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Lewes Prison: At least 15 ill after suspected poisoning at jail

Five people are in hospital after a suspected food poisoning incident at Lewes Prison.

A further 10 or 11 people have been treated, with deliberately-contaminated food being considered as a possible cause.

Of those in hospital three are prisoners. Another two casualties were described as "civilians".

Those affected may have eaten food after a Maundy service. Emergency teams were sent to the jail at about midday.

A source who has been briefed by staff at the prison said inmates and staff became ill within a very short space of time after eating a curry.

Kitchen 'locked down'

Victims began vomiting and in the time it took for staff to be called, some were slurring their words, and were giddy and in distress.

The Prison Service confirmed three prisoners and two civilian staff had been taken to hospital.

According to the source, there was initial concern among paramedics that they had been poisoned by fentanyl or a synthetic opioid.

The prison kitchen was locked down. It is staffed by both civilian workers and prisoners who have been vetted for working in the kitchen.

Forensic samples were gathered and Ministry of Justice (MOJ) sources said at this stage deliberate poisoning had not been ruled out.

The MOJ said the kitchen later reopened after "being deemed safe".

A CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) incident support unit had been seen at the prison and a major incident was declared at Eastbourne District General Hospital.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) and police confirmed they had attended what was described as a "medical incident" at the Sussex jail at about 12:30 GMT.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said: "We are working with the emergency services to deal with a suspected food poisoning incident at HMP Lewes."

The Prison Service said the jail was not on lockdown and no-one was in a life-threatening condition. It also said there was no evidence at this time to substantiate claims being made about the involvement of drugs.

The initial assessment was that it was a food-poisoning incident, it said.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was also called to the scene on Thursday.

A spokeswoman said: "The fire service were called to assist ambulance at an incident at HMP Lewes and are currently working with other agencies and specialist teams."

At East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, a spokesman said: "Earlier today, Eastbourne District General Hospital was stood up to potentially receive casualties following an incident at HMP Lewes.

"We have now been stood down. Care at the hospital has not been affected, and continues to operate as usual."

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield tweeted: "Concerned to hear about the incident at Lewes prison. Emergency services are on scene and it is important to let them deal with the situation in looking after those affected."


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