Minister for Justice Helen McEntee T.D. appoints new Inspector of Prisons

Minister also announces reappointment of Mark Toland as Chief Inspector of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate


26 May 2022


The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, today announced the appointment of Mr Mark Kelly as the new Inspector of Prisons. This appointment is made following the completion of a Top Level Appointment Competition held by the Public Appointment Service, which was launched on 29 October 2021.

 Announcing the appointment, the Minister said:

The role of the Inspector of Prisons is an absolutely essential element of the oversight and evaluation structures within our penal system. The Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service constantly strive to develop and evolve in how we manage our prisons and the Inspector of Prisons plays a vital role in ensuring this work is carried out to the highest human rights standards and international good practice.

I am extremely pleased that Mark will be taking up this important role. I am sure his human rights experience both in Ireland and abroad will be of great benefit to the work of the Office. He joins an excellent team in the Office of the Inspector of Prisons which under his leadership and guidance will only go from strength to strength.”   

The Inspector of Prisons is a statutory officer appointed by the Minister for Justice under the Prisons Act 2007. The Inspector of Prisons is independent in carrying out this work.

The key role of the Inspector of Prisons is to carry out regular inspections of all prisons in Ireland and to present a report on each institution inspected to the Minister for Justice. In addition, under Part 5 of the Prisons Act 2007, the Inspector of Prisons is required to carry out investigations into any matter relating to the operation and management of a prison as requested by the Minister for Justice. The Inspector of Prisons may also, of their own volition decide to investigate any matter they consider to be of concern. Further, since April 2012 all deaths in custody are subject to an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons.

Taking up the role Mr. Kelly said:

“I’m really looking forward to joining the Inspectorate team and to building on the work of my predecessors to establish truly independent inspection of places of detention. Looking to the future, I especially welcome the plans to expand the role of the Office to include independent monitoring of detention across the criminal justice sector in Ireland, in line with the requirements of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).”   

 Mr Mark Toland served in the role of interim Inspector of Prisons while the Top Level Appointment Competition was being completed. Minister McEntee thanked him for his work as interim Inspector of Prisons. During this time, Mr Toland also continued to serve in his position as Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate and the Minister has also announced today his reappointment to that position, having received Government approval of the reappointment.

The Minister added:

“I would like to thank Mark Toland, the interim Inspector of Prisons, for taking on this important role while the Top Level Appointment Competition was being completed. His appointment ensured the important work of the Inspector of Prisons, so essential in safeguarding the safety and security of prisoners, was able to continue uninterrupted. I would particularly like to thank him for his commitment and dedication to the work of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and making sure this work continued to be carried out to the highest standards during his tenure.

I am also pleased to confirm that I have received Government approval for the reappointment of Mark as Chief Inspector of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Mark has been working effectively in the position since 2017 and I have every confidence that his experience and hard work will continue to benefit both the Inspectorate and the wider policing system over the next crucial period as we bring forward the landmark Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill and the resultant combining of the existing functions of the Garda Inspectorate and the oversight function of the Policing Authority in the new Policing and Community Safety Authority.”




Note to the Editor

The law underpinning the role of Inspector of Prisons is set out in Part 5, Sections 30 to 32 of the Prisons Act 2007. Section 30 provides for the appointment of the Inspector, Section 31 sets out the functions of the Inspector and Section 32 specifies the requirement to submit an Annual Report to the Minister for Justice, by 31 March in any year.

Under Section 31 of the Act the Inspector of Prisons is obliged to carry out regular inspections of prisons and for this purpose may:

The Inspector may, and must if she receives a request from the Minister, investigate any matter arising out of the management or operation of a prison and shall submit to the Minister a report on any such investigation.

Governors, prison officers, other persons employed in prisons and prisoners, must as far as reasonably practicable, comply with any request for information that the Inspector may make in the performance of his or her functions.

Since 2012, the Inspector has been tasked by the Minister with the investigation into the circumstances of all deaths in custody and those within one month of temporary release from custody.

In addition to the legislative authority derived from the Act, the Inspector has specified functions under Prison Rules 2007-2013 in relation to the Irish Prison Service Prisoner Complaints Procedure (Rule 57B) and letters from prisoners (Rule 44(1)(h)).


Mr Mark Kelly

Mr. Mark Kelly is an international human rights lawyer who has gained vast international experience as well as practical experience in the areas of monitoring prisons, police custody and administrative detention.

In 2014, he was elected to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe, of which he was Vice-President from 2017-2021

Prior to this in 2013, he was appointed as a Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and a member of the Board of the Equality Authority, pending the creation of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, to which the President of Ireland appointed him as a Commissioner on 31 October 2014.

Mr Kelly was also a member of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe secretariat from 1991 – 2000 and a former Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

Mr. Kelly will commence his position as Inspector of Prisons on 15 August 2022.