PRISON officers are protesting outside HMP Bullingdon over the 'unprecedented levels of violence' staff face.

The group of about 40 staff, from the prison in Arncott near Bicester, have walked out as part of national strike action by the POA trade Union: The Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers.

The POA trade union said its general secretary Steve Gillan had called for all members in England and Wales prisons to take protest action outside their workplaces from 7am on Friday until instructed otherwise.

The Oxford Times:

A statement from the union said: "The unprecedented levels of violence, and failure of this Government and employer to provide safe prisons has been headline news for some considerable time.

"The rise in violence against staff in prisons is laid firmly at the feet of Government and HMPPS (prisons and probation service), who have overseen the demise of the prison service over the last eight years."

It comes after officers at HMP Bullingdon walked out in November 2016 over similar concerns.

At the time the High Court in London, Mr Justice Kerr, heard an urgent application for the injunction to 'restrain' the Prison Officers Association (POA) from 'inducing any form of industrial action.'

The Government won the high court injunction forcing officers to return to work.

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said: "Prison officers do vital and important work and we urge them to return to their duty stations, in line with their obligations to the law and the Prison Service.

"It's irresponsible for the POA to encourage their members to take this unlawful action. We are deploying our contingency plans but, by not turning up for work, these prison officers are putting their fellow staff and inmates at risk.

"Yesterday we doubled the prison sentence for anyone who assaults prison officers. We've also increased pay, provided tools such as body-worn cameras to increase security on the landings, and are investing £40 million to improve the estate and tackle the drugs problem which is fuelling much of the violence. And we've now got 3,500 new officers to help ease the burden.

"We are taking the action that needs to be taken."