KRW LAW LLP has been recently instructed by a prisoner at HMP Maghaberry who intends to take legal action against the prison authorities because of the conditions of the prisons and his treatment. The prisoner claims to have been a victim of a sexual assault at the prison and that his safety is at risk and that the both his conditions and treatment are inhuman and degrading and in breach of human rights standards.


The prisoner raised his concerns with KRW LAW LLP following the publication of a highly critical inspection report of the prison by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons and the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Inspectorate. The Chief Inspector of the HMIP wrote: “Overall, this was a concerning inspection of a prison which was as bad as any we have seen in recent years.” The Inspectors are due to conduct a follow up inspection in January 2016.


The legal action against HMP Maghaberry regarding the safety of the prisoner and the conditions in which he is serving out his sentence will be taken against the Department of Justice, the government department responsible for the Northern Ireland Prison Service. The action should not come as a surprise to either David Ford or NIPS as the prison has been the subject of critical reports in the past specifically regarding the dispute between dissident Republican prisoners held in Roe House and the prison authorities. This will be the first legal action taken by a prisoner held in the non-segregated part of the prison. It could be the start of similar actions unless HMP Maghaberry is reformed in accordance with required standards.


Richard Gilmore is the KRW LAW LLP solicitor representing the prisoner and said:


“No matter what the offence, every prisoner has rights and we consider that the prison should be held responsible because it is the prison with the DOJ that manages staffing levels in the prison and, had they been adequate, this attack, I firmly believe could have been avoided.”


Prisons have an important role to fill in society. They must fulfil that role according to agreed standards. The inspection process is an essential element in the process of ensuring those standards are maintained. When those standards are not maintained then the prison service must be held to account and litigation is one way of achieving this accountability and ensuring reform is undertaken in compliance with recognised standards. That is the basis of the action being taken by this prisoner at HMP Maghaberry by KRW LAW LLP.