Prison staff face disciplinary action

Published Tuesday, 03 April 2012
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Three prison governors in Northern Ireland face disciplinary action after a violent prisoner was released in error, a Criminal Justice Inspection report has revealed.

Prison staff face disciplinary action
A number of staff have been served with disciplinary papers. (© UTV)

George Damien McFerran, aged 47, was serving time at Maghaberry high security jail for assault and possession of an offensive weapon when he was released.

He was among several inmates freed mistakenly.

After a weekend on the run, he was re-arrested in June last year. His re-arrest occurred six weeks before he was due to be discharged.

Prisons chief inspector Dr Michael Maguire said he had been allowed out by a governor even though independent checks had not been done.

"Prisoner B was released primarily as a result of human error in both sentence calculation and validation checks," he said.

"The system, if correctly applied, should have been capable of preventing this mistaken release."

The Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) report said: "While sentence calculations can be complex in some cases, this particular case was not so."

It said the mistaken release flagged the issue of custom and practice in the checks conducted by governors, who are responsible for authorising final releases.

"In this case, while the release had been authorised by a governor, independent checks/calculations had not been done."

There can be no room for complacency and improving its arrangements to safeguard against further erroneous releases is part of fundamental change programme being undertaken by the Prison Service.

Justice Minister David Ford

A number of staff, including three governor grades, have been served with disciplinary papers, the report said.

The report, a follow-up inspection of Northern Ireland Prison Service's mistaken prisoner releases, said another prisoner was freed on 24 November 2010 because of computer error as the details which were inputted had only partly loaded.

Another inmate was released erroneously on 7 November last year because incorrect data was supplied by the Courts and Tribunals Service.

The final release happened on 8 February last year and an internal Prison Service investigation has been launched - but inspectors understand this is likely to be a case of human error.

All inmates have been returned to jail or their penalties otherwise discharged.

Dr Maguire said: "Encouraging work has taken place where additional focus and resources have been applied."

This includes significant effort and money spent on IT solutions.

Dr Maguire added: "However, work has been focused on longer term process re-engineering and fundamentally neglected the immediacy of the ongoing risks."

Of the 25 Northern Ireland Prison Service recommendations, 56% have been met in full, 40% have been partially completed and 4% discharged.

Dr Maguire added: "It is disappointing that formal training for front line staff has still not been delivered, with the most notable for duty governors who are expected to authorise final release.

"There is also a need for job guidance and a continued focus on the full implementation of existing controls by way of supervision and quality checks. Compliance and quality assurance with robust mechanisms must be sustained."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
clowns in bangor wrote (1,031 days ago):
and these are the people trying to run our jails?cant they figure out when a prisoner is to be released?no wonder our prison are in a mess with clowns like this .
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