Prison authorities failed to inform republican prisoners at Maghaberry jail about the dangers faced from the overuse of body scanners, it has emerged.
The x-ray scanning devices have successfully replaced the infamous strip searches, but pose a serious risk to health if used excessively.
A number of republican prisoners may be at risk of developing cancer if they are frequently scanned for court appearances and hospital appointments.
Some are currently being subjected to scanning when they leave and when they return to the prison. Dangerous levels of radiation are reached if scans take place more than fifty times in a year.
If legal proceedings run five days a week, prisoners would have reached the maximum number of times a year they can be x-rayed within just five weeks. The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association said it had forewarned of the problem, despite receiving “no interaction” from the Maghaberry administration.
It said there is a safety limit of 25 days where each republican prisoner would be scanned upon exiting and upon entry to the jail “before the brutal policy of forced strip searching becomes systematic again”.
They said that the failure of the MI5 regime at Maghaberry must not be used to re-engage in forced strip searches of Republican Prisoners.”
Any return to the use of strip searches is likely to be challenged by legal action and protests.
Darragh Mackin from Phoenix Law, who represents the prisoners currently on remand, said “the mere proposal of returning to full body strip searches is a direct attack on the human rights of all prisoners”.