Sunday, August 27, 2006

Report of Inspector of Prisons 2005

The report of the Inspector of Prisons, Dermot Kinlen, for 2005 is available at

Extract from pages 28-32:

"10. Establishment of an independent Inspector of Prisons.

"The Government has told the CPT in Strasbourg three times and in its Programme for Government it repeated, that it would make statutory provision for an independent prisons Inspector. I was told that I would be made statutory and that I would contribute to the draft Bill. I have asked in all my three annual reports published that the Government do as it promised. Now it emerges that the Minister has ‘other priorities’. This is outrageous and practically unbelievable.

In my reports I have submitted several drafts of Bills. Some Bills need only be about two to three sections, which could be added to one of the Minister’s many Bills. The Opposition in western Australia pushed through a strong Act giving their Inspector great independence. In fact it makes it a criminal offence to obstruct the independent Inspector. West Australia, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have statutory Inspectors. In Spain there are full-time judges independently and continuously visiting prisons as well as a strong inspectorate. A famous Minister for Justice, with much the same background as the current Minister, said, “prisoners have no rights.” That ethos seems to be omni present. The Minister has purported to alter unilaterally my contract by prison rules. I have made it clear that it is totally inappropriate to deal with the Inspector’s office by prison rules. The Inspector had reasonable expectation, (as had Strasbourg (CPT) and the people of Ireland had from the Programme for Government) that the Inspector would be independent and statutory. At the moment the Inspector is neither. He has made it clear that he does not accept the so called rules. They are not binding on the Inspector. He is not a party to them. He will not comply with them. He is determined to be totally independent. (Since writing this paragraph I have been informed by a senior Civil Servant that the section dealing with prisons inspectorate has been removed from the proposed new Prison Rules.) However the purported rules are still on the department's internet.

"In the Irish Times 14th January, 2006 there is a long article by Conor Lally about the new Garda Ombudsman Commission which should begin operating next year. Three persons were appointed and the three people will be formalised to their positions by the Oireachtas before formal approval by the President. "The commission's independent status meant it would decide on all aspects of its own work. It would decide on staffing levels, how it was to investigate complaints and it would be responsible for the hiring of staff and selecting of permanent office. Mr. Joe Costello, TD, Labour spokesman on Justice said, 'It was incredible that nearly a full year had been set aside preparing the ombudsman commission.' Fine Gael's justice spokesman Mr. Jim O’Keeffee, TD, said, 'he was surprised and disappointed by the delay. It requires a full explanation from the Minister for Justice.' The ombudsman commission will have the power to conduct its own investigations. On the 24th April 2006 the 4th anniversary of his appointment the Minister had the gal to write confirming it was part of his legislative plans to make the Inspectorate statutory but even now no date is given.

"The promised Inspector of prisons has been there since it was first mooted by Dr. Whitaker over twenty years ago. It is quite clear that the Minister, the Government and the Department had no intention of establishing a statutory inspectorate. If public opinion forced them so to do, then they would do their best to ensure that the Inspector does not have the powers to fulfil the requirements of the office. Not merely are they denying human rights to prisoners and prison staff, they are also breaking their own law. Human Rights Commission has expressed concern as has the Commissioner of Freedom for Information about the way their respective briefs are being handled. In Northern Ireland there is an ombudsman dealing with prisoners complaints. There is none in the Republic. There is also an Inspector who has a huge remit with ten inspectors, which includes the three prisons in Northern Ireland and gets assistance from the English Inspector and her team when they do a prison inspection. There are supposed to be similar sanctions in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. The North of Ireland has an ombudsman for prisoners and has totally independent inspectors covering a great deal of territory, not just prisons. However, in the Republic neither of these offices do exist nor is there a will for them to exist. It seems at first look that there may well be a case of denying human rights and also there may be a breach of the Belfast Agreement.

"Why are things so good in Northern Ireland and why is everything so retrograde in the Republic? Surely, we should have inspectors who are more independent investigating everything like my counterpart in Belfast. Surely, the Belfast Agreement should be honoured by the Irish Government. It is with great sadness I am writing this report. I think it is fair to ask, what are the Minister and his Department hiding? Of what are they afraid? Actually, I believe they have nothing to fear if they were only transparent, efficient and open. I urge the Minister,

  1. to implement the promises made and establish the inspectorate as totally independent or else abolish it since it is only a facade;
  2. the Government must decide whether to follow the English and American tradition of building more and more prisons, or follow the Nordic countries who have alternatives to prison run in competition with prisons.
  3. The probation service should be totally independent of the prison service and in competition with it;
  4. get a business consultant to report on the continuous growth of the Prison Service structures and the Justice’s Department staff. Is the taxpayer getting value for money? What about the Government’s policy of controlling bureaucracy. It was law since 2002 that Civil Service staffing levels be capped but it is now a rather sick and expensive joke?
  5. provide rehabilitation for prisoners and close down St. Patrick’s immediately as recommended over twenty years ago in the Whitaker Report. Set up an ombudsman for prisoners and an independent prisons inspectorate using statutes applicable to Northern Ireland at least.

"The present attitude is frightening and fascist."

[Edit April 2008 - For those researching reports of the Inspector of Prisons note that the reports are available as follows:

Fifth Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons for the Year 2006-2007

Fourth Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons 2005-2006

Third Annual Report by the Inspector of Prisons for the Year 2004-2005

Second Annual Report by the Inspector of Prisons for the Year 2003-2004

First Annual Report by the Inspector of Prisons for the Year 2002-2003

See also the listings at ]