NI prisons 'accept' illegal drugs trade

Published Thursday, 28 June 2012
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The family of a 21-year-old man who took his own life while in Maghaberry say they are upset at the Prison Authorities "acceptance" that drug trading was "inevitable in prison".

NI prisons 'accept' illegal drugs trade
Aaron Hogg's family say they warned Prison Staff about Aaron's mental health. (© Family photograph)

Aaron Hogg was found dead in his cell in May last year while on remand, charged with attempted murder.

A Prisoner Ombudsman report has found that the north Belfast man, who was at increased risk of suicide in custody, asked visitors to get drugs for him and took non-prescribed medication and illegal substances.

The document, published on Thursday, stated that Mr Hogg was able to trade his prescribed antipsychotic medication and get a range of illicit substances in prison.

A more robust and consistent approach to tackling the supply of illicit substances and associated bullying is needed.

Prisoner Ombudsman report

Ombudsman Pauline McCabe wrote that although his speech was slurred on several days before his death, there was no evidence that prison staff searched Mr Hogg's cell for drugs or referred him to prison healthcare.

Mr Hogg was drugs tested once during his five months in Maghaberry, and the report has highlighted 24 matters of concern which need action from the Prison Service and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.

"Regrettably, there appears to be an acceptance that a level of illicit substances, drugs trading and an associated culture of bullying are inevitable in prison," said Mrs McCabe.

"It is also essential that appropriate action is taken when prisoners are very clearly abusing prescription or non-prescription medication is needed."

The Hogg family said they are upset that the Prisoner Ombudsman believes there is an "acceptance by the Prison Authorities that a level of illicit substances, drug trading and the associated culture of bullying were inevitable in prison".

In a statement, Mr Hogg's family said:

His mother cared for him for 21 years and is distraught that the Prison Service and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust abjectly failed to provide adequate care for Aaron during his nine months on remand.

Hogg family statement

"She believes that Aaron's death was totally avoidable and that, had the authorities reacted to the various warning signals, he would be with them today."

In the days before Mr Hogg took his own life, his solicitor wrote to the Prison Authorities warning that the prisoner was in fragile health and requested a visit from his immediate family.

The family say Mr Hogg's uncle sent a similar letter and Aaron himself also wrote to the authorities that he was having difficulty dealing with the recent ban on family visits.

The Hogg family said the lack of acknowledgement of these letters were "a tragedy" and say a "catalogue of errors and the systemic failing of the Trust and the NI Prison Service resulted in the loss of Aarons' life".

The family statement said Mr Hogg's mother, Lyn Edwards is "existing but not living without Aaron".

The South Eastern HSC Trust said where a prisoner is deemed to be at risk, they will not be allowed to possess their own drugs.

Brendan Whittle, Director of Adult Services and Prison Healthcare said:

"The only way to effectively stop the abuse of prescribed medication would be to issue all prisoners on Class A or addictive medication with a single dose, and supervise the swallowing of that dose."

Mr Whittle said this would require additional staffing and help from the Prison Service to stop illegal drugs from coming into the prisons.

© UTV News
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7 Comments
Lee in Belfast wrote (864 days ago):
Jail doesn't help but worsens the problem!! I indured visiting a close friend for a year!!Yes he smoked marjainna regular and oddly enough came out addicted to prescription drugs!! And sadly not with us today due to this addition.It maddens me to think a person goes to prison for a wrong that they have done!! By all means nobody is perfect but to go there and come out with bigger problems is on believable! The prisoners run the system because they have all the people in the right places.think it's about time prisons changed like USA and put an end to this holiday camp and drug den!! Something needs to be done. And yes my.loved 1 was a magheraberry inmate!,
jay in bangor wrote (875 days ago):
when my mate was on homeleave for a weekend, just prior to his release, he was begged to use the opportunity by other inmates and smuggle drugs back in, in his rectum.this was last year 2011 in magilligan.
mikebelfast in Belfast wrote (875 days ago):
Correct me if I am wrong but if someones put in PRISON its to stop them or at least a very strong deterrent not to engage in crimes like drugs taking and trading or am I missing something and prison is like a home from home where prisoners can do what they want like take drugs get drunk smuggle in guns etc I get better searched going through an airport than PRISONS searchs,Something very seriously wrong with Prison searches
DAWN in belfast wrote (875 days ago):
that's the thing - don't let visitors in without searching and don't give someone in Her Majesty's care their tablets to medicate themselves they are screaming about their human rights- give it to them - this is what happens and then HMP's are still to blame ?
no drugs in belfast wrote (876 days ago):
you cant win , some people dont want staff to search the prisoners, the jail is under staffed, the only people in my view who are to blame for his death are the scum that smuggled the drugs in to him, i am sorry that he lost his life but taking illegal drugs is dangerous.
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