Prison refuses reporter admission to cover mass

A freelance journalist who helped to expose the deaths of seven Irish inmates in Brixton Prison over an 18-month period has complained that he was blocked from attending a mass service in the prison.

Paul Donovan was due to report on a mass for prisoners organised by the Irish Foreign Nationals Group.

However, three hours before the service was due to take place, Donovan said he was called by the Prison Service press office asking what sort of article he was going to write.

He said he was going in to cover the celebration, including the mass, and to talk to prisoners. Ten minutes later, Brixton Prison reportedly rang back to say he was to be denied admission.

Donovan said: “I would have thought the prison would have welcomed some good publicity after its recent record. The way the Prison Service press office reacted in blocking such an innocuous visit couldn’t help but make me wonder whether they may have something to hide.

“It is the first time I have been blocked from covering a mass. For the Irish population, Brixton Prison has a lot to do to prove it has changed from the days when people were dying in there on a regular basis – this does not seem a very good way of going about changing that image.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Anyone who wants to get into a prison needs to put in a bid to the national press office. You can’t be invited in by outside organisations, such as the huge number of voluntary organisations that work in prisons.

“The journalist came to us very late in the day and we couldn’t verify the publication he worked for in the short timescale. There are security concerns surrounding prisons and we need to verify who people are.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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