Wednesday 13 December 2017

Human rights of children being violated in St Patrick's Institution

Tom Brady Security Editor

A damning report by the prisons watchdog has uncovered a culture of ignoring or violating the human rights of children and young adults in St Patrick's Institution.

Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly found a litany of abuse of young offenders including forcible stripping and bullying and intimidation of inmates and staff by a small minority of prison officers at the Dublin institution.

Publishing the findings last night, Justice Minister Alan Shatter described the report as "quite shocking" and said neither he nor the Government would tolerate such abuse.

An action plan is now being put in place to tackle the scandal revealed in the report.

Judge Reilly warned that if the problems he highlighted were not checked and eradicated they had the real potential to corrupt good officers whose only desire was to go about their work in a proper and professional manner.

The report identified deficiencies in training given to officers working with children and young adults but said these could not be used as an excuse for ignoring or violating the human rights of anyone incarcerated in St Patrick's.

Judge Reilly criticised the lack of a proper management structure in the institution and as a result morale in the prison was low.

His recommendation to appoint a senior governor to take over the running of St Patrick's has been accepted by Mr Shatter, who has also put in two new assistant governors.

He is also heavily critical of the use of forced stripping of offenders who refuse to take off their clothes voluntarily when being relocated to a supervision cell.

Evidence

Judge Reilly uncovered evidence of clothes being ripped off or cut from prisoners in several incidents, and during one unannounced visit last April he found that an inmate's T-shirt had been cut off using a knife.

"The prisoner had marks, which looked of recent origin, around his upper arms and neck. He stated that these injuries were sustained while his garments were being cut off," the inspector added.

In the majority of complaints of alleged assaults or serious inappropriate action taken by officers, he was satisfied that the investigations carried out were flawed, incomplete and not in line with best practice.

Judge Reilly said he was also satisfied that threats had been made to prisoners and inducements offered to ensure they would not make complaints or, if the complaints had already been made, would withdraw them.

He inspected all records relating to the 12-month period between April last year and March this year and found that no complaints had been upheld.

"I am satisfied that prisoners are actively discouraged from making complaints and that they feel that to support a complaint as a witness will be to their disadvantage in the prison," he added.

Irish Independent

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