Review into Brixton abuse claims follows suicides of Irish prisoners

CLAIMS that the suicides of seven Irish prisoners in Britain are linked to a revenge campaign by former Northern Ireland soldiers-turned-warders are under investigation.

The deaths, all in Brixton prison, have led to the Prisons Services setting up an internal review into abuse claims at the British jail.

Conducted by the governor of neighbouring Wandsworth prison, Jim Heavens, the review will examine the background of all the prisoners who have died, harmed themselves, or complained to the race relations officer at Brixton since 1998.

Of 10 deaths since that time, six were Irish prisoners and a seventh was the son of Irish parents.

Fr Gerry McFlynn of the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas has already raised the issue of former army personnel-turned-warders with the Heavens inquiry.

“Brixton is one prison where this is happening but we also see it in other London prisons and some in the Midlands. I have been told by prisoners over the past four or five years of this intimidation,” Fr McFlynn said.

Approximately 100 armed service leavers are trained annually to be prison officers by the Careers Transition Partnership for the Ministry of Defence. A Ministry spokesman said trainees received strict instructions on harassment, bullying and racial awareness.

The findings of the Prison Services review, which began in May, were due for publication in August, but the Home Office said publication has now been put back to the end of the year.

The wave of suicides which prompted the inquiry began on December 12, 1999, when 28-year-old Irishman Fulton O’Shea, was found hanging from his bedsheets. The inquest returned an open verdict. Other inmates to take their own lives included Derek Fegan - an inquest found there had been serious neglect by the prison authorities; Kevin Sheridan, from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, who committed suicide after only one day in Brixton; 31-year-old Michael Barry from Cork found dead in his cell despite a suicide watch; Patrick Gavin, a member of the Irish Travelling community; 29-year-old Terry Doyle, in the prison just two days when he attempted suicide. He was taken to hospital and died three days later.

Meanwhile the Metropolitan Police are investigating the alleged sexual assault of an Irish prisoner by a prison officer and a member of the medical team last week.

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