Prisoners set to sue over cell beatings

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The Independent Online
Three of the six men who staged the attempted escape from Whitemoor prison in 1994 are to sue the Prison Service over beatings they allegedly received after being recaptured.

Danny McNamee and Liam McCotter, both IRA prisoners, and Andrew Russell, an armed robber, are seeking damages over injuries sustained during up to five hours of alleged assaults during which they claim they were kicked, punched, and hit with batons by prison officers in a cell called the Strongbox.

Despite prison service assurances that the men were unscathed after their capture, The Independent has obtained pictures taken by Cambridgeshire police which show that at least two, McNamee, 36, and Russell, 34, were injured.

Two other IRA would-be escapees, Liam O'Duibhir, 34, and Peter Sherry, 31, were taken into custody by the police and were untouched. A fifth IRA terrorist, Paul Magee, 48, allegedly suffered injuries after his capture, but is taking no action.

The two worst injured were Russell and McNamee, who is understood to be initiating the action partly because he believes it will give him an opportunity to air claims that his original conviction - for the 1982 Hyde Park bomb which killed four people - was unsafe. He has always proclaimed his innocence.

"I don't think he'll be interested in any money that might come along," said his brother, Francis, who lives in Crossmaglen in the Irish Republic. "When the escape trial broke down last week [because a prejudicial story was published in the London Evening Standard], he was pleased he wouldn't have to face another sentence, but he was disappointed, too, that he would not be able to show that he shouldn't have been in jail in the first place."

The pictures, taken four days after the breakout, show McNamee with bruising to his face and body, with two gashes on his head that required stitches.

Russell suffered multiple cuts and bruises to his head, body and face, including a haemorrhage in his right eye and a torn ligament in an arm. In a statement taken after the beating, he alleges that one prison officer sat on his back and arms while pulling up his head by the hair so another officer could kick him in the face, head and shoulder. It is understood a report on his injuries written by a Home Office doctor talks of boot imprints on his face.

"They were systematically tortured," a member of his family said, adding that Russell had decided to take on the Prison Service to prevent future beatings for others.

A prison-service spokesman said: "Allegations of assault were investigated by Cambridgeshire police at the time and no charges were brought."

Cambridgeshire police said the allegations were "fully investigated but no evidence was found to support them".