Statement from Roe 4 Republican Prisoners Maghaberry 02/07/15
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The Annual Report by the Prisoner Ombudsman 2014-15 has just been released. While outlining the report during an interview of little over five minutes on Radio Foyle on the day of its release (Thursday 25-6-15), the Prisoner Ombudsman spent a total of 10 seconds on Republican Political Prisoner complaints and conditions. This was a little strange given that more than four fifths of all complaints (81% of 1,429) investigated by the Ombudsman came from Republican Roe House.
The Ombudsman has been understating the reality of Republican Political Prisoner (RPP) existence within Maghaberry. Of particular concern is his minimalist approach regarding commenting on RPPs, in the media, in radio interviews in particular, along with his deliberately misleading commentary regarding issues raised by RPPs, in complaints, in phone calls to his office, and in face to face meetings with him.
The Prisoner Ombudsman is only too aware that when directly dealing with his office, RPPs have primarily focused on the three core issues: Controlled Movement, Forced Strip-Searching and Isolation. This is to prevent a devious Jail Administration from deflecting focus away from the core issues. During such meetings RPPs do not concentrate on the more ‘mundane’ complaints because of the few time-bound opportunities we have with either the Jail Administration or the Prisoner Ombudsman’s Office. However, the large volume of complaints, the vast majority of which are still in the internal Jail complaints system, is evidence that RPPs have a wide variety of issues that need urgent attention.
Some of the problems encountered by RPPs are that: the Jail Administration is intentionally and persistently constructing obstacles to progress; creating more issues; reversing, and indeed reneging on, positive arrangements previously fought long and hard for, which had been subsequently agreed on. This is a tactic on the part of the Jail Administration which is primarily aimed at wearing down the will of RPPs to carry on. This is ill thought out and has the potential to destroy any chance of building trust or a ‘normal’ relationship between RPPs and the current Jail Administration.
The Prisoner Ombudsman has been made fully aware, in intricate detail, of the concerns of RPPs in relation to all of this. Moreover, the Ombudsman has an abundance of evidence supplied to him by RPPs. As well as this, he has uninhibited access to every facet of the Jail Administration’s systems, including its Security Information Branch (SIB), which is central to and responsible for the outworking of the malign Isolation Policy, directed by MI5.
The Ombudsman’s failure has forced RPPs to engage in a complex and cumbersome process to bring Judicial Reviews so that basic human rights and fairness, as well as equality of entitlement, can be brought about. As part of this process, and in conjunction with a number of high profile legal firms, Republican Political Prisoners have recently been successful in forcing the Maghaberry Jail Administration to have its entire staff wear identifiers (numbers and epaulettes).
This Judicial Review was only taken when RPPs (and non political prisoners), after being regularly brutalised, exhausted every opportunity for recourse through the internal complaints mechanism and ultimately the Prisoner Ombudsman’s Office. Something which should have been easily resolved by the Prisoner Ombudsman, regardless of an inflexible Jail Administration, is now going to cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of pounds. Not only will every staff member in Maghaberry have to be newly kitted out, with every single new item ‘numbered’, but so too will every member of jail staff in all other Six County jails. Additionally, this Judicial Review will apply equally to every Healthcare staff member working in each of the jails.
Republican Political Prisoners have also had success recently with another Judicial Review of the Jail ‘wage’ deferential. As a result the Jail Administration has been forced to concede at the first opening of the Judicial Review, and has proposed to implement an immediate review of the criteria for every Republican Prisoner. This was another basic issue of discrimination, regularly flagged up to the Jail Administration and the Prisoner Ombudsman, that could have been resolved quite easily; but, which will now cost the public purse significant expense, including legal costs.
In a worrying development, and a blatant affront to the Judicial Review Court, the Maghaberry Jail Administration has repeatedly refused to adhere to rulings made by the courts. Maghaberry staff, including Governors, have continued to refuse to identify themselves for the purposes of complaint, regardless of undertakings made during the recent successful Judicial Review initiated by a Republican Prisoner.
A similar obstinate approach is also currently taking place in relation to the successful Judicial Review concerning the jail ‘wage’ deferential. Governors repeatedly refuse to even respond to written requests from Republican Prisoners seeking answers as to why the Judicial Reviews in question are not being adhered to, in both spirit and letter.
In consultation with legal representatives, Republican Prisoners are currently considering taking these cases back into the Judicial Review Court which unfortunately will be a further unnecessary expense. The Maghaberry Jail Administration, for whatever reason, clearly believes they are beyond the remit of the courts.
A number of other (pending) significant Judicial Reviews that Republican Prisoners are presently engaged in have cleared the Legal Aid hurdle. Legal advisors have stated that they are extremely confident of success in regards to these. They relate to Unlawful Charges and Convictions; Privacy during intimate medical examinations; being Handcuffed during these same procedures and then being Forcibly Strip-Searched when brought back to the jail, regardless of being handcuffed to a jail staff member throughout. These Judicial Reviews will also have a substantial cost to the Public Purse.
Such recourse under normal circumstances would be completely unnecessary. Republican Political Prisoner treatment is clearly something that is Abnormal within Maghaberry Jail, and is destined to remain so while bigotry overrides common-sense.