Maze cells unlocked in easier regime

TERRORIST prisoners at Northern Ireland's top-security Maze jail are to be allowed to leave and enter their cells 24 hours a day.

The privilege is among a raft of new rules designed to ease the strict regime at the prison, 12 miles from Belfast.

The Northern Ireland Office would not comment today on reports that all 530 republican and loyalist inmates would be allowed keys to their cells. But a spokesman said: 'Prisoners will now have access to the sanitation block at all times.'

Inter-wing visits are to be allowed and prisoners will also be given an extended range of goods at the tuck shop and greater access to prescribed medicines.

The changes follow recommendations in a major report published in February by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Judge Stephen Tumim. The Nothern Ireland Office spokesman said: 'This is a major step forward in improving the relationship between inmates and prison officers. But the changes do not compromise security in any way.'