A security guard whose job is threatened by university privatisation plans has spoken of his terror of being locked in a building as armed protesters tried to break in.

Former soldier Joseph Hinch said workers were crying when a masked mob stormed the University of Sussex building with crowbars and wooden clubs.

Mr Hinch, who received hospital treatment for injuries sustained in the clash, described the horror as the gang smashed windows and charged doors to gain entry to Sussex House.

The former military man, who served in Ireland during the Troubles, said dealing with the demonstration about outsourcing at the campus in Falmer, Brighton, was one of the most terrifying incidents of his life.

The 57-year-old, whose job is one of the 235 threatened by the plans, has blasted the protesters, claiming they have alienated the staff whose jobs they say they are trying to protect.

Mr Hinch, who has worked at the campus for nearly nine years, told The Argus: “I do not normally get scared, but it was the worst thing I have been involved in.

“There were women sobbing in the corridor and men who were close to tears.”

Burning files

Mr Hinch said a group of protesters, who came to the campus from across the country, began gathering at cafés across the university at about 11am.

At about 2pm, a group began storming Sussex House.

Among the damage caused were smashed doors, graffiti and burning of files and books.

Mr Hinch said he feared his hand was broken in the incident and yesterday (March 26) went to hospital for a scan.

The Argus asked to speak directly with police commanders in charge of the operation but the request was refused.

However, in a statement Superintendent Grenville Wilson, of Sussex Police, said an investigation with the support of the university was under way. No arrest was made on the day.

'Extremely difficult'

Police bosses said they did not take immediate action when criminal damage started being carried out, as it was “extremely difficult” to get there “without using force against peaceful protesters”.

Supt Wilson admitted there were a few officers on campus when the policing of the protest began.

However, two separate teams of 22 officers each were in reserve and later deployed.

John Duffy, the university’s registrar and secretary, said: “We cannot tolerate the violent behaviour, for which there is no excuse.

“This sort of behaviour threatens the good order and running of the campus for our students and staff.”

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