A WOMEN has come out of retirement to become the new director – general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Sue McAllister ( 51 ), from South Yorkshire, will take up her £100,000-a-year job on July 3rd.
New director general of the Northern Ireland Prison service Sue McAllister with Justice Minister David Ford
She has been chosen to press ahead with major changes to a regime that costs £140 million a year to run. ” I do not underestimate the scale of the reform programme that will be delivered over the next few years, one of the most challenging undertaken by the public sector anywhere in the United Kingdom,” she said yesterday. ” I am confident that I can lead the prison service through this change programme and with the support of colleagues, the department and the minister, create a service with offender rehabilitation at its core which plays it’s part in building safer communities across Northern Ireland.”
Mrs McAllister has 25 years experience in the prison service, including working as a governor at HMP Gartree and Onley young offenders centre. Her previous job was as head of the Public-Sector Bids Unit in the Ministry of Justice before she took early retirement in August last year. She will arrive in Belfast following an agreement between the Prison Officers Association on new working arrangements – a significant element of the reform programme which also involves plans to reduce staffing levels and cut the prison budget by £16m over the next four years. The first of 200 newly recruited custody officers are expected to begin duties later this year.
Mrs McAllister has been in the north before as part of a team that reviewed arrangements at MAGHABERRY following the suicide of a life sentence prisoner who was found hanged at his fourth attempt to take his life. She is married with two grown-up childeren and replaces Colin McConnell who left after 16 months to become head of the Scottish Prison Service. Justice minister David Ford said she was joining the service at a crucial stage. ” A number of key milestones have been reached, including the successful launch of the exit scheme with over 150 staff leaving the service, a recruitment competition under way for new custody officers and an aggreement with the POA on new working practices,” Mr Ford said. ” This is only the start of the reform programme and it is important to maintain the momentum for change that has been established. ” Sue brings a wealth of experience to this demanding post and I know that she is committed to driving forward the change agenda.”
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On the 1st July 2011 Cógus POWs in Maghaberry embarked upon a “Dirty-protest”. We did so after months of watching the Prison service and David Ford eroding the hard fought for 12th August Agreement. Both had been warned for months that their actions or lack off would force the prisoners hand and we urged the Prison service to work within the framework of the 12th August agreement.
It was a protest we didn’t embark upon lightly as we knew that our actions would bear heavily on our families, it would deflect republicans from the overall struggle outside and would have a physical and emotional impact on ourselves. However to do nothing would have put republican prisoners conditions in a deplorable situation, so with the sacrifices of republican prisoners before us as a beacon, we began a new stage in prison struggle.
The Crux of our angst is the deliberate misrepresentation of the 12th August agreement by the NIPS and the failure of the DOJ and its head David Ford to face down the naysayers, who are reluctant to penal reform and change simply because republican prisoners are the lightning rods of that proposed change. Republican POWs believed that strip-searching and controlled movement was fully addressed in the August 2011 agreement. Sadly rather than embracing the opportunities of the agreement and taking the opportunity to show pragmatism, the NIPS reverted back to their usual dogmatic and rigid policies.
When it was clear that POWs and the DOJ/NIPS were at loggerheads over strip-searching and controlled movement, as it had been pointed out to them on numerous occasions during the circular conversations that passed as the new “forum”. The POWs showed vision and a willingness to promote the agreement and to iron out issues of contention. On the issue of strip-searching pows offered to strip down to their underwear and shake their own under garments, this was the standard and accepted approach to strip-searching in Long Kesh right up to the point of closure in 2000. This proposal was rejected by the prison service that embarked upon a regime of brutal and sexually degrading strip searches of passive republican prisoners.
We began to passively refuse to co-operate with strip-searches while entering and exiting Maghaberry, the response from the prison service was to send a full riot unit into the cells holding us waiting to attend court or hospital. We were charged and pinned to the wall with a shield, then dragged to the floor by screws in full riot gear at all times they applied their knuckles behind our ears as pressure points and twisted our arms and hands into painful locks. They ripped our clothes and underpants from our bodies and then after searching them, through them back at us and exited the cell laughing. This is what David Ford; the so called champion of human rights turns a blind eye to in “his prison”.
