Over the past three years we have heard of the brutal strip search procedure that still exists in prisons here in the north of Ireland. To my knowledge an agreement brokered in 2010 promised the implementation of a body scanner which would remove the need for the humiliation of strip searching: a body scanner similar to those used in other prisons and in many airports in this post 9/11 society. The first scanner to be tested was rejected because it failed tests according to the Northern Ireland Prison Service and so this degrading and humiliating treatment continues.
On Saturday September 14th I attended the launch of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee. One of the speakers on the panel gave an account of the current strip search procedure. When I arrived home I emailed MLA Pat Ramsey to inquire why a scanner has yet to be introduced. Pat sent me this response from the Department of Justice.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service submitted its Justification Application on behalf of the Department of Justice to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), in May 2013. In compliance with the legislation surrounding the Justification of Practices involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004, DECC have a co-ordination role in this process and have established a Justification Liaison Group (JLG). The JLG met in London, on 21 August 2013 to consider the NIPS Application. This meeting was chaired by a representative from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and included representatives of the Health and Safety Executive, the Office for Nuclear Development, the Food Standards Agency, the Welsh Executive, Health Protection Agency and NIPS.
The meeting agreed that the NIPS Justification Application was similar, but not identical, to existing practices employed by the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA). However, because the UKBA practice pre-dated the enactment of the 2004 legislation and had never been subject to a full justification process, it is likely that they will subject the NIPS Application to further scrutiny before coming to a final determination. My Officials and I await the written determination from this Group which will show what further information, if any, may be required from NIPS should a full justification process prove necessary and the time scale within which this will take place.