Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Questions (314, 316, 317, 318)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

314. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the introduction and implementation of the new Prison Service complaints policy; if she will provide same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13323/20]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

316. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of category A serious complaints made by prisoners in 2019 and to date in 2020; the details of the outcomes upheld, not upheld, not proven, terminated, incomplete or withdrawn; the length of time it took to complete and communicate the outcomes of complaints to prisoners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13325/20]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

317. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints made by prisoners in 2019 and to date in 2020; the details of the outcomes upheld, not upheld, not proven, terminated, incomplete or withdrawn; and the length of time it took to complete and communicate the outcomes of complaints to prisoners. [13326/20]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

318. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints made by prisoner officers against prisoners and persons on remand in 2019 and to date in 2020; the details of the outcomes upheld, not upheld, not proven, terminated, incomplete or withdrawn; and the length of time it took to complete and communicate the outcomes of complaints to prisoner officers. [13327/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 314 and 316 to 318, inclusive, together.

A prisoner complaints system was introduced by the Irish Prison Service in November 2012, based on a model recommended by the then-Inspector of Prisons, the late Judge Michael Reilly. The current Irish Prison Service Complaints Policy is available on the website www.irishprisons.ie.

As set out in more detail in that policy, all prisoners have the right to make a complaint at any time and all complaints are treated with the utmost seriousness. Complaints vary in nature and seriousness - for example, some may relate to conditions of accommodation, quality of food or access to services while other complaints can be more serious such as allegations of assault, mistreatment or intimidation. The current system categorises complaints according to their nature and seriousness, ranging from the most serious 'Category A' complaint through to a 'Category F' complaint. Further information on this system, including these categories, is available on the website of the Irish Prison Service at the following link: www.irishprisons.ie/prisoner-services/prisoner-complaints/.

The most serious "Category A" complaints are those alleging assault or use of excessive force against a prisoner, or ill treatment, racial abuse, discrimination, intimidation, threats or any other conduct against a prisoner of a nature and gravity likely to bring discredit on the Irish Prison Service. I understand that Category A complaints are investigated by persons outside the Prison Service.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of Category A complaints received in 2019 and to date in 2020 that were upheld, not upheld, not proven, terminated, incomplete or withdrawn is set out in the following table, furnished to me by the Irish Prison Service.

2019

2020 (as at 25 June)

Outcome

Category A Complaints by Outcome

Category A Complaints by Outcome

Upheld

3

0

Not Upheld

18

2

Not Proved

0

0

Terminated 57B (5) (c)

0

0

Incomplete

26

21

Withdrawn

7

1

Part upheld

3

0

Discontinued

2

0

Re Categorised

1

0

Total complaints made

60

24

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the length of time if has taken to complete the investigation of Category A complaints by prisoners in 2019 and to date in 2020 is set out in the following table, furnished to me by the Irish Prison Service. I am assured by the Irish Prison Service that, throughout the prison estate, every effort is made to communicate the outcome of any investigation to the complainant and all other parties involved (where appropriate) within a week of receipt of information on that outcome.

Category A Complaints Investigations completed

2019

2020 (as at 25 June)

3 months or less to complete

0

2

3 – 6 months to complete

33

1

6 – 12 months to complete

1

0

Outstanding investigations

26

21

Total

60

24

I understand that, due to the necessary restrictions introduced in relation to prisons in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, investigators could not be facilitated in entering prisons. This has resulted in a number of cases outstanding. However, I would like to assure the Deputy that all such cases have been assigned to investigators and these are included in the 2020 figures. I further understand that investigators will return to prisons next week, to resume their work.

In relation to Question 318, I understand from the Deputy's clarification that the information sought relates to complaints by prisoner and not prison officers.

In relation to the total number of complaints made in 2019 and to-date in 2020 across all complaint categories, I am informed that unfortunately it has not been possible for the Irish Prison Service to collate this information in the timeframe available. I have requested the Irish Prison Service to compile this information and I will write directly to the Deputy with this information as soon as it is available.

Finally, I note that the former Inspector of Prisons carried out a review of the complaint system in June 2016 and made a number of recommendations. His report “Review, Evaluation and Analysis of the Operation of the present Irish Prison Service Complaints Procedure” is available on my Department's website - www.justice.ie.

I have been advised that the introduction and implementation of a new Prison Service Complaints Policy is a priority for the Irish Prison Service. I understand that work is well advanced on measures to implement the new Policy, which includes a fully integrated IT complaints system to streamline the management of all complaints along with a new appeal process.

More specifically, I am informed that a new Complaints Unit has been established in the Irish Prison Service and that training is currently being rolled out to prison staff. Amendments required to the Prison Rules, 2007 are also currently being finalised. I understand that the Irish Prison Service expects to introduce the new prisoner complaints system before the end of 2020.