Report of Inquiry into the Security Arrangements at HM Prison, Maze, [Hennessy Report, 1984]
[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
Government Reports and Acts
RETURN to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons dated 26th January 1984 for
Report of an Inquiry
relative to the escape on Sunday 25th September 1983,
Asterisks in the text denote deletions for security reasons
Ordered by The House of Commons to be printed
ISBN 0 10 220384
To The Right Honourable James Prior MP, Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
I arrived in Belfast on the morning of Monday 26 September 1983, the day following the escape of 38 prisoners from HM Prison, Maze. At our meeting at Stormont that day you asked me to conduct an Inquiry into the security arrangements at the Maze. You asked me to interpret my brief as widely as possible and to look at all aspects of security. I began work that afternoon.
On 28 September you set out in a letter my terms of reference as follows:
"to conduct an Inquiry into the security arrangements at HM Prison, Maze, relative to the escape on Sunday 25 September 1983 and to make relevant recommendations for the improvement of security at HM Prison, Maze."
My report follows. In the Introduction I describe how my staff and I set about the task. Subsequent chapters describe the escape in all its various aspects. The report ends with our conclusions and recommendations.
1. When conducting this Inquiry I was fortunate in being able to call on the assistance of members of my staff. Among those who took part were my Deputy, two former senior Governors, a former Administration Officer and two former Chief Officers, all with very wide experience in the Prison Service of England and Wales, and all now members of HM Inspectorate of Prisons. Without their expertise this report would not have been possible. Our team was never less than nine, and was occasionally thirteen, strong. A complete list of those who took part in the Inquiry is at Appendix 2. To them I am greatly indebted. The report which follows is the result of our joint efforts. No one of us could have done it on his own. Our conclusions and recommendations are likewise the result of our joint deliberations, although the responsibility for them and for all that the report contains must remain mine.
2. We set up our Headquarters in the Maze prison on 27 September and remained there for the next four and a half weeks, making a physical examination of this huge and complex structure, both on the ground and from the air. We also examined all aspects of the routine and procedures followed in the prison which had any bearing on the escape. We walked round the perimeter, a distance of approximately 2,000 yards, and reconstructed the events of the escape. The second phase of the Inquiry began at the beginning of November when we started to collate, examine and analyse the mass of evidence at our Headquarters in Queen Anne’s Gate. During this time we continued nevertheless to keep in touch with the Northern Ireland Office and the Maze and to receive memoranda.3. With the Secretary of State’s agreement we restricted our Inquiry to the Maze (Cellular). The adjacent prison, the Maze (Compound), did not figure in the escape and was not relevant to our Inquiry. We have interpreted our terms of reference sufficiently broadly to enable us to examine all aspects of security at the prison which might have had a bearing on the planning or execution of the escape, including the immediate follow-up operations outside the Maze. This has taken us into many areas of the prison. We did not, however, examine certain aspects of security which were not linked to the escape, nor did we carry out a detailed examination of the operations conducted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Army throughout the Province after the escape had taken place. But we did extend our examination to include such aspects of the work of the Northern Ireland Office as were relevant to the escape.
4. We interviewed the Governor and those members of his staff who had been on duty on 25 September or whose duties touched upon aspects of security in which we were interested, or who asked to see us in response to the letter we sent to every member of staff at the Maze. We contacted, or were contacted by, staff who had served at the prison in the past. We made clear to witnesses that their statements would not be shown to persons outside the Inquiry (unless required by a court) and would not be used against them in disciplinary proceedings. In total we interviewed 115 past or present members of staff, while 6 submitted written evidence.
5. We also wrote to each prisoner offering him the opportunity to submit written evidence, again making clear that any statements made to us would be regarded as confidential. Twenty-eight inmates gave written evidence. We also talked to all inmates involved in the escape who were back in prison custody.
6. We had discussions with the Secretary of State on two occasions and also with the Minister of State responsible for prisons. We saw the Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and members of his staff. We saw the General Officer Commanding the Army in Northern Ireland, the Commander 39 Infantry Brigade and the Prison Guard Force Commander; we also saw the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary - and held extensive discussions with members of their staffs. The Chief Probation Officer and members of his staff and the Chairman of the Board of Visitors at the Maze also assisted us. Finally, we had discussions and interviews, both formal and informal, with the staff of Prison Department.
7. The Northern Ireland Office made available to us all papers relevant to our Inquiry, while we commissioned briefing papers on many aspects of security. We also took possession of numerous documents and records concerning security at the prison, while the RUC gave us the opportunity to peruse certain statements.
8. With the help of HM Embassies in France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands and Spain we consulted the Prison Services of those countries about their experience in containing terrorist prisoners. We are also indebted to the Librarian of the Cambridge Institute of Criminology.
9. While the Inquiry was in train we received a number of letters from members of the public, and we took note of public discussion of the escape and its coverage in the press. We issued a Press Notice explaining that we would not be making any public statements about either the escape or our Inquiry before the report was complete. We received a letter from Mr. K. W. Maginnis M.P., Chairman of the Security and Home Affairs Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, drawing our attention to a number of important questions. We examined all those that fell within our terms of reference in the course of our Inquiry.
10. Our report contains recommendations for improving the security of the prison and for strengthening Prison Department. Some of these recommendations are urgent while two, concerning weaknesses in the security of the communications room in the H Blocks and in the main gate to the prison, need immediate attention.
11. In the course of our Inquiry we heard serious allegations against certain members of the prison staff, and against a member of the Probation Service. These allegations if proven involved the commission of criminal offences. We satisfied ourselves that in each case the RUC were conducting their own investigations and then left them to pursue their inquiries.
