Irish News

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Former Mountjoy governor John Lonergan: ‘No sinister reason’ for prison call recording

Brian O'Reilly

Published 02/04/2014 | 12:11

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Former Governor of Mountjoy Prison John Lonergan was the host of the TV show Circus on which the two sisters appeared
Former Governor of Mountjoy Prison John Lonergan was the host of the TV show Circus on which the two sisters appeared

THE former governor of Mountjoy, John Lonergan, has said he believes the recording of prisoner’s phone calls to their solicitor’s was as a result of a technical error.

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Mr Lonergan explained that the current phone system was installed around ten years ago, which would allow prisoner’s a six minute phone call daily.

The prisoner’s had a restricted list of pre-approved numbers which they were allowed call, and they were aware the calls were being recorded.

Only calls to the Samaritans and the prisoner’s solicitor were not recorded.  

Mr Lonergan explained to Pat Kenny on Newstalk that the recording of phone calls was put in place as a security measure.

“There was a system in place from around 2003/2004. It was installed as an enhancement for prisoners to help them keep in contact with their families.

“Calls were recorded for security reasons – they weren’t listened to, unless we had a suspicion of someone, in case they were using the facility for an illicit reason, such as organising a crime, or to give instructions around drugs or whatever it would be.

“They’re were very, very irregularly listened to.” He said.

However the system was updated after Mr Lonergan retired in 2010, and he believes as a result of a technical glitch during the update it meant all phone calls were recorded – not just those to family members, as the original system operated.

“I’m personally satisfied there is no sinister reason for it, I believe it was a technical fault.

“Prisoners would often request main line contact with their solicitors anyway as the other system is restricted to six minutes, and also it would take a number of days to register their solicitor’s number on the system.”

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