SIX times more assaults were recorded in Winchester Prison last year than five years ago, with prison reform campaigners declaring the situation a “national emergency”.

The rise in attacks on staff and prisoners, revealed in figures from the Ministry of Justice, shows the scale of the task faced by prison officers.

Of the 369 assaults recorded in 2017, 170 were on staff. Thirty-two assaults were defined as serious, a category which includes sexual assaults and those where victims required hospital in-patient treatment.

In 2012, 60 assaults were recorded, meaning a five-year increase of 515 per cent.

The numbers also reveal that 474 cases of self-harm were recorded in Winchester last year, compared to 151 in 2012.

Across prisons in England and Wales, nearly 30,000 assaults were recorded last year, more than double 2012. Self-harm also increased by 92 per cent over the same five-year period, with nearly 45,000 cases in 2017.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This shameful rise in violence and self-injury is the direct result of policy decisions to allow the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked while starving prisons of resources.

“This is a national emergency, and the government must respond boldly and urgently. Positive steps to reduce the prison population would save lives, protect staff, and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Justice secretary David Gauke said: “The levels of violence, suicide and self-harm in our prisons are far too high and we are taking urgent action.

“Assaults on our staff will never be tolerated. We are ensuring prison officers have the tools they need to do the job, rolling out body worn cameras, police-style handcuffs and restraints, and trialling PAVA incapacitant spray.”

In September the Chronicle photographed staff entering the jail with riot shields, though the MoJ denied a prisoner’s claims that control had been lost in three of the prison’s four wings. Inmates and their families painted a picture of chaos inside the prison.

, revealing attacks on staff and prisoners, extreme disorder and violence, the setting of fires and a jail with little or no constructive activity, a lack of staff and criminal damage to windows, TVs and furniture.

“Our recruitment drive is vital to ensuring prisons are safe, secure and decent so they can successfully rehabilitate offenders, and 90 per cent of our additional 3,111 prison officers are due to be on landings by the summer.

Two self-inflicted deaths were recorded in Winchester in 2017, a definition which includes suicides and accidental deaths through self-harm.

A report released in December 2017 said the prison was “on the verge of a major breakdown”. The Independent Monitoring Board report for the year ending May 31 said that four deaths were linked to ineffective management of care.

Panel if needed

Winchester Prison is deemed to be “complex” as it has both B and C category prisoners, with those on remand, sentenced (including some serving a life sentence) or awaiting sentence, about 45 young offenders and a wing of vulnerable prisoners, most of them sex offenders.

The prison has over 23,000 annual arrivals and departures with a prisoner population of about 690.

Although it holds the correct number for its certification, the IMB believe that the Victorian cells are too small for the double occupancy that many are used for.