Prisoner in Maghaberry 'degraded' by having his strip search filmed, court hears
A Northern Ireland prisoner was subjected to degrading treatment by having his strip search filmed, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for Gerard Flannigan claimed a policy to video record the process and retain footage for up to six years violated his right to privacy
A judge was also told the way filming is carried out unlawfully breached prison rules.
David Scoffield QC said: "The prisoner will have no idea what was or was not filmed."
Flannigan is currently remanded in custody at Roe House, the separated wing which houses republican prisoners at HMP Maghaberry.
In October last year he was subjected to a full search by force after refusing to give his consent.
The court heard a video camera was used to record the events.
Flannigan's legal action against the Northern Ireland Prison Service is focused solely on the filming of a so-called strip search.
No footage is allowed to be taken of intimate body parts during a process which must be carried out by an officer of the same sex, and only when the prisoner will not co-operate.
A governor at the jail was said to have watched the tape and stated that it only consists of an introduction and an end section showing the prisoner finishing off dressing again.
The critical section of the footage is either no longer available or did not record, the court was told.
Mr Scoffield pointed out: "The prisoner, he or she is in a state of undress, there's a video camera there and we are told that none of the prisoners intimate parts will be filmed.
"Although when we look at the guidance there's conflicting guidance on what should or shouldn't be filmed.
Contending that his client's human rights were breached, he added: "Even if it is accepted that strip searches can be proportionate and necessary in certain circumstances, the need to record the degrading experience is neither."
Counsel for the Prison Service insisted that in the footage Flannigan showed no signs of either distress or having been subjected to any inappropriate interference.
He also emphasised that safeguards are in place during the process.
At one stage in the hearing the judge questioned whether there was any scope for abusing the exercise by putting images on social media.
The Prison Service's barrister responded that operators are given training and specific instructions.
He added that instructions on ensuring no intimate areas are recorded would further minimise the risk of any abuse.
Following submissions Mr Justice Treacy reserved judgment in Flannigan's application for judicial review.