Northern Ireland Prison Service

The Northern Ireland Prison Service is an executive agency of the Department of Justice, the headquarters of which are in Dundonald House in the Stormont Estate in Belfast.[1]

Northern Ireland Prison Service
Agency overview
Formed1 April, 1995
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionNorthern Ireland
Legal jurisdictionAs per operations jurisdiction
Governing bodyDepartment of Justice
Constituting instrument
  • Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953
Operational structure
Elected officer responsible


It was established as an agency on 1 April 1995. Agency status was re-confirmed following a quinquennial review in 2000. The Prison Service is responsible for providing prison services in Northern Ireland. Its main statutory duties are set out in the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 and rules made under the Act.

The Prison Service is a major component of the wider criminal justice system and contributes to achieving the system's overall aims and objectives. As the responsible Minister, Minister of Justice accounts to Northern Ireland Assembly for the Prison Service and shares Ministerial responsibility and accountability for the criminal justice system as a whole with the Attorney General . The Prison Service is headed by the Director General. As of August 2009, the Northern Ireland Prison Service employed 1,893 staff.[2]


The Prison Service currently has three operational establishments:

  • HMP Maghaberry: a modern high-security prison housing adult male long-term sentenced and remand prisoners, in both separated and integrated conditions. Immigration detainees are accommodated in the prison's Belfast facility.
  • HMP Magilligan - a medium-security prison housing shorter-term adult male prisoners which also has low-security accommodation for selected prisoners nearing the end of their sentences;
  • HM Prison and Young Offenders' Centre, HMP Hydebank Wood - a medium-to-low-security establishment accommodating male young offenders and all female prisoners (including female immigration detainees).

There is also a staff training facility, the Prison Service College, at Hydebank Wood.[3]

Prison OfficersEdit

Prison Officers operate the prisons and young offenders' centres. They wear a light blue uniform (similar but of a slightly lighter colour to HM Prison Service), consisting of a white shirt, blue tie, blue tunic and trousers (for males) and skirt (for females), black shoes or boots, black gloves and a blue peaked cap, with one style for males and another for females. Medals and a whistle on a chain are worn on the tunics.[4] For everyday use, the tunic may be replaced with a sweater or jacket and skirts with trousers.[5]

Prison Officers may carry weapons and use reasonable force (as sworn constables) to protect people. They carry expandable batons.[6]


Operational Uniformed Prison Grades in descending order of rank are as follows:[7]

  • Governor in Charge
  • Deputy Governor in Charge
  • Functional Head
  • Unit Manager
  • Senior Officer
  • Officers, including:
    • Main Grade Officer
    • Operational Support Grade
    • Night Custody Officer
    • Custody Prison Officer

The Prison Service also employs Prisoner Escorting and Custody Grades, which again are as follows in descending rank order:[7]

  • Principal Prisoner Custody Officer
  • Senior Prisoner Custody Officer
  • Prisoner Custody Officer
  • Youth Supervision Officer

