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28th March 2020

Technology Northern Ireland’s prisons ‘need better drug-detecting technology’

Technology Northern Ireland’s prisons ‘need better drug-detecting technology’


Technology Gate in Maghaberry Prison

Image caption

The findings come from an investigation into the death of a 27-year-old prisoner in Magilligan Prison

The Prison Service needs better scanning technology to help detect drugs being smuggled in to Northern Ireland jails, according to a report.

It follows an investigation by the prisoner ombudsman, Lesley Carroll, into the death of an inmate in August 2017.

Paul Johnston, 27, died from an accidental overdose at Magilligan.

In a report into his death, Ms Carroll said aspects of his care “could have been better”.

However, she added that she “cannot say with any certainty his death would have been predicted or prevented”.

Technology Seven recommendations

Mr Johnston had a history of mental health and addiction issues, but he was not assessed as being at risk of suicide or self-harm.

He died in his cell due to poisoning from Fentanyl and Alprazolam, neither or which were prescribed to him.

The ombudsman made seven recommendations to the Prison Service and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, including improving the detection of drugs being smuggled into prisons.

The report stated the Prison Service is exploring the need for new equipment.

Following Mr Johnston’s death, the majority of staff interviewed “mentioned the need for enhanced scanning technology to detect concealed (drugs) packages, given the limitations of existing searching techniques”.


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