Forced strip search of Pomeroy woman a ‘Brutal Sex Assault’ !


Sharon Rafferty

A REPUBLICAN prisoners welfare group have claimed that a forced strip search carried out on a Pomeroy woman last month amounted to a “brutal sexual assault”.

Sharon Rafferty (38) of Cavana Linn in Pomeroy is currently awaiting trial on five charges related to alleged dissident republican activity in Tyrone.

Detained in Hydebank Prison on remand since May 2012, on August 14 she left the South Belfast prison for the first time in 15 months for a preliminary investigation hearing at Omagh Courthouse alongside her co-accused Gavin Coney, Aidan Coney and Sean Kelly.

According to Mandy Duffy of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA), prior to her departure from the prison, force was used after Rafferty refused to remove clothing in her cell. The procedure was repeated upon her return according to the spokesperson, who regularly visits the 38-year-old.

Describing the procedure as “degrading and humiliating”, Ms Duffy said the Pomeroy woman had not reported any physical injuries, but had been left “distressed” by the ordeal.

It’s understood to be the first time in recent years that a female republican prisoner has been made subject to a strip search.

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) said it could not comment on individual prisoners.

Strip searching of female prisoners became one of the most controversial features of the troubles when it was introduced in Armagh gaol in 1982.


In more recent times the practice came under the spotlight in 2005, when the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) helped non-republican prisoner Karen Carson bring a judicial review before the High Court in Belfast, claiming frequent strip searching in Hydebank was in violation of articles three and eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relate to torture and privacy.

While Justice Girvan said that the articles had not been breached, in his judgement he found that the existing policy “cannot be demonstrated to be proportionate and necessary”.

The comments prompted a review of the NIPS policy for strip searching female prisoners, which led to new policy being introduced in September 2010.

According to the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, the new policy had by 2011 ended routine strip searching of all new arrivals at Hydebank.

Random searches were also scaled back, but the policy of strip searching has been retained, albeit under a new two stage procedure, with the initial stage allowing the prisoner to retain their underwear.

However according to the Department of Justice, “If staff had suspicions or intelligence has been received to suggest the woman could be concealing items in her underwear she would be required to proceed to a level 2 search. This would require her to remove the clothing from the top half of her body including underwear, when dressed she would remove the clothing from the bottom half of her body including her underwear.”

The new provisions also still allow for prisoners to be forcibly strip searched if they refuse to comply with a full search, using “approved control and restraint techniques”.


Speaking to the Tyrone Herald, a spokesperson for the NIHRC said it supports the Prison Review Team’s 2011 recommendation to find an effective and less intrusive alternative to strip searching.

“The Commission’s 2005 research revealed the traumatic impact of strip searching on women and recommended that its use should be exceptional and restricted.”

It said while it had not received any complaints about the use of strip searching on women prisoners in recent times, the body intends to raise the issue of Sharon Rafferty’s forced search on August 14 during a visit with the Prison Service later this month.

Mandy Duffy said both male and female republican prisoners refuse to submit to strip searching, claiming that scanners exist that deem the practice unnecessary. On August 14, she said Rafferty’s three co-accused were also similarly strip searched by force at Maghaberry Prison after refusing to comply with requests to remove clothing.

“There is technology in place that removes the need for any prisoner to remove their clothing,” said the IRPWA spokesperson, “Sharon said she did not want to humiliate herself.”


The fallout over strip searching resulted in male prisoners at Maghaberry Prison staging a dirty protest over 18 months, which came to an end last year when the Department of Justice launched a trial of two millimetre wave scanners at Hydebank. However in February, the department said the scanners would not replace full body searches after a Prison Service report emerged claiming that just 57 per-cent of items tested had been detected.

Republican prisoners at both Hydebank and Maghaberry are currently held in separate wings from the main prison population.

The separation resulted in Sharon Rafferty, as the only republican prisoner in Hydebank, spending more than one year in effective isolation, until she was joined in June this year by a second female republican prisoner, Christine Connor. Mandy Duffy claimed Connor was denied a hospital appointment on August 23 after she refused to comply with a strip search on departure from the prison.

“With the policy now that they are going to be asking republican prisoners to comply with strip searches, that they will refuse, this is going to have an impact on hospital appointments and doctors appointments,” she claimed.

“Christine does have medical concerns. She has kidney problems and she does need to attend her appointments. Therefore she is being denied her rights to medical attention.”

Former Republican prisoner speaks out on Maghaberry protests

With many thanks to -:

The Ulster Herald | 12-14 John Street |

T: +44 (0)28 8224 3444



Inmate was on remand during death bid !

