Some prison deaths in the North of Ireland ‘could have been avoided’

Maghaberry Prison: A report in May 2015 labelled Maghaberry one of the most dangerous prisons in Western Europe Image copyrightMICHAEL COOPER/PA

Some of the 23 deaths in NI jails in the last five years could have been avoided, according to the head of the body that inspects prisons.

Brendan McGuigan, chief inspector of Criminal Justice NI, said he was “frustrated” more has not been done to improve prisoners’ safety.

A report has highlighted concerns about suicide and bullying in prisons.

The prison service and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said they would “carefully consider” the report.

The inspection report was compiled by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the CJI and looked at the standards of prisons at Hydebank Wood, Maghaberry and Magilligan.

Mr McGuigan told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme that problems had been highlighted some time ago.

“Three years ago, we had the ministers of health and justice ordering a review in terms of vulnerable prisoners – three years later that still hasn’t been published,” he said.

“I find that amazing to be honest with you.

“This was a priority for them, there had been a cluster of deaths in custody and still we don’t have that review published. I think it’s a disgrace.”

The director general of the NI Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, said he was surprised by Mr McGuigan’s comment that some of the deaths could have been avoided.

He said he understands that nine of the 23 deaths were from natural causes.

Brendan McGuigan welcomed improvements made by the NI Prison Service but called on more to be done

“Every death in custody is one too many, but I have to be honest with the public and say that having a strategy in place, important as that is, will not necessarily save a life in a prison,” he said.

“What’s really important is what the South Eastern Trust and prison officers are doing on the landing.”

The report also says prisoners’ access to illegal and prescription drugs must be addressed.

Mr McGuigan has called for better co-operation to tackle the problems.

He said many prisoners arrived with “significant diagnosed and undiagnosed healthcare needs and for those with mental health issues, personality disorders, drug or alcohol addiction or learning difficulties, imprisonment can be a time of great vulnerability”.

‘Illegal drugs’
He said a previous report in 2014 made recommendations to the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) to ensure prisoners were cared for and supported.

“When inspectors returned in 2018, we found that bullying remained a significant issue and, as a result, have repeated our recommendation that NIPS should as a priority, review its violence reduction and anti-bullying strategy and this work should be completed within six months,” said Mr McGuigan.

Gate at Maghaberry Prison: The report highlighted concerns about suicide and bullying in prisons

“We welcome the steps taken by the NIPS to reduce the supply of drugs coming into prison but I believe more needs to be done jointly by the NIPS and SEHSCT to tackle prisoners’ access to illegal drugs and the diversion and abuse of prescription medication.”

He added that “while at an operational level” the partnership between the prison service and the trust had improved, “difficulties at a strategic level had contributed to the slow pace of progress”.

Mr McGuigan said: “I acknowledge there have been a number of incidents where the prompt actions and interventions of staff have undoubtedly saved lives and that there are many committed and dedicated individuals who are working to ensure the prisoners within their care are kept safe and secure.”

Earlier, Mr Armour and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) Director of Prison Healthcare, Bria Mongan, issued a joint statement responding to the report.

It said: “We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report and while significant progress has been made in the 14 months since the inspection was carried out, we will continue to develop our work.

“Keeping people in our care safe is a priority for everyone working in our prisons.”

It added: “It is no exaggeration to say prison officers and healthcare staff save lives.”

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story 


SOLICITORS acting on behalf of (Craigavon Two) two men convicted of the murder of PSNI/RUC police officer Stephen Carroll have written to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) after new details about the case were made public.

Brendan (Yandy) McConville and John Paul (JP) Wootton - wrongly convicted of murder

Brendan (Yandy) McConville (43) and John Paul (JP) Wootton (23) were convicted of killing the officer in Craigavon in March 2009. Both men have denied any part in the Continuity IRA (CIRA) attack that claimed the PSNI/RUC man’s life as he answered a 999 emergency call. It emerged this week, in a European Court judgement, that the gun used to kill Constable Carroll, pictured below, was discovered by police after a tip-off by a suspect, who was in custody at the time.

