“Robust inspection regimes can and should work in tandem with independent complaints mechanisms” – IPRT
The Irish Penal Reform Trust has called on the Government to honour its commitment to ending the imprisonment of 16 and 17 year old boys in St Patrick's Institution within a set timeframe, and extend the Ombudsman for Children's remit to receive individual complaints from children held there. These calls follow the publication today (Thurs, 15 September 2011) of the report of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, following his visit to Ireland in June 2011.
In his report, the Commissioner expresses concern that no time-frame has been given for the building of the new National children Detention Facility at Lusk, and recommends that the process of transfer from the prison to children detention schools should begin “soon” with a pilot group.
On the issue of the exclusion of children held in St Patrick's Institution from the Ombudsman for Children's complaints remit, the Commissioner clearly states that he "deplores this discrepancy as he believes that all children in detention must have the same right of access to an independent complaints mechanism." He calls on the government to "close this protection gap as a matter of priority."
IPRT is very concerned by the "difference in view" that the Government describes in its response to the recommendations to extend access to an independent complaints mechanism to children held in St Patrick's Institution.
Speaking today, IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick said:
“The grounds given for maintaining the exclusion of children in St Patrick’s from the Ombudsman for Children’s complaints remit are unconvincing. IPRT strongly believes that robust inspection regimes can and should work in tandem with independent complaints mechanisms.
“Children held in Children Detention Schools, which come under the inspections regime of HIQA, can access the Ombudsman for Children complaints function; children held in St Patrick’s Institution, which comes under the inspections regime of the Inspector of Prisons, have no access to an independent complaints mechanism. This is something that the Government can and should remedy quickly and easily by extending the remit of the Ombudsman for Children.
“In line with international standards, the Irish Prison Service now accommodates children separately from adults within St Patrick’s. Therefore, that the facility accommodates both children and adults is no longer reason to exclude children held there from the Ombudsman for Children’s complaints remit.
"Children held in St Patrick's Institution are quite literally caught between a rock and a hard place, with no access to an independent complaints mechanism until they are transferred to the new facility at Lusk, yet no sign at all of when building work on that facility is to commence. The acknowledgement that the Lusk project will take a number of years to complete, with a question mark over whether financial approval will be granted any time in the foreseeable future, is of serious concern.”
Commissioner Hammerberg's recommendations follow his visit to Ireland in June 2011, during which the Commissioner held discussions on human rights issues with a focus on the protection of vulnerable groups in times of austerity budgets. The Commissioner met with the national authorities and other agencies, including civil society representatives.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1.Visit to Ireland of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, June 2011
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, visited Ireland in June 2011. Download the report on his visit here
2. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie
IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.