NI: Complaints to Prisoner Ombudsman more than halved over past year

NI: Complaints to Prisoner Ombudsman more than halved over past year

Brendan McGuigan

The number of complaints to the Office of the Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland more than halved over the past year, according to its latest annual report.

A total of 1,953 complaints were received from prisoners in 2017/18, a 55 per cent decrease on the previous year.

All but 167 of these complaints were from separated prisoners on Roe 3 and 4 landings at Maghaberry Prison.

In relation to the complaints, 134 recommendations for improvement were made by the Ombudsman and more than three-quarters (76 per cent) had been accepted by the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

The Ombudsman’s annual report for 2017/18 also provides an account of investigations into three deaths in custody, one at Magilligan and two at Maghaberry.

Nine recommendations for improvement were made in the published reports of the investigations into two of the deaths in custody, all of these were accepted by the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust and the Prison Service.

Brendan McGuigan, the interim Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, said: “The independent investigation of complaints by the Office of the Prisoner Ombudsman can help instil in prisoners, greater confidence that their welfare is treated seriously. It can also help reduce tension and promote better relations.

“My staff are dedicated to the impartial and independent investigation of prisoner complaints and I would like to acknowledge the contribution of everyone in my office and the continued cooperation received from the agencies with whom we work.”

He also expressed his disappointment that the process of placing the Prisoner Ombudsman’s office on a statutory footing had been frustrated by the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly last year.

He said the absence of a Justice Minister had also impacted on the process of appointing a successor to the previous Ombudsman, Tom McGonigle, who retired last August.

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