A PRISONER was granted bail as he fought for his life in a Belfast hospital after an attempted suicide in jail, we can reveal. But the bizarre circumstances mean the Northern Ireland Prison Service do not have to record Joseph Rainey‘s death as a ‘ death in custody ‘.

2013-05-01 15.12.16

Once again, however, the Prisoner Ombuinye will be called in to investigate the tragic circumstances at the controversy-hit Hydebank Wood Prison in South Belfast. And it’s the first major headache for new Governor Paul Norbury who only took up he new post at Hydebank two weeks ago. The jail has been dogged with scandals and there have been a number of inmates who have died at the prison which caters for young offenders as well as women.


Last year the Governor Paul Alcock was suspended after inmates Frances McKeown and Samuel Carson took their own lives within hours of each other.The latest tragedy came as Joseph Patrick Thomas Rainey was in Hydebank Wood and Young Offenders ‘ Centre on remand awaiting trial for an attempted burglary charge. The 20-year-old, from Oldpark Avenue, North Belast, tried to hang himself in the prison’s Beech House but was cut down by prison officers. After 10 days on a life support machine, he passed away on April 19. The Sunday World has now learned that in an extraordinary twist, Rainey was granted bail in court – as he fought for his life in hospital a week after he tried to commit suicide. His case was listed for April 17 at Belfast Magistrates Court where he was officially remanded on bail and then last Wednesday,  April 24, the charge was officially withdrawn – after he had died. On Saturday night the Prison Service said it ‘accepted’ that his death was not a ‘death in custody’ because he had been granted bail – even ‘though the event which led to his death occurred behind bars. And they confirmed the Prisoner Omdudsman, Pauline McCabe, would be investigating.


Part of that investigation will centre around the fact that Joseph Rainey was deemed to be a Supporting Prisoner At Risk (SPAR) by the Nortern Ireland Prison Service. But despite prison chiefs recognising he was a potential danger to himself they decided not to place him in a specially designed cell for such inmates. Prison sources have said the Prison Service could be let off the hook bencause of the technicality. “Incredibly they are not treating this as a ‘death in custody’ because Rainey got bail before he died,” says a source. “but it’s yet another embarrassing case for them to deal with. The new Governor had barely taken his coat off and he has now had this chucked on his lap. “It’s not a great start but the incident happened before he officially started in the job.” A spokesman from the Prison Service said on Saturday night : “As Mr Rainey was bailed prior to his death it is accepted that this is not a ‘death in custody’ but as the cause of death is directly attibutable to his time in custody, his death will be the subject of a Prisoner Ombudsman investigation in line with her terms of reference.” Paul Norbury was appointed governor of Hydebank Wood in February 10 months after his predecessor was suspended following allegations of misconduct.


It emerged rather surprisingly, that Mr Norbury was the only candidate who applied for the job which comes with a salary of £72,000. Mr Norbury has been a prison governer elsewhere since 1982, with his most recent role in Wymott Prison in Leyland, Lancashire. An interim governor has been running Hydebank Wood since Gary Alcok was suspended in May last year. He was suspended after a report into the circumstances surronding two young inmates who took their own lives within three hours of each other in May 2011. Both prisoners, Frances  McKeown and Samuel Carson, had been subjected to bullying inside the jail. The suspension, after an interim report carried out by Ombudsman Ms. McCabe sent shockwaves through the Prison Service as it was the first time a jail Governor had been suspended from his post in over 140 years. In August Mr Alcock was charged with misconduct after a recommendation by an independant team from the Scottish Prison Service who were asked to carry out an investigation.

With many thanks to : Steven Moore, Sunday World.



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.Sue McAllister and David Ford

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.”LONG KESH 1979 - MAGHABERRY 2011 !

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.Fenian

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.”




I have received another email from Maureen re the issue of Maghaberry and Marian. She brought it back to the tanaiste here is her email.

Mary; I have below the latest reply on a Parliamentary Question I put in about human rights conditions of prisoners in Maghaberry and Hydepark. Best wishes, Maureen.

102. Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he and his Department have taken, and are taking, in addressing the human rights conditions of prisoners in Maghaberry Prison, County Antrim, including the human rights of the prisoner who has been moved to Hydebank Prison. [25423/12]

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The issue of prisons within Northern Ireland is a devolved matter related to the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Arising from the Hillsborough Agreement of February 2010, Dame Ann Owers and the prison review team undertook a review of the prison system. In October 2011 their report made 40 recommendations on prison reform in Northern Ireland. The Minister for Justice, Mr. David Ford, MLA, has underlined his commitment to full implementation of the recommendations and has described the prison reform process as “unstoppable”. I had an opportunity to discuss the reform process with him at our most recent meeting on 20 April.
Implementation of the Owers report remains the most effective way to ensure that prison conditions in Northern Ireland meet the required standard. The Government will continue to raise concerns regarding the circumstances of conditions of detention of Irish citizens as appropriate.
Concerns have been raised about the circumstances of this prisoner’s detention, both in this House and directly with me by human rights organisations. The prisoner’s defence team maintain that as she was granted a royal prerogative of mercy, the terms of the licence do not apply. I discussed this issue with Secretary of State Paterson on 27 April. I have been advised that the parole commissioners considered the terms of the royal prerogative of mercy after receiving submissions on behalf of the prisoner and the Secretary of State and had ruled that “the life sentences were not in fact remitted by the royal prerogative of mercy” and that the prisoner “remains subject to the life licence”. I understand that the case is currently under review.
Concerns surrounding the prisoner’s health led to the prisoner being moved to the medical wing of Hydebank Prison where I have been informed that medical and prison administration staff are making every effort to make the prisoner comfortable. I have been advised that a medical expert has requested an assessment visit and I have asked to be informed on the outcome of that visit. In the meantime my officials are in regular contact with the authorities in Northern Ireland, human rights NGOs and others close to this case.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: The Tánaiste’s answer might have been acceptable except for the fact that these issues have been ongoing for some time.

They have been kicked to touch or from one person to another for far too long. In the meantime, the human rights issues have worsened, with solitary confinement, the denial of medical treatment, inadequate medical treatment and regular full body searches although scanners are supposed to be used. Elected representatives, human rights organisations and the Pat Finucane Centre have not received responses to their inquiries from the authorities in the North. Human rights regulations are being disregarded.
In January in response to a question I asked, the Minister for Justice and Equality stated the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade had been involved in negotiations the previous summer. This has been going on for almost a year and in the meantime the conditions for some of the prisoners have deteriorated. What other action can be taken? Action is required instead of phrases such as “we will continue to monitor it” and “we are in close consultation” before one of the prisoners dies.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: As I stated, responsibility for prisons in Northern Ireland has been devolved to the Department of Justice under the remit of the Minister, Mr. Ford, MLA. Among the issues which arise is reform of the prison service in Northern Ireland. The Minister categorically stated to us he is implementing the recommendation of the Owers report and the process is unstoppable. We have raised the issues of human rights and the conditions of the prisoners in Maghaberry Prison, in particular the prisoner moved to Highbank Prison, with the Minister and the Secretary of State, Mr Paterson, MP. I have asked departmental officials to monitor the situation very closely and keep in touch with the Northern Ireland Office and the Department of Justice there and we will continue to do so.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: The denial of medical treatment and the way in which medication has been withheld from one of the male prisoners are very serious issues. I am also aware of issues regarding the health of Marian Price. When is a royal prerogative not a royal prerogative? Is it when it suits the authorities in the North and in England? Mr. Owen Paterson, MP, has not been elected by anyone in the North and is not accountable to the electorate in the North, but he seems to be able to disregard human rights legislation and legal issues. We speak about human rights at meetings of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and we take up the cases of prisoners in Bahrain, Iran and China. Yet, this is happening up the road and is an urgent matter because one of the prisoners will die.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Responsibility for prisons has been devolved to the Northern Ireland Administration under the aegis of the Department of Justice. With regard to the royal prerogative, three sentences were handed down to Marian Price; she was sentenced to two life sentences and one sentence of 20 years. My information is that the royal prerogative applied to the 20 year sentence and the life sentences were covered by a life licence which may be withdrawn, which is what happened in this case. I share the Deputy’s immediate concern about Ms Price’s medical condition and health and about the conditions under which she and other prisoners are detained. I wish to make clear we have raised these issues with the Northern Ireland Department of Justice and the Secretary of State and we will continue to do so at political and official level.


David Ford to seek intruder force guide

David Ford

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.

Read more:

Old Bailey bomber ‘unfit for trial’

Marian Price‘s mental state has left her unfit to face trial following an assessment by prison doctors, it has been claimed.The Old Bailey bomber who is being held at Hydebank, south Belfast after her release licence was revoked almost a year ago also needs outside care, Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford has been told.Jennifer McCann, a Sinn Fein member of the justice committee at Stormontwho met the minister in Belfast, has demanded she be freed.She said: “The doctors have also stated that she is not fit to participate in any legal proceedings. The fact that she has twice been released on bail by senior judges, who have seen evidence not available to her solicitors, raises the question, how is she a threat to anyone?”This is an abuse of natural justice. 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.”

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.”



