The issue of prisoners’ rights has recently taken to the headlines of our national newspapers once again, the focus this time on the matter of overcrowding. Mr. Justice Michael Reilly, of the Irish Prisons Inspectorate, published his annual report on the Irish prison estate and concluded that procedure inside the prison walls resulted in “inhuman and degrading treatment”, unsafe for prisoners and prison wardens alike. in addition, the most recent European Convention for the Prevention of Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT hereinafter) report, published in 2006 reported a similar state of affairs in three of Ireland’s prisons: Mountjoy Prison, Portlaoise Prison and St. Patrick’s Institution. The problem of overcrowding is seminal to prisoners’ rights across Europe in that it directly affects the exercise of other rights by those who are incarcerated. This was highlighted in an interview I conducted with Agnieszka Martynowicz, The Research and Policy Officer of the Irish Penal Reform Trust.
Similar to the protection of rights of other minority groups, for example members of the travelling community and children with disabilities, the protection of prisoners’ rights has been met with a marked reluctance by the Irish judiciary, this largely the effect of the Separation of Powers doctrine, provided for by Article 6 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. In the case of O’Reilly v. Limerick Corporation, the plaintiffs, members of the travelling community sought a mandatory injunction enforcing the defendant corporation to provide them with adequately serviced halting sites. Mr. Justice Costello held the allocation of resources is a matter solely for the Executive, not for the judiciary and thus found in the defendant’s favour.
This reluctance has resulted in few prisoners’ rights cases reaching the High Court of Ireland, as acknowledged by Ms. Martynowicz. That said, when asked how she would rate the Irish judiciary’s efforts to protect prisoners’ rights, she noted that this was dependent on the type of case taken. In individual instances, the protection of prisoners’ rights can be “quite good”. This is known as direct intervention by the courts. She noted the courts are overly reluctant to hand down judgments which affect the penal service as a whole. Moreover, they are reluctant to make sweeping statements about the penal service, in the hope of its improvement. This is known as indirect intervention. Ms. Martynowicz fears that the current level of reluctance on behalf of the Irish judiciary will continue the curtailment of freedom to an unacceptable level comparable to a “civil death”. This, she emphasised, is not a position shared internationally.
With the reluctance of the Irish judiciary to take action on this important area of Human Rights law in mind, I intend to highlight the progress the European Court of Human Rights has made with respect to this minority through the course of this essay, and compare their efforts with the current state of affairs in the Irish jurisdiction. The precedent which emerges from the European Court of Human Rights is based on the rights conferred by the European Convention of Human Rights, which notably, Ireland ratified via the European Convention of Human Rights Act 2003.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust operates with the mantra of “prison as punishment and not prison for punishment”, however, on inspection, and indeed a reality which has been acknowledged most recently in the 2008 Prisons’ Inspectorate report and the CPT in its 2006 report, this is not the case. Largely, this is owed to the conditions to which prisoners are subjected during incarceration.
Not many cases involving prisoners’ rights reach the High Court of Ireland; Ms. Martynowicz attributed the lack of access to legal services as the primary reason for this arguable shortcoming. She spoke of a database which the Irish Penal Reform Trust formed, as a means of producing a referable precedent to which litigants in this area could refer to, though noted it was yet to prove its worth in the courts. One might assert the reason for this is that there has been little cause for prisoners to take High Court action because the rights required by the European Convention of Human Rights, are conferred upon them. Ms. Martynowicz categorically disagreed with this position and said was that the case, the objective of the Irish Penal Reform Trust would effectively be achieved, and there would be little need for the non-governmental organisation, if at all. Indeed, the reports mentioned above, suggest the same.
2. The European Convention For The Prevention Of Torture, Inhuman And Degrading Treatment Or Punishment
It is necessary to briefly outline the relevance of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT hereinafter), for it is from this source that much of our knowledge on the current state of the Irish Prison Service originates. The chief post of the Convention is as a monitoring mechanism for national prison services Europe-wide. It employs a number of independent and impartial experts from a number of different backgrounds. Ireland has been visited by this monitoring body on four occasions since it was formed: 1993; 1998; 2002; 2006. The visiting committee visits prisons, observes conditions, interviews prisoners and staff, consults with law and policy makers and meets with civil society in considering the physical environment, regime, health care of national prisons, with the objective of producing a conclusive report. Further, it inspects national methods of individual redress and methods of inspection at member state level.
