Friday 24 November 2017

Traveller (17) wins move from 23-hour lock up

Dearbhail McDonald and Tim Healy

AN underage prisoner detained in 23-hour lock up in an adult wing at St Patrick's Institution for young offenders is to be moved off a "protective" regime and to another wing in the controversial Dublin prison.

Lawyers for the 17-year-old told the High Court that there was "more than a worrying suspicion" that the teen was locked in a cell for 23 hours a day because of his ethnicity.

The teen, who is serving a two-year sentence for burglary, is a member of the Travelling community.

High Court Judge Mr Justice Michael Peart ordered an inquiry into the legality of the boy's detention at St Patrick's, which was the subject of a damning report.

But an agreement was later reached when the State agreed that the boy would be transferred to another wing.

Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly has found a litany of abuse of young offenders including forcible stripping and bullying by a small minority of prison officers there.

Offends

Judge Reilly, who observed that many children and young adults are on "protection" -- locked up 23 hours a day -- said this practice "offends against all that should be expected of a civilised society in the 21st century".

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was assigned to live in a one-man cell with an adult prisoner.

He claimed he was sleeping on a mattress, placed on the ground of the cell and covered with a dirty and ill-fitting sheet.

There is one shared toilet in the cell and the teen's mattress rested against the toilet bowl.

The teen told his lawyers he felt "humiliated and intimidated" when his cellmate used the toilet in the middle of the night.

He also complained that he had little or no structure, daily activities or social interaction.

Threat

The teenager's solicitor, Gareth Noble, had requested his transfer from the adult to the children's wing but this was not done, prompting the action.

Remy Farrell, the boy's barrister, told the court yesterday that one of the concerns raised by Judge Reilly was that the 23-hour protection was being used as a management tool.

"There is more than a worrying suspicion that this (protective detention) is on the basis of his ethnicity," said Mr Farrell.

Mr Noble said the boy had lied to prison authorities about his age so he could get cigarettes. This was not checked by prison authorities despite his date of birth being on a warrant.

He also said he wanted to be close to two other inmates he knew -- unaware they were on a "protective" regime.

Irish Independent

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