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Failures in accountability structures in Irish prisons “extremely disturbing” – IPRT

9th October 2014

IPRT MEDIA ADVISORY:

Failures in accountability structures in Irish prisons “extremely disturbing” – IPRT

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is gravely concerned that the Inspector of Prisons is unable to rely on the veracity of official prison records when investigating a death within prison walls. IPRT calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality, Ms Frances Fitzgerald TD, to act with urgency on Programme for Government commitments to strengthen accountability in prisons, including bringing forward the proposed Inspection of Places of Detention Bill. IPRT was responding to the Inspector of Prison’s Annual Report for 2013- 2014, which was published today (Thursday 9 October 2014).

In his Report, the Inspector of Prisons acknowledges progress in some areas of the prison system. However, he also identifies obstacles to his investigations, including “incomplete, inaccurate, and at times misleading” statements from prison staff (6.7) and finds it necessary to state that “it is a very serious matter to falsify official records” (6.5), adding that “consequences must follow for prison personnel” who provide misleading information, or who fail to observe protocols and standard operating procedures (6.8). Previous reports by the Inspector on his investigations into deaths in prison custody have found similar issues.

Responding today, IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone said:

“It is extremely disturbing that the Inspector of Prisons cannot rely on official prison records in his investigations into deaths which have occurred behind prison walls. It is clear from a number of the Inspector’s reports that a culture of impunity exists among a minority of prison staff, who do not see themselves as accountable, and a line management structure which is not dealing effectively with the issue of accountability.”

“However, the bringing of these issues into the public domain is the clearest evidence of the value of independent accountability mechanisms. A “No-Consequence Culture” cannot be tolerated. The strengthening of the powers of the Inspector of Prisons, and the establishment of a fully independent complaints mechanism, such as a Prisoner Ombudsman, and ratification of the OPCAT, are the only solutions.”

“Under the European Convention on Human Rights, investigations into deaths in prison custody must be capable of leading to a determination of responsibility and the punishment of those responsible. Without complete and accurate records it will not be possible to guarantee that Ireland meets that obligation in all cases.”

On publication of the Inspector’s Annual Report, IPRT is restating our calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality to:·         

  • expedite, with urgency, the proposed Inspection of Places of Detention Bill;·         
  • ensure that the necessary preventative structures are in place to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which Ireland signed in 2007; and·         
  • introduce a fully independent prisoner complaints mechanism, such as a Prisoner Ombudsman.

For further comment or an interview with Deirdre Malone, please contact: Fíona on 087 181 2990

NOTES FOR EDITORS 

1. Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2013-14

IPRT was responding to the publication on Thurs 9th October 2014 of the Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2013-2014, available at:http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB14000274

2. Inspection of Places of Detention Bill

The Programme of Government (March 2011) committed to strengthening the powers of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons. The drafting of a General Scheme of ‘Inspection of Places of Detention Bill’ was approved on 17 May 2011, but remains on the ‘C’ list of legislation. 

The legislation is intended to:·         

  • give legislative effect to the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture);·        
  • strengthen the Office of the Inspector of Prisons;·         
  • put the Council of Europe inspection regime on a statutory footing; and·         
  • address matters relating to Prison Visiting Committees.
 See:

http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Taoiseach_and_Government/Government_Legislation_Programme/SECTION_C11.html#sthash.MrNXHPGb.dpuf

3. IPRT on Complaints, Monitoring and Inspection in PrisonsMonitoring 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. 

The IPRT Briefing on Complaints, Monitoring and Inspection in Prisons is available here:http://www.iprt.ie/files/IPRT_Complaints,_Monitoring_and_Inspection_in_Prisons_26062012.pdf

IPRT Position Paper 7: Complaints, Monitoring and Inspection in Prisons is available here: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1466

4. IPRT on Investigations of Deaths in Prison Custody

In section 2.2 of the IPRT Position Paper 7: Complaints, Monitoring and Inspection in Prisons IPRT clearly sets out the requirements of independent investigations into deaths in prison custody, including: 

  1. the investigation must be undertaken on the State’s own initiative
  2. it has to be capable of leading to a determination of responsibility and the punishment of those responsible;
  3. the investigation has to be independent both institutionally and in practice;
  4. it must be prompt;
  5. the investigation has to allow for sufficient public scrutiny to ensure accountability;
  6. and the next-of-kin has to be allowed to participate in the process.
 

See IPRT Position Paper 7: Complaints, Monitoring and Inspection in Prisons 

5.  Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ieIPRT 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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