Judge's fury at jail chiefs: Top officials ordered to court to explain medical row
The Governor and chief medical officer of Maghaberry Prison have been ordered to appear in court today to explain why a remand prisoner apparently cannot get medical treatment, either in jail or at an outside hospital.
Mr Justice Weir made the order, accusing the prison authorities of having an "obstructive attitude" when it came to visiting doctors and specialists and the treatment of inmates.
The Belfast Crown Court judge said many doctors had refused to travel to Maghaberry because they cannot attend patients in the prison hospital but in general quarters, which they deem totally unsuitable.
Mr Justice Weir said it appeared the system was being run for the benefit of prison staff, rather than prisoners.
He added that inmates, whether on remand or sentenced, had the same rights as everyone else, which deserved to be recognised and facilitated.
The judge said he was no longer willing to "see this pea rolled about under various thimbles", and wanted a plan put in place whereby an inmate can receive the required treatment.
He made the order after being told by defence QC Brian McCartney of the difficulties his client, murder suspect Jimmy Seales (55), of Ballykeel Road, Hillsborough, Co Down, was having getting treatment.
Seales, who yesterday pleaded "definitely not guilty" to the murder of Philip Strickland near Comber on January 11 last year, needs treatment for a broken arm which has failed to heal properly, the court was told.
Mr McCartney said Seales, who appeared in the dock with not one but two bandaged arms, was in urgent need of treatment and was to have been seen by a consultant at the Ulster Clinic today, but was "advised in no uncertain terms" that appointment would not be kept.
The lawyer also revealed that the Ulster Clinic had also apparently cancelled the appointment, possibly because of the alarm raised at a private institute by some patients and staff, "such was the carry on" over the level of security employed in bringing Seales for a consultation.
Mr Justice Weir said he remembered Seales' case and the excuses supplied by the authorities for not bringing him to the clinic, which included whether he would be freed "by a gang of desperadoes".
The judge added that arrangements needed to be made for him to be taken for treatment in a discrete and sensible way.
However, he refused to bail Seales for the day to attend another consultant willing to treat him.