Constable Stephen Carroll

The suspect is referred to in court papers only as RE. The suspect was initially charged with withholding information about Mr Carroll’s murder but these charges were subsequently dropped in mid 2010. Brendan McConville’s solicitor Darragh Mackin, of KRW Law, has written to the PPS requesting notes taken during police interviews with RE and asking what happened to the charges levelled against him.
Details of the case emerged after RE took a case against the British government over concerns that the PSNI/RUC was carrying out surveillence of conversations between him and his solicitor.

Justice for the Craigavon Two #JFTC2

The man was arrested and questioned three times in the weeks after the officer was killed. Court papers reveal that he was assesssed by a medical officer as a “vulnerable person” and therefore should not have been interviewed – unless in exceptional circumstances – in the absence of an appropriate adult. Court papers reveal that before being seen by a solicitor or appropriate adult the man asked to speak to investigating officers “off the record”. During the course of that interview he “gave information which led to the recovery of the gun used in the constable’s murder.”


His solicitors subsequently brought a separate case on his behalf to the European Court which this week found that secret surveillance carried out on solicitors and their clients is in breach of European Law. During the first two periods of detention his solicitor received assurances that consultations would not be subject to covert surveillance. During a third arrest the PSNI/RUC refused to give an assurance.
The court ruling found that the man’s Article Eight rights under the European Court of Human Rights had been violated.
Article Eight protects the right for private and family life, home and correspondence.


Nichola Harte, of Harte, Coyle, Collins Solicitors, who represented RE, said the ruling has wider implications. “The European Court criticised the inadequate procedures currently in place in the North of Ireland for the handling, use, storage and destruction of information obtained from covert surveillance of legal consultations,” she said. “The police arrangements were and continue to be a violation of the right to respect for private life. “This landmark European ruling has implications for all legal consultations in police stations if subjected to covert surveillance.”
With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News. For the origional story.


Perpetuating injustice

MI5, the British army and the PSNI have colluded to perpetuate the injustice we ‘The Craigavon Two’ continue to face.

That much is clear from the facts that emerged during our ‘show trial’ and subsequent appeal. The deletion of information to cover up wrong doing, the intimidation of key defence witnesses and the withholding of evidence able to undermine the state allegations serve to prove that. Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd spoke recently of ‘war junkies in suits’ working to perpetuate conflict. What he has failed to comment on is the ways in which this has manifested itself. These very same people (Shame Fein) and organisations have directly contributed to the wrongful imprisonment of two of his constituents. If his concern is genuine, will he now commit himself and his party to calling for an investigation into the role of state actors, including the PSNI, MI5 and the British army’s special reconnaissance regiment, in the injustice for which we may now spend the rest of our lives in prison.
With many thanks to: Brendan McConville, John Paul Wootton, Maghaberry Gaol, Co Antrim.

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Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton sentenced to life in prison in a serious miscarriage of Justice – FTC2


Justice for the Craigavon Two

Sentenced by a single Judge in a non jury Diplock court

On the evidence of a paid perjurer, an eyewitness whose eyewitness testimony was medically impossible.

Conflicting, contradictory and inconclusive forensics.

Involvement by MI5 and British Army special forces in evidence tampering, yet this evidence was still used in court.

An appeal that opened in April that was adjourned following revelations the Police Service of Northern Ireland had sabotaged the appeal process by arresting and pressuring a new defense witness.

Watch closely the reopening of the Craigavon Two appeal on October the 8th, based on this case anyone could fall foul of this system.

You are Brendan McConville, You are John Paul Wootton!!!

Justice for the Craigavon Two.


1048304_171056716406381_592755739_o Packy Carty > Justice for the Craigavon Two Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are serving life sentences in Maghaberry Gaol for the 2009 killing of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll. Both men maintain their innocence and claim they are victims of a miscarriage of justice. We believe they are innocent do you? We have studied the case and read the facts have you? Please share this to help us raise awareness. Photos of Justice for the Craigavon Two


‘ Last week judges were told police have tried to sabotage appeals being mounted by John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville.


AN unprecedented legal bid for independent oversight of PSNI/RUC inquiries surrounding the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll will take place next week.

