Management of Birmingham Prison could be handed back to private firm G4S, Justice Secretary David Gauke has revealed.

The Ministry of Justice last year took over management of HMP Birmingham, also known as Winson Green Prison, after inspectors found it was in "an appalling state” with widespread violence, prisoners using drugs and poor control by terrified staff.

It had previously been managed by private firm G4S.

But Justice Secretary David Gauke refused to rule out handing it back to G4S, when he was asked about the future of the prison.

Instead, he said: "We will not hand HMP Birmingham back if it is not safe for us to do so."

He added: "We have to look at the successes that exist within the prison system, where the private sector has run very effective prisons.

"That cannot be ignored, notwithstanding the very real problems that exist, and have existed, with Birmingham."

Justice Secretary David Gauke

In August, the Ministry of Justice appointed a new governor and 30 senior staff to manage HMP Birmingham.

But the contract with G4S to run the prison was not cancelled. The firm was told to pay for the cost of the Government intervention.

At the same time, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) published a damning report rating the prison as poor - its lowest assessment - across all key aspects of prison life.

 

The report stated that many prisoners appeared to be under the influence of drugs when inspectors visited the prison.

Staff were inexperienced, lacking skills and poorly led, and many were said to be "fearful".

The chaos at Birmingham prison was graphically exposed in 2016, when inmates took part in a 15-hour riot.

And there were 1,434 assaults at HMP Birmingham in the 12 months to July 2018, the highest figure of any prison in the country.

The new prison governor, Paul Newton, told MPs in December 2018 that violence inside the prison was beginning to fall.

But he said it had taken time for discipline to be fully restored following the riot.