Cancer victim tortured at Maghaberry
Cancer victim tortured at Maghaberry

A republican prisoner who is undergoing cancer treatment has been brutally strip-searched en route to the hospital.

Although prisoner Brendan Conway sought to avoid the appointment in fear of the search, prison warders told him that he had ‘no choice in the matter’ and he was physically dragged by a riot squad down to a holding area where he was assaulted, stripped and violated before being transported to hospital.

Throughout his medical treatment last week, he was escorted in handcuffs by two warders. Although the doctor intervened and requested that the warders leave the room for patient-doctor confidentiality purposes (including an intimate examination of Mr Conway) they refused to leave. The consultation was cancelled as a result.

Mr Conway was then returned to Maghaberry where he was again forcibly strip searched before being returned to his cell. He has now sought advice to attempt to uphold his legal right to refuse any medical treatment or appointments which would incur a brutal forced strip search and possible subsequent injury.

Four other prisoners were also subjected to violent assaults this week in the course of strip searches to and from court. The prisoners stripped were Sean O’Reilly, Tony Rooney, Rab O’Neill and Stephen McAllister, all from Belfast.

It is understood two of these had been severely beaten in the recent hand-to- hand fighting between protesting prisoners and a riot squad in the recreation area two weeks ago.

Despite increasing protests, the Six-County Justice Minister has said he will continue to implement the strip search regime, but claimed that, technically, an agreement last August to dispense with the procedures had not been reneged upon.

“The agreement did cover a reduction in full body searching within the prison and that has been implemented, but the rules across the UK are absolutely the same. There has to be a full body search on entering and leaving the prison,” he said.

He also accused dissidents of breaking the agreement.

“There are still threats being made against prison officers on some dissident republican websites and that’s clearly a breach of that agreement,” he added, without specifying which website.

Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney said he deplored the impasse. “There’s been good will on both sides and I think this type of threat from the outside, in my opinion, only gets in the way,” he said, in reference to the alleged threat.

“There is no room for threat in this. This is all about trying to bring about humane and dignify conditions within Maghaberry prison.

“The minister needs to watch, perhaps, taking fixed positions in this.”


Meanwhile, a teenage prisoner who committed suicide at a Hydebank Wood Prison and Young Offenders Centre in Belfast last year was locked in his cell for around 22 hours a day because of short-staffing, it has emerged.

He was at an increased risk of suicide with a history of substance abuse and self-harm but was left locked up because warders were off sick, according to a report published by Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe.

Mr McCartney called for immediate action on the flaws in prison administration identified in the report.

“Failings within the prison system, including at Hydebank have been consistently exposed and highlighted by several, knowledgeable agencies including previous Prison Ombudsman’s Reports, the Coroners service, the Human Rights Commission, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, and the Independent Monitoring Board, yet recommendations remain mostly unimplemented, warnings ignored and vulnerable prisoners die as a result.

“This latest tragedy must act as an urgent catalyst for the Justice Minister to expedite Prison reform.”

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