12. We should like to record our grateful thanks to all those who helped us with the Inquiry. It would be invidious to single out individuals from among the many but we cannot fail to mention the Northern Ireland Office, which answered all our many questions with such good grace as well as undertaking the heavy burden of our domestic arrangements; and the Governor and staff of the prison, who were not only extremely frank with us but met our repeated requests for briefing and information with such courtesy. We are also particularly grateful to our office manager and the team of shorthand writers, all of whom worked very long hours without complaint and kept up with the massive flow of interviews and documentation. We owe a great deal to their cheerful and unsparing help. Our Secretary, Mr. N. A. Pantling, left us to take up another appointment before our report was complete. We take this opportunity to record our appreciation of his tireless efforts on our behalf. Finally, we must record our deep appreciation of all the help we received in the course of our Inquiry from the Army and the RUC.
13. Our report follows. It begins with a description of the Maze prison and its history, which is essential for an understanding of the events of 25 September. There follows in Chapter 2 an account of the escape itself. This is based on evidence taken from witnesses, including both staff and prisoners; from contemporary records; from documents left behind by the escapers themselves; and from our own reconstruction of events. The timings in the chapter, and in the remainder of the report, are our own assessments of the time at which particular events occurred. As is often the case in a major incident of this kind there were significant variations in the times recorded by witnesses. The succeeding five chapters take in turn five distinct phases of the escape, the successful completion of each of which points to security weaknesses at the prison.
14. Thus Chapters 3 and 4 deal with the planning of the escape and with the introduction of firearms into the prison. Chapter 5 considers how the accommodation Block was seized and Chapter 6 deals with the prisoners’ movement from the Block to the main gate. The raising of the alarm and the pursuit are covered in Chapter 7. Later chapters deal with some of the broader aspects of the security task and with wider issues of policy which have come to our attention.
15. In making our judgements we have done our best to avoid the exercise of hindsight when reaching a view on policy or on the actions of officials. On every important issue we have tried to judge whether the actions taken by those concerned were reasonable in the light of the information available to them and in the circumstances prevailing at the time, and not to substitute our judgement of what we might have done in those circumstances.
The Takeover of H7
2.01 At 2.30 p.m. on 25 September 1983 the normal Sunday routine was being followed in H Block 7. Most of the 125 prisoners were engaged in recreational activities, moving comparatively freely within each wing. Twenty-four prisoners employed as orderlies were cleaning up and performing other tasks around the Block. The full complement of 24 H7 staff were on duty: 2 senior officers in charge, 16 officers supervising the inmates in the wings and 6 officers manning the fixed posts controlling movement around the Block. There was also a hospital officer, whose duties had taken him to the Block (1). This pattern of activity would normally have continued until about 4 p.m. when the tea meal was served.
2.02 However, shortly after 2.30 p.m. five of the Block orderlies (Mead, McFarlane, Storey, G. Kelly and McAllister) who were working around the circle at the centre of H7, each secretly armed with a handgun, began concurrently to set in motion the carefully conceived plan that would enable them to seize the Block. First, they had to ensure that each member of staff in the circle area who might press an alarm button was shadowed by one of them. Thus Mead approached Senior Officer ***, the second in charge, who was standing in the circle, and asked if he could discuss. a personal problem with him in private. Senior Officer *** agreed and took Mead into the office where Acting Principal Officer *** was busy at his desk. Mead was now in a position to shadow both senior members of staff. Meanwhile, McFarlane approached Officer ***, who was standing in the locked and gated lobby at the entrance to H7, and asked to be admitted in order to sweep the lobby. Officer *** unlocked the gate and let him in. At the same time Kelly took up a position outside the gated entrance to the Block’s communications room, where he could see Officer *** at work. Storey and McAllister entered the officers’ tea room, where four members of the staff were having a tea-break.
2.03 Once they were all in position the prisoners held up the staff. The orderlies in the tea room produced guns and ordered the four members of staff to keep quiet, while McAllister called the officer patrolling the circle area to come to the tea room. Officer *** did so and was promptly made to join his colleagues. Kelly, at the doorway of the communications room, pointed a gun through the locked grille and ordered Officer *** to unlock it and lie on the floor. Meanwhile Mead, who was in the office with the Acting Principal Officer and Senior Officer, drew his gun and kept the officers covered. McFarlane, in the entrance lobby, ordered Officer *** at gunpoint to lie down on the floor, and took his keys. At the same time, Hospital Officer ***, seated at his desk in the treatment room, looked up to find Storey standing in the doorway with a gun. Storey ordered him to crawl across the circle to the tea room, where he was held with the other members of staff.
2.04 While the staff in the circle area were being taken captive similar action was being taken in the wings to overcome the staff there. Officers *** and ***, who were manning the gate locks leading from the wings to the circle, were overpowered by two orderlies whom they had just admitted. One of them produced a gun and the other a screwdriver. Officer ***, who was in C Wing, was clubbed down with a blow to the back of the head, while Officer *** in D Wing was stabbed with a handicraft knife. The remaining officers were also overcome. The only staff in the Block who were not then under the prisoners’ control were Officers ***, *** and *** who were in the staff toilets. As each emerged, he was seized at gunpoint.
2.05 One member of staff who attempted to resist the takeover was Senior Officer ***. While he and Acting Principal Officer *** were being covered by Mead, he succeeded in knocking the gun away, but a blow to the jaw and a threat by Storey to shoot Mr. *** subdued him. Officer *** was another who tried to frustrate the takeover. Lying on the floor of the communications room, he surreptitiously raised himself up in an attempt to reach his stave when he thought Kelly’s attention had been diverted. Before he could do so Kelly fired two shots at him: he collapsed on the floor with a bullet through the head.
2.06 The sound of the shots did not carry through the closed doors of the Block to Officer *** manning the gate lock at the entrance to the compound, so he was unaware of what was happening inside. But not for long. McFarlane, using the keys he had taken from Officer ***, let himself and two accomplices out of the Block, approached the gate lock and asked to be allowed in to sweep. Still suspecting nothing, Officer *** let him in. Once inside, McFarlane produced a gun and relieved Officer *** of his keys. His two accomplices quickly escorted Officer *** back to the Block. It was then 2.50 p.m. The prisoners were in complete control of H7 and the alarm had not been raised.
