Sunday 9 December 2018

Electronic warrants and video links to cut cost of escorting prisoners

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

More use of the ability to give evidence via video link and electronic warrants are among a range of measures to be explored in a bid to reduce the number of prisoner escorts.

A 'value for money' report on prisoner escorts - which sees Irish prisoners accompanied to court and other appointments including medical appointments - has noted a number of shortcomings in the way such escorts are currently handled.

Currently either prison service staff or gardaí is used to transfer prisoners, with armed gardaí made available if it is deemed appropriate.

The review highlighted the high cost of reliance on officers in the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and gardaí, a disjointed delivery model and the absence of specialist expertise and the poor management of information as problem areas that exist within the current system.

It is recommended that greater use of video link evidence could reduce the number of escorts.

New laws allowing electronic warrants and the streamlining of committal procedures could also reduce the reliance on escorts according to the report, which is due to be published in the coming days.

Alternative arrangements should be considered for how the prisoner escort system is run but not before the present model is made more efficient, according to the report.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan brought the report to Cabinet yesterday and will now establish a new oversight group to assess the recommendations.

It will report back in three months.

Separate recommendations from the recent Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland report recommended that the IPS takes responsibility for all prisoner escorts, unless a prisoner is deemed dangerous and a Garda presence is seen as necessary.

Last year the IPS made 740 requests for an armed Garda escort to facilitate high-security prison transfers, of which 434 requests were approved.

Irish Independent

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