Belfast Telegraph

Grieving dad calls for probe into high death rate linked to Maghaberr prison

Protest: Paul McConville
Protest: Paul McConville
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The father of a 22-year-old man who died while being held in Maghaberry has called for an investigation into the jail after it was linked to 46 deaths in five years between 2014 and 2019.

Daniel McConville, a dad-of-two from Lurgan, died on August 30, 2018, the day before he had been due in court charged with possession of cannabis resin.

His father Paul, who has been staging weekly protests outside the prison since Daniel's suspected suicide, said it was "shocking" after it emerged that 23 people had died in custody, while a further 23 died in the two weeks after being released, since 2014.

His comments came after new figures obtained by the BBC revealed that 46 people died in Maghaberry or within a fortnight of being released in the past five years, with many of those deaths linked to substance addiction.

Mr McConville said it was time to end the scourge of drugs in jails here, adding that "there needs to a review into Maghaberry before anyone else dies".

"It's completely disgraceful that there have been 46 deaths in five years," he said.

"How is this happening? What are the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and the Prison Service doing to stop this?"

Mr McConville has been demanding answers from the authorities following his son's death, which has devastated his wife Michelle (44) and their other children, Michael (21), Paula (20) and Christine (12).

Speaking just days after the first anniversary of Daniel's death, Mr McConville said he will never accept that his son took his own life and he said he wants clarification on the level of care provided to Daniel and other young men in the prison.

Last night he vowed to protest outside the prison every day this week as part of his "campaign for justice" until he gets a full explanation of what happened to his son.

He also said Daniel's death "like the other 45 people who died in prison beggars belief".

The figures were provided to the BBC by the Prisoner Ombudsman who said the majority of the deaths were "self-inflicted", mostly drug and alcohol related.

Around 80% of prisoners in HMP Maghaberry are on prescription medication.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "The death of Daniel McConville was a tragedy, especially for his family. The Director General and the Governor of Maghaberry have met with Mr McConville on a number of occasions to listen to his concerns. The Prison Service is fully cooperating with the independent Prisoner Ombudsman investigation into circumstances of Daniel's death."

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