Preparations for Departure
2.07 Once the prisoners had control of the Block they moved the staff into the two games rooms. Some of the officers were forced to hand over their car keys and explain exactly where their cars were parked in case the prisoners were to need them later. Others were required to remove their uniforms for use by the escapers. These officers were given "ponchos", fashioned from blankets, to cover themselves with, while their belongings were placed in pillow cases with their names on them. All officers were bound, had pillow cases placed over their heads and were kept under guard. Anyone who found himself struggling for breath had his pillow case pumped up and down to draw in air. They were not allowed to talk or move.
2.08 Hospital Officer *** was allowed to treat the wounded Officer *** under armed guard in the staff toilet, while Officer *** was taken to the communications room to replace Officer ***. Mr. *** was instructed at gunpoint to answer any telephone or radio calls as if all was normal. In the event there were no calls. Acting Principal Officer *** was obliged to sit facing the wall in his office with similar instructions about answering his telephone should it ring. In his case a colleague in the prison did ring on routine business; a gun was immediately put to his head and he was obliged to cut the conversation short.
2.09 A dozen prisoners then donned officers’ uniforms. They included McFarlane and another prisoner who took Officer ***'s place at the vehicle entrance. These two then waited for the kitchen lorry bringing the food to arrive. Meanwhile documents in the communications room and office, including the photographs of the escapers, were removed in an attempt to hinder any follow up.
The Kitchen Lorry
2.10 At 3.25 p.m. the kitchen lorry, driven by Officer *** accompanied by prison orderly Armstrong, arrived at the outer gate to the compound with the food. McFarlane and his companions admitted the lorry without arousing the driver’s suspicion and then, as Officer *** and Armstrong started to unload the food-containers at the entrance to the Block, seized them at gunpoint and took them inside. The driver was taken into the medical treatment room where he was told that the kitchen lorry was to be used in the escape and that he was to drive it. The prisoners gave him precise instructions about the route he was to follow and how he should behave if challenged. Armstrong was told to travel in the lorry in the normal way.
2.11 At 3.50 p.m., when the prisoners had been in control of H7 for about an hour, Officer *** and Armstrong were taken back to the lorry. The driver’s left foot was tied to the clutch and his door lock was jammed. From beneath his seat a cord was attached to what he was told was a hand grenade - in fact it was tied to the frame of the seat. Kelly, in officer’s uniform, lay on the floor of the cab on the passenger side and trained his gun on Officer ***. Thirty-seven prisoners then climbed into the back of the lorry, the shutter was lowered and the vehicle drove off.
2.12 The escapers left behind a rear party, armed with chisels and screwdrivers, to guard the captured staff and prevent the alarm from being raised prematurely. They appear to have remained at their posts until they judged that the escapers were clear of the prison, then they returned quietly to their cells. Other inmates did not behave in such a disciplined manner: a number ran amuck, smashing furniture and fittings and setting fire to uniforms and papers before they too shut themselves into their cells. When all was quiet again the captured staff freed themselves from their bonds.
The Segment and Administration Gates
2.13 Having left the H7 forecourt at 3.55 p.m., the kitchen lorry followed its normal route to the vehicle lock at the segment gate. The officer manning this gate, recognising the-driver of the lorry and his orderly, opened both sets of gates and allowed the lorry to proceed without searching it.
2.14 The lorry was then driven towards the administration gate, which is the last gate before the main gate is reached. This was a deviation from the lorry’s normal route, though not an unusual one. It would have been unusual, however, for a prison orderly to accompany the lorry through the gate. So the lorry was stopped briefly to allow Armstrong to join Kelly on the cab floor. When the lorry reached the administration gate, the officer on duty, seeing nothing amiss, allowed the vehicle to pass through without a check.
The Main Gate
2.15 It was nearly 4 o'clock when the lorry drove along the final strip of road leading to the main gate. The driver had been told that the prisoners intended to take control of the gate and the lodge before the lorry was driven out of the prison on to the road leading to the external gate, where he was to bluff his way through. Some of the prisoners were to be left guarding the main gate until the lorry was clear, when they would follow in cars belonging to the staff. The first step in the plan was to park the lorry well to one side of the gate lodge, so that the prisoners who were in uniform could dismount without being seen, infiltrate the gate lodge and capture the staff. In an attempt to disrupt the plan, the driver told Kelly, who could not see out of the cab from his position on the floor, that he could not park out of sight of the main gate, as he had been instructed, because there was no room. Instead he parked the vehicle near the main gate.
2.16 Despite this ruse, ten of the prisoners in uniform were able to get out of the lorry without anything being noticed. Armed with guns and chisels nine made their way into the gate lodge (through the doors on both sides of the building) where they held up five members of the staff on duty and the half dozen or so officers who were passing through the building. Simultaneously, one of the prisoners approached the officer manning the inner vehicle gate, produced a gun and ordered him to open the gate. Officer *** was then told to drive the lorry into the main gate lock while the gate officer was removed to the gate lodge. This left only one other officer at liberty in the entire gate complex. This was Officer *** on duty at the pedestrian gate who had seen none of these events and was continuing to admit staff to the prison.
2.17 The staff in the gate lodge were meanwhile beginning to show some resistance. At first, this amounted only to a refusal to comply with instructions, but at about 4.05 p.m. Officer ***, unnoticed by the prisoners, edged over to a nearby alarm button and pressed it. The alarm sounded in the prison’s Emergency Control Room (ECR), but the only response of the staff was to check back with the gate lodge on the intercom. Senior Officer *** answered at gunpoint that the alarm had been set off accidentally. Although he attempted to convey that all was not well, the ECR were satisfied and rang off.
