commits-suicide-in-jailBy Mark Leech, Editor: The Prisons Handbook / Cell Companion / Converse

Read the shocking official proof that the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) must now be completely disbanded and reorganised 

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Magharberry have agreed to give the Governor 24 hours advance notice of Night Visits to the prison – despite the clear statutory right they have enshrined in Rule 126 of the Prison Rules Northern Ireland to have ‘free access at any time’.

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If this was not bad enough the the official minutes I have obtained (see foot of article for link) reveal the Magharberry IMB have also agreed to give advance notice of what time they will be visiting and exactly what parts of the prison they wish to visit.

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When I asked this via FOI they admitted they cannot explain – but I can.

They have no legal powers to do this at all

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 19.10.23Only ONE IMB member raised disquiet about this disgraceful attempt to groom the Board into behaviour running contrary to their express clear legal right of free access at any time.

Why is this important some may ask?

Well there are two reasons for this.

The first is a the obvious general point that Parliament invested the IMB with this ‘free right of access at any time’ for a reason, but secondly, and more importantly, the shocking case of Colin Bell.

HMP Magharberry prisoner Mr Bell, who had made numerous attempts to self harm, was on heightened Suicide Watch, in a CCTV-covered cell, at Magharberry, when he killed himself during the night.

An examination of the CCTV coverage later showed the officer, Daniel Barclay, who was supposed to be monitoring him had rolled out a mattress and was trying to sleep while Mr Bell, who had made four suicide attempts in the previous 90 minutes, lay slumped dead against his cell door (full details:

In 2014 the officer concerned was given a 15 month suspended jail sentence.

How much longer do we have to tolerate this second-rate, disorganised, ‘watchdog’ in our prisons?

Full FOI request with minutes here

Karen Page Associates Independent MOJ Review of IMBs here