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Maghaberry inmates who took own lives not monitored

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 23/11/2016

Maghaberry Prison
Maghaberry Prison
Gerard Mulligan, who took own life in the jail

Two prisoners who took their own lives at Maghaberry were not subject to specialist monitoring - despite being deemed vulnerable, it has emerged.

Barry Cavan and Gerard Mulligan committed suicide at the high-security jail in recent weeks.

Neither was subject to Supporting Prisoner at Risk (SPAR) procedures, Justice Minister Claire Sugden said.

SPAR procedures are designed to help and support vulnerable inmates. They were introduced to prisons here in December 2009 and are supposed to provide a greater level of support based on individual need.

Ms Sugden confirmed neither Cavan nor Mulligan were subject to SPAR, in response to questions from DUP MLA Lord Morrow.

He said: "How this was possible I cannot understand, as it is extremely well documented how troubled and vulnerable both these men were."

Cavan was sentenced to 13 years in 2013 after he admitted murdering David Corr in the New Lodge area of Belfast in a dispute involving loud music. He passed away on November 15.

Mulligan had been on remand accused of murdering his father Gerald at his home in Lisburn in September.

Lord Morrow said there must be a "serious enhancement" of mental health services for prisoners. He noted the opening of a SPAR did not automatically trigger a mental health assessment which, he added, diminished its purpose.

"I have pressed for all new intake prisoners to be regarded as vulnerable, and that should remain in place for those with existing or emerging mental health issues, throughout their time in custody and on release," he added.

The Department of Justice said: "The Supporting Prisoners at Risk (SPAR) process is a vital element in helping staff identify prisoners, at an early stage, who may be in personal crisis.

"It provides an immediate plan for keeping individuals safe for further assessment and paves the way for longer term interventions.

"Following the announcement of a review of Vulnerable People in Custody, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health are working together to define the structure, scope and timeframe of the work."

The Prison Service is currently working in partnership with the South Eastern Trust, reviewing the jail's suicide and self-harm policy.

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