Northern Ireland

Prison bosses 'made a Horlicks' of system, jail officers' chief says

The entrance to Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, County Antrim
Image caption Inspectors said Maghaberry Prison was "unsafe and unstable" for prisoners and staff

The head of the body representing Northern Ireland's prison officers has said senior management have "made a Horlicks" of the prison system.

Finlay Spratt told the Northern Ireland Assembly's justice committee the prison service was "a disaster".

The Prison Officers' Association (POA) chairman was discussing findings of a highly critical inspection report published in November last year.

He said prison chiefs had not given him an advance copy of the report.

He criticised them for not discussing its findings with him.

But he admitted he has not yet read the report, two-and-a-half months after it was published.

Image caption Finlay Spratt said he had not read the inspection report that was critical of Maghaberry Prison

Democratic Unionist Party MLA Alastair Ross said, the committee's chairman, said he found it "astounding" that Mr Spratt had not read the report.

His party colleague, Paul Frew, said he had "frustration" that the POA chairman had not read the inspectors' findings.

In response, Mr Spratt said he was tired discussing reports because nothing was ever done to improve the prison service.

He said the POA was not surprised by the problems identified by the inspectors because it had warned about them repeatedly.

He told the committee that prison officers here were suffering as a result of what he called "cowboys" brought in from England, and said senior prison service management must "wise up".

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