As a community body, the CPT compares national conditions to those which are imposed by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR hereinafter) and from precedent of the European Court of Human Rights. Ms. Martynowicz praised the “continued reform” which the European Court of Human Rights has imposed on the penal service, community-wide, though was disappointed by the lack of reform which has resulted, on foot of this, in the Irish jurisdiction.
3. Divergent Approaches
Ireland does not have a set of minimum enforceable rules for prisoners and the vindication of their rights. Interestingly, Ms. Martynowicz did not see this as an overwhelming obstacle, citing the “rich precedent which has developed at Community-level as more than enough to work with”. That said, as recently as 2001, Mr. Justice McKechnie of the High Court, in the case of Gilligan v. Governor of Portlaoise Prison, affirmed that with a prisoner’s “loss of personal liberty, legally provided for, inevitably attaches to it, the abolition, albeit temporary, of some rights and the curtailment or restriction of others”. The divergent approaches of Europe and Ireland on the issue of prisoners’ rights are evident when this is compared to Hirst v. UK (No.2), where the European Court of Human Rights held “prisoners in general continue to enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Convention, except for the right to liberty”. So, how does Irish judicial attitude affect individual rights of prisoners? Does the prison wall represent an “iron curtain” through which the Convention cannot permeate?
With these questions in mind, the issues which have arisen before the courts, and those which I intend to deal with are: protection of the lives of prisoners; overcrowding; mentally ill prisoners; the right to vote; the right to family life; freedom of correspondence and the right to privacy; accountability.
4. Protection Of The Lives Of Prisoners
Much of the precedent which has emerged from the European Court of Human Rights has seen litigants rely on Article 2 and Article 3 of the Convention. Article 2 of the Convention imposes three obligations, one negative and two positive, on member states to all citizens. Negatively, it imposes an obligation not to take life intentionally or negligently. Positively, it imposes an obligation to prevent death and an obligation to prevent ill-treatment. Article 3 imposes a negative obligation not to subject any citizen “to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention impose separate duties on States with respect to their citizens. However, as recent case law has suggested, these articles are beginning to represent a spectrum. Article 3 deals largely with conditions to which prisoners are subjected and Article 2 deals with the protection of life; breach of Article 3 has recently been recognised as having the potential lead to breach of Article 2, where conditions are sufficiently improper.
Inter-prisoner violence is a causal factor in both the death of prisoners and the necessity to subject prisoners to less than adequate conditions. A number of judgments have been handed down on the issue of inter-prisoner violence and the duty of care owed by the prison service in respect of its inmates. In the case of Rebai v. France, the European Court of Human Rights recognised a duty on behalf of public officials to protect the lives of inmates, in the face of any real or imminent risk. The precedent developed in the case of Edwards v. UK. Briefly, the facts: The case saw the death of an inmate at the hands of a mentally-ill inmate, who suffered from schizophrenia and violent outbursts. The victim was placed in a cell with the perpetrator irrespective of the knowledge the prison personnel had of the latter’s condition. Here, the European Court of Human Rights held that the protective mechanism which ought to have been in place had essentially failed and developed a duty of care under Article 2 of the Convention:
“The test was whether the authorities knew or ought to have known at the time of the existence of a real and immediate risk to his life from the criminal acts of a third party and whether the authorities failed to take measures within the scope of their powers which, judged reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that risk.”
This duty extended to other official bodies, such as the courts and the police to communicate relevant information about individuals to the Prisons Service.
