Prison authorities are not doing enough to protect prisoners from violent bullying and intimidation by fellow inmates inside Northern Ireland’s high security jail, inspectors have found.

Maghaberry Prison does not provide a sufficiently safe environment for the almost 1,000 men held in the Co Antrim facility, according to the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI).

Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan, said drugs were often the cause of violent incidents. ‘It’s clear to us that people on prescription medication are being bullied to hand over the medication and that then creates the opportunities for a black market to operate within the prison,’ he said.

The announced CJI inspection was the first since Maghaberry was deemed a failing prison in a heavily critical assessment by inspectors in 2009. The exercise in March this year found areas of progress – and noted some improvement in prisoner safety – but said ‘significant weaknesses’ remained.

The prison was inspected by a multi-disciplinary team of inspectors from CJI, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the Education and Training Inspectorate.