Northern Ireland

Judge criticises Maghaberry Prison's treatment of ill inmates

Law books and wig
Image caption Mr Justice Weir said Maghaberry Prison should 'drag itself into the 21st Century'

A judge has told the authorities at Maghaberry Prison in County Antrim to bring their facilities for treating ill prisoners into the 21st Century.

Mr Justice Weir also said they should show more humanity to inmates as far as their medical needs were concerned.

His comments came after he was told that a murder suspect is to get the treatment he needed for a broken arm.

The judge had ordered senior Maghaberry staff to appear at Belfast Crown Court to explain the delay in treatment.

A deputy governor and staff were in court on Thursday but they were not called after a prosecution lawyer said that the medical needs of the suspect, Jimmy Seales, would be accommodated within the health service.

Mr Seales, 55, of Ballykeel Road in Hillsborough, County Down, denies involvement in the murder of Philip Strickland near Comber, County Down, on 11 January last year.

A prosecution lawyer said significant progress in the case had been made and in the circumstances there was no longer a need for a bail application.

He also told the court that prisoners' medical needs were being catered for and that he was instructed that doctors were available within the prison service to treat inmates when needed.

Not satisfactory

However, while Mr Justice Weir said he was "pleased about that", he also told waiting officials that it was not really necessary for the courts "to get involved in the question of a prisoner's medical welfare".

The judge added that all inmates were entitled to the same medical care as anyone else and that it was time "the prison service pay attention to that".

Mr Justice Weir said it was also not really satisfactory that visiting defence doctors and specialists were refused use of the medical wing of the prison.

They were forced instead to carry out their examinations, said the judge, in 'glass cubicles', meant for public visits.

He repeated that the case should not have come to court in the first place, and that it was about time the message went out to the prison service "to drag itself into the 21st Century... I don't want another of these cases".