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Wednesday 24 January 2018

Kinlen fired parting shot on jails weeks before death

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

PRISON Inspector Dermot Kinlen, who died yesterday, had submitted a scathing report to the Government on conditions in jails weeks before his death.

The Irish Independent has learned that Judge Kinlen (77) had confided in friends that he would "go all the way" in his annual report which he believed would be his last because of his continued ill health.

Judge Kinlen, who last year claimed that the prison system was a failure, is understood to have accused named officials of being guilty of criminal wrongdoing by failing to protect at-risk prisoners and operating sub standard conditions at the prisons.

The late judge, who was made a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great with Cross by the Pope, is said to have recommended that where reckless disregard towards prisoners resulted in deaths and attacks in custody, senior government and prison officials should face proceedings for criminal wrongdoing.

Mr Justice Kinlen, who was highly critical of conditions in prisons in his annual reports to the Department of Justice, had been appointed to the role on a statutory basis on May 1 this year.

The former High Court judge, who had a record of making scathing comments about former Justice Minister Michael McDowell's handling of the prison system, had served in the role on a non-statutory basis since April 2002.

He died yesterday at his home in Co Kerry. His remains will arrive at Donnybrook Church today at 5pm and he will be buried on Saturday at Deansgrange cemetery following Requiem Mass at 10am.

The Government has yet to set a date for the release of Judge Kinlen's report.

Last night colleagues of Judge Kinlen, who had visited prisons in Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cuba and the Philippines, said his hard hitting report was a tribute to his life-long commitment to reform.

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan said: "Dermot Kinlen was a personal friend and professional colleague. He had a distinguished career as a barrister and served as a judge of the High Court.

"He had a huge personal interest in the welfare of prisoners at home and abroad, both as a member of prison visiting committees and as a representative of the International Commission of Jurists."

The Prison Officers' Association also extended their sympathy to Judge Kinlen's family.

He was an early member of the Prisoners Aid through Community Effort (PACE) and was a patron of the organisation.

John Clinton, POA general secretary, said: "Justice Kinlen was a courageous and dedicated Inspector of Prisons. He sought answers and spoke the truth in the very best interests of prisoners and prison staff.

"He did a wonderful job and all of us will remember him as a man of empathy and immense courage."

The Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Brian Purcell said: "Judge Kinlen's direct involvement with the prison system goes back to his days as a member of visiting committees and no-one was better qualified to take on the challenging role as the first Inspector of Prisons.

Mr Purcell said prisoners, the prison service and the system generally had lost a true friend.

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