking ban.
“It’s naive to think that when you erode the rights of an individual who has precious little freedom in the first place, they are going to just sit back and take it,” she said.
“Obviously they are going to feel further marginalised and this is exactly what has led to the trouble at the Ravenhall Maximum security facility.”
But the Premier promptly rejected that idea.
“It will not be changed. You don’t reward that sort of appalling behaviour by bringing about policy changes,” he said.
From other news sites:
Heavily-armed police have stormed a maximum security prison after 300 criminals began rioting over a smoking ban.
Officers wearing vests, helmets and carrying shotguns charged the prison about 3:20pm in an effort to retake control, after riots broke out around 12.20pm on Tuesday. A police drone also hovered above the centre.
Inside the prison, water cannons were used to control prisoners, which included rival bikie gangs locked in a bitter war, according to Channel Seven.
Dozens of riot police stormed the centre and continued into the night with heavily armed police monitoring the entrance at 11pm,The Herald Sun have reported.
Fires burned well into the evening inside the maximum security prison complex.
On the loose: About 300 criminals are rioting and guards have been overrun at a Melbourne prison, with more than 100 officers trying to stop
Dozens of riot police stormed the centre and continued well into the night with heavily armed police monitoring the entrance at 11pm
Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard said ‘the perimeter of the prison is secure.’
Cheering and shouting was reportedly heard from inside the prison walls at 9.15pm.
‘We have worked very closely with our staff across the state in the implementation of this smoking ban and they have been a part of the process,’ she said.
‘This is very disappointing that this occurred today, we have done an enourmous amount of work to prepare for this, we obviously have contingency plans for all events within our prisons.’
Up to two fires are burning inside of the building and 100 inmates are yet to surrender.
Two loud bangs were heard from inside the prison around 6pm but it is unknown what was the cause, The Australian have reported.
Other reports say riot police are used tear gas inside the prison and a group of about 15 criminals forced their way into the control room in the late afternoon, according to The Age.
Emergency services remain at the location including fire fighters and Victoria Police special operations armed with shields and helmets.
Footage by helicopters above the Metropolitan Remand Centre at Ravenhill in Melbourne’s west, shows people covering their faces, bashing doors and carrying large sticks and bats. Black smoke was also seen in the sky above the centre.
Port Phillip Prison, a mere four kilometres away, was also put into lock down following a fire at their facility, but it has since been contained.
Notorious Australian bikie, former enforcer Toby Mitchell, is being held in isolation inside the facility. Mitchell, an infamous member of the Bandidos gang, has survived two shootings – one in which he was shot five times in the back.
‘Police are currently responding to a disturbance at a correctional facility on Middle Road Ravenhall just before 12.30pm,’ a Victoria Police statement read.
‘We will thoroughly review how this came about, how we responded to it and what we might need to do in the future,’
‘Staff have been evacuated as a precaution. The inmates remain contained within the grounds and a number of police units are currently on scene including the Air wing.’
Prisoners are also reportedly lighting fires and destroying other property.
The centre has beds to house 723 people.
Corrections Victoria released a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying prisoners breached the ‘secure inner perimeter’ at the centre.
Load up: Riot police prepare to enter the prison
Riot breaks out at Ravenhall prison over smoking ban
‘All staff have been accounted for and there are no reports of staff injuries at this stage,’ the statement read.
‘Police have secured the perimeter. There is no threat to public safety.’
It is believed the riot has been caused by a Victorian government plan to ban smoking in prisons, which is set to start on Wednesday.
‘The smoking ban will occur tomorrow,’ the Corrections Commissioner said.
However, according to reports, the canteen at Ravenhill stopped selling tobacco on June 15.