IPRT calls on key bodies to work together to conduct thorough investigation of alleged covert surveillance in prisons and prisoner transport
Allegations of the use of covert surveillance, including tracking devices and listening tools, in prisons and prisoner transport are of serious concern given the potential interference with the right to private and family life, right to receive legal advice in confidence and right to fair trial. For this reason, the Irish Penal Reform Trust is today (Thursday 22 November 2018) calling on key bodies to work together to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations.
IPRT welcomes the Minister’s announcement that the Inspector of Prisons, Ms Patricia Gilheaney will carry out a preliminary investigation, which will establish whether there is a need for a formal inquiry. However, IPRT emphasises that additional resources must be made available to the Office of the Inspector of Prisons to ensure this investigation can be undertaken alongside its regular programme of work. IPRT has consistently raised its concerns that the Office is not adequately resourced.
IPRT is also concerned that under the s.31 statutory investigation, the Minister for Justice and Equality will retain the power to omit any matter from any report where he is of opinion that its disclosure may be prejudicial to security, contrary to the public interest, or may infringe the constitutional rights of any person. For that reason, IPRT is also calling on the Data Protection Commission and the Complaints Referee under the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 to consider using their powers to work with the Inspector to ascertain the facts as to whether any authorisation was granted for the surveillance alleged and, if so, whether it was carried out in contravention of the Act.
In a statement today, Thursday 22nd November 2018, IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone said:
“These serious allegations raise huge concerns given the particularly intrusive nature of covert surveillance and the potential for rights violations if the allegations are well-founded.
“We welcome the Minister’s announcement that the Inspector of Prisons, Ms Patricia Gilheaney will carry out a preliminary investigation to establish whether there is a need for a formal inquiry. However, it is essential that the Office receives additional resources to ensure that it can conduct this preliminary investigation without negatively impacting on its important day-to-day work in protecting against potential human rights abuses in prison.”
“Depending on the outcome of the preliminary investigation by the Inspector of Prisons into the facts, IPRT will further consider lodging a complaint on behalf of those potentially affected by these allegations to the Data Protection Commission under Article 80 GDPR”
In April 2014, the late Inspector of Prisons Judge Reilly was tasked with conducting an independent investigation into the recording of phone calls between prisoners and their legal advisers. No report of that investigation has been published to date. At that time, IPRT highlighted that 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. In 2018, prisoners in Ireland still do not have access to an independent complaints mechanism.
For further comment, or to arrange an interview with Deirdre Malone, please contact Fíona at: +353 87 181 2990 or Deirdre at +353 83 4417577
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (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 sanction of last resort.
Independent 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 in prison and form part of Ireland’s obligations under international law. See IPRT Position Paper on Complaints, Monitoring and Inspection in Prisons here.