Belfast Telegraph

Jail boss exit 'will not stop cuts'

The shock exit of Northern Ireland's prisons boss will not disrupt radical reforms planned for the service, Stormont's Justice minister has insisted.

David Ford said outgoing director of the NI Prison Service (Nips) Colin McConnell had put in place the foundations for delivering the changes needed.

Edinburgh-born Mr McConnell, 51, has decided to leave just over a year into post after landing the £110,000-a-year job as chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service.

His departure comes days after another top official in Nips, change manager Colin Bennett, stepped down and has prompted questions from politicians on the future stability of the service.

Mr McConnell was hired to implement major reform inside Northern Ireland's jails, after Nips was heavily criticised in a series of inspection reports.

In his time in charge, around 550 prison officers applied to take up a generous redundancy package offered as part of the reforms. About 150 of those will leave at the end of this month, with Nips set to hire 200 new custody officers.

Mr Ford said Mr McConnell, who was paid £100,000 a year in Nips, made a significant contribution to implementing the changes.

"Colin has left his stamp on the Northern Ireland Prison Service as director general and over the past year has put in place the necessary foundations for delivering fundamental reform," he said.

Mr McConnell said being director general of Nips was both challenging and rewarding. He said: "It has been a great privilege to lead the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Over the past year huge strides have been made and that has only been possible because staff across the service have rallied behind the need for reform."

Mr McConnell will step down in May.

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