Maghaberry prison head 'should go'

 

The head of Maghaberry prison where an inmate hanged himself at the fourth attempt is to be replaced, it was disclosed today.

The head of Maghaberry prison where an inmate hanged himself at the fourth attempt is to be replaced, it was disclosed today.

The care of Colin Bell (34) was woefully poor in the days preceding his death in the Northern Ireland jail, in August last year.

Bell, serving a life sentence for murder, was able to kill himself despite a history of disturbed behaviour. The review team report said: “A raft of reasons may account for this poverty of care. His needs were imperfectly understood.

“But above all he was the victim of an insidious subculture that allowed the delinquent behaviour by some junior staff, much of it undetectable because of their isolation from unannounced supervisory visits.”

The victim was on suicide watch and supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes, yet his body was only discovered 40 minutes after his death. Video camera footage showed some staff lying in bed watching television while they were supposed to be on duty, it is understood.

Bell was on suicide watch because he had a record of self harm, 15 times in the four months before his death. He also made 73 calls to The Samaritans but the line was engaged in the vast majority of cases.

The review team, which made 38 recommendations, concluded no disciplinary investigation should be conducted into the behaviour of the governor or deputy governor at Maghaberry but that a fresh senior management team headed by an experienced prison governor from outside Northern Ireland should be appointed as soon as possible.

The team stressed the need to improve existing performance management arrangements to ensure a culture of accountability and care.

Northern Ireland Prisons Minister Paul Goggins said: “We must remember that this report stemmed from the Service’s failure in its duty of care to a vulnerable prisoner, Colin Bell, whose death should not have happened.

“The report not only notes unacceptable behaviour by staff at Maghaberry in those circumstances, but also criticises what it sees as systematic problems.

“The team points to the need to rebalance security and resettlement in this complex establishment.”

PA