The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., today published new procedures to be followed by the Courts Service, An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service.
The new procedures already implemented follow the conviction and sentencing of Martin McDonagh in Longford Circuit Court today in connection with an assault on the late Mr. Noel Keegan following which Mr. Keegan tragically died.
The Minister has published two reports in connection with this matter - a report by the independent Inspector of Prisons and the report of a Group charged with overseeing the implementation of the judge's recommendations by the agencies concerned.
Last January, the Minister requested Judge Michael Reilly to investigate the circumstances in this case across all the criminal justice agencies who dealt with the matter to establish why Martin McDonagh was at liberty in December 2009 when he had been sentenced to a four year term in April of that year, and to make any necessary recommendations.
Following the receipt of Judge Reilly's report in May of this year, the Minister appointed Mr. Pat Folan, the former Director General of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, to lead an inter-agency group of senior officials to oversee the urgent implementation of the report's recommendations. That group reported in September 2010 that all of the Judge's recommendations identified for immediate action, have now been fully implemented and set out a clear strategy to implement the medium term recommendations – several of which involve IT infrastructure projects - within a three year timeframe. Both these reports are published today on the Department's website - www.justice.ie.
The family of the late Mr. Noel Keegan were informed in January last that Martin McDonagh should not have been at liberty and that the Minister had appointed Judge Reilly to conduct an independent investigation and make recommendations to avoid any recurrence. Following the trial's conclusion today, the Minister wrote to the Keegan family and arranged to have copies of both reports furnished to them in advance of publication.
7 December 2010
Notes for Editors
It was not possible for legal reasons to refer to any of these details prior to the trial's conclusion. However, it will be noted that the Minister announced Judge Reilly's appointment to investigate a matter of urgent public importance on 13 January last.
On legal advice, some redactions of personal information have been made to Judge Reilly's report. These do not alter in any way the substance of the report.
The Implementation Group’s report details the changes that have now been implemented in full including clarifying procedures in relation to warrants and temporary release provisions. These procedures impose enhanced accountability requirements on relevant agencies and individual officials to certify their specific element of the process, thereby reducing risks and improving communication. For example, the Courts Service has issued a protocol setting out precise processes for the preparation, checking and issuing of warrants. These will be prepared and checked by other officials. It also involves a register of committal warrants, processes for receipting warrants when they issue and so forth. Similarly the Irish Prison Service and the Gardaí are required to issue receipts where they receive a warrant. If a warrant is not handed directly to a prison officer or Garda, then it will issue by registered post.
A range of other protocols have been developed to cover temporary release and prisoners who are unlawfully at large. These formalise the arrangements in place which have generally worked well up to now but which failed utterly in this case. Details of the protocols agreed and new procedures put in place are published as Appendices to the report. Work is also underway on an IT project to underpin the effective sharing of relevant information between the agencies.