21st January 2020
In its Submission for Party Manifestos, the Office of the Ombudsman has written of the need for the extension of its remit to cover prisoner complaints.
Prisoners in Ireland currently have no independent body to which they can make or appeal a complaint. In April 2016, the then Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, wrote a report which recommended that the Ombudsman be given jurisdiction to deal with complaints about the prison system. The then Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, welcomed the report and said that prisoners should be able to have their complaints independently investigated by the Ombudsman.
The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) made a number of relevant Concluding Observations to the State on this issue in mid-2017, including establishing a completely independent mechanism for the consideration of prisoner complaints and introducing greater involvement and oversight by an independent body, including the need for an appeal procedure. CAT records state that the government’s timeline for establishing the Ombudsman’s oversight role in the complaints system was expected by the end of 2017.
In this submission, the Ombudsman writes that he has had extensive discussions with the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Justice and Equality, and notes to political parties that the change can be achieved through a Statutory Instrument by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
In order to ensure that both prisoners and staff have confidence in the complaints system, IPRT has long advocated for an external mechanism for prisoner complaints, such as an extension of the Ombudsman’s remit. IPRT believes that the need for prisoner access to the Ombudsman to facilitate the appealing of complaints to an independent body is urgent. This should be a matter of priority for the next government.
Read the Office of the Ombudsman’s full Submission for Party Manifestos here.