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Ebulletin #13

17th December 2004


Volume 2, Number 12



2) Irish Youth Justice Alliance Submission to the Department of Justice on the Irish Youth Justice System

3) Prison Inspector releases new reports

4) Annual Report of the National Prison Chaplains released

5) Annual Report of the Parole Board published

6) INTERNATIONAL NEWS – England, US and Bali

· England "Judges' verdict on terror laws provokes constitutional crisis"

· US – “U.S. Can Use Evidence Gained by Torture"

· England – "Face to face, a victim seeks justice from her burglar"

· Bali – "Methadone in prison to launch in Bali"


Please note our new address and telephone/fax

Irish Penal Reform Trust

53 Parnell Square West

Dublin 1


Telephone: +353 (0)1 874 1400

FAX: +353 (0)1 873 3174

Irish Youth Justice Alliance Submission to the Department of Justice on the Irish Youth Justice System

In November, the Irish Youth Justice Alliance (formerly the Juvenile Justice Alliance) made a formal submission Submission to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform Project Team on the Irish Youth Justice System.

The Submission is available on the IPRT website.

Prison Inspector releases new reports

The Report of the Inspection of Limerick Prison by the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention 2003 - 2004 and the Report of the Inspection of Portlaoise Prison by the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention 2003 - 2004 were released this month and are available on the IPRT website.

Annual Report of the National Prison Chaplains released

The 2004 Annual Report of the National Prison Chaplains was released in late November and is availabel on the IPRT website.

Annual Report of the Parole Board published

Annual Report of the Parole Board 2003 has been published and is available on the IPRT website.

"Judges' verdict on terror laws provokes constitutional crisis" by Clare Dyer, Michael White and Alan Travis, The Guardian

A scathing law lords judgment condemning the indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects as a threat to the life of the nation left anti-terrorist laws in tatters yesterday.

The ruling by an 8-1 majority held that the indefinite detention without trial at Belmarsh, and Woodhill high security prisons was unlawful under the European convention on human rights (ECHR).

Constitutional lawyers called it one of the most important decisions from Britain's highest court in 50 years.

But 24 hours after David Blunkett, the law's sponsor, was forced to resign as home secretary, Downing St and the new home secretary, Charles Clarke decided to tough it out. They would study the judgment - but made it plain they are more likely to renew the controversial laws than modify them.

Lord Hoffmann, ruled that there is no "state of public emergency threatening the life of the nation"- the only basis on which Britain is entitled to exercise its opt-out from article five of the European convention, the right to liberty.

It was the anti-terror laws introduced by Mr Blunkett which posed a threat, he declared. "The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these."

The judgment adds to the clutch of election-sensitive law and order problems in Mr Clarke's in-tray. No 10 signalled it is "clearly minded to renew it" and Mr Clarke chose to stress continuity with Mr Blunkett's policies.  

On Channel 4 News Hazel Blears, the police minister, said judges who authorised detentions had seen intelligence data which the law lords did not. "This is a matter for parliament to decide" in line with the European convention. "Our over-riding concern is the protection of this nation."

Sixteen Muslims have been detained under the anti-terror legislation, with 10 still held in Belmarsh, south-east London, and Woodhill, Bucks, and one in Broadmoor mental hospital. They are certified as "suspected international terrorists".

The law lords ruling said the state should decide whether a state of emergency existed. But they argued that the government's response breached the human rights convention because it went further than required.

It was a disproportionate interference with liberty and equality and unlawfully discriminated against foreigners because British terror suspects thought to pose a similar risk cannot be locked up without charge or trial.

Lord Scott described the regime under which suspects can be detained indefinitely on the say-so of the home secretary with no right to know the grounds for detention as "the stuff of nightmares, associated with France before and during the revolution, with Soviet Russia in the Stalinist era, and now associated, as a result of section 23 of the 2001 Act, with the United Kingdom".

The judgment does not oblige the government to release the detainees immediately, but under the Human Rights Act the government must take steps soon to remedy the situation. These could include legislation - for example, making evidence obtained from telephone tapping admissible in a criminal court - which would make it easier to try detainees.

