Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Scandal of illicit stashes found in Northern Ireland jails

Weapons, drugs, phones and games consoles uncovered

Prisoners have been found in possession of alcohol, drugs, weapons, games consoles and even TV Digiboxes in the last year, raising fresh questions about security at Northern Ireland’s jails.







They were among more than 1,600 contraband items which were confiscated by officers at the province’s three prisons in a 12-month period. At the weekend a three-day lockdown at the high-security Maghaberry Prison ended with parts which could have been used to make a crude explosive device being unearthed.



Now Prison Service documents, which have been obtained by this newspaper, reveal how hundreds of items were confiscated from prisoners in the 12 months to August.

The haul included seizures of blades, screwdrivers, mobile phones and pornography. Other items removed from prisoners were electrical wire and batteries, documents and paramilitary paraphernalia.

The Prison Service said confiscated items were property which a prisoner shouldn't have, and included items which are not completely banned from prisons.

However the Prison Officers Association said the seizures proved that security at prisons was not tight enough.

According to the documents, some 1,065 items were confiscated from prisoners at Maghaberry, another 179 seizures were made at Magilligan, with 372 items removed from Hydebank Wood inmates.

The stash of seized items included 55 mobile phones and accessories, 14 pornographic items, nine lots of alcohol and four pairs of Latex gloves.

Officers also removed 91 lots of drugs and tablets, and a further 134 “drug-related items”.

The details were released in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Finlay Spratt, the chairman of the association which represents prison officers, said the seizures demonstrated the need for tighter security in jails.

“This information adequately describes the problems that prison officers are facing on a daily basis,” he said.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said: “A range of methods are used to smuggle prohibited items into prison and this often includes the concealment of items in bodily cavities which is very difficult to detect.

“The Prison Service however deploys a range of techniques to minimise the supply of illegal items entering prisons here, including searches, security detectors and the deployment of a passive drug dog.”

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