BBC giving David Ford another bye-ball?

The BBC headline runs:

Prisoner MacFerran mistakenly released six weeks early

Mr MacFerran, this time, did nothing illegal like numerous prisoners before him – he was wrongly released on David Ford’s prison watch. MacFerran wasn’t the one in the wrong but his name is the headline – how does that work?

Why doesn’t the headline run – Minister Ford oversees another prison farce?

  • Exactly!
    Criticising David Ford is like making the baby Jesus cry.

  • ulsterobserver

    Time for Mr Ford to resign !!

  • Lionel Hutz

    I know they say the buck stops with the MInister, but what should David Ford have done here?

    I would be shy about criticizing David Ford, after the horrendous he has handled the legal aid dispute, but i wonder how much the MInister is actually to blame for the mismanagement of the prison service as that mismanagement seems to have been endemic for a long time now.

  • In fairness there is nothing that he could have done.
    But as some of his keenest supporters tell us, Politics aint fair.
    The fact is that David Ford is the less contentious Minister and therefore attracts less partisan which is understandable.
    Less understandable is the bye ball he has given by journalists.

  • Mark McGregor


    At some point the Minister must become responsible surely? He’s into his second term. When does any of it become his fault? (the SF and DUP Ministers don’t try seriously blaming it on the Brits these days)

  • DC

    Released six weeks early lightens the burden on the taxpayer.

  • DC

    The person was re-arrested, ah well no savings there.

    It’s the prison service’s fault first up.

  • It’s not correct to say that there was nothing Ford could do. At the very least, following the earlier mistaken releases, he should have demanded to see the procedural changes put in place to prevent a reoccurrance. Those procedures were changed, right?
    The buck does stop with him and he should also demand to know what discipline is imposed, if any is necessary.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Which of the related services are outsourced, to whom, and under what contractual terms?

    What is the Minister doing about procurement? What has he done regarding these terms since taking office, again?

    I think these are the questions the media have failed to ask. Hard to know though, such is the level of transparency.

  • Local hack


    Ford joins long list of names who have been given a bye-ball – You can’t rock the boat you know

  • iluvni

    So, its another 5 years of no minister taking responsibility for any balls-up then…
    No honour whatsoever.

  • Any chance of them accidentally locking up a few criminals and gangsters.

  • thethoughtfulone

    I thought this whole principle had been settled by now (god knows there’s been plenty of chances to formulate a relevant protocol), it’s not necessarily about whether you are actually to blame or not, it’s about accepting the responsibilities of your position and that lies with Mr Ford.

    On top of that then, you can’t help but think that there couldn’t have been enough heads knocked together after the last “mistakes” or this really shouldn’t have happened again, and that is directly attributable to the minister.

    If he doesn’t have to go, he should at least appear to be under a bit of pressure, sadly that doesn’t even appear to be the case!

  • Listening to Ford on Spotlight last night, it seems that, like his carmaker namesake he’s started as he means to go on…..and on…I know politicians give few straight answers but Ford specialises in waffling. I don’t altogether blame him for the prisoner escapes, if someone on the site isn’t doing their job.

  • Mac

    At what point does the DUP stop supporting prison officers who were on duty as a man tried for more than an hour to hang himself in full view of a camera, after pressing the samaritan help line multiple times, all in a cell that he was placed in as he was suicidal, but managed to kill himself because the officers on duty were sleeping?

    The problem with the prison service is the prison officers and those politicians that support them no matter what, not some ineffective tweedy fellah who only got the job cause neither side trusts the other.

  • Yes, Mac,

    The buck does stop at Ford. Of course he is not directly responsible for the mistaken release but he is responsible for ensuring that his Departments, including the Prisons, are fit for purpose. Everyone seems to agree that there are major problems with the Prison Service but there does not seem to be a plan to tackle them

  • Comrade Stalin

    I am not sure what else any government minister is supposed to do. Ford already said, whenever he started the job, that the prison service is broken (much to the consternation of the unionists), and as such there is already a review of the prison service in progress which should hopefully identify the cause of these problems and suggest remedies. Stuff like this takes time.

    It would definitely not be appropriate for any minister to lash out and start firing people. You’d simply end up with a repeat of the bloody disaster that happened with NIW.

