Irish Penal Reform Trust

IPRT statement on a death in Cloverhill Prison

29th September 2020

The death of a remand prisoner in Cloverhill Prison yesterday (28.09.2020) has been reported in the media. The Irish Penal Reform Trust would like to extend its condolences to the prisoner’s family.

We note that An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, and the Inspector of Prisons are conducting three separate investigations into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

It is understood through media reports that the deceased became unresponsive following the use of control and restraint techniques by a number of prison staff. While the incident remains under investigation, and the full circumstances are not known, IPRT would like to emphasise that the use of force and restraint by prison officers, at all times, must always be a measure of last resort, after other de-escalation techniques have been exhausted, and should be proportionate to the situation.[1]

While the Office of the Inspector of Prisons (OiP) will now investigate this death in custody, IPRT underlines that robust procedures, resources and a legislative basis must be in place to enable the Inspector of Prisons carry out these investigations effectively.

Under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in order to be considered ‘effective’, investigations into deaths in custody must be prompt so that any systemic failures that may have contributed to the death of a prisoner can be identified and addressed, and potential future deaths avoided. Additionally, under the ECHR investigations into deaths in prison custody must also be capable of leading to a determination of responsibility and the punishment of those responsible. IPRT remains concerned about lengthy delays in publishing these reports, which play an important preventive and improvement role.

While death in custody investigation reports are essential in securing accountability and protecting against potential future incidents, there is currently no duty on the Irish Prison Service to act on recommendations made by the Inspector of Prisons in its reports. IPRT has previously called on the Irish Prison Service to publish regular reports on progress towards implementation of recommendations made in deaths in custody investigation reports. This year, ‘Action Plans’ by the Irish Prison Service have been published in tandem with death in custody reports. IPRT welcomes this. Progress reports on the implementation of the recommendations should continue to be regularly published, beyond the initial publication of the investigation report.

IPRT notes that, as part of the Programme for Government, the Government is committed to ratifying and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) within 18 months of the formation of the Government.  We call on the Minister to act immediately to put the necessary preventative structures in place so that the Protocol can be ratified and implemented within this timeline.

IPRT is today restating our calls on the Minister for Justice to:·         

  • expedite, with urgency, the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill;
  • strengthen the independence of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons in legislation and resourcing;
  • ensure that the necessary preventive 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.


Media reports:


Resources:


[1] In the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) report to the Government of Ireland in 2015, the Committee recommended: “… that the Irish authorities reiterate to prison officers that no more force than is strictly necessary should be used in bringing an agitated/aggressive prisoner under control. Once a prisoner has been brought under control, there can be no justification for using force other than the application of authorised control and restraint techniques. Further, prison officers should be reminded that they will be accountable for any acts of ill-treatment (including verbal abuse) or any excessive use of force.” https://rm.coe.int/pdf%20/1680727e23; While there are no published figures available for 2019, In 2018, 188 recruit prison officers were trained in de-escalation techniques and control and restraint training. A total of 539 prison officers undertook de-escalation techniques as part of continuous professional development (CPD). https://pips.iprt.ie/progress-in-the-penal-system-pips/part-2-measuring-progress-against-the-standards/e-safety-and-protection-in-irish-prisons/31-use-of-force/

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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