IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Ebulletin #48

15th April 2009

IPRT logo


Welcome to the first IPRT E-Bulletin of 2009. The last few months have seen major changes within the organisation which we hope will signal an exciting new phase in the development of the Trust’s work. With the financial support of Atlantic Philanthropies and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust we have set ourselves an ambitious Strategic Plan for 2009 and 2010 and now have the help of three new staff members to achieve the goals contained in that Plan. Given the record high levels of the prison population, the associated crisis of overcrowding and the continuing uncertainty about the prison building programme, IPRT’s work is going to be more important than ever in the coming years.

On the positive side, the announcement that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is beginning a White Paper consultation process on crime opens up the opportunity for an alternative vision of the Irish penal system to be debated at national level. With our new capacity IPRT intends to publish a significant volume of research and policy work over the coming two years which will provide a radical new analysis of crime in Ireland and how the State responds to it. We will also now be in a position to engage State agencies and all other stakeholders in the political and criminal justice systems in that national discussion. We are optimistic and hopeful that, working together with you, our members and allies, IPRT can help to realise respect for the rights of all persons within the criminal justice system and advance the idea that imprisonment should be used only as a last resort.

Liam Herrick
Executive Director

Irish Penal Reform Trust
4th Floor, Equity House,
16-17 Ormond Quay,
Dublin 7, IRELAND

Tel: +353-(0)1-874-1400

1. New Office, New Office Team

IPRT has taken significant steps towards achieving the goals set out in our Strategic Plan 2008-2010 with the securing of new, larger premises in February and the recruitment of three new full-time staff.

IPRT is delighted to introduce the new Office Team, who join Executive Director Liam Herrick in our new offices at 4th Floor, Equity House, 16-17 Ormond Quay, Dublin 7:

MARY GAFFNEY (Office Manager)
Mary Gaffney is responsible for providing high level office administration and accounting functions at the Irish Penal Reform Trust. Mary has had extensive experience in the Voluntary and Community Sector to date, and was appointed to this role in March 2009. Prior to this role, she was the Coordinator of an EU Funded Project in the EQUAL Programme, which was one of four Community Initiatives co-financed by the EU in Ireland. Mary has also worked in various departments within the Department of Foreign Affairs.

AGNIESZKA MARTYNOWICZ (Research and Policy Officer)
Agnieszka joins IPRT as Research and Policy Officer, responsible for implementing the Research and Policy Programme and developing IPRT links with academic and research bodies in the field of penal reform. Until March 2009 Agnieszka was Assistant Director with the Institute for Conflict Research in Belfast where she led on the Institute’s work on migration and asylum. Previously, she worked in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) as Research Worker, specializing in policing and criminal justice issues, and at Queen’s University Belfast as researcher on the Equality and Social Inclusion in Ireland Project. Before moving to Ireland, she worked in a number of voluntary groups in Poland, providing legal advice and training to organisations such as the Prison Service and Social Services. Agnieszka shares her time between Dublin, where she works, and Belfast where she has been living since 2000.

FÍONA NÍ CHINNÉIDE (Campaigns and Communications Officer)
Fíona has recently returned from Budapest to join IPRT as Campaigns and Communications Officer. Her role is to raise awareness of IPRT and its work through the development and implementation of an effective campaigns and communications strategy. In her most recent role, as PR & Communications Manager for the European Youth Card Association, she was responsible for managing internal and external communications of member organisations across 43 countries. Within this role she managed a number of European cross-media campaigns, which focussed on aspects of active citizenship and human rights, supported by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Fíona has extensive experience working in communications within the non-profit sector in Ireland, and also as a freelance editor.

2. Second Prison Law Seminar a great success

On March 26th, IPRT hosted the second in our Prison Law series of practice seminars for barristers and solicitors on the issue of Parole. The speakers at the event were Gordon Holmes, Chair of the Interim Parole Board, Diarmuid Griffin of NUI Galway and Roger Sweetman SC. Mr. Holmes set out the current law and practice of the parole process in Ireland; Mr. Griffin provided a comparative analysis of how the parole process has developed in other jurisdiction; and Mr. Sweetman gave a critical analysis of the Irish system from the perspective of recent constitutional and European human rights jurisprudence. The seminar was a great success with over 90 practitioners participating. IPRT is co-hosting this seminar series with the Irish Criminal Bar Association and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association and we hope to host at least two more seminars during this calendar year.

