East Derry MLA John Dallat said he has been left with “no option” but to contact the Criminal Justice Inspectorate after the justice minister was unable to him with provide details of the number of prison officers on duty at Magilligan Prison during the day or night.
Mr Dallat asked the question in the Assembly.
“The Minister claims it is not possible to provide an exact figure of the number of staff on duty because the figure fluctuates and is influenced by ‘regimes available, the shift patterns, annual leave and staff sicknesses,” said Mr Dallat, who described the minister’s response as “pathetic and a feeble effort to conceal the truth about what is going on in Magilligan Prison during the night when he believes the number of officers on duty may so few that in the event of an emergency there would not be the manpower to deal with it”.
“I asked the question because I have been told that the level of cover in the prison during the night is so light the prisoners are virtually on their own. That may be an exaggeration but the response from the Mr Ford doesn’t help me as an elected member of the Assembly to get at the truth or dispel these claims. This leaves me with no option but to contact the Criminal Justice Inspectorate.”
Mr Dallat went on to say: “In a report published on 26 February this year a number of deficiencies were highlighted, including’ a degree of complacency about safety within the prison including a culture that was risk averse’. I want to see the prison remain in Magilligan where, in the past, there were excellent results in rehabilitating prisoners and I don’t want a case made for moving it to Belfast.
“The security and safety of the prison during night time is of paramount importance and, for that reason, I am extremely disappointed the minister has decided to act in such a cavalier fashion by refusing to furnish me with any statistics relating to staffing levels at any time of the day or night.”