551. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce a penal ombudsman; the progress on this matter to date; the timescale for the matter to be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20074/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy may be referring to plans to introduce a role for the Ombudsman in the prisoner complaints system.
The late Judge Reilly, who was independent of Government in his post of Inspector, carried out a review of the prisoner complaints system in June 2016 and made a number of recommendations. This report, entitled “Review, Evaluation and Analysis of the Operation of the present Irish Prison Service Complaints Procedure", is available on my Department's website - www.justice.ie.
Two of the key recommendations in the Inspector's report are that the complaints category system above be simplified and that prisoners’ complaints should be subject to review by the Ombudsman, who would also be able to deal with complaints directly in the case of undue delay. The recommendations in the report were accepted and my officials and officials from the Irish Prison Service have been in advanced discussions with the Ombudsman's office with the aim of establishing an effective complaints system for prisoners.
In these discussions with the Ombudsman, it has been agreed that his engagement with the process will begin after the new complaints procedure has been introduced and bedded down as an internal IPS process in the first instance. This IPS process requires administrative supports such as additional personnel, changes to the Prison Rules, drafting of new policy documents and a new ICT system. Work is well advanced on all of these measures and the IPS expect to introduce the new prisoner complaints system by the fourth quarter of 2019. I understand that the ability of the Ombudsman Office to facilitate their role in the process is dependent on the approval of additional resources to their office.