2.18 By now the staff in the gate lodge had been joined by an increasing number of officers returning to duty from outside the prison. Each officer as he entered was ordered at gunpoint to join the gate lodge staff, but this only added to the difficulties the prisoners had in maintaining control of the lodge.
2.19 At about this time Officer Ferris, chased by Finucane, ran from the gate lodge shouting to the officer at the pedestrian gate to secure it and sound the alarm. He had been stabbed three times in the chest. Before he was able to reach the gate, he collapsed and later died. Finucane continued on to the pedestrian gate where he stabbed two officers who had just entered the prison. Officer ***, the officer on gate duty, had no time to sound the alarm or secure the gate before he too was stabbed.
2.20 Meanwhile, the disturbance at the pedestrian gate had been seen by the soldier manning the watch-tower at the main gate. He reported to the Army operations room that he had seen prison officers fighting in the gate area. The operations room thereupon telephoned the ECR to ask if they "had any trouble". The officer in the ECR replied that an alarm had been set off accidentally and everything was all right. Shortly afterwards Officer ***, who was being held captive in a back room of the gate lodge, managed to bundle the gunman holding him out of the door. He quickly dialled the emergency number to tell the ECR of the escape. This time the ECR raised the alarm, alerting senior staff and warning the Army and RUC. It was 4.12 p.m. - just too late to prevent the escape.
2.21 After several unsuccessful attempts a prisoner had succeeded in opening the main gate, clearing the way for the lorry to leave. As some of the prisoners who were to travel in it were still in the gate lodge, however, the lorry waited at the entrance - long enough for a passing officer to see what was going on. This officer, Mr. ***, directed two members of staff, Officers *** and *** who were passing by in their private cars, to drive into the vehicle entrance and block the path of the lorry. This they did, thus sealing the entrance.
The Break Out
2.22 It was now apparent to the escaping prisoners that they would have to abandon their plan to drive out of the prison in the lorry. Those prisoners who were still in the back of the lorry jumped out and began to stream through the main gate towards the outer fence, some 25 yards away. Meanwhile, staff from the gate lodge, having regained control of the main gate mechanism, ordered Officers *** and *** to move their cars out of the way so that the gate could be closed again. No sooner had they done so than four prisoners outside the gate advanced on Officer ***, who had just locked his car, with the intention of hi-jacking it. Mr. *** quickly threw away his keys, whereupon the prisoners knocked him to the ground and gave him a severe kicking. One of the prisoners then retrieved the car keys and all four jumped into the car and drove off around the prison wall towards the external gate.
2.23 The hi-jacking was seen by Officer *** who had just arrived at the prison and was getting out of his car. He immediately got back in again and drove off ahead of the prisoners’ car sounding his horn and flashing his lights to warn the staff at the external gate. When he reached the gate he swerved to one side, whereupon the prisoners’ car, travelling behind him at some speed, crashed into it, forcing it partly open against its hinges. The prisoners scrambled out of the car, two made good their escape, one was chased and caught by the soldier on guard duty and the fourth was arrested as he emerged from the car.
2.24 Back at the main gate, prison officers were chasing after the only two prisoners who had not already reached the outer fence. Officer *** was one of those engaged in the pursuit. He was shot in the leg by one of the prisoners who then ran on up the hill before he himself was shot in the leg by the soldier in the watch-tower, and recaptured. The other prisoner fell near the wire and was also recaptured. All the other prisoners got away over the wire. It was about 4.18 p.m. when the main gate was closed and the prison secured.
2.25 Senior Officer *** left the gate lodge and called upon the group of staff outside the main gate to give chase. Only three officers responded; they were later joined by a police officer and a soldier. After searching for some time they found four of the escaped prisoners, including Storey, hiding in the River Lagan, about half a mile from the prison. All were captured. At the external gate the Prison Guard Force went in pursuit of the three prisoners who had escaped from the hi-jacked car.
2.26 At the same time the Army and the RUC activated a joint contingency plan, which resulted in the establishment of a cordon of vehicle check points (VCPs) around the prison, with Army patrols covering the ground between the prison and the cordon. These VCPs were in operation by 4.25 p.m. In the next few hours the Army and the RUC brought other contingency plans into effect, so that before long vehicle checks had been placed at strategic points throughout the Province.
2.27 These operations resulted in the recapture of three prisoners at vehicle check points in the next 24 hours. One prisoner was captured by an Army patrol at 11.00 p.m. that night. Two more prisoners were arrested by an RUC patrol near Castlewellan on 26 September, and two prisoners were captured in a nearby house the next day. In all 19 prisoners were recaptured - three in the gate lodge.
2.28 Of the prison staff who had been on duty in the prison on 25 September one, Officer James Ferris, died. Four others were stabbed, two were shot, thirteen were kicked about and beaten, and forty-two were subsequently off work with nervous disorders. Thirty-five prisoners succeeded in breaching the perimeter of the prison, of whom nineteen remain at large today.
(1) The deployment of staff and the position of prisoners in the central section of H7 at about 2.35pm. is shown at Figure 3.
10.01 We described in Chapter 2 how the Maze grew from a small temporary internment centre at Long Kesh in 1971 into the huge modern maximum security prison it is today, holding the largest concentration of terrorists in Western Europe - a prison without parallel in the United Kingdom, unique in size, and in the continuity and tenacity of its protests and disturbances. In no other prison that we have seen have the problems faced by the authorities been so great. When terrorists are few in number they can be dispersed into small, secure pockets and absorbed into the general prison population. But when they are many the best solution is usually to be found in removing them from the area of conflict and incarcerating them in a fortress prison surrounded by armed guards. In Northern Ireland neither course is feasible.
