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Law Seminar: Detention, Human Rights and the OPCAT

12th November 2018

The Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Irish Criminal Bar Association co-hosted a seminar on Detention, Human Rights and the OPCAT on Monday 12th November 2018 at 4.30pm in the Ormond Meeting Rooms, Ormond Quay, Dublin 7.

Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture* (OPCAT) in 2007. Legislation intended to ratify the OPCAT is expected to be introduced by Government before the end of 2018. The enactment of strong legislation, covering a broad range of detention facilities, is essential to safeguarding human rights and effective prevention of torture in all places of detention in Ireland.

The seminar was an opportunity for practitioners to engage with the practical experience of ratifying OPCAT and implementation of the National Preventative Mechanism.

  • Mr. Liam Herrick (Executive Director, Irish Council for Civil Liberties) spoke about the "pronounced gap" that now exists between the government’s stated intention on signing the OPCAT in 2007 and its failure to ratify the treaty. He stressed the importance of ensuring that any NPM has the power to access private facilities where people are deprived of their liberty, such as nursing homes.
  • Ms. Laura Paton (Lead Inspector, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS)), discussed the establishment of the UK NPM, the attributes of the NPM, and the positive impact that the NPM has had on the work of HMICS and other inspectorates, including care settings. She emphasised the improvement and strengthening of the UK NPM as an ongoing process.
  • Mr. Michael Lynn S.C. shared his expertise in the area of prison law, highlighting flaws in the internal complaints and grievance procedures, which would be strengthened by the external oversight afforded by the OPCAT.
  • Ms. Fiona McNulty (Michael Kelleher Solicitors) spoke of her experience working on prison law cases and how the ratification of OPCAT could impact her work and the experience of her clients, along with the applicability of OPCAT to non-justice settings.

A response from attendees with expertise in areas such as disability, mental health and older people followed, with input focusing on the need for broad legislation to prevent human rights abuses in a range of detention settings, including de facto detention.

At the seminar, IPRT launched a Statement of Principles on Legislation to Ratify the OPCAT.

Short video clips from the event will be available online shortly.

This event carried 1.5 CPD points for both solicitors and barristers (group study). For queries about CPD certs, please contact info@iprt.ie.

This event, and IPRT’s wider campaign on the ratification of the OPCAT, were kindly supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland.

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* The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (‘OPCAT’) is an international human rights treaty which assists States in preventing torture and other forms of ill-treatment in all places of detention. The OPCAT applies to anywhere people can be deprived of their liberty. The ratification of OPCAT would positively impact the lives of vulnerable children and adults. Ireland signed the OPCAT in October 2007, but has not yet ratified it. For more information, visit opcat-ireland.com

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