MORE than a dozen prisoners are reported to have broken out of their cells at Winchester Prison, it has been reported.

Nineteen prisoners are said to have run amok in their wing before anti-riot officers regained control on Tuesday night.

The prisoners allegedly unpicked the mortar around the cell doors using utensils from the kitchen.

It has been reported sources from the prison officers' union, the POA, stating inmates removed the bricks to squeeze out of their cells. "They ran around the landings encouraging more prisoners to break out of their cells," said a source.

A team from the National Tactical Response Group was called into the prison to restore order. "Tornado staff intervened. Most prisoners surrendered. Some jumped on the netting. PAVA (Pepper spray) was deployed and the prisoners were removed," a source said.

Yyesterday prison vans were lined up outside the jail on Romsey Road to remove the 19 inmates to other prisons. They will face both internal discipline and potential criminal prosecution.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said this afternoon: “Our highly-skilled staff successfully resolved an isolated incident at HMP Winchester on Tuesday night with no injuries to staff or prisoners.

“We are working closely with the police and will push for the strongest possible punishment for those involved – including more time behind bars.

“We are urgently taking action to improve and modernise our Victorian jails – spending up to £2.5 billion to create 10,000 new prison places and investing £100m to boost security and safety.”

The spokeswoman said four inmates had been taken to hospital as a "precaution."

At the jail this afternoon was Angus Somerville, chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board, formerly known as the Board of Visitors, the independent watchdogs.

Mr Somerville said: "We had noted progress across a range of prison activities. So this is a significant setback, there's no doubt.

"It is a very unwelcome incident. It is a surprise and a huge disappointment."

The IMB annual report into the prison is due for publication next month.

The Prison Officers Association are said to have written to Winchester Prison chiefs last year warning that three inmates had “dug through their cell walls” and demanded the wing be cleared to allow structural engineers to check the building’s fabric.

The jail was placed in 'special measures' in January 2018 and remains so.

Mark Fairhurst, chairman of the POA, demanded the Ministry of Justice close the wing and decamp the prisoners to other jails so that repairs and renovation could be carried out.

He said: “This is a serious incident when you have prisoners from different cells get onto the landing at night when there is only one member of staff on patrol. It raises serious questions over the safety of staff.”

Winchester prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has long had issues about the regime at the jail. It says the Victorian prison’s buildings need “significant” maintenance with the failure to carry out such work “regularly resulting in cells being out of use.”

Describing accommodation as unacceptable and the conditions as “unpleasant and dirty,” the IMB said: “Cells regularly need repair because of wear and tear or vandalism.”

Winchester Prison is no stranger to trouble. In December 2015 siz prison officers were injured in disturbances.