Republican inmates challenge Prison Service on warders’ ID

Christy OKane and Jason Ceulemans are being held at Maghaberry prison
Christy OKane and Jason Ceulemans are being held at Maghaberry prison

Two republican prisoners have won High Court permission to challenge an alleged continued failure to ensure all warders in Northern Ireland wear visible identification numbers.

Last year a judge declared that the Prison Service had unlawfully fallen short of introducing an adequate way of identifying officers accused of any mistreatment of inmates.

He directed that steps were to be taken by December to ensure staff can be singled out through their uniform.

But lawyers for Derry men Christy O’Kane, 43, and Jason Ceulemans, 44, claim the Prison Service has refused to comply with the direction on numerical identifiers.

Both men are being held on the republican wing at Roe House in HMP Maghaberry.

O’Kane has pleaded guilty to terror offences linked to bomb attacks on security forces between 1992-94.

He previously claimed members of the prison’s Standby and Search Team subjected him to an assault amid high tensions in the prison.

According to his case he was kicked in the groin and subjected to verbal abuse by one of a group of officers dressed in dark boiler suits, black boots, helmets and carrying truncheons.

The officer who allegedly assaulted him could not be picked out because he wore no form of identification, either a name or number, it was contended.

He issued judicial review proceedings seeking a finding that the policy of not introducing a method of identifying staff was unlawful.

The challenge was renewed in court amid claims that the Prison Service has not complied with the court direction.

O’Kane has been joined in the revived action by Ceulemans, who was jailed for having explosives in a car in the Creggan area of Derry in 2012.

Their barrister, Andrew Moriarty, argued that the ongoing situation was unlawful and in breach of a judicial order.

It was contended that officers can put on fleeces that cover up any numbers on their uniform.

Counsel for the Prison Service responded that a policy is due to be introduced.

However, Mr Justice Deeny ruled that it was appropriate to grant leave to seek a judicial review.

The case is expected to proceed to a full hearing later this year.

Outside court O’Kane and Ceulemans lawyer, Katie McAllister, said: “The Prison Service’s flagrant disregard for this High Court order is most concerning.”