Lawyers for the two men attempting to overturn their convictions for the killing are seeking an order for the Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine the arrest of a new witness in the case. They are also making a separate application to the Police Ombudsman to look into allegations of misconduct in the operation. Last week judges were told police have tried to sabotage appeals being mounted by John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville. Defence counsel made thehclaim as their joint challenge to being found guilty of the murder was put back until October 7th amid uncertainty over potential fresh evidence. Constable Carroll was ambushed and shot dead as he responded to a 999 call at Lismore Manor, Craigavon in March 2009.

McConville (41) of Glenholme Avenue in the town, is serving at least a 25-year sentence for the murder. Wootton, (22) of Collindale, Lurgan, received a minimum 14-year term. It was revealed in court that an related to a key prosecution  witness was arrested two weeks ago and held for two days before being released without charge. This man has made a sworn court statement branding his relative a compulsive liar. According to defence lawyers police arrested him in a bid to pressure him into withdrawing his evidence, and warned he would be discredited if he testified. They now want the Court of Appeal to direct the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to look into this aspect of the case. Judges yesterday listed their application for  hearing next Wednesday. It was also confirmed that transcripts from all but one of the 11 interviews carried out with this new wittness have been handed over to the defence teams. As he updated the court Ciaran Murphy QC, prosecuting, said ongoing police inquires are expected to take another four weeks. Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed out : “Part of this application is about who should conduct/supervise that investigation.” Mr Murphy replied by suggesting the CCRC may have difficulties in dealing with a continuing police probe.

With many thanks to : Irish News.


Gerry Conlan : ” The government knew we were being tortured “.


As one of the Guildford Four, Gerry Conlon spent 15 years in prison for an IRA campaign he knew nothing about. More than 20 years later he is still fighting for justice.

There are moments when I lose sight of Gerry Conlon through the fog of countless cigarettes smoked during our four-hour interview. He is in Liverpool to campaign for other victims of miscarriages of justice, and we meet in a rented apartment in the city’s Chinatown. We are joined periodically by others who are there to support the cause. Each adds views on the various injustices they have suffered and each contributes to the cloud of thick smoke filling the room.

In 1974, the then 20-year-old Belfast-born Conlon was arrested over the IRA pub bombings in Guildford which killed five people. He had never been to Guildford. But along with the three other members of the group that became known as the Guildford Four, Conlon was sentenced to life in prison on the basis of false confessions made after days of mistreatment by Surrey police.


Maguire Seven: fighting for freedom from wrongful conviction

Fleeing torture in Iran

A painful awakening

Conlon’s father, Giuseppe, was also imprisoned as part of a group known as the Maguire Seven. The basis of their convictions was forensic evidence – later discredited – which the prosecution claimed proved they had handled explosives used in the bombings. The group, including Patrick Maguire who was just 13 when he was arrested, were sentenced to between four and 14 years in prison.

In 1989 the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of the Guildford Four when it was found that crucial alibi evidence – proving Conlon could not have done the bombings – had not been shown to the defence. There was also evidence of police collusion on fabricating the statements – the only evidence produced against them at the original trial. The Maguire Seven later had their convictions overturned, but by this time they had all served their sentences and been released, except Giuseppe Conlon who, already in failing health when he was arrested, died after five years in prison.

The Gerry Conlon that stood outside the High Court in London after his release was a triumphant and charismatic figure. He told massed press and supporters that he was an innocent man who had spent 15 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He vowed to clear his late father’s name and fight for the release of others, like the Birmingham Six and the Bridgwater Three, who had been wrongly convicted.

This is the Conlon that played repeatedly on the news bulletins. And this is the man portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis as the star of In the Name Of the Father, the partly fictionalised 1993 film based on Conlon’s autobiography. But Conlon’s feelings of triumph were short-lived and he was far from ready for the outside world.

“If you spend a few weeks in the Big Brother house, you get counselling when you leave to prepare you for life outside. I spent 15 years being moved from one terrible prison to the next, being treated like I was lower than the worst kind of paedophile. When I got released I was given £34.90 and told to go.”

