herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Nine officers at Mountjoy facing probe over booze

NINE prison officers at the country's largest jail are facing disciplinary action over alleged drinking on the job.

The Mountjoy jail officers were summoned to meetings with management after three staff members allegedly returned late following a booze-up in a local pub.

The trio are understood to have taken a Friday afternoon lunch break, and failed to return to work when they were supposed to.

Governor Ned Whelan ran a check on the clocking-out and clocking-in times of the three men and they did not match CCTV footage of the officers leaving the jail, the Herald understands.

The three involved -- plus a further six officers who are accused of assisting the cover-up for the alleged boozing -- were issued with notice of disciplinary proceedings earlier this month.

The further six officers were served with a disciplinary notice for allegedly clocking in and out on behalf of the first three -- and thereby falsifying the break times.

"The matter is under investigation and we won't be commenting further at this stage," a Prison Service spokesperson said.

If the officers are found in breach of discipline they may face sanctions ranging from loss of earnings to dismissal.

A source told the Herald: "The vast majority of officers keep to the correct break times but there were question marks over clocking in and out times among a small number of officers on February 11 last."

Fire

Some prison officers came under fire last week after a report from a European Committee outlined a number of serious allegations made against some officers at the prison.

The report from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment said they heard allegations of prison officers assaulting inmates and in some cases kicking them in the face while they were handcuffed.

The report was particularly critical of conditions in Mount-joy Prison, saying they were unsafe for staff and prisoners. It said violent attacks with weapons in the jail, by prisoners, were "an almost daily occurrence".

Director General of the prison service Brian Purcell rubbished this statement and said that there were 117 reported incidents of prisoner-on-prisoner violence in Mountjoy last year, with only 21 cases involving the use of a weapon.

He said many attacks that occurred across the prison system were linked to "drug debts and gang rivalries" that arose before those involved were imprisoned.

On the issue of alleged prison officer assaults and subsequent investigations, Mr Purcell said a new, comprehensive system of dealing with prisoner complaints and allegations had been introduced in January 2010.

"The complaints outlined by the committee for the prevention of torture occurred prior to the introduction of the new procedures," he said.

Bullying

A garda operation was staged against prison officers in Mountjoy following allegations they were involved in assaulting, bullying and intimidating inmates.

The DPP received 46 investigation files from a garda team established to investigate the claims, and has now directed that no prosecutions will be taken in 44 of the cases.

Decisions are pending in the remaining two cases.

Some 67 allegations were investigated at the outset of inquiries by the Inspector of Prisons Michael Reilly and then the gardai.

The allegations cover a period over the past two years.

hnews@herald.ie

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