The Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD, today published the reports of the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, into the deaths of twelve prisoners in 2012 who were either in custody or on temporary release from prison at the time of their deaths. 

On the 19 April 2012, Minister Shatter announced that the death of any prisoner in the custody of the Irish Prison Service occurring since 1 January 2012, would be the subject of an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons. 

The Office of the Inspector of Prisons is a statutory independent office established under the Prisons Act, 2007.  The Inspector's key role is to carry out regular inspections of prisons and to submit an Annual Report to the Minister.  The Inspector may also investigate any matter arising out of the management or operation of a prison and submit a report on any such investigation.  

The reports published today relate to 12 out of 16 deaths during 2012 and contain the Inspector’s findings and recommendations relating to the circumstances surrounding each one. The names of prisoners and staff have been removed by the Inspector to anonymise the reports.

Minister Shatter welcomed the publication of the reports and said, "I would first like to take this opportunity to offer the families my sincere condolences on their tragic loss.  While their loss cannot be replaced, I hope these reports will go some way to help clarify matters for them.

"I have studied the reports with great interest and I am very grateful to the Inspector for his work in this regard.  It is important for all concerned that there are no questions left unanswered when a person dies in State custody or on temporary release.  The Inspector’s investigations and reports are part of a three pronged process - the other elements being the investigations by An Garda Síochána and the investigations and Inquests conducted by the Coroners.  I am satisfied that the combination of the Garda Inquiries, the Coroners’ investigations and Inquests and the Inspector’s Reports mean that this country is in compliance with its national and international obligations and meets the strict criteria laid down by the European Court of Human Rights when interpreting the procedural requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

"It is also important that we have complete transparency and, if issues arise or deficiencies are identified, to ensure they are addressed and that we learn from them.  To that end, I have asked and been advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that any issues identified by the Inspector in his reports are being addressed.

In 9 out of the 12 reports published, the Inspector of Prisons states no issues of concern. In 3 of the reports, the Inspector has made a number of findings mainly in relation to appropriate management and governance structures, appropriate record keeping, CCTV coverage, the influx of drugs into prisons, practices for alerting the emergency services and scene preservation.  The steps taken by the Irish Prison Service include the upgrading of CCTV coverage including black spot areas which have been identified, the update and reissue of Crime Scene Preservation procedures to all officers and a systematic review of Irish Prison Service policies, protocols and Standing Operational procedures.  The Irish Prison Service continues to investigate specific and identified areas of physical and procedural security in terms of the prevention of drugs entering prisons.  A new prisoner release policy was recently implemented and an Action Plan in response to the recommendations made by the Inspector of Prisons is also being implemented.

Minister Shatter concluded "I fully expect the recommendations contained in the Inspector’s reports will be acted upon and all necessary steps taken to ensure any deficiencies identified by the Inspector are addressed."

The Inspector, at his discretion, has met with a number of the families prior to the publication of the reports to explain to them the contents of the individual reports. Arrangements have also been made to provide them with copies of the reports.

The reports into the circumstances surrounding the four remaining deaths in custody in 2012 will be published in due course.

The Reports are available on the Department’s website – www.justice.ie. 

ENDS 

16 December 2013

 

Note for Editors 

The Inspector’s reports relate to 12 out of the 16 deaths in custody which occurred during 2012. 

Of the 12 deaths, 9 occurred while the prisoners were on temporary release. The remaining 3 prisoners (A,F and N) died while in custody in Mountjoy Prison. The Inspector has made recommendations in relation to all 3 deaths in custody and these are set out below: 

Report on the death of Prisoner A

·    The Irish Prison Service should develop an appropriate management and governance structure to ensure that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Governors’ and Chiefs’ orders are (a) known to all staff and, (b) implemented to the letter at all times.

·    The Governor of Mountjoy Prison should ensure that appropriate records are kept in the Prison. He should ensure that a regular audit of all records is carried out to ensure compliance. 

Report on the death of Prisoner F

·    Any gaps in CCTV coverage be addressed.

·    The continuing influx of drugs into Mountjoy Prison and all prisons is a major issue. Innovative means of addressing this issue must be brought forward as a matter of urgency. 

Report on the death of Prisoner N

·    The Irish Prison Service should, as a matter of urgency, examine its current practices for alerting the emergency services with a view to ensuring that, in an emergency, such services are alerted as soon as is practicable. All radio and telephone traffic relevant to the emergency should be recorded, logged and preserved.

·    The Irish Prison Service should, as a matter of urgency, examine its procedures with a view to defining a streamlined response to ensure compliance with best practice in scene preservation bearing in mind the necessity to preserve life.

·    Mountjoy Prison and all prisons should ensure, as far as is practicable, that there are no obvious points that ligatures could be attached to.

·    Standard Operating Procedures and Protocols should be updated.

The Minister has asked and been advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that any issues identified by the Inspector in his reports are being addressed.

Temporary Release

The Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that sentenced prisoners may be approved temporary release. The Act sets out the circumstances when temporary release may be provided and what matters must be taken into account. 

Candidates for temporary release are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. Each application for temporary release is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made.  

All releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a daily basis to the offender’s local Garda Station. Any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Gardaí.