Smok­ing ban sparks prison riot

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - AN­THONY DOWSLEY

A SMOK­ING ban in jails sparked a riot that raged into last night at Vic­to­ria’s big­gest re­mand cen­tre.

Up to 60 in­mates be­gan the riot, which swelled into hun­dreds of pris­on­ers breach­ing a “se­cure in­ner perime­ter’’ at the Metropoli­tan Re­mand Cen­tre at Raven­hall. Staff, guards and visi­tors were evac­u­ated as chaos broke out about 12.20pm yesterday.

In­mates armed them­selves with sticks, lit fires and smashed win­dows while com­man­deer­ing trac­tors and bug­gies in a tense stand­off.

Heav­ily armed po­lice in riot gear, backed by an armoured blast­proof ve­hi­cle called the “bear cat’’, moved in to re­store or­der at 3.30pm yesterday, but author­i­ties had not gained full con­trol late last night.

Ri­ot­ing in­mates were pep­pered with tear gas as they breached a con­trol room. A wa­ter cannon was also un­leashed. Some pris­on­ers pro- tected their iden­tity by don­ning masks with ri­ots con­tin­u­ing into the night.

It is un­der­stood that mem­bers of the Hells An­gels and Co­mancheros are housed at the prison and ripped down fences to reach each other.

The riot trig­gered a lock­down at the nearby Port Phillip Prison, where a fire was lit in a cell.

Cor­rec­tions Vic­to­ria said there was no threat to the public nor any in­juries dur­ing the “dis­tur­bance’’, but Cor­rec­tions Com­mis­sioner Jan Shuard later ad­mit­ted it was the big­gest riot she was aware of.

“It might be to do with the smok­ing ban that starts to­mor­row,’’ Ms Shuard said.

ON­GO­ING: The tense stand­off be­tween ri­ot­ers and po­lice at the Raven­hall re­mand cen­tre con­tin­ued into last night.

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