10.02 The prison is unique, too, in its population, which is totally dissimilar to the usual criminal recidivist population to be found in the nearest equivalent establishment in England and Wales. It consists almost entirely of prisoners convicted of offences connected with terrorist activities, united in their determination to be treated as political prisoners, resisting prison discipline, even if it means starving themselves to death, and retaining their para-military structure and allegiances even when inside. Bent on escape and ready to murder to achieve their ends, they are able to call on the help of their associates and supporters in the local community and - though increasingly less frequently - to arouse the sympathy of the international community; they are able to manipulate staff and enlist the support of para-military organisations in the process of intimidation.
10.03 Against this background it is not hard to see that the Governor and his staff are faced with a singularly difficult and dangerous task, one that brings them into conflict with prisoners almost every day of the week. Nowhere else in the United Kingdom have there been such prolonged and wide scale protests of so horrendous a nature. Nowhere else has the media been so insistent, or international interest so widespread. And nowhere else have the prison authorities been more in the public eye, more engaged in satisfying public curiosity and consequently less able to concentrate on running the establishment.
10.04 Nor has their task been made any the easier by the determination of the government not to give in to the terrorists’ political demands; the determination to treat terrorists like all other prisoners - with all that that implies in terms of régime and privileges; and the determination to avoid, in the wider interests of peace, those measures which, although beneficial in security terms, might provoke further destruction, further protest or further conflict and loss of life.
10.05 And the task of the authorities has not been eased by the reaction of many ordinary prison officers to the government’s decisions on, for instance, prisoners’ clothing and prisoners’ visits - decisions which many officers, despite clear statements of government policy, regarded as concessions to the terrorists; concessions which some appeared to think justified them in taking a laissez-faire attitude to prisoners.
10.06 Finally, the task of ensuring the security of the prison was not made easier for the authorities by the decision of the Northern Ireland Prison Officers’ Association, shortly before the escape, to call on its members to abandon the prison in support of a claim for a travelling time allowance, leaving it to the police to man the prison. These difficulties in the prison had their effect on the work of the four divisions that go to make up Prison Department in the Northern Ireland Office. Instead of being able to get on with their task of supervising and inspecting establishments and of ensuring the necessary improvements to security following the rapid concentration of so many terrorists in so few prisons, they were forced to spend much of their time dealing with disturbances and protests and the Parliamentary and international interest that they aroused. Divisions had to be re-organised to deal with the ever mounting workload, and additional staff sought from the Northern Ireland Civil Service - not always with much success.
10.07 These pressures on the prison authorities, together with the troubles in the Province generally, provided the prisoners with the conditions they needed in which to lay their plans for escape - conditions where manipulation became possible, collusion could not be ruled out, intimidation could flourish, weapons could be smuggled in and messages passed out and orderlies could move freely about.
10.08 Had information of what was afoot been forthcoming, the authorities might have been able to take preventative action. But as H7 contained only a cohesive group of Provisional IRA prisoners, little or no information became available. However, even when there is no warning, a maximum security prison like the Maze with its system of sell-contained H Blocks, segment fences, gates and a perimeter guarded by the Army, should be proof against the kind of breakout that took place on 25 September. The fact that the Provisional IRA prisoners accomplished it comparatively easily can only be ascribed to various weaknesses in security at the Maze. They included, firstly, deficiencies in the otherwise substantial physical security of the prison, in particular in the main gate complex and in the communications room in H7. Responsibility for these faults must lie in part with those who designed and built the prison, in part with Northern Ireland Office and in part with successive Governors of the Maze who failed to effect the improvements they could have made.
10.09 Secondly, these weaknesses were compounded by poor security procedures - failures in the system designed to support and enhance the physical barriers. They included flaws in the system of searching prisoners, their accommodation, supplies and visitors; flaws in the system of controlling and escorting the movements of prisoners and orderlies in the H Block; and flaws in the arrangements for responding to alarms. It was the responsibility of the Governor and his senior staff to ensure that such procedures were both adequate and effective. This they failed to do.
10.10 Even where the security procedures were adequate staff often did not follow them. The human failures were many; they comprised the third kind of weakness in the security of the prison. Staff had become complacent about the dangers, and lazy practices had been allowed to develop. There were examples of security grilles being left unlocked, orderlies allowed over much freedom, vehicles unchecked, posts left unattended, alarms not properly answered - and so on, the list is long.
10.11 These faults should have been identified in the prison itself. They were not identified and checked partly because of the many difficulties that we have already referred to - the size and complexity of the prison, the immense pressures on the staff both at Headquarters and in the prison - and partly because of laxity, carelessness and negligence. Wherever possible we have identified those who should be held accountable. But in many cases the negligence of junior staff had been compounded by the acquiescence of their seniors over a long period.
10.12 In the circumstances we were reluctant to single out these officers for special blame, except where the fault was so glaring that we considered it necessary to recommend investigations with a view to disciplinary proceedings. For the rest, since the practices were so widespread, we must conclude that management must bear part of the responsibility for allowing such practices to continue unchecked. It is, of course, the Governor who carries the ultimate responsibility for the state of the prison and the general malaise that was apparent. In an establishment as large and as complex as the Maze he must, of necessity, delegate many of his responsibilities, and in some respects he was not well served. Nevertheless, the extent of the deficiencies in management and in the prison’s physical defences amounted to a major failure in security for which the Governor must be held accountable. He should have been aware of the deficiencies and he should have taken action to remedy them. There were, of course, some areas, particularly those associated with the construction and design of the prison, that were beyond his authority and resources to correct, but he neither reported them nor sought authority to take the necessary remedial action. We have no doubt - and the Governor confirmed this - that had he done so, his request would have been sympathetically received and carefully considered.
10.13 The present Governor has been a member of the Prison Service for 34 years - and a Governor in charge for 10 of them. His public service deserves full acknowledgement. At the Maze much of his time has been taken up with the various crises that have struck the prison from time to time. He has shown sensitivity and understanding in his handling of them. He is conscientious and hard-working, and we believe that he did his best. His achievements should not be underestimated. His personal qualities are of a high order, but much of his training and experience relate to a time when the service was smaller and the task less demanding. The command of such a large and complex prison requires a man of exceptional ability, who has the energy to inject new life into the establishment, and the skill and experience necessary to manage what is probably the most difficult and important prison in the United Kingdom.
