Northern Ireland news

Just one Maghaberry inmate surrenders drugs during two-day amnesty

Just one inmate took advantage of a two-day drug amnesty at Maghaberry Prison last month. A small amount of cannabis was handed into authorities
Gareth McKeown

JUST one inmate at Maghaberry Prison surrendered illegal drugs during a two-day amnesty last month.

Prisoners were given the opportunity to relinquish drugs without repercussions at the end of September.

It is believed the amnesty was prompted by concerns about the circulation of drugs in the prison, with fake diazepam pills known as 'blue plague' thought to be particularly prevalent.

Responding to an assembly question, justice minister Claire Sudgen, said "one small amount of cannabis was handed in" by one prisoner.

She added that the Prison Service was working closely with agencies including the south eastern health trust to "minimise the misuse of drugs and to educate and support those prisoners who have addiction issues".

The Prison Service said the amnesty was introduced to "protect life".

"Anyone who takes illicit substances puts themselves at risk of serious harm. Governors will use all tools at their disposal to keep prisoners safe. In extraordinary circumstances that can include an amnesty to protect life and take drugs out of circulation."

While the Prison Service would not comment on specific security operations it said further steps have been taken to tackle illegal drugs, with "quantities of cannabis, tablets and other substances" uncovered between September 26 and 30.

It added that since July, 11 visitors to Maghaberry have been referred to the PSNI on suspicion of trafficking drugs.

"Measures in place to prevent illicit drugs coming into prison include passive drugs dogs, cell, visitor and staff searches and mandatory drugs testing. Anyone in possession or testing positive for illicit drugs will be considered for referral to the police and subject to prison disciplinary action," a spokeswoman said.

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