Belfast Telegraph

Republican Brendan Conway loses legal battle over Maghaberry prison strip searches

A former republican inmate has lost his legal battle over strip searches at a high-security Northern Ireland jail.

Brendan Conway was challenging the policy on full body searching of prisoners entering and leaving HMP Maghaberry.

But following a second appeal hearing senior judges held today that the process was not operated with total inflexibility.

Conway, from Belfast, issued judicial review proceedings over his alleged treatment while on remand in 2010 in connection with a tiger kidnapping.

He was among a number of republican prisoners who took part in a protest against routine full body searches.

Lawyers for Conway claimed rules were being breached by the use of force on inmates who neither give their consent nor resist.

It was alleged that on one occasion he was subjected to a strip search after refusing to consent.

When he declined to agree to a full body search he was subjected to a strip search.

According to his description the incident involved a  "horrendous physical and sexual assault" with up to six members of the search team present.

Following previous High Court hearings a judge ruled that the policy was proportionate and lawful.

But the case returned to the Court of Appeal for a decision on whether an inflexible approach was taken by prison authorities.

It was set out that Conway's claim relates to full body searching of a small section of non-compliant inmates - mainly on the separated wing at Roe House.

Lord Justice Girvan said the large majority of prisoners co-operate.

He also found there had been a flexible approach in dealing with another prisoner transferred to an external hospital by ambulance.

"The policy in its proper construction permits on its face the exercise of discretion," he said.

"It has not been established on the evidence that there was a total inflexibility on the part of the Prison Service in the operation of the policy."

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