    It’s true that Ford is responsible and is where the buck stops. But “responsible” in this place does not mean that he is phoning up prison service officials and saying “I don’t really care if you release a few people ahead of time”. Each time this stuff happens he faces a serious bollocking from the media and everyone else, I hardly think he finds that in any way enjoyable.

    Hey Lionel, on the subject of screwing up the legal aid system, you might want to read the latest Hansard for the justice committee and note Alban Maginness making a complete and total tit out of himself.

  • Mac

    “Yes, Mac,
    The buck does stop at Ford.”

    Ford can’t do squat without Unionist backing, Ford won’t get Unionist backing because of the relationship between the POA and Unionist parties.
    Until such times that multiple prison officers can be disciplined for sleeping/playing computer games and watching TV for a full shift whilst a man hangs himself whilst on suicide watch in a call with 4 cameras that they were supposed to be monitoring without DUP MPs championing their cause, Ford is in a no win situation.

    I’ve always thought that it was bizarre how little coverage this received on Slugger. But that’s the thing with this format, important issues don’t even get alluded to if it’s not in a blogger’s list of bugbears.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Facing into the POA’s entitlement culture would be one boat it would be nice to think a self-respecting public representative might be able to try. Creating conditions in which managers can manage is always a decent start to any talk of change and reform. That crowd have been shaking the public purse down without challenge for far too long here. Greedy, opportunist, entitlement-obsessed, much too well protected politically. If Ford had any sense – and for that matter testicular fortitude – he’d at least a table a few commonsense proposals on this and make sure they get out into the public domain and then let the DUPes (and/or or the civil servants) carry the can for blocking it if they’re obstructing progress. The soft-soaping’s gotta stop though.

  • Comrade Stalin

    In fairness though Mac, if Ford finds himself in a position like that then the only honourable thing to do would be to resign. Given that this would put the political institutions in danger at the moment, I’d bank on the DUP and co figuring out a way to fix the prison officers – carrot and stick.

    If Ford had any sense – and for that matter testicular fortitude – he’d at least a table a few commonsense proposals on this and make sure they get out into the public domain

    Government ministers generally don’t “table proposals” when dealing with a technical matter like the detailed question of how the prison service should be structured. They start out with a set of high level principles and then hold an enquiry/consultation/etc and get a bunch of experts to make the proposal for them. The minister then either signs the dotted line, or not depending upon whether or not he/she is persuaded by the outcome of that process.

    For example you will note that nobody in a position of power is stepping up to say “let’s cut corporation tax” or “let’s legalize cannabis”. There are a series of enquiries and consultations. Sometimes they get implemented, sometimes they get ignored.

    So if the report which is currently in progress lands on Ford’s desk, and a few months later another prisoner gets accidentally released and we find that Ford has dithered on implementing the reforms – then he is toast and there is no option except resignation.

  • Mac

    It’s been 3 years since Colin Bell committed suicide in Maghaberry, since then we’ve had POs investigated for planting the English Governors address in a dissident republican’s cell, which caused the man to quit the job and ‘leave the overpaid paddys to it’.
    Since then we’ve had convicted rapists released because POs didn’t bother telling the private company that transports prisoners to court that the man was not to be released on being acquitted of a separate charge. The same prisoner has since been arrested after a lengthy manhunt following the murder in Kilkeel he has since been charged in relation to.
    We’ve had how many suicides so far this year?
    And now another prisoner released.

    All from a prison where staff are paid more than their counterparts elsewhere (even before you factor in their ‘environmental allowance’), where they actually outnumber the inmates and that consistently ranks bottom of the prison league tables.

    The only person that has ‘lost’ their job through all this, is the English governor that was brought in to sort the mess out, and he only cleared off after his family address was found in a dissident republican’s cell by POs who are currently been investigated for planting it there.

    Ford will take the nice salary, not rock the boat too much, and as taxpayers we should all just have to shut up about it until such times as they pay the POs off with huge severance pay deals on top of their final salary pensions and replace the old guard with the new civil service grade POs that actually have to worry about things like disciplinary action if they are caught sleeping at work due to being tired from working their other job.

  • In fairness to Ford……and I dont believe that I typed that……….the culture in the Prison Service pre-dates him and will I suspect be there long after David Ford is Justice Minister.
    I would think that in fairness to prison officers…..and I dont believe I typed that either……their job is probably more stressful than anywhere else in Western Europe.
    But they have played on that………..tore the ass out of it.

