Irish Penal Reform Trust

UN Committee against Torture publishes Concluding Observations on Ireland

11th August 2017


The UN Committee against Torture has published its Concluding Observations on Ireland’s second periodic hearing under the UN Convention against Torture, which is available to read here.

In the Committee’s thorough list of recommendations, prisoner issues and prison conditions receive significant attention. IPRT welcomes the Committee's observations, with many reflecting issues IPRT had highlighted in our submission to the Committee.

The Committee recognises the positive steps taken by the State since Ireland’s first review in 2011. In particular, they note the closure of St Patrick’s Institution, the adoption of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011 and the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2016-2018 envisaging the elimination of “slopping out”.

Some of the relevant recommendations made by the Committee are listed below.

Independent monitoring of places of deprivation of liberty and OPCAT

  • The State should ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention (“OPCAT”) and establish a National Preventive Mechanism (“NPM”), ensuring that this body has access to all places of deprivation of liberty in all settings.  Garda stations, residential and congregated care centres for older people and people with disabilities should be covered by the NPM.
  • Existing bodies which currently monitor places of detention as well as civil society organizations should be allowed to make repeated and unannounced visits to all places of deprivation of liberty, publish reports and have the State party act on their recommendations.

Fundamental legal safeguards

  • The drafting of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill should be expedited.
  • Data should be provided on the performance of the police with respect to provision of fundamental safeguards against torture to persons deprived of their liberty.

Conditions of detention

  • The State should continue to strengthen the measures aimed at decreasing further the number of persons in the prison system.
  • Efforts should be continued to reduce overcrowding and improve material conditions in all places where women are detained.
  • Non-custodial measures and alternatives to detention should be increased.
  • The separation of remand prisoners from those who have been sentenced should be ensured, with data on the lengths of time that people are detained on remand to be provided.
  • Limerick Prison and “Block E” of Portlaoise Prison should be modernised in order to eliminate completely the “slopping out” system.
  • Urgent measures should be taken to increase the ratio of guards to prisoners. Additional medical, including psychiatric, personnel and psychologists, should be hired.
  • Referral of inmates requiring specialised medical care to outside medical facilities should be made without delays for administrative reasons or lack of escorts among prison staff.
  • Solitary confinement should remain a measure of last resort, imposed for as short a time as possible. It should never be applied to juveniles and there must be clear and specific criteria for its use.
  • A cell-share risk assessment tool should be introduced across the prison estate. It must be ensured that prisoners on protection are not penalised by their situation, have contact with the outside world, sufficient purposeful activities and out-of-cell exercise and family visits.
  • An independent fundamental review of the entire prison health care system should be undertaken, in keeping with recommendations from the CPT.
  • Prisoners who are transferred between facilities should not be injured during transportation. Handcuffing should only be as an exceptional measure, after appropriate risk assessment.
  • External medical consultations of prisoners should respect the principles of medical confidentiality and human dignity.

Inter-prisoner violence

  • There should be thorough and impartial inquiries into all acts of violence committed in prison facilities and detention centres.
  • Enhanced steps should be taken to prevent and reduce inter-prisoner violence by improving prison management and the ratio of staff to prisoners, and strengthen the monitoring and protection of vulnerable prisoners and those presenting disciplinary issues.
  • Solitary confinement of minors as a disciplinary measure should be abolished.
  • Existing educational and rehabilitation programmes aimed at encouraging pro-social behaviour should be strengthened, with new ones developed.
  • Solitary confinement should never be applied to a person with psycho-social disability.

Complaints in the prison system

  • The establishment of a completely independent mechanism for the consideration of prisoner complaints should be considered, as well as a new individual complaints procedure.
  • An independent appeal procedure outside of the prison system should be provided.
  • The State should introduce greater involvement and oversight by an independent body.

The Committee also made recommendations surrounding asylum seekers, police complaints mechanisms, accountability and redress in the context of reformatory and industrial schools, accountability and redress in the context of Magdalen Laundries, accountability for past institutional abuses in Mother and Baby Homes, symphysiotomy, violence against women, female genital mutilation, older persons, and persons with psychosocial disabilities.

Ireland’s third periodic review under the Convention is due to take place in 2021.


For more:

IPRT published our Submission prior to the hearing, which can be read here.

27 July 2017 summary record of the hearing is available here.

28 July 2017 summary record of the hearing, including detailed responses from the Irish State delegation, is available here.

Concluding Observations from Ireland’s first review in 2011 are available here.

August 2017
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