Several prisoners broke out of their cells at Winchester Prison last night.

Nineteen inmates are reported to have been able to run about in their wing in the prison, currently in ‘special measures’, before a team from the National Tactical Response Group was called into the prison to restore order.

A source told a national newspaper that Tornado staff intervened, with most prisoners surrendering, and some jumping on the netting.

“PAVA (Pepper spray) was deployed and the prisoners were removed.”

The paper reported sources from the prison officers’ union, the POA, stating that the inmates removed bricks to squeeze out of their cells.

They allegedly were able to unpick the mortar around the cell doors using utensils from the kitchen.

“They ran around the landings encouraging more prisoners to break out of their cells,” a source said.

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 £100 million to boost security and safety.”

Prison vans were lined up outside the jail to remove the 19 inmates to other prisons, who will face both internal discipline and potential criminal prosecution – and four inmates were taken to hospital as a “precaution”.

Chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board, the prisons watchdog, 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.”