10.14 Over and above the Governor and his staff there are those who direct the affairs of the Prison Service in Northern Ireland. It is they who decide policy and it is they who should ensure that it is implemented, issuing such guidance and instructions as may be necessary, and inspecting establishments to see that instructions are carried out. They, must, therefore bear some responsibility for the state in which we found the Maze.
10.15 We have described the organisation and responsibilities of the various divisions that go to make up the department which directs prison affairs in Northern Ireland. We noted that we had examined in particular the work of the Security and Operations Division. This Division did not, in our view, give sufficient direction, advice or guidance to the Governor; and there was a marked lack of awareness of the prison’s security weaknesses. The head of the Division is a former governor of the Maze and he should therefore have been familiar with the situation and taken action to remedy the defects. Had he done so, and had the Division seen that the work on the main gate was completed, it is quite possible that the escape would not have succeeded. He should also have instituted a system of inspections of establishments. If he had, they might well have brought to light many of the weaknesses we identified at the prison.
10.16 The Director of Operations, who is responsible for the work of this Division, came to the post in June 1982. He is a dedicated, hard working, conscientious officer who is very well thought of by his Under-Secretary, and who enjoys a high reputation throughout the Northern Ireland Prison Service. He inherited a large backlog of work and found in existence working practices which had been shown to be less than adequate. He did a great deal to improve things at a time when he was heavily involved in the various crises at the Maze to which we have already referred, and when he lacked sufficient staff of the necessary calibre to do the job properly. However, even when account is taken of all these difficulties and the pressures to which we referred earlier, it must be said that he did not appear to appreciate the extent of the many security weaknesses we found at the Maze. To this extent at least, therefore, he must be held responsible for some of the shortcomings at the Maze.
10.17 General responsibility for supervising the work of the Security and Operations Division and for the other divisions that make up Prison Department within the Northern Ireland Office falls on the supervising Under-Secretary. Any shortcomings in the divisions under his control are therefore his concern. As we have said, he fills an exceptionally busy post and is required to spend much of his time responding to ministerial demands. These have grown considerably in recent years as the work of the Department has taken an increasingly important place in the affairs of Northern Ireland. He struck us as an able and conscientious officer, overworked and under resourced, who had done his best to see that his divisions had what they needed to undertake the tasks expected of them. We conclude, therefore, that no blame should attach to him personally for the deficiencies which contributed to the escape.
10.18 If history is not to repeat itself, much work will be required to remedy the deficiencies. We have indicated in our report what needs to be done. There are four main areas. First, work on the physical deficiencies in the communications rooms and gate lodge should be put in hand immediately. Second, security procedures should be tightened up as a matter of urgency where we have indicated they are deficient. Third, staff need to be given a new lead now. A Governor of wide experience and much energy is required. He should be prepared to cut out the dead wood and encourage new growth. Fourth, the importance of the operational management of the Prison Service should be reflected in the management structure of Prison Department.
10.19 To carry forward this last proposal we recommend that a review of the management structure of Prison Department be instituted urgently. As a guide, we suggest that consideration should be given to the creation of a new post of Deputy Head of the Department who should hold a rank between that of Assistant Under-Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary. The holder of this post should also head the important Security and Operations Division. As the senior member of the Prison Service, he should provide the necessary support and professional advice to the Head of the Department to whom he should be accountable for the proper functioning of all Prison Service establishments. His responsibilities should extend beyond the functions of the Security and Operations Division and should include all matters concerned with the operational management of the Prison Service. As the professional Head of the Prison Service he should not only provide authoritative advice to the Under-Secretary and the Heads of Divisions, but should also provide the necessary point of reference for governors in the field who will look to him for advice, guidance and direction on all professional matters. We believe that our suggestions for the reinforcement and modification of the Headquarters organisation will improve the operational management of the service and will provide the professional leadership which is so necessary if the Prison Service is to do the job expected of it now and in the future. That it is capable of doing so we have little doubt. The Prison Service is fortunate to include in its ranks men of ability and courage who, given the right leadership, will provide a high level of service to the community.
10.20 This will not solve all the problems of the Maze: tensions can be expected to continue so long as the troubles in Northern Ireland continue. Nor will it guarantee security - no prison is ever more secure than the weakest member of its staff - and absolute security can never be guaranteed without resort to inhumane and unacceptable methods. But with inspired leadership and proper support, the prison should soon become again what it was always intended to be; the most secure prison in Northern Ireland.
The alarm was raised in the prison at 4.12 p.m. - just too late to prevent the escape. (2.20).
The escape plan appears to have been formulated by a small group of prisoners who contacted the Provisional IRA outside the prison for support and obtained from them five guns. (3.02).
The leaders appear to have kept details of the plan to themselves until close to the day of the escape. (3.03).
The takeover of H7 exploited human and design weaknesses and required extensive preparations. (3.03).
Although very careful thought appears to have been given to the early stages of the escape, the later stages had been poorly thought out. (3.04), (3.05).
Because physical security at the Maze was, with two exceptions, generally good, the prisoners had to break down the human contribution to security; they did so by adopting a deliberate policy of conditioning staff to reduce their alertness. (3.05).
Many officers in H7 were complacent and the Block had acquired the reputation of being "liberal". (3.06).
The Assistant Governor with managerial responsibility for H7, the Chief Officer II responsible for oversight of the staff and the Principal and Senior Officers with day-to-day responsibility for the Block must share responsibility for the many weaknesses in H7. (3.07).
More should be done to make staff aware of the dangers of conditioning and manipulation and more attention must be paid to the need for effective supervision and direction by all levels of management. (3.08).
The appointments of McFarlane, Storey and Mead as orderlies were serious errors of judgement for which the officers responsible should be held accountable. (3.09).
