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'Staff who have been seriously assaulted cannot get a conviction': Prison officers call for more support

POA general secretary John Clinton said that reduced staffing levels were increasing the risk for serving officers.

Image: Shutterstock/sakhorn

THE GENERAL SECRETARY of the Prison Officers’ Association has hit out at what he said was a lack of convictions for inmates who attack officers.

Speaking at the Prison Officers’ Association annual delegate conference in Galway last night, John Clinton also said that reduced staffing levels was increasing the risk for serving officers.

Clinton pointed to recent cases in which prison officers were allegedly attacked by inmates, but the inmates weren’t prosecuted as a result.

“The reduced staffing levels contributes directly to the risk for prison officers with ever-increasing levels of assaults,” Clinton told members of the POA last night.

“To add insult to the injuries inflicted on our officers there is no penalty for the prisoners involved,” he said.

“It is now the case that staff, who have been seriously assaulted and report their assault to the relevant authorities, cannot get a conviction, in spite of a wealth of available evidence.

In one significant case there was even an admission of guilt from the prisoner, yet no conviction.

Clinton pointed towards two incidents in which prison officers were allegedly attacked in a Midlands prison, but said no convictions were brought as a result of lack of available evidence.

“The issue of violence in prisons regrettably continues, with a number of very serious incidents involving assaults on prison staff in the past year,” said Clinton.

He echoed recent calls at the Garda Representative Association annual meeting for mandatory sentencing for people convicted of attacking security officials.

“Mandatory sentencing, as raised by the gardaí earlier this week is undoubtedly needed as one of the responses to assaults on our members, while carrying out their duties,” he said.

“Staffing crisis” 

Clinton said that the service was facing a “staffing crisis”, and that there weren’t enough workers to “do what we are required to do”.

“All of us are aware that retirements this year will exceed recruitment figures; this is not sustainable and it creates an ongoing additional risk for prison staff and prisoners,” he said.

He called for officers’ pay to be restored to 2008 levels.

Clinton pointed to recent analysis conducted by the State Claims Agency which found that the projected level of assaults by prisoners on prison staff for 2017 was estimated at 107.

“The nature of these assaults included concussion, lacerations, cuts, fractures burns and bites. Most of these injuries were to the head and face thereby leaving a permanent reminder to the injured officer of the incident,” said Clinton.

Read: Search begins for new officers with “tolerance and humanity” to work in Irish prisons

Read: Prison officers to undergo tests after being bitten by convicted ‘HIV positive’ rapist

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