    The bigger crisis facing Ford is not one of the day to day management of police or even the Legal Aid issue.
    The Police Federation are calling for UVF “early release” people to be sent back to prison in the event of last weeks events in East Belfast …..and Chief Constable Baggot, Secretary Patterson and Minister Ford must have felt distinctly uncomfortable listening to that today at the Federation Conference.

    Ford is now sitting in an administration alongside Peter Robinson who it is believed spoke with these people.
    With some justification David Ford can claim that he has no control over day to day management.
    But he DOES have a measure of control over his own actions or inactions.
    If Fords feet are to be held closer to the flames……thats the real issue.

  • DC

    The only way to protect sensitive public services is by bringing in short term contracts for senior decision makers.

    The person that mucks up is given a chance to improve or else the contract is not renewed. If the person is good over a number of years – offer a 5 year contract.

    This gets round complacency in the public sector – the comfort of knowing that you really need to commit murder before you are fired.

    Can’t see the unions agreeing to this one – but hey what can be done? What happens instead is just more outsourcing something which I am against in the criminal justice systems simply because there needs to be a degree of intelligence gathering on criminals so society can track who is up to what. And how often – repeat offenders etc.

    The private sector you get a service without any of this.

    Was this failure in management linked to outsourcing?

  • Lionel Hutz


    On Alban and the legal aid dispute, he knows what is happening from both ends. You can clearly see how frustrated he is. Essentially the Minister is saying that the rules are in force and there is now no way he compromise and there is nothing to do – even though its his fault that the rules went through.

    I’m not sure which hansard, you are talking about, last week or this week. I have read last weeks. I could point out to you the litany of spin and frankly lies that have been said by Mr Ford to that committee.

    I have written up on this issue many times and shown how the Minister is wrong using data from the PAC in Westminister, the EU and others that show the problems he is going to create. Any objective reader of that evidence would see that it is wrong.

    Instead we have headline grabbers. Like today, we had a NIAO report that roundly lambasted the legal service commission and NICTS for a system that is not fit for purpose yet we have headliens about hwo this is a damaging blow to the Lawyers.

    I have thought about whether I could written an aritcle or articles to slugger, but I dont know if the powers that be on here would be interested. That is a situation that is going to cause untold damage to our criminal justice system and I believe I could offer an insight into it if it was wanted.

    Sorry for going off topic. On the prison issue, the way i see it Ford is on notice. It would be wrong to believe he could be personally accountable for the endemic failings of the NIPS at this point. But at some point he will have to assume responsibility and if in a year or two, these things are still happening then he should be held accoutnable. Of course he wont, because his position is protected by SF and DUP so it doesn’t matter what he does. He wont lose face because they wont lose face and its clear that he doesn;t have the integrity to do what is right.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Comrade Stalin

    My only point about tabling proposals was in order that he could isolate any resistance from within unionism and smoke them out. It goes without saying that he ought to be doing what he can be doing within the limits of his delegated authority and legal competence in any case.

  • ‘Fit for Purpose’ John reid certainly has a lot to answer for by getting this cliche going. Ford has shown during the year long run as justice chair, why he’s been put there. And it’s NOT on merit.

  • Mac. 29th 7.55
    I’m not sure there is a point at which DUP would criticize the PSNI, Prison officers etc if they started eating babies, since to do so might give satisfaction to the other side, and you can’t hacve that. I heard a DUP reacting to the Kingsmill massacre and the RUC handling of it. He criticised them for their failures referring to ‘the police’ as he couldn’t bring himself to say RUC. This is the mindset you’re dealing with.

  • My god, he called the RUC the police. Ought to be horsewhipped.

  • Mark McGregor


    Feel free to email. I’m happy to help you get a post on Slugger on this topic.

    That offer is always there from Mick and myself when a topic doesn’t fall within the list of bloggers ‘bugbears’. If you write it up in a bloggable format and it passes the quality threshold (Mick’s threshold is higher than mine) it more often than not will end up as a guest post.

  • fordprefect

    As someone earlier pointed out: no “minister” here has ever been held to account for any balls ups they’ve made. Ford imo is a brainless twit trying to copy his Lib-Dem counterparts by trying to appear to be “hard”, re: the legal aid debacle (once he thought he had a bit of power). The Lib-Dems paid dearly for their treachery in the last local and assembly elections in Britain (and will pay even more dearly come the next general election). Unfortunately, we’ll still be stuck with the same shower of W****** for years to come.