Relevant here is the issue of segregation in prisons, which is often necessary where gangland crimes are at issue. Stephen Langton, Chair of the Visiting Committee involved in the recent inspection of Mountjoy Prison, said during an interview on RTE’s Prime Time that there are between fourteen and sixteen gangs in Mountjoy Prison, each of which have to be kept apart. This has resulted in the refurbishment of the segregation unit of Mountjoy Prison. An example of the reluctance of the Irish judiciary to find a breach Article 3 is an unreported judgment by Mr. Justice Murphy, where an inmate of Wheatfield prison was placed in segregation for 23 hours a day, with little activity. Mr. Justice Murphy accepted that he was placed in segregation for his own safety and thus no breach had occurred. Here the duty imposed by Article 2 outweighed that of Article 3. Markedly, Article 3 is not subject to a proportionality test. It provides an absolute protection from inhuman or degrading treatment, thus it ought to be veritably simple to find a breach, however this proved not to be the case in Ireland. This has been subject to criticism for nowhere does it suggest that a balancing act should be exercised between the two. This exemplifies the backwardness of the Irish High Court on the protection of prisoners’ rights, and underlines the attitude of society generally on the issue.
An area of prisoners’ rights in which Ireland is performing adequately, though not perfectly, is that of the obligation, under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights to conduct an investigation following the death occurring in the custody of the State. A number of deaths and murders have occurred inside Irish prison walls in the last decade, most notably, the murder of 19 year old Gary Douche in the basement of Mountjoy Prison, placed there following death threats to his person. In response to this tragedy, the Government ordered an inquiry, the McMorrow Inquiry, into his death. The report of the Inquiry, yet to be published, is itself expected to make a number of recommendations on improving the conditions prisoners’ are subjected to, the binding effect of this report, however, is questionable. The European standard of this obligation was set out in the case of Jordan v. United Kingdom, where the European Court of Human Rights held that in the event of a death in the custody of the State, the independent investigation is required to: (i) be on the State’s own initiative; (ii) be capable of leading to a determination of responsibility and the punishment of those responsible; (iii) be independent both institutionally and in practice; (iv) be prompt; (v) allow for sufficient public scrutiny to ensure accountability; (vi) allow the next-of-kin to participate.
Overcrowding is the single most threatening problem to the lives and rights of prisoners according to Agniezska Martynowicz: “It impacts on everything, from education to visiting rights; from healthcare to lock-up times and beyond.” The issue has been subject to scrutiny in recent months, on foot of the report published by the Prisons Inspectorate. The publishing of this report saw the national media focus on overcrowding in Irish Prisons, with a discussion of the problem on RTE’s Prime Time television programme on the 6th of October 2009 with the Irish Prisons Service Chairperson, Brian Purcell, and Liam Herrick, the Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust. On the 9th of October 2009, 4,009 people were imprisoned in Ireland. The official bed capacity is 3,947. In response to this, the chairperson of the Irish Prisons Service said that Irish Prisons had no alternative but to house prisoners and to do so within the existing estate. He argued that not only did the number of beds increase by 1,400 between 1998 and 2008 but a further 500 beds were being allocated in 2009 alone. Mr. Purcell also made the claim that 70% of our prison estate is in tandem with the best international standards.
Brian Purcell reinforced the fact that of the forty-five European states, Ireland has the forth lowest committal rate. The figures, however, continue to rise. The Irish Penal Reform Trust has released figures which tend to account for this increase: 1,897 people were imprisoned for the non-payment of fines in the first half of 2009; there was an increase of 88.7% in committals for non-payment of court ordered fines in 2008; 62% of committals were for six months or less. The detention of asylum seekers owes to yet more unnecessary imprisonment, the Irish Refugee Council, when questioned on the matter said, “It is always wrong to imprison people who are innocent and not even suspected of any crime.”
I submit the judiciary plays an indirect role in the problem of overcrowding. Ms. Martynowicz did not blame the judiciary solely in accounting for these figures however, and insisted the lack of alternatives to a custodial sentence is another implicit factor. She said she would like to see legislative breakthroughs made in the areas of community justice, non-custodial punishment and fines and restorative justice, which has been the subject of a recent report. Ms. Martynowicz stressed especially that “short-term sentences do not work”.
Overcrowding has an overbearing effect on the exercise of other rights by prisoners, this stressed by Ms. Martynowicz and further substantiated by David Williamson of Impact, who said the “poor physical fabric of the prison” affect his work with inmates. He drew attention to the practice of “slopping out”, which involves prisoners housed in cells without in-cell sanitation using a “chamber pot” during the night and emptying it in the morning. This raises issues of conditions with regard to Article 3 of the ECHR and arguably results in a breach of the right to bodily integrity as conferred by Article 40.3.1 of Bunreacht Na hÉireann.
