Madden & Finucane representing republican remand prisoner Christopher O’Kane in legal challenge regarding Maghaberry prison staff.

Solicitors acting for a republican prisoner in Maghaberry are set to launch a legal challenge over claims that staff are failing to wear identification numbers.

Lawyers for Derry man Christopher O’Kane claim that authorities have broken a pledge made in 2009 that officers would wear “numeric identification”.

A remand prisoner, Mr O’Kane is charged with IRA membership and taking part in mortar-bomb attacks between 1992 and 1994. He claims he was injured by prison officers during trouble in the high-security jail earlier this month.

Tensions have been running high in the Roe House complex since republican inmates accused authorities of reneging on a 2010 deal to end strip searches and relax controlled movement in the jail.

Mr O’Kane’s solicitor Ciaran Shiels last night claimed the Prison Service is acting illegally.

“The policy of the Prison Service in not introducing a means of identification whereby prisoners can identify prison officers who have been responsible for oppressive or criminal behaviour is unlawful and flies in the face of an assurance that a senior official gave to the High Court on affidavit in similar proceedings in 2008 that such a system would be implemented by the spring of 2009,” he said.

Mr Shiels said the practice affects how “complaints can be subject to prompt, effective and impartial scrutiny”.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said: “No prisoners were assaulted during the incidents in Roe House, which has led to one prisoner being placed on report for alleged breach of prison rules.

“With regard to identification numbers, we have received legal correspondence which is currently being considered.”

The Irish News