• Print
  • Email author
  • Bookmark and Share

Ebulletin #66

11th November 2011

  1. Introduction
  2. Prison Law Seminar: 8th December 2011 
  3. Oireachtas All-Party Penal Reform Group
  4. IPRT Annual Lecture
  5. New IPRT Publications
  6. Report of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
  7. Annual Reports for 2010: IPS, IYJS & Probation Service
  8. Ireland and the UPR
  9. Recruitment Opportunities: PILA & JCFJ
  10. IPRT in the News
  11. Upcoming Events

1. Introduction

Welcome to a packed edition of the IPRT Ebulletin, with news about recent events and reports, and information about upcoming events including the 8th Prison Law Seminar, Creative Use of Legal Instruments: Current Prison Law Developments in England and Wales, which takes place on 8th Dec 2011, and an Oireachtas All-Party Penal Reform Group seminar on 15th November, focusing on the damaging practice of imprisoning boys in St Patrick’s Institution.

Recent developments include the publication of 2010 annual reports from the Irish prison Service, Probation Service and Irish Youth Justice Service, and the announcement by Government that the Thornton Hall and Kilworth projects are not to go ahead in 2012. Responding to the announcements, IPRT strongly criticised the failure to address inhumane conditions in Cork Prison, but supports the Minister's plans to install in-cell sanitation in the B-wing of Mountjoy Prison, and also to use incentivised early release as a mechanism for safely reducing the prison population.

IPRT is also delighted to be the beneficiaries of a fundraising gig by The Participants, which takes place on Thurs, 1st December in Lower Deck, Portobello Bridge at 8pm. Pathways Project is a CDVEC (City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee) programme for the reintegration of ex-prisoners and offenders through education and counselling. Pathways have a music class and out of that grew the band ‘The Participants’. The band consists of participants who use the centre and a couple of teachers with experience in bands.  “The best things about the band are that they have fun and they only perform gigs for charity so egos are left at the door.” Tickets are €10 and available on the door.

Keep up to date on IPRT news and activities between e-bulletins:

W: www.iprt.ie / Tw: www.twitter.com/iprt / Fb: www.facebook.com/irishpenalreformtrust


2. Prison Law Seminar: "Creative Use of Legal Instruments: Current Prison Law Developments in England and Wales"

The 8in our series of Prison Law Seminars, co-hosted with the DSBA and the ICBA, will take place at 5.30pm on Thurs 8th December, 2011 on the topic Creative Use of Legal Instruments: Current Prison Law Developments in England and Wales.  The event will take place in Distillery Building, Church St, Dublin 7.

The seminar will be presented by Caoilfhionn Gallagher BL, leading prison law practitioner with Doughty Street Chambers in London. Caoilfhionn is a human rights and civil liberties specialist, and has particular expertise in prison law and community care for children and vulnerable adults. She is a co-author of the best-selling Oxford University Press textbook on the Human Rights Act, Blackstone's Guide to the Human Rights Act (4th ed, 2007; 5th ed, forthcoming), and she has been appointed as a Council of Europe expert on Articles 10 and 11 ECHR. 

Among her recent cases have included representing survivors and families of victims at the 7/7 inquests, as well a wide range of prison-related judicial reviews on matters relating to children leaving custody, parole decisions, healthcare and disability, separation of mother and baby, challenges to sentence miscalculations, challenges to revocation of licences and recalls to custody, and matters arising in privately run/ 'contracted out' prisons.  Caoilfhionn also regularly represents lifers, IPPs (indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection) and recalled prisoners before the Parole Board, and prisoners wishing to transfer jurisdiction, including many UK-based Irish prisoners who wish to serve the remainder of their sentences in Ireland.  She has also given expert evidence to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on electronic tagging.

Full details about the event, including registration details, are available here

This Prison Law Seminar will be followed by a social event for all of our legal colleagues – details of which to follow!

Would you like to support the work of IPRT? Annual membership is just €10 for students, €40 for individuals, €80 for organizations/firms, and free to prisoners and their families. We can’t promise you lots of free stuff, but by becoming a member of IPRT you will be expressing your support for urgent penal reform in Ireland.

Why not consider becoming an IPRT member now? 


3. Oireachtas All-Party Penal Reform Group

On 15th November, IPRT and Senator Ivana Bacik will host a seminar for the All-Party Penal Reform Group focusing on the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution. Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children, will speak on her work in St. Patrick’s with the 16 and 17 year-old boys; Prof Harry Kennedy will speak on the impact of imprisonment on the mental health of adolescents. The event takes place in the AV Room, Leinster House at 4.30pm on Tuesday 15th Nov, 2011. All TDs, Senators and policy researchers and advisers are very welcome to attend.

