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Police officers facing disciplinary action for not handcuffing prisoner who escaped Londonderry court

By Laura Abernethy

Published 08/02/2016

Dean Beattie
Dean Beattie

A number of police officers are facing disciplinary action after a prisoner who escaped from a courthouse last December was not handcuffed.

Dean Beattie (22) was due to appear at Bishop Street Courthouse in Londonderry on December 23 last year. He was charged with robbery, assault and firearms offences.

He was being transferred to court - but while in a gated area outside it, he escaped from the officer escorting him and scaled two fences, one of them 10 feet high.

He then ran through the turnstile and sprinted down Bishop Street. The police officer was left inside the locked compound and was unable to chase him.

The dramatic incident was caught on camera by UTV who were filming outside the building at the time. He remained at large for six days before he was found in a house in the city and arrested. He was further charged with escaping from lawful custody and was later remanded in custody.

The police launched an investigation into the escape and last week, Chief Constable George Hamilton told the Policing Board that the man had not been handcuffed while he was being escorted to the courthouse.

He said that all the officers concerned are now facing disciplinary proceedings.

He added: "Guidance has been circulated to all staff in Derry City and Strabane involved in the escort of detained persons. This guidance has been shared with all District Commanders.

"PSNI are responsible for the escort of prisoners up until the point they are lodged into custody at the Courthouse with Prison Custody Officers at which time their detention and subsequent escort becomes the responsibility of the NI Prison Service."

The incident also led to a review of security procedures at courthouses by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

Speaking in the Assembly, Justice Minister David Ford said: "The review was carried out in consultation with the police and the Prison Service. Members will understand that it would not be appropriate for me to discuss the outcome of the review, but I can reassure the House that the security arrangements in place at courthouses are kept under review and subject to regular inspection.

"There are always lessons to be learned from an incident such as that. They may relate to the physical fabric of courthouses and other places of concern, or there may be issues with the management of individuals coming into those places. In that case, the issue would seem to be slightly more to do with the second point than the first."

In 2008, a review was launched after a prisoner escaped from a courthouse.

Conall Kearney (18) was being escorted at Downpatrick Magistrates' Court when he slipped out of handcuffs and ran off.

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