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EUROPEAN TORTURE COMMITTEE: CONCERNS ON MENTAL HEALTH, VIOLENCE AND SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN IRISH PRISONS

17th November 2015

IPRT MEDIA ADVISORY

The sixth report on places of detention in Ireland from the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment (CPT), published today (Tuesday, 17th November 2015) presents another indictment of a prison system that is struggling to meet its duty of care in terms of healthcare, mental health care, and ensuring prisoner safety.

In response, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign organisation, is calling on Government to strengthen the prevention of all forms of torture in Ireland with urgency through the ratification of the OPCAT and the establishment of a National Preventative Mechanism.

IPRT further calls on Government, the Minister for Justice and Equality, and the Minister for Healthto address the chronic deficiencies identified in prison health and mental health care, including provision of sufficient forensic mental health places in the Central Mental Hospital in order to end the detention of people with serious mental health issues in prison.

Describing non-suicide prisoner deaths as “symptomatic of a culture of impunity for violent acts committed within Irish prisons,” the CPT further identifies issues around the failure to report and record physical injuries from acts of violence occurring in the prison, the overuse of solitary confinement, the lack of confidence by prisoners in complaints mechanisms, and the consequent potential for ill-treatment to go unobserved behind prison walls.

Responding today to the CPT report, Deirdre Malone, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said:

“This report makes clear that there is still a very long way to go before our prison system can be described as consistently meeting minimum human rights standards of accountable, safe and humane custody. Many failings identified in this report – including the use of up to 56 days of solitary confinement as punishment – were identified in the 2011 report of the CPT.”

“While progress has been rightly recognised in some areas, the deterioration in some conditions since the last report, including in the provision of healthcare and the ongoing lack of places in psychiatric care facilities for acutely mentally-ill prisoners in Ireland is extremely concerning.”

“The lack of effective accountability systems in our prisons must be addressed. Where there are allegations of ill-treatment against any prisoner, there is also a duty on all professionals charged with the care of prisoners to bring those matters to the attention of the relevant authority, without exception, and for complaints to be thoroughly investigated in a timely manner. There can be no excuse for inaction - any act of ill-treatment or excessive use of force must bring with it swift consequences for those responsible.”

“As the CPT has made clear, it is essential that our prisons do not become places of impunity.”

The CPT’s most recent visit to Ireland took place from 16th to 26th September 2014, during which the Committee also examined detention in Garda stations and psychiatric institutions. A summary of critical issues in the CPT report is available here.

For all media enquiries, contact Fíona on 087-181 2990

 NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment (CPT)

The CPT’s most recent visit to Ireland took place from 16th to 26th September 2014, during which the Committee also examined detention in Garda stations and psychiatric institutions. The CPT reports on visits to Ireland along with the Government’s response are published at: http://www.cpt.coe.int/en/states/irl.htm

2. IPRT Conference | 27 Nov 2015 | Securing Accountability

IPRT will hold a conference on Monitoring, Inspection, and Complaints in the Irish prison system in the Spencer Hotel, Dublin 1 on Friday 27th November 2015. Speakers will include:

  • HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick
  • Professor Malcolm Evans, Chair of the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture
  • Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly
  • Professor Andrew Coyle, Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies in the University of London
  • Dr Mary Rogan, Dublin Institute of Technology
  • Dr Cormac Behan, University of Sheffield

Details available here: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2792

3. Ratification of OPCAT

Ireland signed the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) in October 2007, but has yet to ratify it. The commitment to ratify remains in the 'C' list of legislation, within the proposed 'Inspection of Places of Detention Bill': “To give legislative effect to the OPCAT, strengthen Prisons Inspectorate, put Council of Europe inspection regime on a statutory footing and address matters relating to Prison Visiting Committees.”

The heads of the Bill have yet to be approved by Government, with a current status of: "Publication Expected – 2016”. See: http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Taoiseach_and_Government/Government_Legislation_Programme/

4. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT)

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: www.iprt.ie