663. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice if she has set up an inquiry under section 31(2) of the Prisons Act 2007 to examine a category A complaint on foot of a report of allegations of serious malpractice made by the Inspector of Prisons in relation to events in the Dóchas Centre; if so, if the report will be received from the inquiry; the actions taken in the meantime to ensure the well-being of all prisoners in the centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36417/20]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that what the Deputy is referring here are two separate matters.
In terms of the Category A complaint, as the Deputy may be aware, all prisoners have the right to make a complaint at any time and all complaints are treated with the utmost seriousness and confidentiality. I am informed that under the Irish Prison Service complaints policy there are six categories of complaints. The most serious is Category A and these are referred to investigators independent of the Prison Service. A prisoner may also write to the Inspector of Prisons and the DG of the IPS if they are subsequently unhappy with the outcome of an investigation of a Category A complaint.
Arising from concerns expressed by a prisoner in the Dóchas Centre in July of this year and given the seriousness of the allegations, the Irish Prisons Service initiated a Category A investigation into the specific case using an independent external examiner. This investigation has now concluded and the outcome of this investigation is under review.
A separate investigation under Section 31(2) of the Prisons Act 2007 is also underway by the Inspector of Prisons.
Under the terms of reference for the investigation, the original target for a preliminary report was the end of October. However, the Inspector indicated that she will require further time to conclude the investigation, and a report is now expected in early December.
Upon receipt of that report, I will consider what further action may be warranted and appropriate.
Given the circumstances and as the Deputy may appreciate, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment or go into the detail of any individual allegation or ongoing investigation.
I can assure the Deputy that I am regularly briefed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service, as well as senior officials in my Department, in regards to all relevant matters pertaining to the good governance and operation of the Irish Prison system. The Irish Prison Service is committed to the provision of safe, secure and humane custody for people who are sent to prison in this State. The Deputy will be aware of their outstanding record of safeguarding those in their care during the current pandemic.