On 27th September 2011, IPRT held our first All-Party Oireachtas Seminar of the new Dáil term. This seminar identified penal reform priorities for IPRT and for TDs and Senators for the months ahead.  We also learnt from Deputy David Stanton, chair of the Joint Justice Committee, that the Justice Committee will set up a sub-committee to examine models for managing the release of prisoners and that the Committee will also prioritise penal reform in the months ahead.

On 28th September, the Seanad heard a significant presentation by Dr. Maurice Manning of the Irish Human Rights Commission followed by a debate on human rights issues.  Prison reform and prisoners’ rights were a prominent theme in the debate. Read the transcript here.


4. IPRT Annual Lecture: 'Squaring the Circle: Penal Policy, Sentencing Offenders and Protecting the Community'

IPRT’s 2011 Annual Lecture was delivered by Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter on Friday 16th September, 2011 in the Presidents’ Hall, Law Society of Ireland.  

The Minister discussed the problem of overcrowding in Irish prisons and recognised that it cannot be solved by building more prisons alone. He noted that despite a 50% increase in the prison population over the past 5 years, “we are not 50% safer because of the rise in imprisonment”. The Minister emphasised the need to reduce the prison population through increased use of non-custodial sanctions and temporary release, coupled with community service.

Referring to the issue of mandatory sentencing, the Minister said the Government will review the use of this sentencing practice in certain drug related offences, describing the statutory presumption in favour of mandatory sentencing for drug dealing as a significant contributor to the “silting-up phenomenon in the prisons”.

The Minister is also committed to reviewing the internal complaints procedure for prisoners. He discussed amending the Prison Rules 2007 to place the complaint investigation procedure on a statutory footing and introduce an “independent element” to the investigation process. Additionally, the Government will examine ways to ensure those with mental health issues are diverted from prison where possible. 


5. New IPRT Publications


6. Report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

 The Report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, was published on 15thSeptember, 2011. In his report, the Commissioner expressed concern that the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to receive individual complaints still does not cover the 16 and 17 year old boys imprisoned in St. Patrick’s Institution.  He called on the government to "close this protection gap as a matter of priority."

In relation to the building of the new National Children Detention Facility at Lusk, the Commissioner is concerned that no time frame has been given as to when the boys will be moved to this new facility and recommends that the process of transfer from the prison to children detention schools should begin “soon” with a pilot group.

Speaking about the report, IPRT’s Liam Herrick stated: “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.” 

Read more:

  • Download the report on the Commissioner’s visit here
  • Read IPRT’s response to the report here


7. Annual Reports for 2010

The IPS Annual Report was published on 25th August, disclosing further increases in the number of persons being committed to Irish prisons: a 14.9% rise in sentenced committals and a 10% increase in the daily prison population, compared to 2009. Responding to the report, the IPRT called on the government to set safe custody limits and commit to taking control of prisoner numbers with targeted policy measures:

See also:


8. Ireland and the UPR

Ireland’s first hearing under the UN Universal Periodic Review took place on the 6th October, 2011 in Geneva. Serious human rights issues raised by the 48 Member States present at the UPR included the practice of slopping out and overcrowding in Irish prisons, the lack of effective complaints and monitoring mechanisms, and the use of prison for immigration detention purposes. 

17 Member-states made recommendations concerning prison conditions, and 14 recommended that the government ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP-CAT). 

Several Member-states also raised the issue of inter-prisoner violence in Irish prisons. However Minister Shatter rejected that violence in Irish prisons is a significant issue, and claimed it was in line with the experience of other countries. Despite the Minister’s response, figures demonstrate a link between the increasing levels of overcrowding and a rise in inter-prisoner violence in Ireland, with a 25% increase in the number of violent incidents in prison between 2009 and 2010.

In relation to the OP-CAT, the Minister stated that work is continuing on the preparation of a legislative scheme, with a view to ratification as soon as possible after enactment.

Read more:


9. Recruitment Opportunity: PILA and JCFJ

Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) - Legal Officer

FLAC is seeking to recruit a Legal Officer for PILA. Key deliverables include a register of lawyers available to engage in probono work and significant capacity building in NGOs working for social justice/human rights for marginalised and disadvantaged people. The Legal Officer position will be a fixed term contract for 12 months and salary will be commensurate with experience. The job description and an application form are available on www.pila.ie Completed application forms accompanied by CV should be forwarded by e-mail to recruitment@flac.ie on or before Monday, 14th November, at 5pm.