Ten months into the “dirty-protest” has seen our health suffer badly as our protest continues. Our cells have lost all natural light as the walls and ceilings are covered in excrement, we are on 23 hour lockup and have to eat and sleep in our own waste. We suffer infections and some men have needed hospital treatment. Our cells are hosed down every six weeks and we are returned to our cells, the process for us starts over again, our long hair and beards are a public testament to Maghaberry visitors that all isn’t well in the “North’s most modern and secure prison”
Ten months into our protests and our refusal to co-operate with strip-searches seen David Ford finally accept what we and others had been saying all along. That technology existed that made strip-searching for the most part redundant in prisons. He accepted a recommendation from Dame Anne Owers to explore alternatives to “full body searching”. Over one and a half million pounds has been spent by the NIPS managing the republican prisoners protest, months of hardship and relationships destroyed in the short to medium term that could have been avoided with common sense and a desire to have a harmonised regime in Roe House.
On the 3rd May 2012 David Ford announced that he was introducing a pilot scheme of two x-ray style machines in Hydebank wood prison and in Magilligan prison. He didn’t say how long the pilot scheme would last or how quickly if accepted it could be installed in Maghaberry. When pushed on this issue Ford has been deliberately vague and ambiguous. There is no doubting that we as protesting POWs have won the argument on the futility of strip-searching in modern times. However without a clear timeline or tight framework to work from our efforts could be placed on the notorious backburner that exists within Maghaberry and our forced strip-searching and controlled movement would be left back in the hands of the NIPS, that is a position we will never accept.
In an effort to defuse tensions and to allow space to watch developments in the pilot scheme, Cógus pows through the independent facilitators informed the NIPS on the 7th May 2012, that if they suspended all strip-searches across Maghberry (as they had done for eight weeks after the 12th august agreement to allow time to install the boss-chair) That Cógus pows would suspend their protest. This offer was refused. On Thursday 10th May 2012 Cógus pows again offered to suspend the protest if the prison service would agree to pows coming down to their under-pants and shaking them ourselves, the prison service response was to offer not to have the search team forcibly strip us and that two prison officers in standard uniform would remove our clothing and that we would pull our underpants elastic out and allow a screw to look down.
We have been attacked and degraded by thugs in uniforms for almost one year now, we would not allow ourselves to be criminalised nor would we allow ourselves to be humiliated with their “latest offer” it was flatly rejected. No one can say that republican prisoners haven’t shown pragmatism or vision, we have no desire to be on protest for protest sake, however as we have shown in this communication, NIPS intransigence is fully to blame for the situation that prevails in Maghaberry today.
On Thursday 23th May 2012 Cógus pows have increased our protest, we slopped out onto the landings as the screws opened up for the morning unlock, the response has been to bring in extra cleaning materials and the screws have spread cat litter all over the landings, we intend in the coming weeks to enhance our protest further, if the NIPS believe that dialogue was or is a sign of weakness our actions now will show them that rather than burning out the protest, our intentions is to increase it. The Door isn’t shut however and if the prison service or Ford is serious about progress they need to act! Not talk! To show their sincerity in moving out of prison conflict.
Can we finish by thanking our families and supporters for your unswerving support, without it our struggle would be impossible…signed Cógus POW rep
POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Rnu Belfast
- Life as a protesting republican prisoner in Maghaberry (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
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“On humanitarian terms alone she should be moved to an outside hospital, never mind the fact that her continued imprisonment damages public confidence in the justice system.”
Mr McCartney said he had pressed the justice minister for the hospital transfer.
Meanwhile, Pat Ramsey met with the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, to talk about Ms Price’s case. “In what was, at times, a heated exchange, we sought to question the Secretary of State about the rationale for the continued detention of Marian Price,” he said.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : BELFAST TELEGRAPH.
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Farmers fearful of their machinery being stolen may soon be offered guidance on how forceful they can be with intruders.
The justice minister said he was not going to change the law to give all householders in Northern Ireland more latitude to use force, but he told the Assembly that he would consider developing guidelines on exactly what was permitted.
David Ford was responding to an Assembly debate on agricultural crime and a call for perpetrators to be handed heavy sentences.
Under the current legislation, a person may use reasonable force to prevent a crime or to assist in the lawful arrest of offenders. This includes protecting property or acting in self-defence.
Mr Ford insisted that sentencing was a matter for the judiciary.
However, the Alliance minister said that he wanted “to explore if producing guidance on the use of reasonable force, based on the current legislation, would be beneficial to the rural community”.
Mr Ford said he would write to the justice committee to seek its views on the proposal.
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- David Ford ‘actively’ pursuing alternatives to prison strip-searching (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
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Price, from Stockman’s Ave, Belfast, who served time for her part in the IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in London in 1973, was re-arrested by police last May following an Easter Commemoration rally by dissident republicans at Derry’s city cemetery where she held paper to enable a masked man to read a speech.
