AN EASTBOURNE man has been acquitted of setting a fire during the Ford open prison riots on January 1, 2011.
Ryan Martin, 24, was on trial for arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, violent disorder and prison mutiny.
He was acquitted at the end of an eight-week trial at Hove Crown Court.
Five men were found guilty of a variety of offences including arson, violent disorder and prison mutiny.
Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra, who led the investigation, said, “This has been a complex and challenging investigation, involving more than 40 Sussex Police officers and taking over a year from start to verdict.
“ It is certainly one of the largest investigations I have worked on in the last 18 years and even more rewarding by virtue of today’s verdict.
“The success of this investigation into £5m worth of criminal damage at Ford Prison would not have been possible without the valuable partnership work from the outset from our colleagues at the Ministry of Justice, the Crown Prosecution Service and especially to Her Majesty’s Prison service.
“Both I and my team of officers are very grateful to all of these organisations and especially to Her Majesty’s Prison service.
“From very early on we had to work at a fast pace to secure enough evidence to make arrests and identify suspects on what was a dark, rainy and confusing night of mass disturbance.
“A number of prisoners including our main suspects had to be moved to prisons all over the UK, with the added complication that many were due for release over the coming weeks back into local communities around the country.
“Our most significant witnesses were serving prisoners, who have shown immense courage by coming forward in the first instance and subsequently attending court here at Hove.
“I thank all of our witnesses including the prison staff who were on duty that night and also all the witness care officers who have worked tirelessly with these people to help bring these offenders to justice.
“The incident at Ford Prison, had a huge impact on the local community and Sussex Police is very grateful for their patience and understanding particularly in those first few days when the prison and surrounding area was inundated with police, fire fighters and both local and national media.”