JCFJ: Conference Organiser and Communications Officer

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (JCFJ) requires a Conference Organiser and Communications Officer (part-time, 11 months from December 2011) for the Scribani 2012 Conference (Dublin) ‘Re-imagining Imprisonment in Europe – common challenges, diverse policies and practices’. The conference will take place in early September 2012; the Conference Organiser will have responsibility to continue in the development of the programme (including but not exclusively, finalising speakers, liaising with venue, publicity, accommodation and hospitality). As Communications Officer, the role will include: promotion of the Centre and its work and generating a sustainable communication strategy in the context of shrinking resources. Deadline for applications is 5pm, Thurs, 1 December 2011. Applications, in writing to: info@jcfj.ie Full details are available here.


10: IPRT in the News

  • The Irish Prison Service (IPS) Annual Report 2010 was published on 25th August and the IPRT featured in a number of newspaper articles commenting on the report. The Journal included a comment made by IPRT’s Executive Director, Liam Herrick, relating to the failure of the government to properly implement the Fines Act 2010. The Irish Independent also quoted Herrick in relation to the need to reverse the dramatic increase in the prison population, which is highlighted in the IPS report. 
  • IPRT’s Liam Herrick appeared on RTÉ Nine News on 25th August to discuss issues stemming from the IPS Annual Report including the upward trend in the prison population in Ireland and the worrying numbers committed to prison for fine defaulting.
  • On 26th August, The Irish Times published an article concerning Minster Shatters announcement of a pilot scheme which would allow the early release of some low risk offenders in an attempt to reduce prison numbers. This came after publication of the IPS annual report, which highlighted the continuous rise in the number of persons committed to prison in Ireland. IPRT featured in the article, commenting on the need to respond adequately to the rising prison population.
  • On 17th September, The Irish Times reported on Ministers Shatters speech at the IPRT annual lecture, which took place on 16th September. In his speech, the Minister announced a review of mandatory sentencing for certain drug related offences, a change which would be welcomed by the IPRT. 
  • On 27th September, RTÉ’s Prime Time featured a report on the ongoing imprisonment of fine-defaulters. IPRT’s Liam Herrick contributed to the programme, along with two other persons who had been in contact with IPRT about their frustration at being unable to pay by installment.
  • Ireland’s first hearing under the UN Universal Periodic Review took place in Geneva on 6th October. Many Member States recommended that Ireland address the problems of overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and inter-prisoner violence within the prison system. RTÉ Six One News covered the UPR hearing and an interview conducted with IPRT’s Liam Herrick in which he discussed human rights issues in Irish prisons, including the continued practice of slopping out.
  • On 14th October, Public affairs Ireland published an opinion piece by Liam Herrick, on ‘Reforming Ireland’s prison system’.
  • TG4’s Idir Mná is a seven-part docudrama series comprising true stories and in-depth case analysis of murders and crime and how they impact upon the lives of women in Ireland. On 27th October, TG4 screened Episode 6 in the series, which dealt with violent behaviour among female offenders. IPRT’s Liam Herrick was a contributor to the programme.
  • On 7th November, thejournal.ie ran an article entitled ‘Focus should be on better conditions – not more prisons’, in which IPRT’s position on penal expansion as a solution to overcrowding and poor prison conditions was clearly laid out.  

For a full list and links, click here.

11: Upcoming Events

  • On 8 November, to mark the 10 year anniversary of the Children’s Act 2001, the ACJRD and Barnardos will hold a joint seminar on Juvenile Justice 2001-2011: Criminal and Welfare Concerns.
  • On 11 November, PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance) and the PILS project (Public Interest Litigation Support) will host a conference entitled Political Commitment, Practical Protection: Using the ECHR North and South in Croke Park.
  • On 15 November, IPRT will host an Oireachtas All-Party Penal Reform Group seminar on the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution. The event is open to TDs, Senators and policy researchers and advisers.
  • On 17 November at 6.30pm, the Socio-Legal Research Centre at Dublin City University will host the third in its “Law on…” seminar series: “Law on…Risk” will focus on risk assessment in the criminal process in the context of mentally disordered offenders, persons seeking parole and temporary release, and will be chaired by The Honourable Mr Justice Roderick Murphy of the High Court. Kris Gledhill, Lecturer in Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand and Áine Hynes, Chairperson of the Irish Mental Health Lawyers’ Association will speak at the event. The event is free. To register, please email: yvonne.daly@dcu.ie 
  • On 8 December at 530pm, the 9th in the IPRT/ICBS/DSBA Prison Law Seminar Series will take place in Distillery Building, Church St, Dublin 7, on the topic “Creative Use of Legal Instruments: Current Prison Law Developments in England and Wales”.  To register, please email: mgaffney@iprt.ie 
  • On 10 December 2011, the Human Rights in Ireland blog will host a performance in Druid Theatre, Galway to celebrate Human Rights Day. The event is called ‘Whoop it up for Liberty!’ More details here.
  • The North – South Irish Criminology Conference will be held in UCD from 28-29 June, 2012, on the theme of Economy, Crime and Punishment.  


viewed here