Irish Penal Reform Trust

IPRT welcomes Supreme Court findings in relation to constitutional protections of rights in detention

15th November 2019

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the finding of the Supreme Court today (Thurs 14 November 2019) in Gary Simpson v Governor of Mountjoy Prison, and others that the constitutional protections of the rights to privacy and dignity of the person were infringed by the particular conditions of the plaintiff’s detention in 2013. IPRT further welcomes the Court’s observations that conditions of detention should comply with national and international standards.

Executive Director of IPRT, Fíona Ní Chinnéide welcomed the findings of the Court:

“For years, IPRT shone a light on the practice of ‘slopping out’ as a gross violation of basic human rights norms taking place in Irish prisons. It was a serious stain on Ireland’s human rights record, and was strongly criticised by national and international monitoring bodies. The combination of this degrading practice with cell-sharing and solitary confinement was particularly grave, reflected in the findings of the Courts today.

It must be acknowledged that since 2011 there has been significant investment by the State towards eliminating the practice of ‘slopping out’ across the prison estate, through installation of in-cell sanitation and replacement of unfit prison accommodation. At the end of 2010, 1,000 men were subjected to this practice. This has been reduced to fewer than 60 people today, and will be further reduced when building at Limerick Prison is completed. This shows what can be achieved.

While the practice of slopping out is almost abolished from the Irish prison system, around 45% of men and women in prison are required to toilet in the presence of others. Every person should have 24-hour access to toilet facilities that respect their dignity and privacy. This can be achieved through the safe reduction of the prison population, the introduction of single-cell policies across the prison estate, and enshrining the principle of imprisonment as a sanction of last resort in law.”

Today Mountjoy Prison operates a single-cell policy and no prisoner is slopping out or toileting in the presence of others. This best practice should be replicated throughout the closed prison estate.      

Figures:

  • In-cell sanitation: At the end of 2010, there were 1,003 men ‘slopping out’ in prisons in Ireland. In October 2019, there were 58 men in prison subjected to this practice: 20 in Limerick male prison and 38 in Portlaoise prison. These were accommodated in single cells.
  • Solitary confinement: In July 2013, there were 211 men in solitary confinement in prisons in Ireland. In October 2019, there were 50 people in solitary confinement in prison, locked up for 22 or more hours per day. Ten of these were aged 18 to 24.
  • Single-cell accommodation: In October 2019, 52% of prisoners were accommodated in single cells.

See: https://www.irishprisons.ie/information-centre/statistics-information/census-reports/

More information: 

Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) A Framework for Penal Reform - Standards 7, 8 and 9: https://pips.iprt.ie/site/assets/files/Progress-in-the-Penal-System-2019.pdf

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

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