Judge’s concern over ‘inhuman’ strip searches


A judge in Dublin has warned that a republican facing extradition to British jurisdiction could be subjected to inhuman and degrading conditions in Maghaberry Prison.

Justice Aileen Donnelly was delivering judgment in the High Court in Dublin in a hearing involving County Tyrone man Damien McLaughlin.

His barrister, David Leonard, had argued that Mr McLaughlin’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights would be breached by the prison conditions at Maghaberry, which amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Since the closure of Long Kesh, Maghaberry has been the focus of British efforts to criminalise and break republican prisoners, who are routinely subjected to degrading strip searches.

A father-of-four from County Tyrone, Mr McLaughlin was arrested in County Donegal while on bail for IRA charges.

In a judgment delivered last Friday, Justice Donnelly expressed concerns about strip search procedures at Maghaberry. She had heard evidence from several sources including a member of the joint parliamentary committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan.

In her concluding remarks, the judge said she was satisfied that evidence presented to the committee “amounts to objective, reliable, specific and updated information that rebuts the presumption that full-body searches are necessary on entry and exit to Maghaberry...

“This means that the general conditions in Roe House in so far as they relate to strip searching raise a real risk that this respondent could be subjected to inhuman and degrading conditions on surrender.”

A review recommended that strip searching at Maghaberry should be phased out six years ago, but this was ultimately ignored by the prison authorities.

Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney said it was recognition of an injustice.

“This ruling by the judge outlines that strip searching is out of step with any semblance of human rights standards necessary in 2017 and should be ended immediately,” he said.

In a statement, republican prisoners on Roe 4 section of Maghaberry said the ruling confirmed what prisoners had been “stating for years”, that strip-searching continues only at the behest of unionist extremists.

“Forced strip-searches are still regularly used against Republican Prisoners,” they said.

“This involves the degrading procedure of having up to six members of the Maghaberry Riot Squad pinning prisoners to the floor in locks whilst clothing is forcibly removed.

“This is despite the fact that NIPS [Northern Ireland Prison Service] have acknowledged that the technology exists to carry out an effective search without the need for stripping. NIPS and its unionist allies have provided sound bite excuses yet common-sense and empirical evidence has thwarted their attempts to rationale a draconian procedure which continues only due to the whims of reactionaries.

“This judgement is the latest in a long-line of evidence that proves strip-searching should cease. This has been agreed by numerous political and oversight bodies, yet it still continues. It is clear that loyalist bigots have been given impunity to oppress political prisoners in Maghaberry jail. “

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