Thursday, 10 December 2009
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Question 47: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the continuing unsuitable use of St. Patrick's Institution to detain children, he will issue an order under Section 11(2) of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 to remove the current exclusion from the general power of the Ombudsman to receive individual complaints in relation to St. Patrick's; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46192/09]
St Patrick's Institution is currently subject to two different systems of independent inspection, the Inspector of Prisons and the Prison Visiting Committee.
The Inspector of Prisons is a statutory office holder and is independent in the performance of his functions. The current Inspector, Judge Michael Reilly, has taken a particular interest in the circumstances of under-18s in our system and has published specific inspection standards in relation to this age cohort.
The function of Prison Visiting Committees is to visit at frequent intervals and hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner. In 2008, the Visiting Committee in St Patrick's carried out in excess of 50 unannounced visits. They report to the Minister any problems observed or found by them in the prison. The Visiting Committee has free access, either collectively or individually, to every part of the prison.
I am satisfied that these independent systems provide sufficient mechanisms for receiving complaints.
That is not to say there is no role for the Ombudsman for Children in St Patrick's Institution. The Irish Prison Service is currently facilitating a consultation by staff of the Ombudsman's Office with inmates in St Patrick's Institution. This consultation process will run for a number of weeks and focuses on themes highlighted by the Inspector of Prisons. This reflects the function of the Ombudsman to promote children's rights, generally.