Belfast Telegraph

Suicide watch warden avoids jail: Suspended term for prison officer who slept on job as man took own life

By Paul Higgins

A prison officer who was trying to sleep while a suicidal prisoner hung himself has walked free from court with a suspended sentence.

Daniel Barclay (34) was supposed to be monitoring convicted killer Colin Bell on CCTV – but was seen watching television, chatting with colleagues, and making himself a snack.

At one stage – while 34-year-old Bell lay slumped dead against his Maghaberry Prison cell door –Barclay was seen on a rolled out mattress on which he was trying to nap.

The court heard that over the course of almost 90 minutes –while Bell made four suicide attempts – night duty officer Barclay "glanced" twice at CCTV screens showing what Bell was doing in his cell.

Bell, who was serving a life sentence with a minimum tariff of eight years for manslaughter, was being housed in a cell adapted to limit the potential for self-harm at the Co Antrim jail due to repeated suicide attempts.

As part of his duties, Belfast man Barclay was supposed to monitor CCTV footage from the cell and make observations every 15 minutes.

But as Judge Patrick Lynch QC repeated yesterday at Craigavon Crown Court, Barclay was doing other things in the observation suite on July 31, 2008.

"I take into account that there were individual and systemic failures that combined to bring about this tragic case," said the judge.

But he added that "nonetheless there was a responsibility on the accused to carry out his duties, however onerous, to the best of his ability – which he singularly failed to do".

On the day his trial was due to start last month, Barclay – who has been sacked from his job as night custody officer – pleaded guilty to a single charge of misconduct in public office. The judge said that by failing to watch CCTV monitors – choosing instead to sit as far as he could from the screens and to behave in the way he described – Barclay had been "grossly negligent".

Barclay was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment, suspended for three years, after the judge took his guilty plea, remorse, clear criminal record and good work record into account.

Belfast Telegraph

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