Dogs ‘invaluable in fight against drugs in prisons’ – Long | Newry Times

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Friday, October 22nd, 2021
Community, Politics

Cannabis, cocaine and mobile phones. These are just some of the finds made by search dogs in Northern Ireland prisons, Justice Minister Naomi Long has said.


Dogs 'invaluable in fight against drugs in prisons' - Long - Newry Times - newry online


In the past three years, search dogs have sniffed out significant finds of cannabis and cocaine, pregabalin capsules and other illicit substances stashed by prisoners at Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood Secure College and Women’s Prison.

More than 20 mobile phones, phone chargers and sim cards have also been discovered by search dogs in the same period.



Speaking after a demonstration by prison dogs and their handlers at Maghaberry, Naomi Long comments, “We are absolutely determined to stem the supply of drugs to our prisons.

“And there is no doubt dogs play an invaluable role in that fight.

“By finding and seizing these dangerous drugs and other contraband we are protecting those people in our care.

“It is, of course, alarming to learn about drugs being found in prison.

“But equally it shows the efforts of Prison Service and in particular the Dogs Section to seize these drugs, are largely successful.”

Minister Long adds, “As a dog lover myself, I was delighted to learn that quite a number of the dogs in our prisons come from rescue centres.

“To see them trained to such a professional standard is impressive.


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“And I would commend Prison Service dog handlers for their work in the fight against drugs in prisons – ultimately they are saving lives.”

More than 40 dogs make up the NI Prison Service Dog Section, with 28 male and five female dog handlers employed across the three prison facilities.

Governor Seaneen Farrelly, who has responsibility for the Prison Service Dogs Section, says, “All of our dogs are, where possible, acquired from animal rescue centres, here and across the UK.

“But when rescue dogs are not available we will bring them in from reputable breeders.

“We’ve had German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and have in the past used Dutch Herders for as general-purpose and patrol dogs.



“Labradors, spaniels or a combination of both are our most common breeds for search work.

“However, we also use Pointers, Labradoodles, Weimaraners, Collie crosses or any combination of these which demonstrates energy to search.

“In total, we have 44 dogs, 26 of which are proactive and passive search dogs.

“Proactive dogs will search for drugs and mobile phones, phone chargers and sim cards.

“Passive dogs are deployed in each prison to search people, including visitors, and those prisoners returning from temporary release.

“The Dogs work a full range of shifts covering seven days a week.

“They’ll work for six-seven years depending on their health and ability, and some have served us for 10 years, which is quite remarkable.”

Maghaberry Prison Governor David Savage says, “Before the pandemic, there were in excess of 55,000 visitors a year to Maghaberry.



“Since Covid restrictions were introduced that figure has obviously dropped, but our dogs have still completed in excess of 16,000 visitor searches in that time.

“576 individual positive indications were recorded which thwarted attempts to smuggle illegal and illicit articles into prison.

“Alongside this, 6,000 passive dog searches of prisoners being committed to prison or returning to prison following a short period of release, have been carried out.

“As things begin to open up again we know some people are determined to smuggle drugs into our prisons. 

He adds, “Our message is clear, we are equally determined to stop them and our dogs play a hugely important role in that work.”

WATCH: Minister Long meets Maghaberry Prison’s Dogs handlers with their dogs:



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