Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #69

25th May 2012

In this edition:

  1. Introduction
  2. Prison Law Seminar: ‘Lessons from Scotland’
  3. Save the Dates: Upcoming IPRT Events
  4. Event: Impact in Ireland of the UNCAT
  5. Prisons and Penal Reform: Recent Developments in Ireland
  6. IPRT in the News
  7. Upcoming Events


1. Introduction

The past few months have seen a number of major developments in Irish penal reform. On April 2nd, the Minister for Children announced plans to end the detention of children at St. Patrick's within two years, with 16 year olds being diverted to Oberstown from 1st May 2012.  On April 19th, the Minister for Justice and Equality announced that a new system of investigating all deaths of prisoners would be put in place, overseen by the Inspector of Prisons.  This has also been a campaigning priority for IPRT over many years.

On April 30th, the Irish Prison Service launched a three year Strategic Plan, to which IPRT had significant input, which includes commitments to (i) end slopping out with 40 months; (ii) renovate Cork, Mountjoy and Limerick Prisons; and (iii) specific strategies to meet the needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups in the prison population. A revised version of the Spent Convictions Bill was also published recently and IPRT will shortly be issuing our analysis of the Bill. Progress on other key human rights issues is also moving closer, with the Inspector of Prisons recently submitting recommendations for a new complaints process within the prison system. All of these achievements have been built on the platform of policy work and alliance-building which IPRT has put in place over the past four years. 

The launch of the IPRT/ICCL Prisoners’ Rights booklet and the associated promotion activities, particularly in prisons, will have a major impact on prisoners’ human rights awareness and will be of long-lasting value in the promotion of human rights through the prison system. We have already had launches of Know Your Rights - Your Rights as a Prisoner in Dublin, Limerick and Cork and in the next two weeks we will be launching the booklet and an audio version in four prisons. Hosting events outside of Dublin, but especially hosting events in prison, is another major step forward for IPRT.

While all of these policy developments are of great importance, the situation on the ground in many of the prisons remains extremely difficult particularly as we move into the summer months.  Overcrowding and violence remain acute and the disempowerment of prisoners, who still have no access to an independent complaints system, dominates prison life. We are shifting our attention and energies to address this one key problem within the system – the problem of accountability; and we are hopeful that we can begin to see progress in this area in the coming months too.

Liam Herrick,

Executive Director

Keep up to date on IPRT news and activities between e-bulletins:

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2. Prison Law Seminar: ‘Lessons from Scotland’

The Irish Penal Reform Trust and Dublin Institute of Technology are pleased to announce that Tony Kelly, leading Scottish human rights and prison law solicitor, will speak on the topic: Using the European Convention on Human Rights in prison law cases: Lessons from Scotland. More information about the speaker is available here:

Day/time: Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 from 6-7.30pm

Location: Room 5034 (fifth floor), Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street, Dublin 2.

The event will be followed by a reception.

Registrations / CPD certificates:

  • To register for this event, please contact Mary Gaffney at tel: 01-8741400 or e-mail
  • A certificate of attendance will be provided for those wishing to claim CPD points. Please contact  if you require such a certificate.

This seminar is funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, as part of its Research Development Initiative. It is part of a collaborative project between Dublin Institute of Technology and the Irish Penal Reform Trust. See: 


3. Save the Dates! Upcoming IPRT events:

  • 12th July, 2012: IPRT Annual General Meeting
    Our 2012 AGM will take place at 6pm on Thursday 12th July in the Camden Court Hotel, Dublin 2. Full details will be sent to all IPRT members shortly.
  • 20th September, 2012: IPRT Annual Lecture with Judge Colman TreacyIPRT is delighted to announcethat the Honourable Mr Justice Colman Treacy, member of the UK’s Sentencing Council will deliver the IPRT Annual Lecture on 20th Sept 2012 in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin 8. More details will be announced in June on the IPRT website.
  • 20th November, 2012: IPRT Report Launch
    IPRT is delighted that the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, will launch the forthcoming IPRT Report on the rights and needs of children of imprisoned parents in Ireland. Full details to follow, but mark your diaries now!

Keep an eye on for more news about these and other upcoming events!


4. Preventing Ill-Treatment and Securing Accountability: Impact in Ireland of the UNCAT

On Monday 28th May, 2012, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Justice for Magdalenes will co-host an event focusing on the impact in Ireland of the work of the UN Committee against Torture. The event marks the one year follow-up on Ireland's first examination under the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), which took place in June 2011. During this first periodic review, Ireland faced tough human rights questions from members of the United Nations Committee against Torture on issues including abortion, prison conditions, domestic violence, the asylum process, extraordinary rendition, trafficking and redress for survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

For this event, ICCL is bringing together national and international experts to discuss the impact in Ireland of the work of the UN’s top anti-torture experts. The keynote speaker is Felice Gaer, Director of the New York-based Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights and Vice-Chair of the UN Committee against Torture.*A representative of Justice for Magdalenes will speak about their experience of using the UNCAT to enhance the impact of their advocacy.

