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Prison staff across north begin wearing 'body cams'

Prison officers across the north have begun wearing 'body cameras'
Connla Young

PRISON officers in the north’s jails have begun wearing 'body cameras'.

It is understood a test scheme was launched in September and will run for six months before being reviewed.

The cameras are believed to record both video and audio, but footage is not streamed 'live'.

Republican inmates in Maghaberry Prison claimed on Friday night the decision has raised tensions.

The scheme has also been rolled out at Magilligan Prison in Co Derry and Hydebank Wood in Belfast, which holds both women and young people.

The Prison Service confirmed it had launched “a pilot to evaluate body-worn cameras for prison staff to test their effectiveness as a tool to improve safety in prisons”.

Attacks on staff doubled to almost two a week between 2012 and 2014, and the Prison Officers Association said it had asked authorities to pilot the 'body cams'.

"We think staff should be wearing body cameras in all institutions across the Northern Ireland," said chairman Finlay Spratt.

"They cut the staff but gave us no additional aids to help our security."

Tensions in Maghaberry continue to simmer amid claims authorities have reneged on a 2010 deal to relax strip searches and controlled movement on republican landings.

Spokesmen for some republican inmates on the prison's 'Roe 3' landing last night expressed opposition to the new cameras.

SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness urged prison authorities “to be careful so that this does not in itself ratchet up tensions, ill will or disorder in the prison”.

The introduction of the scheme came as Phil Wragg took control of Maghaberry and was appointed director of policy and operations at the Prison Service.

Mr Wragg, who is a former governor at Belmarsh prison in England, has experience of staff wearing body cameras at other jails.

In March this year the PSNI launched a similar experiment in Derry and surrounding towns including Strabane, Limavady and Magherafelt.

It is understood the results of the trial, which ended in May, are still being considered.

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