Investigations & Analysis - Northern Ireland
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Tom McGonigle is the third prisoner ombudsman to hold the post since it was established in 2005
Tom McGonigle is the third prisoner ombudsman to hold the post since it was established in 2005

Prison watchdog criticises lack of progress following jail deaths

22 JANUARY 2015

BY NIALL MCCRACKEN

THE watchdog for Northern Ireland’s prisons has claimed “repeated failures” by government to implement recommendations following deaths in custody has led bereaved families to question the role of his office.

There have been 48 deaths in jails here since the creation of the Prisoner Ombudsman’s office in 2005.

But in a letter written to Stormont’s Justice Minister and Health Minister in November, the ombudsman highlighted his “increasing concern” that changes are not being made following prison deaths and have led families to “question the benefits of prison oversight”.

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One of the models of drones used by the PSNI

Eyes in the sky: drone use in Northern Ireland

17 JANUARY 2015

BY NIALL MCCRACKEN

WIDE-RANGING information on how police have been using controversial surveillance drone technology in Northern Ireland can be revealed by The Detail today for the first time.

Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), resemble large model aircraft with state of the art cameras used to relay information to police officers on the ground during operations. Some models are capable of intercepting communications and accessing electronic data protected by encryption or passwords.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Detail the PSNI provided new data on where and when drones have been used in Northern Ireland.

However police refused to release any information on how or if drones are used in covert surveillance operations here, citing national security concerns.

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14,413 crime scene profiles are stored on the DNA database

Genetic profile of 123,000 people on NI's DNA database

14 JANUARY 2015

BY KATHRYN TORNEY

THE genetic profile of over 123,000 people is stored on the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s DNA database, The Detail can reveal.
The latest statistics show that new samples from more than 16,000 individuals were loaded from April 2012 to March 2014, bringing the total in the system to 123,258. This includes DNA taken from people arrested by the police, as well as samples taken for use within specific criminal cases.
DNA now plays an important role in solving crimes and securing convictions.

There were 1,180 ‘scene to person’ matches and 49 ‘scene to scene’ matches identified against crime scene profiles loaded to the Northern Ireland database during the same two year period.

Profiles from here exported to the national UK-wide database from 2012 to 2014 were also linked to 161 unsolved crimes in England and Wales – these included murder, manslaughter, rape, burglary, criminal damage and drug related crime.

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James McDonnell died in Maghaberry Prison in March 1996

European Court criticises UK government over handling of Northern Ireland prison death

09 DECEMBER 2014

BY NIALL MCCRACKEN

The European Court of Human Rights has criticised the UK Government over “excessive delay” in investigating the death of a man in Northern Ireland’s Maghaberry prison more than 17 years ago.

In March 1996 James McDonnell from Antrim died of a heart attack after being restrained by prison wardens in the jail.

It took over 17 years for the case to be heard at inquest, where a jury eventually found that the neck injury suffered by Mr McDonnell during the altercation led to stress that contributed to his fatal heart attack later that day.

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