Tea and coffee will be served; the venue is fully accessible.

Places are limited, so please RSVP to Aoife Murphy at

* Ms. Gaer is participating in this event in her personal capacity.


5. Prisons and Penal Reform: Recent Developments in Ireland

Penal policy in Ireland is often described as frustratingly stagnant and one dimensional, with prison building being the long established default initiative of Irish penal policy. Recently, however, there has been a move away from prison expansion, and there seems to be an emerging understanding of effective alternatives to custody. Read our Guest Blog, which has a round-up of recent developments in penal policy, and shows that we may have reason to be optimistic about the future of penal reform.


6. IPRT in the News

  • There was widespread media coverage at the beginning of April in response to the Government’s announcement that the first phase of the National Children’s Detention Centre would be constructed, thus bringing to an end the practice of detaining children in St Patrick’s Institution. Liam appeared on RTÉ Six One to discuss this hugely significant news. Liam also discussed the news on several radio stations, including RTÉ's Drivetime, 98fm, fm104, UTV Radio News and Spin 103. The Irish Examiner had a broader take on the news, which they reported in an article entitled ‘Overcrowded prisons – One ray of hope among the chaos’. The report criticised how long overdue this action is and it quotes the IPRT, who described the announcement as historic.
  • Attention was drawn to the issue of electronic tagging in early April. Liam spoke on Newstalk, highlighting that while electronic tagging may have a place in specific circumstances it will not solve the overcrowding crisis in Irish prisons. Liam was later quoted on The, and the Irish Examiner published an article entitled ‘Reform group urges caution on prisoner tagging’. The Examiner ran a further article in which Liam raised important issues that need to be resolved around tagging, such as how prisoners who are suitable for tagging will be assessed. Questions remain about how the system would operate.
  • On 19th of April, the Government announced that any death of a person in custody would be subject to an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons., the Belfast Telegraph, Irish Independent and Irish Times all quoted Liam, who welcomed it as a positive development, but warned that it may not go far enough to satisfy all the requirements of article 2 of the European Convention Human Rights.
  • Liam was on Morning Ireland on 1st May to discuss the IPS’s Three Year Strategic Plan. Liam welcomed plans to allow certain prisoners to complete their sentences on supervised community service, highlighting that this is an effective way to both tackle overcrowding and reduce reoffending. The Irish Examiner also reported on the early release scheme, in which Liam emphasised that for the scheme to be effective probation officers and community workers must be adequately resourced.
  • Several articles appeared in newspapers following the publication of the first draft of the Spent Convictions Bill 2012 on 4th May. The Irish Times pointed out that Ireland and Slovenia are the only two countries in the EU that do not have Spent Convictions legislation. [This is in fact incorrect - Slovenia now has a system for expungement of convictions.] IPRT Director Liam Herrick is quoted in the article, highlighting some of the limitations of the Bill. IPRT’s concerns were also reported in an Irish Examiner article, in which Liam was quoted thus: “we believe that the legislation could go further in terms of raising the maximum sentence covered by the bill, shortening the rehabilitative periods, and reconsidering the blanket exclusions of certain categories of employment, such as all persons working with children.”

For a full list and links, click here.


7. Upcoming Events

  • On 26 May, 2012 the Community Platform will hold a Claiming Our Future event, Reinventing Our Democracy, in Croke Park. Register now at:
  • On 28 May, 2012 the ICCL and Justice for Magdalenes will host a UNCAT follow up event, Preventing Ill-Treatment and Securing Accountability: Impact in Ireland of the UNCAT. The event takes place in the Radisson, Golden Lane from 2-4pm. Registrations:
  • On 30 May, 2012 an IPRT/DIT Prison Law Seminar, Using the European Convention on Human Rights in prison law cases: Lessons from Scotland takes place in DIT Aungier St at 6pm.
  • On 5 June, 2012 an International Symposium, Sad Kids, Not Bad Kids: Developing the Blueprint for a Comprehensive Youth Violence Strategy, takes place in Brussels.
  • On 28 & 29 June, 2012, the North South Irish Criminology Conference will take place at University College Dublin on the theme of ‘Economy, Crime and Punishment’. To register for the conference, email
  • On 12 July 2012 at 6pm the IPRT Annual General Meeting will take place in the Camden Court Hotel, Dublin 2. To register, please contact Mary at
  • From 5-7 Sept, 2012, the Re-imagining Imprisonment in Europe - Common Challenges, Diverse Policies and Practice conference, hosted by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice Ireland and the European Scribani Network, will be held in Trinity College, Dublin. For full details see:
  • On 20 Sept, 2012 the IPRT Annual Lecture will be delivered by Judge Colman Treacy of the UK Sentencing Council. The event takes place in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin 8. Full details to be announced in June 2012.

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Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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