Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Prisoner Ombudsman search launched

Undated handout photo of Pauline McCabe, Northern Irelands Prisoner Ombudsman, who carried out a number of high-profile death-in-custody investigations that shone a light on serious failings within the system, who is due to step down in May after five years. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday February 7, 2013. See PA story ULSTER Ombudsman. Photo credit should read: Darren Kidd/Press Eye/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

The search for Northern Ireland's new Prisoner Ombudsman has been officially launched.

Pauline McCabe, who carried out a number of high-profile death-in-custody investigations that shone a light on serious failings within the system, is due to step down in May after five years.

She said: "It has been a privilege to do this job and to be part of influencing the much-needed reforms in the prison service, however there are still a number of important reports on deaths in custody pending and my final annual report in May will provide a much fuller account of my time in office and a review of the work undertaken."

Ms McCabe, a business consultant and former Northern Ireland Policing Board member, is unable to seek re-appointment because her three-year contract had already been extended.

During her time in office she published several damning reports on the lack of care provided to vulnerable inmates. She was highly critical of staff at the high-security Maghaberry jail after the 2008 suicide of Colin Bell and made 44 recommendations for improvement.

Last year Ms McCabe also urged authorities to do more to tackle the growing drug problem at Maghaberry after 21-year-old Aaron Hogg hanged himself in 2011. Her probe into the death of Frances McKeown, 23, in May 2011 highlighted a series of shortfalls at Hydebank Wood.

During her last three months in office she is expected to publish the first-ever report on a near-death incident in custody.

The Prisoner Ombudsman is primarily responsible for investigating complaints from prisoners and investigating deaths in custody. They are appointed by the Justice Minister and are completely independent of the Prison Service. A recruitment advertisement for the £58,400-a-year job said the Ombudsman would be required to work a four-day week.

Justice Minister David Ford said: "The Prisoner Ombudsman holds a key investigative role in the criminal justice system and is vital in helping to ensure widespread confidence in the prison system.

"My department is seeking applications from those who believe they can bring the essential wealth of experience, professionalism and knowledge to this demanding post. I encourage anyone with an interest in criminal justice, who believes they have the necessary attributes and experience, to apply."

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