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Calls for prison reform after latest suspected suicide at Maghaberry jail

There were calls for major prison service reform following the second suspected suicide of a prisoner at Maghaberry jail. Picture by Mal McCann

THERE were calls for major prison service reform last night following the second suspected death by suicide of a prisoner at Maghaberry jail in just two weeks.

Life sentence prisoner Barry Cavan, from the New Lodge area of north Belfast, died in the high-security jail on Tuesday evening.

His death comes after 44-year-old remand prisoner Gerard Mulligan, from Lisburn, took his own life earlier this month.

Cavan was serving a minimum of 13 years after he stabbed neighbour David 'Dee' Corr in March 2012 over an argument about loud music. He had been living in a flat in the Cuchulainn House tower block when he stabbed Mr Corr 39 times in the frenzied attack.

It is understood Cavan, a known alcoholic and drug addict, had a history of self-harming.

When Cavan was sentenced in 2013, Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice Weir said the defendant had tried to commit suicide, suffered episodes of self-harm and abused drink and drugs from an early age.

The NI Prison Service said: "The next of kin have been informed and the Prison Service has expressed their sympathy to the family. The PSNI, coroner and prisoner ombudsman will conduct a full investigation into the death".

He is the fifth prisoner to die in Maghaberry in the past year, of which two were of natural causes and three by suicide.

Phil Wragg, acting director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, said any death in custody was an "absolute tragedy" but could not give assurances that it would not happen again.

But Ulster Unionist Assembly member Doug Beattie voiced concern that "under-investment" and management issues were contributing to a negative environment in the prison.

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