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Tolerance of gross misconduct culture in Prison Service unacceptable

28 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Policing Board Member, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has expressed serious concern at revelations that large numbers of prison officers have been allowed to stay in employment despite being found guilty of gross misconduct.

Martina Anderson who is also Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Human Rights said:

"A recent Freedom of Information request disclosed that 16 prison officers were dismissed between 2003 and 2007 after being found guilty of misconduct. The figures also showed that a further 100 officers were allowed to stay in their jobs despite being guilty of serious offences

"Punishment meted out to Prison Officers found guilty of offences such as theft, harassment and being drunk on duty consisted merely of verbal or written warnings despite the seriousness of their misconduct.

"One officer was retired out of the Service after becoming the subject of a PSNI investigation into a sex crime while a number of officers received written warnings after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

"It has also emerged that in 2001, an officer was only handed an oral warning despite being found guilty of the 'molestation' of a fellow officer.

"I think this sends out a very poor message with regard to the kind of culture that seems to be acceptable to senior management within the Prison Service. There appears to be a culture where even the most extreme examples of misconduct are tolerated.

"This is not good enough. It would not be acceptable in any other workplace and it certainly should not be acceptable within any public sector employer - particularly one that has a duty of care to the prisoners within the jails. This attitude cultivated during the era of Direct Rule where accountability was non-existent is further evidence supporting the need to transfer all aspects of Policing and Justice into local responsibility." ENDS

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