Northern Ireland

Officer 'tried to sleep' as prisoner killed himself

Colin Bell
Colin Bell had been moved to a 'safer' cell for 24-hour monitoring

A prison officer was making food, watching TV and trying to sleep while a prisoner he was meant to be watching made repeated attempts to kill himself.

Daniel Barclay even used a mattress as a makeshift bed on the floor of the CCTV suite in Maghaberry Prison, Craigavon Crown Court was told.

The prisoner, Colin Bell, did eventually take his own life.

His body lay slumped against his cell door for more than half an hour before being discovered by another officer.

Barclay, a father of three, has already pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office.

It was revealed in court that he also held down a day job in McDonald's.

He was responsible for monitoring the CCTV images from a so-called "safer" cell used to house vulnerable prisoners.

Paranoia

On 31 July 2008, the cell contained 34-year-old Bell, who was serving a minimum of eight years for manslaughter.

The court heard how, in April of 2008, Bell had started to show signs of paranoia, began to self-harm and tried to kill himself.

As a result, he was transferred to a "safer" cell that should have been monitored 24 hours a day.

Barclay's job was to watch the CCTV from this cell.

A prosecuting lawyer said investigators had cross-referenced images from various CCTV cameras in the prison and had been able to prove that Barclay had moved to the end of the suite furthest away from the cameras, put his feet up, watched TV and tried to sleep.

A defence lawyer argued that the incident came against a backdrop of "serious systemic failure" and said his client was "filled with genuine remorse and sorrow".

Barclay will be sentenced next week.

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