Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Questions (207, 208)

Catherine Martin

Question:

207. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the measures he is taking to address the lack of published inspection reports on closed prisons by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons since 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28406/19]

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Catherine Martin

Question:

208. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are delays in completion of investigations into deaths in prison custody by the Inspector of Prisons; if there are delays in the publication of reports on such investigations; if so, the number of reports awaiting to be published; and the reason for these delays. [28407/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

The independent Office of the Inspector of Prisons was established in statute under the Prisons Act 2007. It has a vitally important role in ensuring effective independent oversight of our prison system. It will be appreciated that the office is independent in the performance of its functions and it is always a matter for the Inspector of the day to decide how the functions should be performed within allocated resources.

The current Inspector of Prisons, Ms. Patricia Gilheaney,  was appointed in May 2018.  Following her appointment, the Inspector contracted consultants to carry out a review of the functions and arrangements of her Office.  The report sets out an optimum new enhanced structure for her Office, its legal powers, resources needed and other related issues. The Inspector has recently submitted a request for resources, based on the recommendations in the  report, and that request is being analysed and considered in the context of the 2020 estimates process. My Department will continue to work constructively with the Inspector on the enhancement of her Office's resources and capacity.

In terms of additional resources this year, funding has been provided by my Department to contract external expertise to enable the office to review cases of deaths in prisons.  A process is also underway to appoint a new office manager. My Department also recently approved the awarding of a contract, following a tender competition, in respect of the development of an Inspection Framework and Strategic Plan for the Office of the Inspector of Prisons.