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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland
# Prison
Prison rules amended to support prisoner complaints
The amendments have been described as a “major step forward” by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Updated 10.25am

PRISON RULES HAVE been amended to give affect to new procedures for investigating prisoner complaints.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that the amendments, which he announced on 8 August 2012, came into operation on 14 January, and described them as “a major step forward”.

The new “robust procedures” have been introduced to investigate complaints by prisoners. Minister Shatter had asked the Inspector of Prisons to advise on a suitable prisoner complaints model, and a report was published last August.

Welcomed

The news was welcomed by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, who said that it must be matched by similar reform of existing structures such as Prisons Visiting Committees, as well as “the establishment of an oversight mechanism fully independent of both the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice, such as a Prisoner Ombudsman”.

It added that the proper functioning of the complaints system will depend upon the full engagement of prison staff and management, alongside ensuring all prisoners are made aware of avenues of complaints and appeal.

“It is crucial that the complaints system operates in such a way that no prisoner perceives any potential threat to their conditions or treatment through making a complaint,” said the IPRT.

Priority

According to Minister Shatter, the first priority is to address complaints which have given rise to most concern – complaints alleging serious ill treatment, use of excessive force, racial discrimination, intimation or threats.

The Director General of the Irish Prison Service had been instructed to introduce procedures for dealing with the most serious of complaints as an immediate priority.  The Prison Service recruited a panel of 22 external investigators and the new procedures went live on 1 November, 2012.

The amendments to the prison rules provide that prisoner complaints will be examined by investigators from outside the Prison Service to ensure an effective and impartial investigation, said Minister Shatter.

The complainant will be kept informed and their reports will be automatically submitted to the Governor in question, the Director General and the Inspector of Prisons. The Inspector of Prisons will have oversight of the process from the very beginning.

The Minister is also giving consideration to giving the Inspector of Prisons a more formal role in the appeals process and enhancing his investigatory powers in dealing with non-prison personnel and obtaining access to medical records. He said that he is confident that the new amendments will make a difference.

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