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Justice Minister needs to look at sentencing of vulnerable women – Jennifer McCann

28 November, 2012 - by Jennifer McCann

Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann said that the Justice Minister needs to look at how the courts are dealing with vulnerable women.

Her comments come after the Prisoner Ombudsman’s report into the death of 23-year-old Francis McKeown in Hydebank Wood in 2011.

The West Belfast MLA:

“When I was in the Justice Committee we visited the women’s part of the prison shortly before this young woman took her own life.

“One of the startling aspects we witnessed was that many of the women were vulnerable with emotional and mental health problems and should not have been in prison in the first place.

“A lot of them were also in prison for non-violent crime including the non payment of fines. The Justice Minister needs to address this situation, which stems from decisions made in the courts.

“The women’s section of the prison is within a male prison and the women were often verbally abused. There is clearly a need for a stand-a-lone women’s prison.

“The recommendations in the Prison Ombudsman’s report need to be acted upon as soon as possible both by the Prison Service and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust but the Justice Minister also needs to look at how the courts are dealing with vulnerable women.”

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