The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is extremely concerned at revelations that the Irish Prison Service recorded calls between prisoners and their legal representatives. The client-lawyer privilege is one of the most fundamental protections in the justice system, and it is a particularly important protection for prisoners in Ireland, who do not have access to an independent complaints mechanism.
Recording phone calls between prisoners and their legal advisers is in clear breach of the Prison Rules 2007 and the European Convention on Human Rights, and raises significant issues in respect of the right to fair trial protected by the Constitution of Ireland. The admission that such calls may have been recorded over a four year period raises many questions which can only be answered by a full investigation into the circumstances.
Speaking today, IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone said:
"The recording of calls between prisoners and their legal representatives must be subject to a comprehensive investigation. Following the outcome of that investigation, a clear plan must be put in place to ensure that this never happens again, given the fundamental rights involved and the vulnerability of those affected.
"While we welcome the preemptive action taken by the Irish Prison Service, questions remain over how this issue could have not been brought to light over four years.
"We welcome the Irish Prison Service’s commitment to apologising to the lawyers affected, and expect that this apology will also be extended to their clients."
IPRT has previously identified a number of issues relating to prisons accountability, and has called for reform of existing monitoring structures, such as the Prisons Visiting Committees, and the establishment of an oversight mechanism fully independent of both the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice, such as a Prisoner Ombudsman.
On 2nd April 2014, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD asked the Inspector of Prisons to carry out an urgent independent investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the recording of telephone conversations between prisoners and their solicitors.
Press Release by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. Accountability in Irish Prisons
Monitoring and inspection of places of detention, as well as the establishment of an independent external mechanism for the review of prisoners’ complaints, are central to the protection of human rights of prisoners and form part of Ireland’s obligations under international law. See IPRT Position Paper on Complaints, Monitoring and Inspection in Prisons 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.