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Prison Service confirms pilots of search technology

The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) has confirmed that it will commence a period of assessment and testing of new search technology at Magilligan Prison within weeks.
Wednesday, 29 August 2012

This new technology is aimed at detecting contraband items concealed on an individual. Thepiloting of this equipment will take place over a three month period, at both Magilligan Prison and Hydebank Wood YOC, and involves the installation ofMillimetre Wave scanning equipment.

NIPS Director General Sue McAllister said: “Today I can confirm that pilots to test new search technologies at our establishments are scheduled to begin at Magilligan Prison next month and at Hydebank Wood YOC in October. In line with Recommendation eight of Dame Anne Owers’ report the Prison Service has been exploring a range of technological options as a possible alternative to full body searching. Earlier in the year the Minister announced that we were planning to take two pilot schemes forward and I can now announce that these trials are to begin.

“A pilot scheme at Magilligan Prison will commence following the installation of equipment and staff training which are planned for late September. A second pilot scheme at Hydebank Wood will commence in mid October.”  

Justice Minister David Ford said: “I welcome today’s announcement by NIPS regarding the introduction of the pilots of search technology in Magilligan and Hydebank Wood.

“Unfortunately, a number of practical and logistical matters have taken longer to resolve than was originally anticipated. However, NIPS is now in a position to confirm that the first of these two pilots will commence next month. It is important to recognise that progress cannot be made at the expense of prison security and the pilots will test whether the technology can offer the same, or even enhanced, safeguards as those provided through the current procedure of full body searching.

"Full body searching is not ideal, whether for prison officers or prisoners. We have been actively working on an alternative, in line with the recommendation of the Review Team.

“This announcement should be recognised as another significant step forward within the prison reform agenda as we work to transform NIPS into a modern Service under the SEE programme and continue to address the recommendations of the Owers’ report.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Millimetre Wave scanning technology is similar to that which is currently in use at airports and train stations throughout UK, Europe and USA and does not use X-rays. This is a non–intrusive body searching process using non-ionising radio waves from which there are no known health risks.
  2. All press enquiries to 02890 528144 or 02890 526444. Out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.