A DURHAM Prison officer bravely struggled to separate two brawling inmates each armed with improvised weapons in a Christmas Day confrontation, a court heard.

As Paul Oliver and the other prisoner thrust sharpened weapons at each other, the lone officer on scene desperately intervened to keep them apart.

Durham Crown Court was told the clash took place during an association period at the nearby city jail on December 25, 2017, following previous “antagonism” between the pair.

Joanne Kidd, prosecuting, said with up to 180 inmates out of their cells on the wing, many looking on, the officer struggled to restrain them and, at one point, all three fell down several stairs.

The Northern Echo:

Officer commended for separating armed inmates in Christmas Day clash at Durham Prison

Miss Kidd said it was at least three minutes before other officers came on scene to relieve the staff member, restraining the combatants and removing their respective weapons.

A sharpened paint roller was recovered from Oliver, while a plastic fork, with a razor blade moulded into the tip, was found sticking from his waistband.

Miss Kidd said other prisoner, then aged 21, was moved to another jail and his case is to be heard along with other matters at court in his native Sheffield.

But she said Oliver, now 24, and originally from Bowesfield, Stockton, admitted charges of affray and possessing an unauthorised knife or bladed weapon in prison, prior to his scheduled trial date earlier this year.

The court heard he has a number of past offences of violence and weapon carrying and was serving a nine-year sentence, with five years extended licence, for a machete attack on a woman, who suffered a broken arm.

A psychiatric report stated he suffers transient psychotic symptoms which can be addressed with medication.

Chris Morrison, mitigating, said there had been previous antagonism between Oliver and the other prisoner.

But he said Oliver, whose earliest release date is in August, 2028, has not caused any further trouble since then.

Judge Christopher Prince said there must have been an element of pre-planning, given the possession of the offensive weapons at the time.

He passed a further two-year prison sentence, to be added to the existing term being served by Oliver.

The judge also formally commended the prison officer for his, “selfless disregard for his own safety and demonstrating conspicuous bravery”, in intervening.