The papers from the Second Prison Law Seminar are available here.

3. Follow-up Conference on ICCPR Shadow Report

On April 6th, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) and IPRT hosted Implementing Human Rights in a Time of Change: Facing Up to Challenges under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a follow-up conference on the published June 2008 by the three organisations.

ICCPR Shadow Report June 2008

The conference brought Judge Elizabeth Palm, Rapporteur on Ireland and former judge of the Swedish courts and former Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights, and Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Co-Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Nottingham and the Irish elected member of the UN Human Rights Committee, to Dublin to deliver keynote addresses on the importance of the implementation of the international standards set out in the ICCPR, focussing on both Ireland’s progress and international best practice in the implementation of UN Human Rights Committee Conclusions.

Other speakers included Éamonn MacAodha, the Executive Director of the Irish Human Rights Commission, Michael Farrell, Senior Solicitor at FLAC, and Dr. Siobhan Mullally, Senior Lecturer and Co-Director Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at University College Cork. James McIntyre, Director of the Human Rights Unit in the Department of Foreign Affairs, also addressed the conference.

The conference was well attended with over 145 delegates, and received significant media attention. For more details, please see: www.rightsmonitor.org

4. IPRT welcomes Discussion Document on the Management of Sex Offenders

In January 2009 the Minister for Justice published a Discussion Document on the Management of Sex Offenders. IPRT welcomed the publication. On March 26th the Department hosted a Discussion Forum. Detective Superintendent John McCann of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations, Eimear Fisher, Executive Director of Cosc, and Jimmy Martin, chairman of the working group which wrote the discussion document on the Management of Sex Offenders spoke at the Forum; IPRT was represented by Board member Mary Rogan.

A variety of issues were tackled at the Forum. Plans to work with sex offenders while in prison include a new programme entitled ‘Building Better Lives’, which is now underway in Arbour Hill under the auspices of the IPS Psychology Service.

IPRT welcomes initiatives such as this Discussion Document and Forum as signalling a move towards evidence-led policies and we intend to continue to engage constructively with the department on this process. The IPRT encourages members to submit their responses to the document either directly to the Offender Management Group by April 30th (details available here) or else to the IPRT as soon as possible in order to develop a submission on the proposals.

5. IPRT in the News

On February 1st, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of IPRT, spoke to RTÉ This Week on the pilot programme to tag sex offenders.

On March 15th, Liam spoke to RTÉ Six One News on issues of prison-crowding, the replacement of current prisons, and alternatives to custody.

The Irish Examiner invited IPRT to comment on the lack of rehabilitation in youth detention centres (March 17th) and issues of overcrowding and violence in Irish prisons (April 1st).

On April 6th and 7th, IPRT and key penal reform issues received a lot of media attention surrounding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Follow-up Conference. In advance of the event, media attention focused on the issues of overcrowding in prisons and imprisonment for debt; following the event, the Irish Independent and The Irish Times focused on recent cuts in funding to the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority.

For more details, please contact Fíona Ní Chinnéide, IPRT Campaigns and Communications Officer.

6. Upcoming Events

On April 16th and 17th, University of Central Lancashire, Preston will host the 8th International Conference on the ‘Care and Treatment of Offenders with a Learning Disability’. For abstracts and papers, visit: www.ldoffenders.co.uk

On April 20th, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will present their 10th Anniversary Conference ‘Humans without Rights: the impact of immigration law, policy and practice’. The Commission will also launch its new investigation report 'Our Hidden Borders: The UK Border Agency’s Powers of Detention'; the report was co-authored by Agnieszka Martynowicz, who has recently joined IPRT as Research and Policy Officer.

On April 30th, the UCC Centre Criminal Justice and Human Rights will host its third annual Postgraduate Conference on Human Rights ‘The Promise of Law: Political Claims and the Boundaries of Justice.’

On May 1st, NUI Galway will host a Conference on ‘Alternatives to Prison: Pushing for Policy Change’. Speakers at this event will include Chair of the IPRT Board, Dr. Ursula Kilkelly and IPRT Executive Director, Liam Herrick.

On May 18th, the Irish Mental Health Coalition will host a Conference on ‘Mental Health: Human Rights and Legislation – What’s Possible in Ireland?

On June 15th and 16th, the fifth North South Criminology Conference will be hosted by the UCD Institute of Criminology.

The University of Utrecht Summer School on Juvenile Justice takes place from July 17th to 27th, 2009.

Learn more