Minister accused of having ‘no idea’ on prison rebuild

Justice Minister Claire Sugden pictured with the Governor of Magilligan Prison David Eagleson.

Justice Minister Claire Sugden pictured with the Governor of Magilligan Prison David Eagleson.

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Justice Minister Claire Sugden has dismissed suggestions she has “no idea” when work might start on the redevelopment of Magilligan Prison.

The facility has been awaiting redevelopment for three and a half years. In 2013, former Justice Minister David Ford announced a plan to redevelop the prison at its current location in Co Londonderry rather than follow the recommendation of a review team and close it.

HMP Magilligan

HMP Magilligan

Current minister Ms Sugden was accused at the Assembly this week of having “no idea” when work might begin.

DUP MLA Maurice Bradley said: “How soon will work on the new prison start? How long will it take you to build it? You have no idea, have you? How long is a piece of string?”

Ms Sugden replied: “It would be remiss of me to say that I have no idea. By all means, the building work will start when we can secure capital funding. If that were to happen soon, for example, I would expect a fully developed prison to be delivered by 2025-26.”

The minister explained that the redevelopment was still dependent on capital funding, despite the approval of an outline business case in January last year.

She said: “Project delivery is dependent on the provision of capital funding. That will be considered as part of the process of setting the next budget. I will not, unfortunately, be able to confirm when the rebuilding of Magilligan prison will commence until capital funding is secured. I am, though, fully committed to providing a redeveloped prison at Magilligan to enable the Northern Ireland Prison Service to deliver essential programmes to address reoffending behaviour, meet Disability Discrimination Act standards and replace the existing infrastructure, which has outlived its useful purpose and is expensive and inefficient to staff, maintain and operate.”