Another option would be measures allowing them to be released under constant surveillance and monitoring.

Mr Clarke is expected to produce new proposals in the new year and until then the detainees will remain in Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons.

Gareth Peirce, solicitor for eight detainees, commented: "The government has to take steps to withdraw the legislation and release the detainees."

The judgment puts Mr Clark under huge pressure to devise a solution or face the prospect of more embarrassing court defeats in the run-up to the general election.

The detainees' solicitors could take the case to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg if the government drags its heels. Lawyers said another possibility was an application in the English courts for a declaration that it was unconstitutional for the home secretary to continue to detain the men in breach of a house of lords ruling.

The case was heard by an al most unprecedented panel of nine law lords, instead of the usual five, because of its constitutional significance.

The attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, who argued the case for the government, had tried to persuade the judges that they were "undemocratic" and should defer to the will of elected representatives.

Jeffrey Jowell, professor of public law at University College London, said: "It establishes that, even where the government claims national security is an issue, the court has authority to delineate the proper boundaries of a rights-based democracy."

 © The Guardian

"U.S. Can Use Evidence Gained by Torture" by Michael J. Sniffen, Associated Press

Evidence gained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in deciding whether to imprison a foreigner indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant, the government concedes.

Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday.

Some of the prisoners have filed lawsuits challenging their detention without charges for up to three years so far. At the hearing, Boyle urged District Judge Richard J. Leon to throw their cases out.

Attorneys for the prisoners argued that some were held solely on evidence gained by torture, which they said violated fundamental fairness and U.S. due process standards. But Boyle argued in a similar hearing Wednesday that the detainees "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court."

Leon asked whether a detention based solely on evidence gathered by torture would be illegal, because "torture is illegal. We all know that."

Boyle replied that if the military's combatant status review tribunals "determine that evidence of questionable provenance were reliable, nothing in the due process clause (of the Constitution) prohibits them from relying on it."

Leon asked whether there were any restrictions on using torture-induced evidence.

Boyle replied that the United States never would adopt a policy that would have barred it from acting on evidence that could have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks even if the data came from questionable practices like torture by a foreign power.

Several arguments underlie the U.S. court ban on products of torture.

"About 70 years ago, the Supreme Court stopped the use of evidence produced by third-degree tactics largely on the theory that it was totally unreliable," Harvard Law Professor Philip B. Heymann, a former deputy U.S. attorney general, said in an interview. Subsequent high court rulings were based on revulsion at "the unfairness and brutality of it and later on the idea that confessions ought to be free and uncompelled."

Leon asked whether U.S. courts could review detentions based on evidence from torture conducted by U.S. personnel.

Boyle said torture was against U.S. policy and any allegations of it would be "forwarded through command channels for military discipline." He added, "I don't think anything remotely like torture has occurred at Guantanamo" but noted that some U.S. soldiers there had been disciplined for misconduct, including a female interrogator who removed her blouse during questioning.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday it has given the Bush administration a confidential report critical of U.S. treatment of Guantanamo detainees. The New York Times reported the Red Cross described the psychological and physical coercion used at Guantanamo as "tantamount to torture."

The combatant status review tribunals comprise three colonels and lieutenant colonels. They were set up after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the detainees could ask U.S. courts to see to it they had a proceeding in which to challenge their detention. The panels have reviewed 440 of the prisoners so far but have released only one.

The military also set up an annual administrative review which considers whether the detainee still presents a danger to the United States but doesn't review enemy combatant status. Administrative reviews have been completed for 161.

Boyle argued these procedures are sufficient to satisfy the high court.

Noting that detainees cannot have lawyers at the combatant status review proceedings and cannot see any secret evidence against them, detainee attorney Wes Powell argued "there is no meaningful opportunity in the (proceedings) to rebut the government's claims."

Leon suggested that if federal judges start reviewing the military's evidence for holding foreign detainees there could be "practical and collateral consequences ... at a time of war."

And he suggested an earlier Supreme Court ruling might limit judges to checking only on whether detention orders were lawfully issued and review panels were legally established.

