HMP Full Sutton: A Mega Prison in the Yorkshire Ridings?

HMP Full Sutton is the fourth of eight high security jails in England and Wales we are looking at. It is currently a relatively small prison but there are plans to develop into one of Britain’s new mega prisons holding over 2000 men, to the horror of the locals.


It’s a modern, purpose built prison for both category A and B prisoners. Category A prisoners are those prisoners thought to those with the highest risk or escape or are some the most difficult and dangerous prisoners in the UK. HMP Full Sutton was opened in 1987 and is about 11 miles from York in the small village of Full Sutton.


Full Sutton usually only accepts prisoners who have sentences over four years or less than 12 months left to serve. It currently holds 588 prisoners.

The prison has a Close Supervision Centre, a “prison inside a prison” for the highest risk prisoners, to the public and to national security.

Like HMP Belmarsh, Full Sutton also has a high security segregation unit for prisoners who need to be kept away from the main population due to extremist beliefs or high-risk behaviour. It was the second in the country to be established when it opened in March 2018. In 2017, ministers had unveiled plans to set up these specialist facilities as part of efforts to eradicate Islamist radicalisation in prisons.

The unit is in a small wing within the jail but functions separately from the rest of the prison. It has its own facilities including kitchen and education area. The maximum number of inmates that can be held in the centre is eight

Last year four men in this unit complained about their treatment a staggering 108 times. They claimed being help in a segregation unit was discriminatory. The complaints led to difficult times in the unit as communication between prisoners and staff became rather terse!

It is designed to house prisoners who have either been involved in planning terrorism or are considered to pose a risk to national security by seeking to influence others.

HMP Full Sutton has a history of controversy, including racism among prison officers at the jail, inmates being paid as an incentive to learn to read and write and a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons stated that gangs inside the prison were arranging “fight clubs” to pay off debts. In 2006 it was criticised again for high drug use and in 2011 convicted murderer was murdered in the prison.

In March 2017 the government announced a new prison would be built on the site to hold 2000 prisoners, part of the Prison Estate Transformation Program. There has been much local opposition to this plan with local people holding protests. This week even the police said it would be asking for trouble to build a mega prison in the area. Both parties are concerned it would cause an influx of illegal drugs and organized crime into the area. Local resident were also protesting about future traffic congestion.

If the plans go ahead it would mean there would be four times more prisoners than residents in the village of Full Sutton! 720 staff will be needed to run the prison, and further jobs would be created during construction.

However in 2018 the Independent Review Board gave HMP Full Sutton a good review saying it provides a safe and secure environment for prisoners and staff.

Violence between prisoners and towards staff is at a relatively low level and has not increased since 2017.

Sally Hobbs, Chair of the IMB, says:

“HMP Full Sutton houses some of the country’s most serious offenders. Our overall assessment is that they are treated fairly by the regime there. The prison ensures the environment for all prisoners and for staff is as safe as possible. This is achieved through constant hard work and vigilance. We are pleased that, having had some time without a permanent governor, the new governor took up his post in February 2019.”


In August 2018 John Onyemaechi single handedly caused one of the biggest riots at the prison. Onyemaechi was convicted of two attempted murders, attempting to wound, resisting lawful apprehension, robbery, and wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He was given a double life sentence for his crimes.

Onyemaechi attacked staff at the jail and started a fire that caused £15,000 of damage. The attack was so fierce and sustained it took 100 officers to subdue him. Officers used “pyrotechnics” and PAVA spray to distract the convict as they attempted to bring him under control in an eight-hour riot.

Onyemaechi received a further 6 years and 9 months on his jail term after he admitted assault, arson and making threats to kill.

HMP Full Sutton’s Rogues’ Gallery

John Henry Sayers

Sayers was convicted for his part in the Tup Tup Palace drive by shooting. He is one of the only prisoners to be admitted to Full Sutton with a sentence of less then three years. He was convicted of perverting the course of justice at the Old Bailey.

Donald Neilson

The infamous Black Panther, was a robber, kidnapper and murdered. He killed three people during robberies of sub post offices in the 1970s. he was also convicted of murdering 17 year old coach firm heiress Lesley Whittle. In 2008 he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

Dennis Nilsen: Muswell Hill Murderer

Nilsen, now 70, was a prolific serial killer with over 15 murders to his name. His killing spree lasted from 1978 to 1983. He is probably one of the most disturbing killers in Britain’s recent history and I am amazed I have never heard of him1 Have you?

Nilsen dismembered at least 12 of his victims, all of who were strangled or drowned. He would then take part in a shocking ritual where he bathed and dressed the bodies before dissecting and disposing of the remains by flushing them down the toilet or burning them on a bonfire.

Nilsen kept the corpses of some of his victims to commit sex acts with later on

He was only caught after a drain unblocking company discovered dismembered human entrails in the pipes. Sentenced in 1983, he is imprisoned at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire.

Michael Stone

Stone was convicted of the murders of Megan Lin Russell and the attempted murder of Josie Russell. He was sentenced to three life terms. Stone has always maintained he is innocent.

He brutally killed Megan and Lucy, 6, and their dog with a hammer as they walked through a meadow in Kent. He tied them up with his shoelaces and the dog lead before attacking them with the hammer. Josie suffered horrific injuries but made a good recovery, considering the trauma she suffered.

Steven John Grieveson: The Sunderland Strangler

Grieveson murdered four teenage boys between 1990 and 1994 in Sunderland in the North East. It was recommended he serve at least 35 years before being considered for release.

Colin Ireland : the Gay Slayer

Ireland, who became known as the Gay Slayer, tortured five homosexual men to death in 1993. He met his victims in pubs and posed as a gay man to befriend them before killing them in their own homes.

He reportedly carried out the murders after making a new year’s resolution to become a serial killer.

Prison Phone, Keeping prisoners and families connected

Full Sutton Prison Contact Details

The address is Just, HMP Full Sutton York YO41 1PS. The phone number is 01759 475100.

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