NI: Call for independent inquiry into prisoner deaths

Professor Phil Scraton
Professor Phil Scraton

An academic at Queen’s University Belfast who sat on the Hillsborough inquiry has called for an inquiry into prisoner deaths in Northern Ireland.

Professor Phil Scraton told The Detail the situation merited an independent investigation.

Professor Scraton said: “What has been happening in prisons in Northern Ireland, particularly around the issue of vulnerable prisoners and the rate of self-harm and suicide, is of that magnitude.

“This style of inquiry would guarantee independence and achieve the level of expertise needed to look at this issue… I am essentially talking about a Hillsborough Independent Panel style inquiry.”

Justice Minister Claire Sugden has already announced plans to bring a “community response” approach to Northern Ireland prisons following recent deaths in custody.

At the time, she said: “Full investigations into the circumstances of the recent deaths at Maghaberry are ongoing. Whilst it would be wrong to pre-empt the findings of the Prisoner Ombudsman or a coroner’s inquest, I believe that it is crucial to act immediately.

“I also believe this is the first time that this model, which has been used successfully in the community, has been adopted in a prison in Northern Ireland.

“The objectives of the work are to identify and support those potentially at risk through timely and coordinated support from all sectors; to coordinate local and additional resources through the response period; and to monitor and evaluate the response put in place.”

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