Statement from Republican Prisoners Roe 4 Maghaberry 18/01/16
It was interesting to note that Alastair Ross, of the DUP, in a recent media interview (Belfast Telegraph 11/01/16) referred to the abuse of the complaints process within Maghaberry Jail. In that he specifically focused on Republican Prisoners and alleged that complaints from them were vexatious. Given that the DUP is essentially the political extension of the Prison Officers Association (POA); to Republican Prisoners such comments are unsurprising. It is also clear that the objective in this instance is to deflect the current and predictable criticism emanating from independent bodies, politicians and groups such as HMIP and CJINI whom fully appraised the evidence after having first studied factual and detailed statistics readily available, including that supplied by Roe 4 Republican Prisoners, and taking cognizance of both the recent and current inspections.
Alastair, quite conveniently, overlooked a number of fundamental facts. Primarily, the persistent failure of the Maghaberry Administration to respond to requests and complaints; neither “within timescales” nor “specifically and substantively” as repeatedly recommended by the former and current Prisoner Ombudsman. Indeed the Jail Administration has condensed the Internal Complaints Process (ICP) to an mechanical denial and nugatory response mechanism. This was noted in the recent damning report by the HMIP/CJINI who described the jail’s trite responses as both perfunctory and poor.
In his efforts, as Chair of the Justice Committee, to shield the POA from criticism, Alastair has also disregarded and indeed contradicted the Prisoner Ombudsman’s 2015 Annual report. Prior to and following that report the Ombudsman’s Office unambiguously stated to Republican Prisoners that the majority of Roe 4 complaints are “upheld” and that the reason for that number not being greater is because of the jail not retaining CCTV evidential footage regardless of it being immediately requested., which is in direct defiance of the multiple Ombudsman recommendations, therefore negating any opportunity to properly investigate.
The Jail Administration has consistently refused to accept many recommendations by the Prisoner Ombudsman. Of those recommendations which have been accepted by the jail, they have habitually failed to implement them, thus requiring more time and effort simply to repeat recommendations. This has resulted in large volumes of complaints over issues previously and extensively investigated, of which recommendations were already made and also previously accepted by the jail.
It has also been the case that numerous outside bodies, including the Ombudsman’s Office, the Independent Assessment Team (IAT), politicians and others have encouraged Republican Prisoners to pursue complaints and Requests not only as a remedy but as a means of documenting abuse and repression. Republican Prisoners consistently reference such complaints and logs thereof to all those aforementioned so as to demonstrate the reactionary and discriminatory actions pertaining to our treatment by the Maghaberry Administration.
Because of such obstinacy, and the circumventing of the Ombudsman’s Office, Republican Prisoners have been forced to initiate legal action in the form of Judicial Review (JR) in order to enforce Prisoner Ombudsman recommendations and ensure basic human rights. The Maghaberry Administration has repeatedly challenged such JRs, at public expense, with minimal if any chance of success. This includes four successful legal actions by Republican Prisoners in 2015, with all costs awarded against the jail, running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Republican Prisoners are not the problem, Alastair; we are a target for bigotry and vindictiveness, which we will always resist.