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IPRT welcomes emphasis on urgency in UN recommendations to Ireland on prison conditions

24th July 2014

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has today (Thurs 24 July 2014) welcomed the clear statement by the UN Human Rights Committee of the need for urgent and accelerated action on “adverse conditions in a number of prisons” in Ireland, and the lack of a fully independent system for all serious prisoner complaints. IPRT calls on Government to act on the Committee’s recommendations without delay.

The recommendations were included in the UN Human Rights Committee’s Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Ireland, published today. The recommendations follow the State’s examination under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Geneva on 14 July 2014.

Overcrowding; slopping out; the high level of inter-prisoner violence; and the lack of segregation between immigration detainees, remand and sentenced prisoners, and between children and adult prisoners, were among the critical issues singled out as in need of urgent attention by the Committee. The UN Human Rights Committee also called on the Irish Government to ensure that no one is sent to prison for failure to pay fines or debts.

Responding to the recommendations, Deirdre Malone, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), said:

“As the UN Committee points out, Ireland is failing to meet even the minimum standards of prison detention. Over 300 prisoners are still slopping out in Ireland today, many in crowded cells, where they also eat their meals. It is inhumane and degrading, and it must end.

“IPRT echoes the Committee’s concern at the lack of a fully independent system for dealing with every serious prisoner complaint. An independent and effective complaints system would protect the rights of both prisoners and staff, ease tensions, and ensure full accountability.”

“The Committee is uncompromising in its statement that no one should be sent to prison for failure to pay fines or debts. The Fines Act 2014, including the ability to pay fines by instalment, must be fully implemented, and with urgency. In the meantime, Ireland continues to send thousands of people to prison every year for being unable to pay fines.”  

IPRT made written and oral submissions to the UN Human Rights Committee in advance of Ireland’s hearing under the ICCPR, and travelled to Geneva for the hearings on 14 and 15 July as part of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties led delegation of civil society organisations.

Since Ireland’s hearing on 14 July, prison numbers have increased from 3,972 to 4,005; the numbers in Mountjoy have increased from 570 to 591; and the number of boys on remand in St Patrick’s Institution has increased from 5 to 9 (figures from 23 July 2014).

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. UN Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations on Ireland:

TheConcluding Observations were published on Thurs 24 July 2014, and address ‘Conditions of detention’ (para. 15) and ‘Imprisonment for failure to pay fines’ (para. 16): http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR%2fC%2fIRL%2fCO%2f4&Lang=en

2. IPRT Submission to the Human Rights Committee 

IPRT made a Submission to the Human Rights Committee in advance of Ireland’s Fourth Periodic Examination of Ireland under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in June 2014. Available at: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2634

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, in partnership with colleagues, submitted a detailed ‘Shadow Report’ of human rights issues in Ireland to the Committee in advance of the hearings, available at: http://iccl.ie/attachments/download/310/ICCL_LegacyICCPR14_LowRes.pdf

3. IPRT in Geneva

IPRT travelled to Geneva as part ofthe Irish Council for Civil Liberties led delegation of civil society groups on 14 and 15 July, which facilitated the provision of information to the UN Human Rights Committee members via oral and written statements by civil society.

Other members of the delegation included: Survivors of Symphysiotomy, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Irish Traveller Movement, Pavee Point, Irish Family Planning Association, Doctors for Choice, Abortion Rights Campaign, Inclusion Ireland, Atheist Alliance International.

IPRT’s participation in Geneva was supported through the generous donations of members and supporters.

4. 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.

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