Northern Ireland

Full body image scanners to be piloted by Prison Service

Justice Minister David Ford
Image caption Mr Ford said the Prison Service was seeking alternatives

The Justice Minister David Ford has said he is planning to start a pilot scheme using full body imaging scanners in Northern Ireland prisons.

The use of full body searches has been the cause of a continuing dirty protest involving some dissident republican prisoners at Maghaberry.

Around 30 prisoners have been involved in the protest since May 2011.

They want the Prison Service to use the BOSS chair which removes the need for strip-searches.

The prisoners are protesting over the number of forced strip-searches taking place.

They said it will continue until prison authorities introduce a BOSS chair (body orifice security scanner).

In February, the minister said the searches were necessary until a suitable alternative was found.

Mr Ford said at the time that 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.

Mr Ford also told MLAs on Monday that nearly 5,000 people have applied for jobs as custody officers in the prison service.

Mr Ford says the first tranche of 151 staff will leave the service under the voluntary early retirement scheme at the end of this month.

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