With the problems of the Irish system thus highlighted, owing in part to the judicial reluctance to pursue avenues other than imprisonment for criminals, what is the European position on this issue? Where it was originally reluctant itself to find a breach of Article 3 of the Convention without proof of suffering, the European Court of Human Rights has recently been seen to take a more prisoner-centred approach, which saw the plaintiff in Napier v. Scottish Ministers, successfully argue the practice of “slopping out” was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention. Most recently, two judgments were handed down by the European Court of Human Rights, Orchowski v. Poland and Sikorski v. Poland. Both applicants were serving prison sentences in Poland and on several occasions they were found to have less than the statutorily required three square metres of prison space. This affected their right to privacy and resulted in unhygienic conditions and lack of exercise which the court found the cumulative effect of which to be in contravention to Article 3.
The Irish judiciary has been reluctant to follow the precedent which has emerged in Europe; however the two recent cases mentioned above may affect the impending case of Seán Mulligan, where, due to overcrowding in Portloaise Prison, he claims his human rights were breached through the practice of “slopping out”. Following a week of evidence, Mr. Justice MacMenamin adjourned the case until early 2010. Ms. Martyonwicz hopes the judgment will not be restricted in its effect to the individual applicant, optimistic in light of the Orchowski and Skiroski cases.
6. Health Issues
The issue of health inside in prisons is one which is protected largely by Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. For the purposes of analysis, I will deal with this area in two parts: physical and mental health; drug use.
Physical And Mental Health
Inherent in the protection afforded by Articles 2 and 3 of the ECHR is the duty to provide medical treatment to prisoners of both a physical and mental nature. This is an area which has yet to come before the judiciary in any significant way and thus the focus is on developments at European level. Pantea v. Romania held the State must “… prevent the occurrence of a definite and immediate risk to a prisoner’s physical integrity, of which the authorities knew or should have known”. The case of McGlinchey and Others v. United Kingdom, recognises “the responsibility owed by prison authorities to provide the requisite medical care for detained persons”. The use of the word “requisite” suggests a subjective approach to the individual circumstances of a prisoner.
It is estimated that 48% of male and 75% of female prisoners in Ireland may need psychiatric treatment. In severe cases, padded cells, recently renamed “observation cells”, are used. The use of padded cells came to the attention of the courts Carroll, Sefton and the Irish Penal Reform Trust v. The Governor of Mountjoy Prison. A conclusive judgment by the High Court has yet to be handed down on the issue; this arguably highlights the reluctant stance on behalf of the judiciary. With regard to the use of padded cells and the segregation of prisoners, the CPT advised that in such cases there ought to be more access to psychiatric help and their detention in such conditions to be subject to regular review. This practice, still in place has been subject to criticism, notably by Hamilton and Kilkelly:
“It is hard to conceive of a less appropriate response to those with severe mental difficulties than the practice of placing them in such cells, given the isolation, lack of time outside cell and absence of any structured activity.”
The use of drugs in Irish prisons was acknowledged by the CPT in 2006 as a growing problem and one which has a direct effect on prisoners’ physical and mental health. It is estimated that the percentage of prisoners who are HIV positive is ten times that of the general population. Moreover, the percentage of prisoners who have tested positive for Hepatitis C is one hundred times that of the percentage of the general Irish population. Drugs are widespread in Irish Prisons. Trinity College Dublin students who are allowed into Mountjoy Prison to play football with the inmates have noticed small packages been thrown over the prison walls during recreational hours, and further said little was being done, to their knowledge, to combat this obvious supply.
The widespread use of drugs inside prison walls and the sharing of needles are to blame for the figures quoted above. A solution to the problem, in effect in prisons across Europe, is the provision of disinfectant tablets to prisoners for the purpose of cleaning needles. However, the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Shelley v. UK, where the Court held the State was not obliged to provide a facility for the provision of disinfectant tablets, with a view to reducing the spread of the aforementioned viruses. Liam Herrick argues this is in conflict with the heightened duty of care owed by the State to drug-addicted inmates, as identified in the case of McGlinchey and Others v. UK. Interestingly, the comments made by Mr. Justice O’Neill in an unreported High Court case are in tandem with this standard. Here he argued the excuse of the judiciary’s role in the allocation of resources was “inexplicable” where it was used to justify the delay of drug-addicted prisoner being placed on a rehabilitation programme. He was not required to rule on the issue as the State found a place on a programme for the applicant. While this might bodes well for the future, one could argue the reason Mr. Justice O’Neill was so forthcoming with his opinion owed to the fact that the issue was out of his hands at that point.
