Belfast Telegraph

Judge tells prison chiefs to drag care into 21st century Defence-appointed doctors have been refused facilities in jails

BY MICHAEL DONNELLY

Prison Service officials have been given a dressing down over the poor treatment of inmates needing medical care by a senior judge who told them to drag the authority into the 21st century.

Mr Justice Weir instructed Maghaberry jail chiefs to show a bit more humanity where inmates' medical needs were concerned.

The judge said doctors were being badly treated, and it was time for the prison to allow experts to use medical facilities.

The Belfast High and Crown Court judge's comments came a day after he ordered the jail governor and chief medical officer to appear in court to explain why a remand prisoner could not get treatment in jail or at a hospital.

The court heard murder suspect Jimmy Seales, of Ballykeel Road, Hillsborough, had allegedly been prevented from receiving treatment for a broken arm.

Although a deputy govenor and staff were in court yesterday, they were not called after prosecutor Samuel Magee said Seales' needs would be accommodated. He also assured the court prisoners' medical needs were catered for and doctors were available in prisons.

While Mr Justice Weir said he was "pleased about that", he added it was not necessary for the courts "to get involved in the question of a prisoner's medical welfare".

The judge, who told one official, "it is no good shaking your head", added all inmates were entitled to the same medical care as anyone else and it was time "the Prison Service pay attention to that".

He added it was not satisfactory that visiting defence doctors were refused use of the jail's medical wing and were forced to carry out examinations in glass cubicles meant for public visits.

Concluding it was time the message went out to the Prison Service "to drag itself into the 21st century", the judge added: "A bit more humanity is what is called for. I really don't want to have to deal with this again".

BACKGROUND

Jimmy Seales pleaded "definitely not guilty" on Wednesday to the murder of Philip Strickland near Comber on January 11 last year. Seales (55) appeared in the dock with two bandaged arms. He was to have been seen by a consultant at the Ulster Clinic but was "advised in no uncertain terms" that his appointment would not be kept, his barrister said.

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