She was later accused of encouraging support for an illegal organisation and granted bail. But Secretary of State Owen Patterson moved immediately to revoke her release licence.
Price has since been charged in connection with the murders of two soldiers in March 2009 – a charge which she also denies.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said Price’s health was the responsibility of the Southern Eastern Trust. He added: “Her medical needs are being met in full by the SET who have responsibility for the healthcare of all prisoners.”
WITH MANY THANKS TO : BELFAST TELEGRAPH.
Dr Michael Maguire has been confirmed as Northern Ireland’s new Police Ombudsman.
Al Hutchinson stepped down from the role in January after criticism of the performance of his office, which holds the police service to account.
In 2011, three independent reports were highly critical of the work being carried out by the ombudsman’s office.
Mr Ford said the consultation outlined the potential for “significant changes” to the office’s law and governance.
Dr Maguire has worked at Criminal Justice Inspection since 2008.
Before that, he was a partner in a consulting firm, and he has been involved in strategic and organisational reviews across the public sector.
He was chairman of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland between 2004 and 2006.
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That is the conclusion of a follow-up to the group’s November 2010 report into mistaken prisoner releases.
Four more prisoners had been released by mistake since then, the group said.
It added it was disappointed at the overall pace of change.
However, it said the work of the NIPS had “been focused on longer term process re-engineering and fundamentally neglected the immediacy of the ongoing risks”.
CJINI said that of the 25 NIPS recommendations following its initial report, 14 (56%) can now be said “to be met in full”.
It said a further 10 (40%) can be said to be partly completed and one (4%) discharged (no longer relevant).
Dr Michael Maguire, chief inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection said: “Well over one-third of the recommendations made have not been met in full some 15 months after the first report.
“For example, it is disappointing that formal training for front-line staff has still not been delivered, with the most notable for duty governors who are expected to authorise final release.
“There is also a need for job guidance and a continued focus on the full implementation of existing controls by way of supervision and quality checks.
“Both the operational and strategic focus needs to be maintained on the issues, and ultimately, the accelerated completion of all the outstanding recommendations.”
Justice Minister David Ford has instructed the prison service to “fully implement” the outstanding recommendations within the next six months.
He said he agreed that “despite considerable progress, the pace of change needs to quicken”.
“This report recognises the encouraging work and significant investment undertaken by the prison service to address this issue,” he added.
“However, it also identifies the need for the completion of the outstanding recommendations and I have instructed the prison service that this work must be finished by the end of September.”
Dr Maguire said the potential release in error of any prisoner could be a public protection issue.
“We need to strive for 100% accuracy where we can and that means getting the thing right at source, providing support to front-line training and making sure the right check and balances are in place is important,” he said.
Mr Ford acknowledged that the prison service had been criticised for the erroneous release of prisoners, but said the efforts of staff and management since then to address the problem deserved recognition.
“I agree with Dr Maguire’s statement that even when all the recommendations have been implemented in full, the risks of erroneous releases cannot be entirely eliminated,” he said.
“The prison service discharges around 4,500 prisoners from custody each year and is currently operating at an accuracy level of 99.74%, comparable with other services.
“Despite this, there can be no room for complacency and improving its arrangements to safeguard against further erroneous releases is part of fundamental change programme being undertaken by the prison service.”
WITH MANY THANKS TO : BBC NEWS NI.
NEWLY retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is the new Parole Commissioner for Northern Ireland.
Sir Anthony’s last trial saw the conviction of Brian Shivers for murdering two soldiers at Massereene Barracks in Antrim. Justice Minister David Ford said : ” As a well – respected member of the Judiciary, Sir Anthony has vast experience of the criminal justice system, which I have no doubt will complement the wealth of experience within the commissioners. ”
Sir Anthony was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1969. He was appointed a QC in 1983 and a county court judge in 1985. He was recorder of Derry from 1985 – 90, and of Belfast from 1997 – 2005, and was the first person to be appointed as presiding judge of the county courts in Northern Ireland in 2002.
In January 2005 he was promoted to the High Court, and untill his retirement in January 2012 was responsible to the Lord Chief Justice for the pre – trial case management of all Crown Court trials conducted by High Court Judges, and presided over many criminal trials.
STORY FIRST PUBLISHED IN : BELFAST TELEGRAPH BY MICHAEL McHUGH.
- Brian Shivers launches Massereene legal challenge (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- 25 years for dying barracks killer (independent.co.uk)
- Terminally ill man gets 25 years for Real IRA’s Massereene murders (independent.co.uk)