The Assistant Governor in charge of H7 should have exercised closer control over the selection of orderlies and should have ensured they were properly supervised and controlled. (3.10).
In future, prisoners should be selected to work as orderlies only after consideration and approval by the Labour Allocation Board which should take account of the views of the security staff and the staff of individual Blocks. (3.10).
Block orderlies should be subject to closer supervision and control and the need for unescorted movement on their part should be kept to a minimum.(3.10).
It would have been prudent for the Governor to have sought the advice of Prison Department before creating additional orderly posts in the H Blocks. (3.11).
The need for orderly posts, in the H Blocks and elsewhere in the prison, should be reviewed. (3.12).
Prisoners working as orderlies ought not to be permitted to acquire, in the course of their work, information about such places as the main gate complex and the external gate: the post of gate lodge orderly should not be reinstated. (3.17).
There were few positive signs to indicate that an escape was pending. (3.18).
The Staff in H7 were not alert to such indications as there were. (3.19).
A system for the collation and analysis of information in the prison should be introduced urgently under the day-to-day control of the security officer.(3.20).
The possession of guns and ammunition was central to the prisoners’ plans. (4.01).
There were significant weaknesses in the measures adopted to prevent the entry of unauthorised articles by means of (1) supplies (2) vehicles (3) visitors and (4) staff. (4.03).
A new secure unloading area should be established close to the main gate. (4.05).
All supplies should be searched at the point of delivery, using metal detectors wherever possible. (4.06).
Prisoners should not have access to unsearched goods and should only open sealed goods under supervision. (4.06).
The kitchen stores, laundry, workshops etc. should be subject to frequent and rigorous searching. (4.06).
It is desirable to reduce to a minimum the number of vehicles entering the prison and procedures for searching those which do should be improved. (4.08).
Steps should be taken to improve the searching of visitors at the Maze.(4.15).
The security of the visiting rooms at the Maze falls below the required standard. (4.16).
The screens between cubicles in visiting Blocks A and B should be removed, raised platforms provided to improve overall observation and there should be a review of the minimum staffing levels required. (4.17).
We have serious reservations about the use made of the visiting rooms in C Block prior to the escape. (4.18).
The quality of the supervision of visits in C Block was seriously deficient. (4.19).
The top section of the doors and passage walls in C Block should be replaced by some transparent material to enable patrolling officers to see more easily into all the rooms. (4.20).
An investigation should be held into the circumstances in which visits were allowed to take place in C Block and into the supervision and conduct of these visits. (4.20).
Closed visits should continue to be the normal practice where there is evidence to show that a prisoner or his visitor cannot be trusted in open conditions. (4.21).
We believe that for several months before the escape prisoners had not been searched with a metal detector after receiving a visit. (4.22).
It would not have been difficult for a prisoner to take a weapon or ammunition from the visiting area back to his cell block undetected. (4.23).
All prisoners should be given a thorough rub-down search after a visit and metal detectors should always be used. Prisoners should be strip-searched on a random basis and whenever there is cause for suspicion. Facilities for strip-searching should be improved and consideration given to the use of metal detector portals. (4.23).
The huts in which prisoners were held before and after visits were insecure. (4.25).
The layout of the visiting complex should be reviewed. (4.25).
Professional visitors should always be thoroughly searched. (4.27).
Professional visits should continue to take place in C Block but, with certain exceptions, under closed conditions. (4.28).
Consideration should be given to the institution of an appointments system for professional visitors. (4.29).
The whole visiting complex and the visiting arrangements generally should be subjected to more frequent and more critical inspection and supervision by the Security Department and by members of senior management. (4.29).
The procedures used in searching staff at the Maze prior to the escape were both inadequate and not properly carried out. (4.31).
The random searching of staff should be introduced forthwith. (4.32).
There was no evidence or other information to indicate how the guns or the ammunition used in the escape were smuggled into the Maze, but several routes could have been used. (4.33).
The way in which tools were controlled at the Maze showed weaknesses which reflected badly on those responsible for supervising the discipline and workshop staff and on the oversight exercised by the Security Department; all tools should in future be marked and more closely controlled. (5.02).
There should be a review of the hobbies permitted in the Maze. (5.03).
The hobbies rooms were not properly supervised and should not be reopened until adequate safeguards have been introduced. (5.01) (5.03).
We identified a number of potential hiding places which were rarely, if ever, searched. (5.06).
The Governor should carry out a comprehensive review of the arrangements for searching the H Blocks. (5.08).
The communications room in each H Block should be made secure. (5.12).
A system of routine calls or codewords between individual H Blocks and the ECR should be introduced. (5.14).
There should be a full review of the siting of alarm buttons in the prison. (5.14).
There is a need to review the system of CCTV surveillance throughout the prison. (5.14).
The Governor should ensure that basic security procedures are adhered to, the number of officers on duty in the wings should not be allowed to fall dangerously low and the random searching and proper supervision of orderlies should be ensured. (5.14).
The officer who allowed the kitchen lorry to pass through the segment gate unchecked was negligent and his actions should be investigated. (6.02).
The manning levels at segment gates should be reconsidered. (6.04).
The construction of the double-gated vehicle lock should be modified. (6.04).
There is a need for better communication between the ECR and staff manning segment gates. (6.04).
The officer who allowed the kitchen lorry to pass through the administration gate unchecked was negligent and his actions should be investigated. (6.05).
A vehicle lock should be constructed at the administration gate. (6.06).
Before making physical improvements to the internal gates, the prison authorities should review the purpose and operation of the whole segment system and its long term future, taking account of the overriding need for a new purpose-built gate complex. (6.07).
The behaviour of officers in the gate lodge was both courageous and praiseworthy. (6.08).
The gate lodge provided no protection for the staff and presented no real barrier to the escaping prisoners. (6.10).