Leon and Judge Joyce Hens Green, who held a similar hearing Wednesday, said they would try to rule soon on whether the 59 detainees may proceed with their lawsuits.

 © Associated Press

"Face to face, a victim seeks justice from her burglar" by Mary Riddell, The Observer

The burglar was moving towards his victim's back door when a neighbour saw him in the shadows and dialled 999. As Alexi Estathiou, desperate for money to buy heroin, was overcome by two policemen in the kitchen, his intended victim, Maria Vassiliou, ran in from her sitting room, terrified and weeping.

In a capital city, in an age of fear, such a break-in would barely register on the national barometer of terror. No one was killed. Nothing was stolen. Yet small crimes damage lives. Mrs Vassiliou, a widow in her sixties, has lived in constant fear since the attempted burglary. Police sirens make her tense with anxiety and she dare not leave her house. She sleeps on her front-room sofa, a knife beside her in case Estathiou should return to her terraced cottage in south London, though she has been told he is in prison awaiting sentence.

Now Mrs Vassiliou is facing her greatest dread. Estathiou, a grey-faced man of 37, dressed in a purple T-shirt and tracksuit trousers, is staring her in the eye.

This time, though, she is on his turf. They sit in a bare classroom in Pentonville prison, north London, with a trained police facilitator, a university researcher, Mrs Vassiliou's son and daughter, Estathiou's uncle, Spiros, and me. This face-to-face encounter is a part of an experiment in restorative justice.

Many visitors have come to this locked room in Pentonville. The Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, appeal court judges, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, and government ministers have sat on these plastic chairs, or similar ones in other prisons. Cherie Booth QC, who told me she believes her husband's government should do more to expand this technique, hopes to attend a session.

Until now, the media have been barred from the Pentonville experiment. The Observer is the first newspaper to be allowed to witness the two-year study run by criminologists for the Justice Research Consortium (JRC), a partnership between UK agencies, the University of Pennsylvania and the Australian National University. In a series of conferences, serious offenders who have pleaded guilty to their crimes are brought face to face with their victims for several hours' truth and reconciliation. What happens in this room to such people as Estathiou and Mrs Vassiliou could help to transform British justice.

Restoration is the government's latest big idea. Pay-back by offenders has been a statutory part of youth justice since 1999. It goes on in schools and at police stations, where officers can give restorative cautions. It has been used with malefactors ranging from graffiti sprayers to the three boys who kicked a baby wallaby to death at Dudley zoo.

Now the Home Office has spent a large part of a £4.9 million restorative justice budget on testing the practice on adult burglars and robbers. Participants are tried normally, but any remorse, apologies or explanations are passed on to the sentencing judge. Researchers will evaluate whether participants get lighter sentences, but the aim is not soft justice. The government hopes it will result in reduced reoffending. Britain remains the biggest jailer in Western Europe and keeping a prisoner inside costs £27,500 a year. Added to that, prison suicide rates are at a record high. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is desperate to halt a trend under which the number of inmates, on the worst prognosis, could rise from an already stratospheric 74,000 to 91,400 by 2009.

Today's immediate aims are to give Mrs Vassiliou peace and reparation, and to make Estathiou want to give up drugs and crime. At first, neither looks achievable. Estathiou moans that his wife and children have left him and that his drunken father used to beat him. His uncle tells his nephew several times that he is useless.

Mrs Vassiliou shakes and cries. She had not wanted to come here. Her children stare with loathing at Estathiou. Then a different story starts to emerge, explaining why a crime that involved no loss or violence damaged the Vassilious so deeply. 'Think what my mum went through,' her son, Nick, shouts at Estathiou. 'She thought you would take a knife out and kill her. Our dad is dead. There is no one to take care of her.'

Estathiou tells Nick, a City lawyer, of his troubled childhood. 'You have had all the chances,' the housebreaker says. By now Mrs Vassiliou's daughter, Athena, is crying with anger. Her father, she says, was, like Estathiou's, an impoverished Greek Cypriot who drank. He collapsed with a heart attack soon after his 50th birthday. Athena, then aged 12, held her mother's hand as his body was taken away. 'I had never seen her look like that again, until the day you burgled her,' she tells Estathiou.

