The Prison Service has been warned that moving inmates from a jail where 14 prison officers have been suspended in a corruption probe could cause "unrest and overcrowding" in other prisons.

The Governor of Pentonville prison, in north London, suspended the officers yesterday in response to allegations of trafficking and "inappropriate relations" with prisoners.

The jail will reduce its maximum number of inmates by 116 to 1,011, provoking criticism that other prisons could suffer as a result.

Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said this "shuffle the pack" policy at a time of record prisoner numbers was a "sad indictment" of the Prison Service.

The allegations against the 14 prison officers, who include men and women, will be investigated by senior governors from other London prisons.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "If any alleged or otherwise suspected criminal activity is uncovered during the investigations relevant information will be passed to the police."

She added that the service had a "zero tolerance" approach towards corruption among staff and was determined to "root out corruption wherever it is discovered".

Prison Service director general Phil Wheatley said: "I will not tolerate staff corruption of any sort by any member of the Prison Service.

"Allegations of corruption will be investigated thoroughly and where evidence is found to support those allegations the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken."

Last year the Prison Service's professional standards unit held 1,360 formal investigations into alleged staff misconduct.

In the same year there were 192 disciplinary hearings following governors' investigations and 40 staff were dismissed for unprofessional conduct.