David Ford 'actively' pursuing alternatives to prison strip-searching
- 22 February 2012
- From the section Northern Ireland
The justice minister has said he is actively pursuing other alternatives to full body searching in Northern Ireland prisons.
David Ford said his department was "actively following up on what the alternatives are".
He again defended his decision not to publish the findings of a Prison Service study into other options to strip-searching at Maghaberry Prison.
He said the report contained sensitive material relating to security issues.
"If we were to publish it, it would have to be so heavily redacted that it really would be absolutely meaningless," he added.
Mr Ford's decision has been criticised by Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney and the SDLP's John Dallat.
Mr McCartney has urged the justice minister to find alternatives to the "humiliating and degrading" searches.
Mr Ford admitted the process was "not particularly pleasant for either the officers carrying it out or for the prisoners".
But he said the searches were necessary until a suitable alternative was found.
Mr Ford said the use of an x-ray system was one of the options being considered.
Prison reform campaigners have argued that full body searches are fuelling support for dissident republicans.
Last year, a group calling itself "the family and friends support group for republican prisoners Maghaberry" protested about strip-searching at the jail.
The minister denied claims by those protesting against the searches that the external arrangements had been relaxed.
"An agreement was made and it related to the issues of searching within the prison," he said.
"It did not cover the issue, which applies to every prison in the UK, that there must be full body searching on entry to and exit from prison."