Northern Ireland Office did not give sufficient priority to proposals made in January 1982 to rectify weaknesses at the main gate, nor were successive Governors of the Maze sufficiently forceful in pressing for essential improvements. (6.15).
A purpose-built main gate complex is essential to ensure longer term security and plans to provide one should be drawn up now. (6.17).
The security of the armoury building should be improved as a matter of urgency. (6.18).
The ECR staff misinterpreted their written instructions and failed to appreciate the potential seriousness of an emergency in the gate lodge area. (7.03).
The Assistant Governor responsible for the ECR had paid too little attention to ensuring its efficiency. (7.06).
Urgent action should be taken to improve the effectiveness of the ECR and there should be a review of its alarm, communications and CCTV surveillance systems. (7.05), (7.07).
The need for a quick reaction force at the Maze should be reviewed. (7.08).
We accept the evidence of those witnesses who told us that the external gate was kept closed on the day of the escape except when traffic was passing through. (7.09).
It was not the purpose of the outer fence to prevent prisoners from escaping. (7.11).
Consideration should be given to reviewing the rules of engagement issued to soldiers guarding the perimeter of the Maze. (7.14).
So long as the Maze continues to hold so many of the most dangerous terrorists in Northern Ireland, there will be a need for an armed force to guard it. (7.16).
The role of the Prison Guard Force should be reviewed and that review should also consider the question of a more substantial boundary fence. (7.18).
The first ring of VCPs was in position by 4.25 p.m. and had some success. (7.20).
The Local Security Committee should consider in what way the present procedures for providing the police and the Army with photographs of escaped prisoners might be modified to ensure their speedier distribution. (7.21).
Army and RUC contingency plans were implemented at 4.14 p.m. - two minutes after the alarm had been raised. (7.22).
There appears to be a case for reviewing the siting of the first ring of VCPs. (7.24).
The Chief Officer I must beat some responsibility for the shortcomings of his subordinate staff and should take the lead in setting new standards. (8.03).
There is a need to broaden the range and depth of work of prison officers. (8.10).
There is a need for more training. (8.10) (8.11) (8.12).
A training committee should be established at the Maze. (8.12).
A system of attendance more suited to the prison’s needs should be introduced as soon as possible. (8.13).
The system of allocating officers to tasks was unsatisfactory. (8.14).
The scale of absences from the external gate area on the day of the escape calls into question the judgement of the senior officer in charge. (8.16).
All members of senior management must set aside time when they will be out of their offices visiting the prison. (8.19).
Consideration should be given to the introduction of an additional post at Governor III level to be third in charge of the prison. (8.19).
The Governor should review his management structure and systems. (8.21).
The performance of the Security Principal Officer fell markedly below an acceptable standard. (8.23).
The Security Department was not up to the task it was required to perform and its failures allowed the poor security environment to develop unchecked. (8.23).
The Assistant Governor responsible for the Security Department should be redeployed to other duties. (8.24).
The Deputy Governor must carry some responsibility for the poor performance of the Security Department; he should be given more time to devote to this important aspect of his work. (8.25) (8.26).
The Security Department should be re-organised as soon as possible. (8.26).
The Security Principal Officer should be redeployed to other duties and the post of security officer should be held by a Chief Officer. (8.27).
The Maze (Cellular) prison should have its own dog section. (8.28).
The Governor should in future be the chairman of the Local Security Committee. (9.02).
There is a need for more guidance from the Security and Operations Division. (9.04).
Priority should be given to the production of a Security Manual. (9.05).
The introduction of a system of regular inspections of establishments should be given priority. (9.08).
Security and Operations Division should be strengthened. (9.10).
The post of Deputy Director of Operations should be upgraded and the existing Governor II post retained for the time being. (9.10).
Failures in the area of vetting were the result of human error and no recommendations are made for changes in the vetting system. (9.15).
The government’s decision to allow prisoners to wear civilian clothes did not contribute significantly, if at all, to the success of the escape. (9.19).
Changes in the prison regime did not affect the security of the prison in any significant way or make the escape easier to accomplish; the lack of any corresponding increase in security precautions did, however, weaken the general security of the prison. (9.26).
Changes in the prison regime had considerable effect on staff morale. (9.27) (9.28).
The fact that H7 contained only Provisional IRA prisoners made it easier for them to plan and execute the escape. (9.29).
High risk prisoners should not be allowed to remain in the same cell or wing for too long. (9.30).
Maghaberry prison should be used to relieve pressure on the Maze. (9.30).
The type of work prisoners are required to undertake should be reviewed in the light of the risks to security which each particular industry or place of work presents. (9.32).
In terms of manpower and other resources the Northern Ireland Prison Service has been reasonably well treated. (9.34).
The Prison Department of the Northern Ireland Office should receive priority in the allocation of the most able staff. (9.36).
The extent of the deficiencies in management and in the prison’s physical defences amounted to a major failure in security for which the Governor must be held accountable. (10.12).
There was a marked lack of awareness in the Security and Operations Division of the prison’s security weaknesses. (10.15).
Any shortcomings in the divisions under his control are the concern of the supervising Assistant Under-Secretary of State. No blame should, however, attach to him personally for the deficiencies which contributed to the escape. (10.17).
A review of the management structure of Prison Department should be instituted urgently, with consideration being given to the creation of a new post of Deputy Head of the Department and professional Head of the Prison Service. (10.19).
SIR JAMES HENNESSY, KBE, CMG, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales
MR. G. H. LAKES, MC, HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons
MR. T.W. ABBOTT
25 SEPTEMBER 1983
PRISONERS WHO ESCAPED
* Prisoners at large at the time of our visit
Figure 1. General view of HMP Maze showing Escape Route
Figure 2. H Block 7
Figure 3. The Circle area of H Block 7 at the time of the takeover
DRAWING DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS
Figure 5. The External Gate
DRAWING DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS
Map showing position of HMP Maze
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