Concern prison officer could be killed as 11 attacks are reported in two months at Maghaberry
Fears have been raised that a prison officer could be killed after it was revealed 11 officers were attacked in the past two months at Maghaberry Prison.
The Stephen Nolan Show reported the attacks as inspectors return to the prison following a report which branded the high-security jail one of the UK's most dangerous.
Former prison governor William McKee said he was fearful a prison officer could be killed or very seriously injured.
He said the prison service had lost a lot of experienced staff over the past number of years and that sickness levels in the jail was "particularly high".
One serving prison officer said staff were "over-stretched" and received no support from management.
He claimed staff were told if they didn't like the situation they should hand their notice in and then less experienced staff were brought into replace them.
DUP MLA Edwin Poots said he was "not surprised" with the attacks and that there may even be more.
He said he was aware of four officers who were seriously injured in attacks.
He said: "I believe [there is a threat to a prison officer's life] and we need to be concerned.
"We need to ensure there are adequate numbers of prison officers with the skills and experience to deal with the various situations that arise.
"We need to see all front line staff protected and the courts can not treat those convicted of attacks - on ambulance staff, police or prison officers or any front line staff - with kid gloves."
The Department of Justice has been asked to respond.
In November, Maghaberry was said to be "a prison in crisis", with "unsafe and unstable" conditions, according to a joint assessment by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI).
Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales, Nick Hardwick, who was commissioned to assist the CJINI inspection team, said: "This is one of the worst prisons I have ever seen and the most dangerous prison I have been to."
Maghaberry houses almost 1,000 prisoners, including around 50 people with loyalist and republican paramilitary affiliations who are held in separated accommodation.
Following the November report, governor Phil Wragg - who was appointed after the inspection was conducted - said changes had already been implemented and that he expected a more positive report when inspectors returned.