7. Other Substantive Rights
In this section I will examine other substantive rights not yet mentioned and the role the Irish judiciary has or has not played in the vindication of such rights: the right to vote; the right to a family life; the right to privacy and freedom of correspondence.
The Right To Vote
The right to vote is a right not enforced community-wide. Interestingly, The Economist has noted that seven European countries, including Britain, prohibited prisoners’ right to vote. This is in contrast to the case of Hirst v. UK (No. 2), where the European Court of Human Rights condemned impeding a prisoner’s right to vote as breach of Article 3 of the Convention. The Irish legislature passed the Electorate (Amendment) Act 2006 and came into compliance with the standard required by the European Court of Human Rights, allowing prisoners the right to vote.
The Right To A Family Life And The Right To Marry
Implicit in the right to family life, protected by Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, is the issues of visitation. The case of X v. UK highlights that a member state is under an obligation to assist prisoners in maintaining contact with their families. McFeeley v. United Kingdom highlighted the importance of social contact for imprisoned citizens. The issue of visitation has yet to come before the Irish Courts, perhaps owing to the small size of the jurisdiction.
The right to marry, protected by Article 12 of the ECHR, recently came before the European Court of Human Rights. The Citizens Information website lists the right of a prisoner to marry as one which the Irish judiciary has yet to make judgment on. Prior to the two relevant decisions, national legislation which inhibited the right of remand prisoners to marry was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. However, in the cases of Frasik v. Poland and Jeremowicz v. Poland, delivered on the 5th of January 2010, the right to marry was held to apply to all citizens whether, free or otherwise incarcerated. Further it was held impertinent that the applicants would have the right to marry on release. They were awarded pecuniary damages, costs and expenses.
Freedom Of Correspondence & The Right To Privacy
Freedom of correspondence and the right to privacy is an issue which has yet to come before the Irish courts, and it looks set to remain so with the introduction of the new Prison Rules, which came into effect in October 2007. The issues of the right to privacy and the freedom of correspondence are protected by Article 8 of the ECHR. The dominant matter at issue here is the right of the Prisons Service to examine inmates’ incoming and outgoing mail. The European Court of Human Rights in Campbell v. UK held that where regular correspondence was at issue, interference is allowed only by proportionate response to the situation. With regard to legal correspondence, only where there is “reasonable cause to believe that an illicit enclosure [is] contained within it” will there be interference, in the presence of the addressee. Otherwise, interference with outgoing mail is considered breach of Article 8 of the ECHR, and incoming mail will warrant interference only if it is necessary to determine its origin, again, in the presence of the prisoner. A recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights has seen the protection extended to correspondence with health professionals; indeed, whether the Irish judiciary will follow this precedent or the Legislature will enforce this right remains to be seen.
When compared to other European jurisdictions, there is a marked lack of accountability of the Irish Prisons Service. Where disciplinary hearings are concerned, the recent promulgation of the Prison Rules 2007 entitles the accused of fair procedure however there is no mention of the right to independent legal advice. While the Prisons Act 2007 has gone some way to addressing the issue of accountability in the Irish prison estate, by putting the Prisons’ Inspectorate on a statutory footing, there remains the fact that irrespective of the recommendations of the CPT and their commonplace in the majority of the European Union’s member states, Ireland has yet to create the office of a Prisons Ombudsman. The office of the Prisons Ombudsman’s importance derives from the need for an independent body to take complaints from prisoners in custody; much like the Garda Ombudsman does with respect to those in the custody of Garda officers.
When I questioned Agnieszka Martynowicz of the IPRT on why she thinks there is a reluctance to officially appoint a Prisons Ombudsman, she answered that the Executive regards the internal fixtures already in place as sufficient, for example, a representative for the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform and the placing of the Prisons Inspectorate on a statutory footing with the Prisons Act 2007. The presence of a prison chaplain offers what she called only a “mediating role” between inmates and the Irish Prisons Service, yet one which the Executive and the judiciary regard as sufficient. She argued that the Minister’s representative lacked sufficient independence and that the chaplain lacked the means to take a complaint any further or provide prisoners with the necessary information to make a case against the Irish Prisons Service.
