Full-body scanners using X-ray radiation could be introduced in Northern Ireland's prisons as a UK first, it has been revealed.
The measure has to be |approved by the Department of Energy and Climate Change amid concern it could pose health issues if prisoners are scanned too often.
It may provide a way of checking inmates on entering or leaving jail without strip searching, which prompted a no-wash protest by dissident republicans at Maghaberry high-security prison in Co Antrim.
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford said: “This is something which has not been used in any prison in the UK, it has to go through the full justification process.”
He could not set a timescale on the technology's introduction. It uses ionising radiation to take an image of the person's body to detect any contraband which he is carrying. In the past, prison managers in Northern Ireland have had problems controlling the supply of drugs and other illicit material brought in from outside.
Mr Ford revealed efforts were being made to introduce the new scanning technology as quickly as possible.
The Prison Service has insisted it has not entered any deal with those who stopped their demonstration recently.