28/09/2012

New Prison Scanner Introduced

A new search scanner is being used in a trial period at Magilligan Prison.

The new 'millimetre wave scanner' is reportedly one of the most technologically sophisticated pieces of machinery on the market.

The technology has been introduced in response to findings produced last year by Dame Anne Owers, chief of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The report, led by an independent review team, recommended the Prison Service seek alternatives to full body searches. It said authorities should try to find "an effective and less intrusive method than full body-searching".

Under the new arrangements, prisoners will walk in front of the scanner, raise their arms and turn round 360 degrees. Radio-wave technology is then used to locate concealed objects and can detect plastic, metals, liquids and anything else that is different from the human body.

Dissident republicans in Maghaberry prison have been calling for an end to routine strip-searching for some time.

Justice Minister David Ford told the BBC: "We recognise that full-body searching is not pleasant for the prisoners or the Prison Officers either.

"On the basis of this three-month trial, we'll decide whether it's possible to extend it to permanent use at those two prisons (Magilligan and Hydebank Wood) and see whether there's any possibility of this technology at Maghaberry."

A statement from Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff said: "While it is good news that this equipment is to be introduced, which will end the use of degrading strip-searches if deemed suitable, the minister could not give me a time scale for its introduction in Maghaberry.

"Maghaberry is where prisoners are protesting against strip-searches so it is incumbent on the minister to have this equipment installed there as soon as possible."

(IT)

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