Human rights body denied

A leading human rights group is being prevented from monitoring the treatment of female prisoners in a Castlereagh based young offenders’ centre it was claimed this week.

Representatives of the Human Rights Commission have been denied access to Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre since female prisoners were transferred there from Mourne House at Maghaberry prison in June.

Prison chiefs were left reeling after a Human Rights Commission report published this week revealed the shocking extent of abuse and neglect of vulnerable female prisoners at the shamed County Antrim prison prior to June.

Last night, one of the authors of The Hurt Inside report, Dr Linda Moore, said she has no faith that women prisoners will receive adequate care at the all-male Hydebank facility.

“We have no confidence that the move to Hydebank Wood will end the problems of women’s imprisonment,” said Dr Moore. “Indeed, we have already stated that the situation there for women is entirely inappropriate and fails to meet the Prison Inspectorate’s expectations that women in custody should be held in a discrete, women-only setting.

“A body like ourselves that can go in and carry out our own inspections is currently unable to get in and verify the situation. The Prison Service tell us things are going well but we have heard there are problems particularly relating to the fact that Hydebank is a male young offenders’ centre.”

Castlereagh councillor Brian Hanvey backed the call for human rights activists to be allowed access to women prisoners in Hydebank.

“Above all else, it’s important to make the public confident that every effort is being made to ensure that the human rights of these individuals are being observed,” said the SDLP man.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said access to Hydebank has been denied to allow prisoners and staff a “settling in period”.

“What we said to the Human Rights Commission is that they are only just finished their report into Mourne House,” said the spokesperson. “Structured research is intrusive and they need to come back to us in the new year.

“Brice Dickson from the Human Rights Commission is going into Hydebank in the coming weeks and Kit Chivers, the Criminal Justice Inspector for Northern Ireland, will visit before Christmas and produce a report.

“Also, there is nothing stopping Linda Moore from making a visit arrangement with an individual prisoner.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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