Prison chiefs were today searching for a batch of dangerous drugs in Magilligan Prison after an inmate was found dead in his cell.
Richard Bernard Gilmore’s body was discovered yesterday morning and it is suspected that his death was drugs-related.
A spokesman for the Prison Service today confirmed there are concerns within Magilligan Prison that there “could well be a dangerous batch of drugs in circulation.”
However, he stressed that at this stage it cannot be definitively confirmed that drugs were involved in the death of Mr Gilmore.
“We have to wait for the results of a post-mortem investigation before we know the cause of death. The Prison Service extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Richard Gilmore,” he said.
The PSNI and the coroner have been informed about Mr Gilmore’s death and the Prisoner Ombudsman has been asked to undertake an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death.
Mr Gilmore, 25, from Grangeville Gardens in Belfast, was serving a nine month sentence for causing nearly £18,000 worth of damage to trains during a drink and steroid rampage and was due for release within weeks under remission.
In August last year Mr Gilmore admitted smashing windows on two trains with a stolen hammer in December 2007.
A defence lawyer told the court at the time that Mr Gilmore, a former call centre worker, came from a “very, good background” but had “gone off the rails”.
“Unfortunately he seems to be the black sheep of the family,” the solicitor told the court.
The lawyer said Mr Gilmore had been under the influence of drink and drugs, including steroids “which made him extremely angry and extremely violent”.
News of the possible circulation of a dangerous batch of drugs within Magilligan has reignited concern over drug use within the province’s jails.
Recent parliamentary figures showed that thousands of pounds worth of killer drugs are being discovered every year, with cannabis, heroin and ecstasy becoming readily available to inmates.
Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association said today that rising drug use in prisons is becoming more difficult to police because of constraints on powers available to prison staff.
“We walk a very tight line in terms of what we can do. Prisoners are taking human rights cases and sometimes their human rights override our right to control the problem and make sure the drugs don’t get into prisons,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
Mr Finlay added: “Unless we introduce draconian measures, such as a system of glass wall visits, drugs will continue getting into the prisons. As long as visitors are interacting with prisoners you will never completely stop drugs.
“We are doing our best and we will continue to do our best until we can greatly reduce the amount of drugs getting in.”
MP Gregory Campbell has called for an immediate review of the Prison Service’s anti-drug policies.
“I have asked Minister Paul Goggins and his department what action is going to be taken to further clamp down on drug use in prisons. Drugs, from Ecstasy, to cannabis, to heroin are being found. It is a difficult problem to try and solve but we need to try and ensure there is some sort of reduction,” he said.
Drug detection dogs were introduced in the prison estates in 2001 to tackle the problem. The Prison Service continues to insist it has a robust drugs policy.