Riot at HMP Birmingham caught on camera

In December 2016, a riot at HMP Birmingham was captured on camera by employee Marie Curran. She has recently been giving evidence at Birmingham Crown Court, where four of the inmates accused of causing and taking part in the riot are standing trial.

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Technology-assisted evidence

Fortunately, Curran was wearing a body worn camera when the riot started at the prison early in the morning. The recordings that were taken by her camera have been used during the trial at court. In addition to the filming, she has provided evidence to the court confirming how the riot started when inmates went onto the safety nets on the fourth floor of the building and began using table legs as weapons to destroy smoke detectors and lights.

It was reported at the time of the incident by the BBC that the riot caused 240 inmates to be taken to different detention centres. The riot is considered to be the worst of its kind since the infamous Strangeways riots that happened in Manchester in 1990, when inmates took to the roofs of the jail for more than 20 days.

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Of course, at the time of the Strangeways riots, body worn cameras were not available for staff. The use of this new technology appears to have increased since police and prison guards have been increasingly been issued with the equipment in the United States. The philosophy behind using this equipment is that it should better protect staff and the public by discouraging criminal and violent behaviour whilst also assisting the courts.

Digital crime fighting

Cameras that are worn on the body are already available to private enterprises and individuals on the market from companies such as They are also referred to as body warn CCTV, but could prove to be a more valuable tool than CCTV as their portability ensures that it will always be possible to capture the action. It is this flexibility that has ensured that they have become a popular tool for those who work in the security industry.

Curran’s camera footage from the Birmigham riots is likely to be essential evidence in the trial of the four inmates allegedly involved. The usefulness of the video footage to the case may see the use of digital technology to fight and deter crime become ubiquitous.