Investigation Report into the Death In Custody of George Armstrong

Published on August 25 2010

The Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has today published on her Office website a copy of the Investigation Report into the death in prison custody of George Armstrong who died on 18th October 2008.

Mr Armstrong had been in Maghaberry Prison when he became ill and later died of cancer in Somerton Hospice, having been released on licence.

arrangements for appropriate access to healthcare services
record keeping including around non-attendance at appointments
use of wheelchairs to transport prisoners to healthcare
family liaison arrangements
adherence to NICE guidelines by healthcare staff working in prisons
arrangements for signing of release papers where prisoners are gravely ill

Commenting on the Report, Pauline McCabe said, “Deaths in prison custody have a significant impact on everyone involved. It is therefore understandable that there will be questions about the last days and hours of a loved one.

“I am pleased to note that since Mr Armstrong’s death, new arrangements have been put in place at Maghaberry, which will address some of the issues raised in my investigation. My first recommendation in this report is therefore to review and monitor these new arrangements.

Pauline McCabe continued, “I hope the learning highlighted in our investigative reports, for the Northern Ireland Prison Service and for the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, will help us to improve the care provided in our prisons.”

Further media inquiries should be directed to Janet Devlin or Vicki Caddy at ASG on 028 9080 2000 or by email to or

Notes to editors:

Please note that Mr Armstrong’s family have requested that they do not wish to be contacted by the media in relation to the Prisoner Ombudsman’s Report.
The Prisoner Ombudsman, Pauline McCabe, made a commitment when she took up post in September 2008 to publish all death in custody investigation reports. It will be normal practice for copies of Death in Custody investigation reports to be placed on the website with notification to the press through a press release.
Copies of all death in custody investigation reports published to date can be found at
In line with the Prisoner Ombudsman Terms of Reference a copy of the Report will also be sent to the Coroner.
The Prisoner Ombudsman terms of reference (found at require her to investigate all deaths in prison custody since September 2005.
When the office was given this role no additional resources were provided.
The current Prisoner Ombudsman secured some additional resources in Summer 2009 and is currently working through a backlog of death in custody investigations.
Investigations are ongoing into six deaths in prison custody.