Security scares prompt arming of prison guards
Prison officers are to be armed with shotguns and revolvers after an attack on a guard post at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre yesterday.
The unprecedented boost to security comes as police investigate the involvement of a former prisoner with triad connections in the Siu Lam attack and another at Stanley Prison last week.
Correctional Services Department (CSD) officers said they believed this ex-prisoner was involved in the attacks.
In yesterday's incident, masked men threatened to kill a guard and left banners claiming widespread drugging of prisoners.
Detectives have been given video footage of the incident which began shortly after 3 am when a 24-tonne dump truck stopped about 60 metres away from the maximum security facility.
The truck, which was stolen, ploughed into a barrier gate sentry post, flattening the building.
The CSD said the suspects set fire to a rubbish bin centimetres from a gas storage area and damaged four vehicles parked outside staff quarters before fleeing.
Sources said the attack was similar to the incident at Stanley Prison last Thursday when a truck severely damaged the barrier gate.
Neither the police nor CSD gave a motive for the incidents. But those involved in yesterday's attack left banners - signed the Prisoners' Support Group - protesting at the use of drugs on prisoners.
Prisoners have repeatedly said problem inmates are given tranquillisers without the consent of medical personnel, a claim vehemently denied by the CSD.
A CSD spokesman said security would be increased as a result of the incidents.
'We aim to provide better protection to all staff manning the gates, and any unauthorised encroachment will be taken very seriously,' said a CSD spokesman, although he refused to specifically confirm the issuing of guns.
However, it is understood entrance guards are to be issued with guns for the first time. The same weapons are already used by officers manning watchtowers.
Plans were already under way to bolster guards at the entrances of some facilities after last week's attack, while CSD management was also preparing a submission for extra funds from the Security Branch.
The spokesman confirmed tranquillisers were used on prisoners, but he said they were never administered without authorisation from a doctor.
'Anyone who breaks that rule would be subject to very severe discipline,' he said.