Officers killed in the line of duty [8][9]Edit

Date Title Officer Age Prison By Description
6 Feb 1942 Officer R. Walker 42 Belfast Original IRA Shot twice on his way to work. The original IRA was blamed for his murder
23 Sep 1974 Senior Officer W. McCully 58 Provisional IRA Shot at home 3 years after retirement
8 Apr 1976 Officer P. C. Dillon Magilligan IRA Shot by his car outside home in protest against the removal of special status for paramilitary prisoners
19 Apr 1976 Clerk III J. D. Cummings 55 Belfast IRA Shot in his home
8 Oct 1976 Officer R. J. Hamilton 25 Magilligan IRA Shot as he got out his car at home
22 Jun 1977 Principal Officer J. W. Milliken 57 Belfast IRA Shot on his way home from work
22 July 1977 Officer T. G. Fenton 20 Magilligan IRA Shot drinking in Molloys Bar
7 Oct 1977 Principal Officer D. E. Irvine 38 Maze IRA Shot on leaving a meeting of the Prison Officers' Association
26 Nov 1978 Governor II A. Miles 50 Maze IRA Two gunmen invaded his home, restrained his wife, and shot him. The two were later convicted and received life terms
14 Dec 1978 Officer J. M. McTier 33 Belfast IRA Gunmen fired on a car containing him and two colleagues returning from work. His passengers survived but he died 3 days later
3 Feb 1979 Principal Officer P. Mackin 60 Prison Service College IRA Shot at home alongside his wife Violet Mackin shortly after retirement
16 Apr 1979 Officer M. C. Cassidy 31 Belfast IRA Shot outside St Macartan's Church after attending his sister's wedding
19 Apr 1979 Officer A. J. Wallace 40 Armagh INLA Combined shooting and grenade attack on car containing her and three female colleagues. First female officer to be killed during the Troubles. Her colleagues survived
14 Sep 1979 Officer G. Foster 30 Belfast IRA Gunmen opened fire on a car containing him and three colleagues returning to work after lunch. He was killed and one passenger was injured
19 Sep 1979 Assistant Governor E. D. Jones BEM ISO 60 Belfast IRA Gunmen opened fire on his car. Earned the British Empire Medal in service with the Irish Guards and the Imperial Service Order for work within the Prison Service
5 Nov 1979 Officer T. Gilhooley 25 Belfast IRA Shot by gunmen while driving home from work
7 Nov 1979 Clerk III D. Teeney 25 Belfast INLA Shot while waiting for the bus to work
23 Nov 1979 Officer G. F. Melville 45 Maze IRA Shot by gunmen at home
3 Dec 1979 Chief Officer II W. Wright BEM 58 Belfast Murdered opening his garage door after returning from work. This followed an attempt on his life 2 years prior which he had escaped
19 Dec 1979 Senior Officer W. Wilson 58 Belfast IRA Shot while walking to a local club for his lunch break
18 Jan 1980 Officer G. Cox 35 Magilligan IRA Shot while driving home from work
30 Dec 1980 Officer W. C. Burns 45 Belfast UVF Shot while getting into his car for work
7 Oct 1982 Officer E. M. Chambers 26 Armagh INLA Caught up in an attack on a UDR solder, causing her car to collide with the soldier's car. The soldier also died
25 Sep 1983 Officer J. A. Ferris Maze Stabbed by a prisoner and subsequently suffered a heart attack, while trying to halt a mass escape attempt
6 Mar 1984 Governor III W. McConnell 35 Maze IRA Shot while checking underneath his car for bombs. One man was convicted of his murder and sentenced to a life term
6 Mar 1984 Principal Officer P. T. Kerr BEM 37 Maze IRA Shot while leaving St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh. This followed his home being attacked by gunmen a few years earlier
23 Mar 1987 Chief Instructor L. Jarvis 62 Magilligan Shot dead in his car, sitting outside Magee College where he was attending classes. Shortly after, a bomb in his car detonated, killing two police officers
4 Sep 1988 Officer B. S. Armour 48 Maze IRA Bomb exploded under car
4 May 1989 Hospital Officer J. Griffiths 37 Maze IRA Bomb exploded under car
1 Sep 1983 Officer J. A. Peacock 44 Belfast UVF Shot at home as part of series of five attacks on prison officers following disturbances at the loyalist wing of HMP Maze
1 Nov 2012 Officer D. Black 52 Maghaberry Shot while driving to work
15 Mar 2016 Tutor A. Ismay 52 Prison Service College Car-bombed outside home, died in hospital 11 days later

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Prison Service Headquarters Archived 11 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine." Northern Ireland Prison Service. Retrieved on 30 May 2010.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Justice Minister David Ford with new Northern Ireland Prison Service recruits". 21 December 2015.
  4. ^ "The funeral of Prison Officer David Black, who was murdered while driving to work last Thursday morning". Cookstown, Northern Ireland: Alamy. 6 November 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  5. ^[bare URL image file]
  6. ^[bare URL image file]
  7. ^ a b "DOF 2020 0033 FOI NICSHR Final response.DOCX.docx". 19 January 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Memorials". Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Roll of Honour | Department of Justice". Justice. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2021.

External linksEdit