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Hydebank governor Taylor strenuously defends facility and points to awards recognising its transformation

By Rebecca Black

The governor of Hydebank Wood College has defended the facility.

Richard Taylor pointed out that last month he and his predecessor Austin Treacy collected an Inspirational Leadership Award at the UK Civil Service Awards held in London.

The award recognised his work to transform Hydebank Wood from a Young Offenders Centre into a secure college - a first anywhere in the UK or Ireland.

Addressing concerns by staff raised in the Belfast Telegraph today, Mr Taylor said: "It is normal management protocol for staff to routinely address any complaints they may have through their line management chain, or, if they wish to, through trade union representatives.

"None of the issues raised by the Belfast Telegraph, have been raised with me, through their line management chain, or, to my knowledge, through whistleblower policy."

He also pointed out that Hydebank had been praised in two reports issued this year in four internationally recognised testing areas, which include safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.

However, the same report -based on unannounced examinations carried out at the prison in May 2016 by a team of inspectors from Criminal Justice Inspection NI, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and Education and Training Inspectorate - also raised concerns about an increase in the supply of drugs into the facility.

Mr Taylor acknowledged the higher number of drug seizures at Hydebank compared to the other two prisons, but suggested that his staff may be having higher success rates.

In terms of lower staff numbers, Mr Taylor pointed out the prison population has fallen from 290 three-and-a-half years ago to 156 today.

And in terms of attacks on staff members, he pointed out that just 5.7% of the numbers quoted in the FOI response referred to assaults on staff.

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