Prison officers are given body armour

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The Independent Online

Prison officers in Northern Ireland have been issued with body armour to wear in case of attack by dissident republicans, it emerged yesterday.

The danger from gunmen has increased and individual wardens have been threatened, admitted the director of the province's prison service, Robin Masefield. Some officers even had protection built into their homes, he told the new justice committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mr Masefield said: "There are a number of steps we have already proactively taken in liaison with the police. For example, we have issued some external body protection for staff. There are one or two practical measures for staff who might be perceived to be at risk or might perceive themselves to be at risk. We are prioritising those."

He said the threat level against prison staff was "moderate" and not as high as against police. "We are conscious of an increased threat level... and there was an increased number of warnings principally, but not always exclusively in relation to dissidents," the director added.

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