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Children's watchdog hits out at top aide's comments

THE Children's Ombudsman has accused one of the country's most senior civil servants of misrepresenting a report her office carried out on a much- criticised youth prison.

Ombudsman Emily Logan has also criticised Sean Aylward, the outgoing Secretary General of the Department of Justice, for "dismissing the views" of children detained at St Patrick's Institution for young offenders.

Earlier this year the Ombudsman for Children's Office (OCO) produced a report, following consultation with young offenders at St Patrick's. The report contained graphic criticisms of the prison conditions.

Last month Mr Aylward appeared before the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva and was quizzed about whether the Irish Government would allow the OCO -- which has no remit to investigate St Patrick's -- to investigate complaints from children in prison.

When asked about the OCO's report by UNCAT, Mr Aylward said that it documented the views of a selection of offenders and its purpose was to highlight rather than verify their (the young offenders) "perceptions".


"In doing so the report identified a number of discrepancies between the young people's perception and the actual reality," Mr Aylward told the committee.

Yesterday Ms Logan, who described her own visits to St Patrick's as a "chilling" experience, said the remarks were unacceptable.

"Firstly I am not happy that our work was misrepresented to a UN committee," she said after the launch of the OCO's annual report in Dublin yesterday.

"And secondly, and more concerning, is a culture that would suggest or infer that young people's perceptions could be dismissed in that way."

Last night the Department of Justice said there was no intention by Mr Aylward to mislead or misrepresent the position of the Ombudsman.

"The Secretary General was merely echoing comments by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service, that were contained in the forward of the Ombudsman's report on St Patrick's Institution," said a spokesperson.

The number of complaints to the OCO increased by some 34pc last year, with concerns about the provision of education and healthcare making up the majority of complaints received.

The OCO dealt with over 1,200 complaints in 2010,.

Irish Independent