Belfast Telegraph

Warder ‘planted governor’s details in prisoner’s cell’

The Prison Service is under investigation after it was confirmed a note which contained personal details of the governor was planted by a member of staff.

The Prisoner Ombudsman last night confirmed that “on the balance of probabilities” the note had been planted by staff.

The matter is now being investigated by the PSNI.

A legal action will also be launched on behalf of the republican prisoner in whose cell the note was found.

The note, written on a piece of toilet paper, was found in Maghaberry prison in September 2009.

It contained the name and car registration details of then governor Steve Rodford.

Mr Rodford resigned from his post in December that same year — less than five months into the job — amid concerns he and his family were being targeted by dissident republicans. His wife had already moved back to England.

Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe conducted an 18-month investigation into the incident, following allegations prison staff had planted the note because they were opposed to reforms Mr Rodford was planning to implement.

She has now concluded that this was most likely the case.

The note was found during a search of the cell of republican Brendan McConville who is charged with the murder of police officer Stephen Carroll in Craigavon two years ago.

Shortly afterwards, Mr McConville’s lawyer wrote to the Prisoner Ombudsman claiming he was “set up” by staff opposed to the planned changes.

The letter suggested the note was planted in order to facilitate a “wider agenda within the prison”, and that other prisoners would confirm there was “open hostility” from prison staff towards Mr Rodford.

The Ombudsman has now said that “on the balance of probabilities” the note was planted in the cell by a member of prison staff and that the purpose was to encourage the governor to reconsider the planned changes.

Ms McCabe also concluded prison staff leaked incorrect information to the media that Mr Rodford was being actively targeted by dissident republicans.

She said there are grounds to indicate that one member of staff may have committed a disciplinary and criminal offence.

A legal challenge into the integrity of the investigation against Mr McConville is also now to be mounted, his solicitor said.

Kevin Winters said Ms McCabe's report “completely vindicates the case made by him that he was set up to suit some wider sinister agenda”.

Mr Winters called on Justice Minister David Ford and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott to carry out investigations.

Background

Steve Rodford quit his role as governor of Maghaberry prison after less than five months amid growing concerns for his safety. His wife had already moved back to England when he resigned from the job in December 2009 following the discovery of a note in the cell of a republican prisoner, which contained his name and car registration details.

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