When long-term prisoners come up for release, they are slowly reintroduced to the outside world, with supervised day releases, then weekend releases. When wrongful convictions are quashed, prisoners leave straight away, with no preparation for how to cope with life on the outside.

Conlon was initially on a high after his release. He put everything into making good his pledge to get the convictions of the Birmingham Six overturned. After months of frantic campaigning, he went back to his mother’s house in Belfast to take a break when suddenly the impact of what he had been through hit him.

“I came out of the bathroom and my father, who’d died years earlier, was sitting on the settee in prison pyjamas and a prison dressing gown. Since then I haven’t been able to get the terrible images out of my head.

“I never had one suicidal thought in prison. Now I have them all the time. I haven’t been able to have a relationship, I’ve turned to alcohol and drugs, it’s a constant waking nightmare.”

More than twenty years after his release, the man sitting in front of me is no less eloquent and determined than the angry 35-year old who stood outside court, but his mind has never escaped from prison. He speaks lyrically, without pause, recalling full names, exact dates and locations of the grim landmarks of his ordeal. But at every turn he is visibly haunted by the terrible memories that won’t stay in the past and the injustices which continue in the present.

Conlon believes that because their case caused such political embarrassment, there was what he calls a “whispering campaign” around Westminster after their release. That although their conviction was quashed, the authorities wanted people to think they were freed on a technicality, but may actually have been guilty.

He is angry that nobody was ever punished for their wrongful imprisonment. He is also convinced that it was not just the police that lied to get them convicted. He believes the conspiracy to jail innocent people went right to the top.

“The Government knew, right from the start, that we were innocent. They knew we had nothing to do with the IRA, but they didn’t care. That’s why they have a 75-year immunity order on our case. Because they want all the people involved to be dead before they release our files.”

Because this cloud of suspicion was allowed to remain, Conlon was denied access to psychiatric treatment. It was not until 2007 that he began getting regular therapy, and even then only one hour a week. This has helped, but is far too little, coming far too late, for someone who suffered trauma on the level that he did.

“I have what they call a disassociation problem: something comes in to my head and I’m back in prison. I’m back in Wakefield, being tortured… hands behind my back, gun in my mouth, it doesn’t go away.

“The reason I took drugs and alcohol was because I couldn’t deal with what my mind was projecting. To get some relief from the nightmares, day and night.

“But then the nightmares started breaking through with a sledge hammer, and once that happened it was a question of giving up the drugs and fighting to get professional help.”

The effects of his wrongful conviction went far beyond Conlon and the others who were wrongfully convicted. Prison visits were supervised and any personal details discussed would be spread around by mischievous warders, so they stuck to discussing pleasantries.

“I’d spent months in solitary, in the dark. I’d been beaten, had people defecating in my food, putting glass in my food. I’d seen people murdered. Yet I had to tell my family they were treating me well.

“When you come out you find the relationship with your family during your time inside was built on falsehoods. I didn’t know that my mother and my sisters were being strip searched and abused when they came to see me. You can’t calculate the devastating effect it has on your family.”

As we are speaking Conlon sees a news report on the TV screen behind me about the treatment of the former Guantánamo Bay detainee Binyan Mohamed.

“Nothing has changed. The Government knew we were being tortured in the 1970s. When I hear about Binyam Mohamed it all comes back. My mind flashes back to the beatings, the threats and the mental cruelty I suffered at the hands of the police.”

Conlon has become frustrated by the lack of political will to help victims of miscarriages of justice. The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (Mojo) was formed by Paddy Hill after he and other members of the Birmingham Six had their convictions quashed in 1991. Mojo is campaigning to have a trauma centre set up dedicated to helping miscarriage of justice victims after they leave prison. They get sympathetic noises from politicians but little action.

In 1997, Conlon was given half a million pounds in compensation. Giving money to victims of miscarriages of justice is likened by Conlon to giving them a “bottle of whisky and a revolver”.

“They may as well say: ‘here’s the money, now go and kill yourself.’

“They gave me £546,000 – for taking me, torturing me and framing me; taking my father, torturing him and having him die in prison; then leaving me sinking in the quicksand of my own nightmares.”

