A women's prison will become all-male within weeks in an effort to take the pressure off bursting jails and police cells.

Staff at Bullwood Hall in Hockley were only told about the change yesterday morning (Wednesday) - just minutes before some of the inmates were moved out to other prisons across the country with vacancies.

The decision by the Home Office has come about because of the rise in the national prison population, which reached a record high of 77,823 last November, and places for male prisoners are running out.

Bullwood Hall governor Mike Poselay said: "In the female prisons, there are quite a large number of spaces, with some prisons half-full.

"We have to make sure we have the best use of our facilities.

"If nothing was done, male prisoners might have to go back to police cells. We don't yet know where the men will be coming from, but I imagine most will be local.

"We won't be transferring everyone at once but will be sending most out next week."

The majority of women prisoners will be transferred next week.

There are spaces in other women's jailes for current inmates at Bullwood Hall.