PRISON guards were powerless to prevent a New Year's Day mutiny among inmates because too few were trained in restraint techniques, a court has heard.
The guards at Ford Open Prison in England had to surrender control after the rampaging criminals shouted "there are 550 of us and only five of you – what are you going to do?"
A group of around 30 masked and armed prisoners led the riot, looting and smashing up the buildings and setting fire to a whole block.
Workers were forced to retreat into their office because only two were trained prison guards. The other three were support grade staff.
Prison rules state guards can only use physical force when in groups of three or more, the court heard.
By the time the authorities restored calm 12 hours later more than £5m damage had been caused to the prison in Arundel, West Sussex.
Yesterday seven men appeared at Hove Crown Court charged with various offences including prison mutiny, arson to endanger life and violent disorder.
Ian Acheson, prosecutor, said resentment had grown among inmates over alcohol breath testing which had taken place in the run-up to New Year's Eve in December 2010.
He said that it culminated in tension erupting at he turn of New Year and the five staff in charge being overpowered.
The guards had found empty bottles of alcohol and music coming from one room which had been wedged shut from the inside.
Fire alarms were set off in A and B wings and shouting could be heard coming from an area of B wing, the court was told.
About 30 prisoners started to advance towards the staff, making threats, shouting and making "monkey" noises, he said.
Mr Acheson said one of the defendants, stepped forward and said: "There are 550 of us. There are five of you. We run the prison, what are you going to do?"
Many had obscured their faces by tying clothes around their heads, the court heard.
Then to shouts of "kill the ******* screws, let's do them" the rioters advanced, smashing windows and threatening staff.
Mr Acheson said the staff "very quickly appreciated that they were very much not wanted and to ensure their safety they would have to withdraw".
"That night there were only two because officer support grades, the different qualifying grade, are not allowed to use restraint technique at all," Mr Acheson said.
"As they withdrew and left the prisoners unsupervised in the prison the first words were, and repeated to the duty governor 'We've lost the prison'."
It took 12 hours from when the alarm was raised for the riot to be brought under control.
Fire crews arrived at about 2am on New Year's Day but the engines were not allowed into the prison until trained riot officers deemed it safe.
Six men are charged with prison mutiny, arson to endanger life and violent disorder.
They are Lee Roberts, 40, Lenny Franklin, 23, Paul Hadcroft, 25, Ryan Martin, 24, Roche Allen, 25, Thomas Reegan, 23.
A seventh man Carneil Francis, 25, is charged with prison mutiny and violent disorder.
Roberts pleaded guilty to arson but not guilty to arson with intent to endanger life. Reegan pleaded guilty to violent disorder.
The hearing continues.