After her husband's death, Mrs Vassiliou was left with large debts. Her two small children helped run the cafe they owned, cooking fried meals before and after school, and studying until late into the night. Athena gave up a place to read economics at a leading university to help her mother. Her brother stayed at home to care for Mrs Vassiliou until she had learnt English and come to terms with her sorrow. He had just moved into his own flat on the day that Estathiou broke in.

As Estathiou grows mortified by the Vassiliou family's struggle against adversity, their mother looks at him with growing pity. 'I'm scared of you,' she says. 'But I am trying to be strong. You could get a job and get off drugs. If you give them up, Alexi, I will invite you for tea.' Two hours later, all the participants sign an agreement in which Estathiou says he will apply for drugs treatment and look into getting a job in the fitness industry. His uncle says he will send him some new trainers.

Mrs Vassiliou advises him to stay off heroin, but she sounds now as if she is talking to a recalcitrant son, not a monster. When the crying stops and the shabby room is empty, it feels as if a seance has been ruptured. Senior judges, used to adversarial justice, have gone away from similar meetings full of evangelistic fervour. But does this idea work?

For victims, the answer is a fairly unequivocal yes: 75 per cent of them, rising to almost 90 per cent in the consortium study, say they are helped an immense amount. For offenders, some results are startling. One Australian study found violent criminals were 38 per cent less likely to reoffend in the year following their conference, rising to 50 per cent in the second year, compared with those who had gone straight to jail.

The reasons for these successes are unclear, although researchers speculate that attackers and their prey - often young men - may be struck by their similarities when they meet. For burglars, the results were much less convincing, and drink-drivers were actually more likely to reoffend after restorative justice sessions. Drug users and alcoholics denied proper treatment often find that addiction trumps good intentions.

Even so, leading figures in criminal justice are convinced that the idea offers a major breakthrough demanding more research and wider, careful use. As the consortium's study draws to a close, the question is whether the government is doing enough. Cherie Booth thinks not. Though she stresses the Home Office's active interest, she argues that the government should do more. 'We have moved to a position where restorative justice is integral to our youth justice system,' she told me. 'I think the government deserves credit for this. But from where I sit, we now need to go further so that a similar approach is taken across the entire criminal justice system. I think the time is right for us to look at making restorative justice an integral part of all guilty pleas. There would then be an assumption that it is available to all those passing sentence on a guilty plea, rather than making this an exceptional approach.'

What she is proposing is infinitely more radical - and expensive - than what the Home Office now plans. Her suggestion does not mean that all victims and offenders would meet face to face, but it does imply that courts could ask for reports on what reparation might be offered by any defendant who admits a crime. Would Booth include very serious offenders, such as rapists, as potential candidates for pay-back? She does not rule it out. 'I think the process would need very careful handling and specialist training for very serious, violent offences. And, as with all restorative justice, it could never happen unless the victim actively wanted it and fully consented. In such cases, too, it could not be a substitute for a custodial sentence, but could conceivably run alongside it.'

Does she think the government should urgently spend more money on it? 'Restorative justice is not a panacea, and it is not going to solve all the problem of our criminal justice system, or empty our prisons. But if the evidence shows it is successful, in particular in helping cutting reoffending, I believe it could further boost confidence in the criminal justice system, help to redress the wrongs done to victims of crime and play a part in reducing prison populations...

'Everyone I have spoken to - fellow judges, senior police officers and facilitators - believe they [the pilot schemes] have been a success. There certainly seems plenty of evidence that victims support this approach which must be an important, if not clinching, guide to whether it works.'

Enthusiasm at the Home Office is more measured. Paul Goggins, the Prisons Minister, who has been an observer at a serious offender conference, says: 'It was very powerful and I was very impressed. Surveys have shown very high victim satisfaction. But we don't have the robust evidence about reoffending rates we need if we are going to roll out this approach extensively.'

