A MYSTERIOUS cabling issue has caused huge disruption at Winchester Prison.

Scores of inmates who were due to appear via video link in courts across the south coast have instead been carted to their hearings due to the current fault.

One source told the Chronicle those who have managed to dial in have had to do so from a room which is used to store cleaning materials, with all of the virtual courtrooms out of action.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice has said engineers are 'urgently working' to solve the problem - which has been ongoing for around two weeks.

READ MORE: 'Winchester continued to be one of the most violent prisons in the country' - report

The outage comes just days after Winchester hospital was hit with severe IT problems after workmen damaged a fibre optic cable at a building site in the Drummer area near Brighton Hill, Basingstoke. Some 4,000 homes in the town also faced broadband outages due to the blunder.

Claims were made that the cabling at HMP Winchester had been severed by rats chewing through the insulation. However, while the MoJ admitted there was a break in the network, it said there was 'no indication' of vermin being an issue at the facility.

A spokesperson for the prison said family members are still able to organise visits via the normal telephone line, adding that there has been no impact to court backlogs thanks to prisoners being taken to their hearings in person.

SEE ALSO: Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester hit by "technical issues"

But a court clerk, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were concerned about the welfare of prisoners - some of whom have been driven in vans as far as Bournemouth Crown Court - amid the sweltering conditions this week.

A second source has said the hindrance only heaps further strain on the prison, which was recently dubbed 'one of the most violent jails in the country' by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

She said: "Several defendants over the past few months have disclosed the really disgraceful conditions in which they are held. Earlier this week, one client told me he had come to court in his prison issue tracksuit because his own clothes had been stolen. He hadn’t had a shower for five days, he hadn’t slept because of disruption overnight on the wing and he was under a 23.5 hour lockdown because of 'staffing issues'."

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “The pandemic created huge challenges for HMP Winchester but the restrictions in place to keep staff, inmates and the wider community safe from COVID have now been lifted so that greater focus can be put on training and rehabilitation to cut crime.”

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