Belfast Telegraph

Prison chiefs backed over banning of Maghaberry prisoner's cemetery visit

BY ALAN ERWIN

Prison chiefs were right to deny an inmate permission to visit his mother's grave due to the severe threat against their staff, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Treacy dismissed Gerald Graham's legal challenge to being refused temporary compassionate release to go to the cemetery in Coalisland, Co Tyrone.

He said: "The proportionality of that decision is in my view unimpeachable."

Graham, who is serving a sentence at HMP Maghaberry for undisclosed offences, wanted out to pay his respects at the grave of his recently deceased mother.

An unaccompanied visit was ruled out based on his background, poor disciplinary record and a risk assessment.

Faced with the prospect of sending staff with him, prison authorities then checked the security situation with police.

They were informed that the threat against prison staff across the province remains severe. The response also set out how the cemetery is in an area where police only go on armoured patrol.

Graham's bid to judicially review the Northern Ireland Prison Service decision centred on conflicting strands of the European Convention on Human Right.

His Article 8 right to family life was pitched against the warders Article 2 right to life.

Refusing leave to seek a judicial review, the judge added: "The threat against prison officers is severe, and the location of the grave is in an area where police patrol in armoured vehicles and where the wearing of body armour is mandatory."

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