In 2005 the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven finally got a personal apology from Tony Blair. Conlon told the then Prime Minister that the apology would only mean something if it came with more help for the victims.

“Blair turned to [parliamentary private secretary] David Hanson and said: ‘David, get on to this right away.’ Since then we’ve had no help. We followed up on Tony Blair’s promise and were basically told to get lost. He lied to us – the apology means nothing.”

“If there was a trauma centre, within a year, you could probably be living a normal productive life rather than being haunted by nightmares.”

But picking up the pieces of those who have already been wrongly convicted is cure, rather than prevention. Seeing the mistreatment of suspects and innocent people going to prison makes him feel that Britain has not moved on since the 1970s.

“Back then it was the Irish, now it’s Muslims. But nobody is safe, one of the Guildford Four was English. Everyone thinks this happens to other people, but it’s closer than you think.

“Who’s to say you’re not going to be next. Look at Sally Clarke, she was a solicitor and she drank herself to death after she was wrongly convicted of killing her two sons.”

What is striking about Conlon is that while he is angry, he is amazingly lacking in bitterness. He is clearly suffering greatly with the horrors of 15 years being treated “worse than a twisted child killer”. He wants his case files released; he wants proper post-sentence care for other victims of miscarriages – but he is not consumed by hate.

A common theme he returns to is how trauma counselling is given to people who have experienced what, to him, would seem fairly mild. But every time he mentions another group getting “the best counselling available”, he pauses, and slowly emphasises, “and so they should, and so they should. But what about us?”

Conlon is now “full of” psychiatric drugs, and his terrifying flashbacks continue. But through the pain caused by his years in prison he finds some purpose.

“I want my father’s death to count for something. It’s the hardest thing you can imagine to be put in prison for something you didn’t do. If I can do something to stop it happening to other people my life will have meant something.”

With many thanks to : The Telegraph.

Two guilty of Constable Carroll’s murder

 Two men have been found guilty of murdering Constable Stephen Carroll, at the culmination of a nine-week trial.

Two guilty of Constable Carroll's murder
Brendan mcConville and John Paul Wootton have been found guilty of murder. (© Pacemaker)

Lord Justice Paul Girvan delivered his verdicts against former Sinn Féin councillor Brendan McConville, 40 and from Tullygally in Craigavon, and 20-year-old John Paul Wootton, from Collingdale in Lurgan, after three weeks of deliberations on the evidence.

“They have chosen to say nothing in relation to the case, which cries out for explanation,” the Diplock judge told Belfast Crown Court on Friday.

Throughout proceedings, the pair had denied involvement in the fatal gun attack in Craigavon on 9 March 2009 – but refused to give evidence on their own behalf.

If there were an innocent explanation, they would have been easily capable of providing it to the court – but chose not to do so.

Lord Justice Paul Girvan

Constable Carroll was shot dead as he attended a 999 call – police were lured into the Lismore Manor area, after a brick was thrown through a window to ensure the occupants would call for help.

A single gunshot to the head from an AK-47 assault rifle killed Constable Carroll as he sat in the driver’s seat of his unmarked patrol car – the Continuity IRAlater admitted responsibility for his murder.

AK-47 with milled receiver and wood furniture.

The 48-year-old long-serving officer was the first PSNI member to be killed by dissident republicans since the force replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

His death came just 48 hours after the fatal shooting at Massereene barracks.

Wootton was also found guilty of attempting to obtain information likely to be of use to terrorists.

In the lead up to the shooting, he had approached an individual – known as Witness E – to ask for the address of another policeman.

During the trial, Wootton’s mother – 39-year-old Sharon Wootton, with the same address as her son – pleaded guilty to obstructing the police investigation into the murder.

She admitted to removing computer equipment from their house ahead of police searches.

Constable Carroll’s widow Kate, who has watched the trial unfold from the public gallery, was there on Friday to hear the final verdicts delivered.

She embraced her son Shane and, outside the court, hugged her husband’s colleagues who had helped to investigate his murder.

McConville and Wooton, who were handed automatic life sentences, will find out at a later date the minimum time they’ll have to spend behind bars.



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