Read more:

If you are against injustice and stand up for human rights please come along to this March and demand the immediate release of Marian Price.

Wall Photos

Please share this far and wide ..Thank you !..This Rally has been organized by F…ree Marian .. an independent Derry campaign group.. human Rights activist Pauline Mellon, Helen Deery , Kate and Linda Nash and many others is supported by all those who are demanding the immediate release of Marian Price ..this independent group of women have been tirelessly campaigning by organizing meetings and protest for almost a whole year now…their efforts have encouraged others to come on board.. people like former Armagh Gaol chaplain and world renowned human rights activist Monsignor Raymond Murray , Marian Price’s sister Dolores who is in regular contact with Pauline Mellon , Pat Ramsey (MLA) who spoke out in Stormont about Marians plight and was lambasted for it by the Unionist..Pat has also visited and spoke to Marian in prison , Kate Nash Bloody Sunday justice campaigner who along with her sister Linda and Helen Deery who organized this years 40th Bloody Sunday march for justice which was attended by well over 7,000 people even though it was against a back drop of Sinn Fein pressure and demonizing.. Sinn Fein was trying to prevent the march for their own political agenda.
These women supported by others have truly highlighted the case of Marian Price and are calling for your support on the 22nd April for this first March and Rally since the campaign to free Marian began ..if you are against injustice and stand up for human rights please come along to this March and demand the immediate release of Marian Price.

Report is critical of Northern prison service

Jail and prison officer
CJINI said it was disappointed at the pace of change in the prison service

More than a third of recommendations made after a Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) report into the country’s prisons have not been “met in full” over a year later

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.

CJINI acknowledged there had been significant effort by the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS).

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.

Justice Minister

Compliance and quality assurance with robust mechanisms must be sustained.

“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.”



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Prison union calls for strip searches rethink

Finlay Spratt, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Prison Officer's Association Northern Ireland. Picture by Brian Little

Finlay Spratt, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Prison Officer‘s Association Northern Ireland. Picture by Brian Little

THE prison officers’ union has called for a rethink on the routine use of full body searches in Ulster’s jails.

Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association (POA) believes the practice can never be dispensed with completely, but is angry at the lack of progress on introducing new technology.

The POA chairman described the justice minister’s failure to introduce state-of-the-art search equipment as “completely unacceptable” – claiming the delays were causing unnecessary tensions within our prisons.

“The governor of a prison must always reserve the right to authorise a full body search but, in this day and age, there’s no excuse for not introducing the type of search equipment used in airports,” Mr Spratt said.

“If these new machines are good enough to stop people bringing things on to aeroplanes, with hundreds of people on board, then they should be adequate for prison establishments.”

Republican groups have been campaigning for an end to strip searches for some time and have found an unlikely ally in the prison officers’ union.

“The fact is, the prison officers on the wings have to deal with the problems caused by these decisions which are not of their making, yet they are the ones who bear the brunt of the backlash,” Mr Spratt said.

The NI Prison Service is currently undergoing a radical overhaul following recommendations made by a review panel.

Although the POA agrees with the vast majority of the suggested changes, Mr Spratt is opposed to some aspects of the process.

“The arrogant attitude of senior management in implementing the changes is breathtaking. The whole prison review process is overly expensive, yet they’re creating an impression that the existing prison officers themselves are poor value for money,” he said.

“The proposed £18,000 starting salary for the new custody officers does not reflect the true nature of the job, particularly for those required to work with protesting republican prisoners in Maghaberry.

“A prison officer in the Republic will be earning double that of a new custody officer in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Spratt said almost 600 officers had volunteered for redundancy due to low morale.

The review is a waste of public money. We already have a highly-paid director general yet they’re paying over £130,000 to a ‘change manager,’ as well as other staff, to oversee the process.

“They’re also forcing through unpopular shift changes based on a private sector model and the whole process will achieve very little other than create more jobs for civil servants.”

And he added: “As well as that, we feel we’re being used as a political football and that our history is being taken away from us at every turn.”

A spokeswoman for the NI Prison Service said “alternative technologies” to body searches were being explored including the possibility of low-dose X-ray technology.

In relation to the cost of the prisons’ review she said: “Reviews completed to date have demonstrated that there are widespread efficiencies and savings which can be implemented without detriment and indeed with improvements to front-line services. The current cost of delivering services is highly disproportionate due to the high salary levels for existing prison officers.”

The spokeswoman added: “The starting salary for new custody officers is highly competitive within the local and national markets. Those who successfully complete the first year will progress over a number of years to the top of the scale at £23,000 which compares very favourably with other jurisdictions. The role also carries additional benefits in pension, security of employment and future promotion prospects.”


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