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The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"Such legal claims are not unusual in Northern Ireland"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 April, 2000, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Prisoners sue over 'jailbreak injuries'
Whitemoor: Jailbreak was thwarted by warders
Four former prisoners, including convicted terrorists, sue the government over injuries they say they suffered after a bungled jailbreak.

One of the men, IRA terrorist, Liam McCotter is claiming compensation of 50,000.

He alleges prison officers beat him up after six Republicans tried to shoot their way to freedom from the top-security Whitemoor jail in Cambridgeshire in 1994.

Mr McCotter, 36, says he was repeatedly kicked and punched by warders soon after he was captured, and again in a segregation cell. One prison officer was shot and wounded in the escape.

He had been serving 15 years for conspiracy to cause explosions after a 200lb cache of Semtex was found in 1988. Targets were thought to include Manchester and London.

Danny McNamee: Bombing conviction overturned
The legal action has been condemned by relatives of IRA victims, including Colin Parry whose 12-year-old son, Tim, was killed in the 1993 Warrington bombing.

Mr Parry said: "Quite frankly I find the possibility of this man succeeding in the courts quite distasteful in the extreme.

"The idea of a man like him, who was in jail for the crimes he committed, seeking compensation at such a high level is unbelievable.

"Many victims of IRA violence have received considerably less than the figure this man is seeking."

Lord Tebbit who was injured in the 1984 Brighton bomb has also criticised the action.

A similar claim to Mr McCotter's is believed to have been lodged by Gilbert 'Danny' McNamee, 39, who joined the breakout while serving a 25-year sentence for the Hyde Park bombing that killed four Guardsmen.

His conviction was later overturned and he was freed 18 months ago, after serving 11 years. Mr McNamee, from Crossmaglen, is reported to be in line for 100,000 compensation for his years in jail.

'Severe headaches'

Mr McCotter and Mr McNamee lodged their claims with the High Court last month, according to several reports. A total of 27 prison officers are named in the legal action laid down by the two men.

Both say they have been left with "reduced grip strength" in their hands while McNamee says he has since suffered from severe headaches.

An investigation by the police and Prison Service at the time ruled that warders had not used undue force.

The night-time breakout from Whitemoor revealed astonishing lapses at what was supposed to be the country's most secure prison.

Besides two smuggled guns, the escapers had an array of equipment, including wire cutters and a 17ft rope ladder, which they had been able to make in the prison's workshops.

Four of the six escapees - five jailed for IRA offences and an armed robber - were captured almost immediately, although not before prison officer John Kettleborough, 33, was shot by a prisoner he spotted on top of a wall.

The two others were on the run for almost two hours before they were cornered by police using dogs and a helicopter with infra-red gear.

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