Maghaberry: Human Rights abuses continue (The Irish Law & Democracy Committee )

Brendan Conway is a republican prisoner in Maghaberry prison. He is currently undergoing medical tests in relation to post cancer check ups. This medical provision was recently disrupted by the ongoing procedures around strip searching that are being implemented by the prison. The issue again came to a head recentlywhen Brendan asked them if he would require a strip search leaving Maghaberry and this was confirmed by the prison staff. He was informed that if a strip search was a prerequisite for him attending his hospital appointment he would be refusing to attend. He was further informed that he had no choice in the matter and he was physical removed from his cell to reception where he was forcibly strip searched and transported to hospital. He was then escorted in hand cuffs by two prison officers and brought into the consultation room. The officers sat either side of him as the Doctor started her consultation. Brendan asked the doctor to stop the consultation in the presence of the two prison officers and requested that they leave the room, the two prison officers refused. The doctor intervened and asked that theprison officers leave the room as patient doctor confidentiality meant that she could not continue with the consultation in their presence and pointed out that she would be required to do an intimate examination of Mr Conway and supported his request that they leave the room, they again refused so the consultation was cancelled. Brendan was then returned to Maghaberry where he was forcibly strip searched again and returned to his cell. Brendan asked to speak to the Governor as he wanted to lodge a complaint about his treatment. The governor came to his cell and apologised for the incident and said that the two prisoner officers had broken protocol and they should have left the room during his consultation and gave Brendan an assurance that it would not happen again. Brendan told him that he would not be taking any future hospital appointments if he was required to endure a forced strip search to avail of them. The Governor said that they had to make sure he was brought to hospital for these important post cancer check ups and it was his job to ensure he attended, Brendan pointed out that it was within his rights to refuse hospital treatment and no one could force him to attend these appointments which required a forced strip search during which he will receive injuries just to attend.
This is another case of a serious human rights abuse emanating from Maghaberry prison around the provision of medical services to republican prisoners. This is a basic human right, and the state has obligations under the European Convention to fulfill these obligations. The provision of medical services under the article 2 right to life and the freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment are engaged in this instance. Nonetheless the courts have pronounced that these strip searches are within the law but this case and the related cases may proceed to the supreme Court or on to the European Court of Human Rights.


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