Michael Stone fears he’ll die in jail from COVID-19

Michael Stone is self-isolating behind bars

Michael Stone pictured

 


Milltown massacre gunman Michael Stone fears he could die from coronavirus in jail.

The seriously ill multiple killer is among dozens of prisoners petitioning Justice Minister Naomi Long to be freed until the Covid-19 crisis ends.

Mrs Long announced on Monday that some prisoners are to be released temporarily from Northern Ireland’s jails in response to the crisis – but it will apply to “fewer than 200 individuals” who are entering the last three months of their imprisonment.

But because the 64-year-old loyalist was convicted of terrorist offences he will have to remain behind bars under new release criteria, which also excludes prisoners convicted of murder and sex offences.

Stone’s wife Karan told Sunday Life that her husband is now self-isolating in his cell at Maghaberry fearing that if he becomes infected with Covid-19 he will die.

Speaking on behalf of him and other “vulnerable prisoners”, she said: “Michael falls in the vulnerable prisoner category, and is trying to self-isolate and repeatedly requesting face masks and hand gel.

“He has always been fatalistic with a ‘you play, you pay’ attitude, but he should have the same basic human rights as anyone else. He is a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.”

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Stone, who suffers from a heart condition, the rare debilitating Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2F, and can barely walk, had an early release application turned down by the Sentence Review Commission (SRC) last September.

He argued that he should be freed on compassionate grounds because of his ill-health having already served 26 years of a minimum 30-year sentence for six sectarian killings, and the attempted murders of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in 2006.

The ex-UDA hitman, who was convicted of six murders including three in his gun and grenade attack at the west Belfast graveyard, was originally freed early in 2000 as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement arrangements.

Six years later, however, he was sent back to jail after trying to enter Parliament Buildings at Stormont, armed with explosives, knives and an axe, in an attempt to murder the Sinn Fein leaders. He denied it had been a bid to kill the politicians, instead claiming it was an act of performance art.

After the SRC rejected his release bid Stone said he was resigned to being locked up until 2024.

But the threat of Covid-19 has led him to accuse the justice system of sentencing him to death should he not be among the dozens of prisoners released because of the crisis.

His wife Karan added: “Vulnerable prisoners of all ages and religions across Northern Ireland are being kept behind bars despite warnings that an outbreak in the jails is inevitable, and most likely ferocious given the lack of control over a spread.

“Last year alone saw a whole block at Maghaberry incapacitated by flu, and some inmates were hospitalised.

“So why are vulnerable prisoners any exception? Why should they be left just to serve their time? What a reckless and disgusting attitude.”

Members of the Assembly Justice Committee were briefed last Monday about plans to release dozens of inmates in order to relieve pressure on prisons during the Covid-19 crisis.

This is because Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank jails are at breaking point with 165 prison officers – more than 10 per cent of the workforce – self-isolating with possible symptoms of the killer illness.

The dire situation is expected to get worse in the coming weeks as the infection rate in Northern Ireland soars.

To cope with this the Department of Justice (DoJ) has banned prison visits, while courts have scaled back on remanding suspected criminals into custody.

But by far the most drastic measure being implemented by justice chiefs is the release of some of Northern Ireland’s 1,600 prison population. However, this number will not include inmates convicted of terrorist offences, sex offenders, or domestic abusers.

Karan claimed: “This will lead to many more deaths in custody, something the Prison Service in Northern Ireland has become all too familiar with.

“These people have not lost their right to health or life. It’s about time these vulnerable prisoners were given a voice. They should all be released at this time. A jail sentence is not a death sentence.”

Asked about the criteria around the impending prisoner releases, a spokesperson for the NI Prison Service said: “In response to Covid-19 the focus for the Northern Ireland Prison Service is to protect and promote the health and safety of staff and the people in our care.

“The Prison Service has also taken significant steps to reduce the number of people coming into our prisons.

“No decisions have been taken regarding prisoner releases. Any decision will be based on a strict criteria and will be taken in full consultation with the Justice Minister.”

One inmate at Maghaberry Prison is currently in specially located accommodation away from the general population as “a precautionary move”. There have been no confirmed Covid-19 cases in jails here yet.

Prison staff share the same fears as inmates with several contacting Sunday Life to complain about feeling at risk due to a lack of personal protection equipment.

Desperate to avoid any more employees phoning in sick, prison bosses are offering big bonuses to those who remain in work. The payment structure is broken down in a leaked document seen by this newspaper.

It includes an extra £150 per month to any prison officer asked to work in a “contaminated environment”, and a further £160 for any member of staff required to accompany an ill inmate to “bed watch”.

Governors are also benefiting from the bonus with an added £1,000 per month for those remaining on duty during the Covid-19 crisis.

A second jail source also explained how strict social distancing measures were being ignored in the training of new officers.

The insider said: “A new group of 20 recruits started last Monday and will be in close contact for nine weeks. They may have been seated two metres apart in the classroom but this cannot be sustained during searching and handcuffing tutorials.”

Acknowledging the havoc caused by Covid-19 in prisons, Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “We have to manage this very carefully to make sure public safety is maintained and that we don’t overwhelm our prison service and that we’re also able to keep all those in our care safe and look after them.”

With many thanks to: The Sunday Life and the Belfast Telegraph and Caran Barnes for the original story

Author: seachranaidhe1

About Me I studied for six months training and became certified in Exam 070-271 in May 2010 and shortly after that became certifed in Exam 070-272. I scored highly in both Exams and hope to upgrade my path to M.C.S.A. ( Server Administrator ) in the near future.I also hold Level 2 Qualifications in three subjects Microsoft Word, Microsoft Powerpoint and Microsoft Spreedsheets. I have also expereance with Web Design using Microsoft Front-Page.

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