A worldwide body of evidence has persuaded jurisdictions from Australia to America to incorporate restorative justice into mainstream criminal justice, but Heather Strang, the criminologist leading the commission's study, thinks that more trials are essential. 'It is very promising. But what we need to do is test it in a rigorous way, not just assume it's a magic bullet. That is why it's important to continue this research programme.'

As an academic, Strang has been astonished by the support from police and judges. 'It's very nice to have a gang of judges wanting to continue this. But it's up to them to lobby the Home Office to get the money.' Other voices are demanding a higher priority for a varied system of restorative justice designed to reduce crime, allay fears and bind together divided communities.

To Sir Charles Pollard, the former Chief Constable of the Thames Valley police, restorative justice is 'social penicillin'. He adds: 'The government says the jury is still out on reoffending, but my personal view is that case is overwhelmingly made. We know restorative justice can reduce reoffending significantly in most types of crime.' In time, he believes, it could work in sexual assault and domestic violence cases too.

But first, he argues, the government must set up a national agency to run all restorative programmes. In its report last week, the group Rethinking Crime and Punishment - which co-funded the consortium's research - made the same demand. It recommends, like Cherie Booth, the presumption that all sentences include an element of reparation.

For serious offenders and their victims, the tide flows the other way. The research money is largely spent, and the number of conferences is dwindling. Many regret that a programme offering so much promise is put on ice, while the government waits to assess the reoffending patterns of the study's guinea pigs, many of whom are now serving long sentences. In the absence of a criminal justice revolution, the champions of restorative justice have to settle for small breakthroughs. Estathiou is on the drugs treatment course he requested. Mrs Vassiliou sleeps easy in her bed.

· Some names and personal details in this article have been altered to protect people's identities.

 © The Observer

"Methadone in prison to launch in Bali" by Irene Lorete, Asian Harm Reduction Network - Indonesia

Last week, a training on methadone substitution - for both hospital and prison setting - began in Bali. It is the first of two such trainings to take place in Indonesia and is being supported by the Family Health International's Aksi Stop AIDS Program (FHI-ASA), the World Health Organization and the Indonesian HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (IHPCP).

The training will conclude with the national launch of the methadone program at the Kerobokan Prison in Bali on the 10th of December.

The introduction of methadone in the penal system is an incredible step taken by the Indonesian government, proving that substitution therapies are not incompatible with policy in the world's most populous Muslim country.

It took nearly two years before they totally warmed up to needle and syringe exchange and methadone substitution - harm reduction interventions, which, despite evidences that they are effective in preventing HIV transmission from injecting drug use, are still the least practiced and funded.

"We have worked very hard to convince the Indonesian government to introduce methadone in prisons here and have had some remarkable success," shares Palani Narayanan, IHPCP's Technical Adviser for Harm Reduction.

"This was not an option two years ago but through targeted advocacy, we have managed to convince policy makers, and this includes making methadone a component of treatment for prisoners in the national guideline.

"The government has been moving in the right direction," adds Palani whose advocacy strategy for IHPCP has lead to this track. The plan included study tours of prison methadone programs in Iran and New South Wales, choosing the right people to go, and ensuring that follow-up discussions happen when they returned.

The implementation of methadone substitution in Bali and Jakarta prisons is yet another milestone in harm reduction in Indonesia following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2003 between the National Police and Social Welfare Ministries (on behalf of the National Narcotics Bureau/BNN and the National AIDS Commission/KPA, respectively) to effectively address HIV/AIDS and drug use.

The aim was to integrate efforts to control HIV among IDUs and establish a National Harm Reduction Implementation Team to facilitate multi-sectoral coordination. 

Then in a public meeting hosted by the National AIDS Commission in July, the acting Minister for People's Welfare and the Head of the National Narcotics Board launched the plan to pilot harm reduction programs, including NSP, in preventing the spread of HIV from injecting drug use.

The pilot project will run for three years in Jakarta and Bali and is expected to reach 10,000 users per year. To date, NGOs running NSPs long before the launch of the government-sponsored program have reached 3,000 injecting drug users.

Contact Palani Narayanan at email: pnarayanan@ihpcp.or.id

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