The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter TD, today (24th January, 2013) published the Report of the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane Rogers at Cloverhill Courthouse Complex on the 20th December, 2011.
The Minister welcomed the report and said "I would like to thank Judge Reilly for his comprehensive report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Rogers. On the 22nd December 2011, I asked the Inspector to carry out this independent investigation pursuant to Section 31(2) of the Prisons Act, 2007. This is in addition and without prejudice to existing mechanisms in place for the investigation of deaths including Garda investigations and inquests by Coroners. I am very grateful to the Inspector for his very thorough investigation, and I am pleased to note that he received the total support and co-operation from all persons and agencies involved".
Minister Shatter added "I would also like to express my sincere sympathy to the family of the late Mr Rogers and indeed to all of those affected by this tragic case, in particular the family of the late James Hughes. I hope this Report, which regrettably has identified some system failures, will help to clarify matters for them".
The Inspector has indentified a number of deficiencies which include, inter alia, the failure of organs of the ‘prison system’ to communicate with each other, the failure to adhere to stated work practices, the absence of governance to ensure compliance with Standard Operating Procedures and inadequate record keeping.
In relation to Mr Rogers’ detention from 13th December 2011 up to his transfer to Court on the 20th, the Inspector found that the medical staff, the Governor and his officers acted properly and responsibly. However, the Inspector found that in respect of Mr Rogers’ attendance at Court on the 20th December 2011, it is clear that relevant information in the possession of the prison authorities in Cloverhill Prison regarding the vulnerability of Mr Rogers was not shared with the prison authorities tasked with escorting Mr Rogers from Cloverhill Prison to Cloverhill Courthouse and detaining him there. Furthermore, the Inspector found that in contravention of orders in place obliging prison staff to check prisoners every 15 minutes, Mr Rogers was not checked from 12.03pm until 12.58pm when he was discovered by officers and the alarm was raised for medical assistance.
The Report is being taken very seriously by the Irish Prison Service and the Director General has put an Action Plan in place which sets specific objectives and timeframes for implementing the Inspector's recommendations. For example, enhanced governance and audit arrangements will be introduced to ensure that Standard Operating Procedures, Governors' and Chiefs' Orders are implemented and all staff will be reminded of their obligations and duties in this regard.
The Minister stated "I have been assured by the Director General that action has already been taken by prison management in relation to a number of issues. Enhanced arrangements have been introduced in relation to the notification of the vulnerable status of prisoners to escort staff. Furthermore, all vulnerable prisoners are now returned to Cloverhill Prison immediately upon completion of their Court appearance. As detailed in the Action Plan, which has also been published on the Department’s website, a timeframe has been established to address the other issues identified by the Inspector in his Report".
The Report has been sent to the Courts Service which will implement the recommendations falling under its remit. The Department will also work to put a protocol in place with Coroners to ensure that the preliminary findings relating to the cause of all deaths which fall to be investigated by the Inspector will be made available to him as soon as possible after a post mortem has been carried out.
Minister Shatter concluded "This Report is being published as quickly as possible following its presentation to me on 9th January, 2013. Having ensured the immediate putting in place of an Action Plan, I fully expect the recommendations contained in the Report to be acted upon and all necessary steps taken to ensure the deficiencies identified by the Inspector are addressed and that such a tragic occurrence can be avoided in the future".
The Report is available on the Department’s website at www.justice.ie
24 January 2013