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Now prison officers will get body cameras to improve jail security

By John Mulgrew

Prison officers will soon start wearing body cameras in a bid to improve security across Northern Ireland's jails.

Officers will be fitted with the cameras before the end of March. It follows a trial period which found use of the cameras had a "positive impact in the trial areas with a marked change in prisoner attitude and behaviour".

Making the announcement, Justice Minister Claire Sugden, said: "Since becoming minister I have been determined to ensure that prison officers have all the support required to do their job safely and effectively.

"Following a successful pilot by the Northern Ireland Prison Service of the use of body-worn cameras in high risk areas in the prison estate, I asked for further work to examine how they could be deployed further.

"I am pleased to announce that this work is now complete and before the end of March, body-worn cameras will be available for deployment in all areas of the three prison establishments in Northern Ireland.

"I believe this is a significant and important step in ensuring that prison officers have the right tools to perform their difficult and challenging role and will contribute to a safer prison environment for both staff and prisoners."

The department said assessment of the pilot scheme suggested the cameras could be used to "promote reassurance, modify behaviour, prevent harm and deter prisoners from committing breaches of prison rules as well as providing evidential quality video and audio recordings".

The latest figures show that nearly 80 prison officers were attacked in Northern Ireland during the past year.

A written question to Justice Minister Claire Sugden by the UUP MLA Doug Beattie showed that 77 individual prison officers were assaulted between December 1, 2015, and November 11 last year.

Maghaberry Prison was the worst affected by far with assaults against 49 staff.

Hydebank College which houses female prisoners and young offenders recorded attacks on 22 warders, with Magilligan Prison in Londonderry reporting six assaults.

Police officers in Belfast switched on body-worn cameras for the first time last year.

It followed a pilot scheme in Foyle, where footage was used to help bring about a number of prosecutions.

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