Prison chiefs are battling to stay in control of a rising number of inmates linked to organised crime gangs who pose an “extreme risk of violence” behind bars.
The Scottish Prison Service said hardened criminals associated with some of the country’s most feared gangsters are putting staff and inmates in increasing danger.
They fear “high-value contracts” are behind many of the most serious assaults last year.
Targets of recent attacks on underworld figures behind bars included members of the Lyons and Daniel clans.
The total number of assaults across the prison estate fell in the last year.
But in its latest annual report the SPS revealed there had been a “significant increase” in assaults against staff in prison reception areas and visiting rooms, which are suspected to be “drug related” or linked to feuds between rival gangs.
Paul Lyons, 39, had his neck slashed in a visiting room at high-security HMP Perth in front of terrified children in December 2019.
The alleged attacker, who can’t be named for legal reasons, is linked to the rival Daniel crime family and is serving a life sentence for murder. Witnesses said he used a woman as a shield to sneak up behind Lyons and assault him.
In May, notorious hood Robert Daniel, 31, was taken to hospital after being slashed at HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow, where he was serving a two-year sentence for being caught with a £16,000 stash of heroin and cocaine.
Raymond Anderson, a Daniel clan hitman serving life for murder, was attacked in HMP Shotts on Christmas Eve. The 58-year-old has been repeatedly targeted since he was convicted of shooting Michael Lyons in 2006.
There were 112 serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults recorded across the estate in 2019/20.
This has reduced by 17 per cent on the previous year but jail leaders said the majority of attacks occur in larger male prisons where serious violence is often carried out by multiple offenders.
The report said: “It is assessed that a number of the serious assaults are linked to SOCG (serious organised crime gang) nominals taking action against rival groups and in a number of cases individuals are accepting high-value contracts to carry out violence as directed by prominent individuals.”
While minor prisoner-on-prisoner assaults have also dropped to 2892 this year, compared to 2994 the previous year, the SPS said a “large portion” of them had also been linked to crime gangs.
We told last year how prison authorities were struggling to keep rival members of the Lyons and Daniel crime clans apart after a plan to keep one faction in the same jail failed.
Inmates linked to the Daniel group were being held in isolation in January after being shipped out of the top security facility earmarked for its convicted members.
Thugs with ties to the Glasgow-based gang had been locked up at Edinburgh’s HMP Saughton in an effort by the SPS to keep them separate from Lyons henchmen.
The authority’s report revealed serious prisoner-on-staff assaults had also increased slightly, with 12 incidents in the last year.
It said: “With a further increase in the number of SOCG nominals held in custody, the requirement to manage individuals who present an extreme risk of violence has increased.
“There has also been a significant increase in assaults against staff within the prisoner reception area and visits room. It is suspected that these assaults are drug related or as a result of the current feuds between rival SOCGs.
“Individuals perpetrating these assaults know that this behaviour will lead to them being placed within a Separation and Reintegration Unit (SRU) away from the general prisoner population.”
The SPS said it had introduced initiatives to try to reduce the levels of violence and said risks were being “exacerbated” by a sustained increase in population, up more than five per cent in the last year.
It said it was working with justice partners to improve intelligence gathering and was receiving early alerts from Police Scotland before high-risk individuals enter the prison system.
A SPS spokeswoman said a National Strategic Risk And Threat Group had been established to respond to increasing levels of violence.
She said: “Prisons are mirrors of wider society and our prisons hold increasingly complex and challenging populations. We recognise the importance of providing a safe and secure environment for those in custody as well as for the men and women who work in our prisons.
“Given the nature of their job, prison staff can work with dangerous and difficult individuals and, on occasions, assaults on staff unfortunately do occur.
“However, one assault is one too many and it is our policy that all assaults on staff are reported to the appropriate authorities. SPS provides a range of support measures and interventions to staff who have been assaulted during their duties.
“The numbers of individuals who come from a Serious and Organised Crime background in our communities is rising.
“The rivalries and tensions between these groups manifest themselves in targeted violence and managing this is an ongoing challenge.”
-- to www.dailyrecord.co.uk