Ex-Maghaberry boss claims top prison official lied to MLAs on the Justice Committee

The claims about Paul Cawkwell emerged during an industrial tribunal brought by the former Deputy Governor of Maghaberry Prison, Gary Alcock, against the Department of Justice.

 Mr Alcock is alleging that he was treated unfairly because he was also the Chairman of the Prison Governors’ Association (PGA), subjected to “threatening” behaviour by Mr Cawkwell, and subsequently removed from his Maghaberry post.

On the first day of the case, it emerged that Mr Alcock had secretly recorded a meeting between himself and Mr Cawkwell on December 11, during which he claims he was threatened by Mr Alcock because of his trade union role.

On the second day of the hearing yesterday, Mr Alcock said the meeting he had secretly recorded had been “one of the most shocking I have had in my service.”

Mr Alcock claimed: “The Director of Operations admitted they were seeking to mislead the Justice Committee in relation to Roe 4 (a landing in a wing of Maghaberry). Which also houses IRA prisoners. He is admitting in the transcript to prostituting himself to the media.”

Regarding the decision to close a security grille on a landing in Maghaberry, Mr Alcock said that this decision was referred to the then-Director General of the Prison Service, Sue McAllister.

He denied a suggestion by counsel for the Department of Justice that it had been his decision and not Mrs McAllister’s.

Mr Alcock alleges that an “unambiguous” threat was made to him by Mr Cawkwell in this meeting.

He said: “I refer to the transcript: ‘If you can’t separate Maghaberry business from your PGA role you cannot stay at Maghaberry.’ That to me is a very clear threat: either be quiet on Maghaberry issues or you’re moving on.”

When counsel for the DOJ put it to Mr Alcock that there was “tension” between the two roles, Mr Alcock replied that he didn’t believe there should be “friction, threats or tension between the two.”

Mr Alcock claimed that trade union members’ access to him as an official was “significantly restricted and intentionally so”.

A DOJ representative put it to Mr Alcock that secretly taping the meeting was a “breach of trust” and that he was “holding the recording as a threat”, which he denied.

Mr Alcock said it was a “protective measure by a senior trade union official who is being bullied, who had been threatened.”

He said that the entire senior management team at Maghaberry, bar one person, had been removed because of the CJI report rather than because of union membership.

Mr Alcock contended that other members of the management team had been moved within the Prison Service, while he was “removed from the Prison Service”.

He said he had turned down alternative roles offered to him by the DOJ because he felt it was an attempt to have him “voluntarily remove myself from the Prison Service and my role in the PGA”.

Under cross-examination, Counsel for Mr Alcock asked Mr Cawkwell about the evidence he had given to Stormont’s Justice Committee regarding the locking of the security grille at Maghaberry.

Mr Cawkwell said he had been “absolutely torn” when giving evidence about the closure of the grille, as the drive within the Prison Service to “normalise the relationships in dissident republican sections” meant getting the grilles unlocked.

He stated: “If I had said anything to the Justice Committee about this it would have been selling out the Deputy Governor at that time.

“I knew Maghaberry was brittle, the staff were brittle.”

Mr Cawkwell said his testimony was also based on keeping “the balance between the perceived power of the prisoners” and that of the staff.

He said he had been “very surprised” at the decision to close the grille, but that “I understood why once it was taken so I supported it”.

Counsel for Mr Alcock suggested Mr Cawkwell had given “false testimony” to the Justice Committee, but he denied this.

“The decision had been made and if I was looking at the after effects we had got away with it but it was not a risk I would have taken,” he replied.

“The opinion I gave to the Justice Committee was after the decision had been taken and I was able to evaluate the reaction in person regarding the staff and prison and it seems we got away with it.

“There are no right or wrong decisions in prison.

“Was it a decision I would have taken? No.”

Counsel for Mr Alcock said Mr Cawkwell was “prepared to say whatever is expedient and give false testimony,” which he denied.

The tribunal continues.

Standing room only as accused appear

THREE of the most high-profile republicans in the North of Ireland appearing in court together was always going to attract a huge amount of attention and it was standing room only in court 10 at Belfast’s Laganside complex on Tuesday.

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Co Armagh man Colin Duffy was joined in the dock by Harry Fitzsimmons, only recently released from Maghaberry Gaol after serving a sentence for abducting Bobby Tohill in 2004, along with Alec McCrory, a long-serving IRA prisoner and ‘blanket man’. The trio face a series of charges including involvement in a dissident Republican gun attack on police vehicles in North Belfast earlier this month. A Kalashnikov-style weapon was recovered during a follow-up search of the Ardoyne area following the shooting on December 5. The public gallery was packed to capacity with family members and supporters. Several loyalists charged in connection with July 12 violence appeared nervous as charges were put to them with such a large republican audience looking on. Recognisable faces among the supporters were Coalisland man Kevin Barry Murphy, North Belfast republican Brendan Conway and independent councillor Angela Nelson. Dressed casually when brought up from the court’s holding cells to the dock, the three accused remained impassive throughout the short hearing. They refused to stand while charges were read out and refused to answer when they were put to them. A detective said he could connect the accused to the offences. The men’s solicitors said they would not be applying for bail at this time. The hearing lasted less than five minutes, and as the three were taken back into custody supporters in the public gallery clapped and cheered. Magistrate Fiona Bagnall ordered the court be cleared. There was a heavy police presence outside the courthouse as the  three were taken from the court to Maghaberry Gaol in a blacked-out prison van.

With many thanks to: Allison Morris, The Irish News

Colin Duffy

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Arguably the most recognisable face of anti-agreement republicanism, the Co Armagh man was acquitted in January 2012 of the murder of two British soldiers at Massereene army base in Co Antrim in 2009, having served a lengthy period on remand. In 1993 he was convicted of the PIRA murder of UDA man John Lyness but was acquitted on appeal. The 47-year-old was also detained followng the IRA murders of constable David Johnson and John Graham in Lurgan in June 1997, shortly before the second IRA ceasefire but the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. In November last year he was arrested by detectives investigating the murder of prison officer David Black but was released without charge. His most recent arrest was in May of this year when he was qustioned about dissident republican activity before being released unconditionally. Once the most senior member of Shame Fein in the Lurgan area the hard line republican left the party prior to the decision to endorse policing. He was briefly a member of eirigi, but left the party shortly before his arrest for the Massereene attack.

Alec McCrory

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The West Belfast man served two periods of imprisonment for the Provisional IRA. He was one of the youngest prisoners to join the blanket protest after being jailed in 1978 at the age of 17. He was imprisoned for a second time in the 1980s and served 14 years for possession of a bomb. In 2011 he was the first person in the North of Ireland to make an offcial complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal over what he claimed were repeated attempts by MI5 to recruit him as an agent. More recently he has acted as a spokesman for republican prisoners held in Maghaberry.

Harry Fitzsimmons

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HE was released from prison in May of this year after serving a jail term for the abduction of dissident Bobby Tohill in 2004 from a Belfast city centre bar. Tohill was rescued by police who rammed the van he was being carried in, he later refused to give evidence against his abductors. The event nearly jeopardized the Peace Process as the Provos were on ceasefire at the time. Fitzsimmons and his co accused went on the run in 2006 while awaiting sentencing, he was extradited to the North after being arrested in Dundalk in November 2009. While in Maghaberry he spent most of his sentence on protest against the prison regime. He was arrested last month and questioned about the murder of drug dealer Kevin Kearney but was released without charge. Since being released he had been living in North Belfast, however, after receiving death threats his address was given on Tuesday as of ‘no fixed abode’.