PLANS to establish a prisoners' trade union have angered a North-East victim support group.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Britain's 65,000 inmates are hoping to secure better living and working conditions in the country's jails.

They plan to ask the Prison Service's director general, Martin Narey, to give permission for a union.

Members of Newcastle's Homicide Support Unit (HSU), set up in the wake of 11-year-old Wesley Neailey's murder, described the move as unbelievable.

Harry Hammond, HSU committee member and grandfather of Wesley, said last night: "There has got to be a time when the punishment fits the crime. You are not going to make it a holiday home.

"It is not what they are in prison for. You cannot torture people in prison, but at the same time you cannot make it cushy for them. It is just getting easier and easier."

The call for greater rights for prisoners further highlights the inequalities in a system criticised for putting offenders before victims.

"We want more rights for victims," said Mr Hammond.

"The victims in all these crimes are the last people anybody helps."

The union, which will be known as the Association of Prisoners, is expected to call for an increase in wages for prison work, better access for relatives and a reduction in the time spent by inmates in their cells.

It would also seek the appointment of independent magistrates to adjudicate on disciplinary issues, rather than governors.

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders yesterday supported the trade union proposal.

It is understood that the prisoners will turn to the European Court claiming an infringement of civil liberties if they are not granted permission.