The role of the Prisons Inspectorate has increased the accountability of the Irish Prisons Service; however, according to Ms. Martynowicz this is not sufficient. It has been noted that it is not the function of the Prisons Inspectorate to investigate or adjudicate complaints. The position in Ireland is in stark contrast to that of England and Wales where there is an office of a Prisons Ombudsman, whose recommendations are implemented by the English Prisons Service on a regular basis, and who has the capacity to deal with prisoners’ complaints. With regard to disciplinary issues, where the loss of liberty as punishment is possible, the case must now be heard before a district judge and by the Governor only where lesser punishment will result. This is indicative of a more progressive position in the United Kingdom. Ms. Martynowicz acknowledged this as an “unfortunate shortcoming” of the Irish position, and one she can only assume is founded in financial reluctance.
Indeed, the lack of an official Prisons Ombudsman heightens the importance of the judiciary where prisoners’ rights are concerned. It is unfortunate that there is reluctance on the part of the judiciary, therefore, to be more pro-active in the broad protection of human rights inside prison walls, and not merely the protection of individuals, on a case-by-case basis. Ms. Martynowicz enforced their importance where accountability, while in existence, is not as effective as it ought to be.
With respect to the current position of the European Court of Human Rights and the Irish Courts, it does an injustice to their divergent approaches to say there is a mere inconsistency. Agnieszka Martynowicz of the Irish Penal Reform Trust called “untapped”, the “mass” of European case law for the progression of the Irish protection of prisoners’ rights. In a country where a Constitution is so protective of personal rights, it is an arguable anomaly that there is such an inconsistency in the position of Ireland to that of Europe. Granted, there is not the same reluctance in the vindication of rights in individual cases which come before the courts, but where a concrete position as to the protection of prisoners’ as a minority of our population is concerned, it is certainly time that we follow the lead of the European Court of Human Rights.
The most urgent problem which has been allowed to continue is overcrowding. Given the effect this was recognised to have on the exercise of other rights of prisoners by Ms. Martynowicz, I submit that if this was tackled with a greater degree of liberalism than it has been before, it will prove a positive step on the path to the improved protection of our prisoners. The release of the Final Report from the National Commission on Restorative Justice has been praised by the Executive Director of the IPRT as “a primary means to progress the principle of ‘prison as a last resort’ in this jurisdiction”. The success of restorative justice and community sanctions internationally and in two Irish pilot programmes suggests this could be the first step necessary to the objective of the reducing the number of prisoners in Ireland, this having a direct effect on their rights. Furthermore, a greater awareness on behalf of the general public as to the conditions prisoners are subjected to might go some way to improving the regard with which they are held in society.
At the beginning of a new decade, I felt obliged to ask Ms. Martynowicz of her hopes for the Irish Prisons Service by 2020. She said:
“I would hope to see a greater recognition of the principle of prison as punishment, and not for punishment; that prisoners maintain their rights inside the prison walls. I would like to see the appointment of an independent Prisons Ombudsman. As regards the role of the judiciary, while I acknowledge the time it takes to change attitudes, I would like to see a greater level of pro-activity on their part, in the hope of aligning our position to that of the European standard. I would like to think ten years is a realistic timeframe inside which this can happen.”
Ireland has been placed on a watch-list of countries by the CPT, and faces another “rigorous” inspection by its visiting committee in 2010. Ireland joins nine other countries which have been placed on the list: Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Macedonia and Romania. In my opinion, it is important that the visiting committee continue to put pressure on the Irish Government to address the conditions which Irish prisoners are subject to, given the failure of the Irish judiciary in this respect. The admirable report of Mr. Justice Michael Reilly is another positive step towards addressing the situation as it currently stands. The force with which his report is written suggests that Irish prisoners may finally have an advocate who will continue to pressure the Government in their favour.
To quote Mr. Justice Michael Reilly’s report:
“I am aware that the running of a prison is no easy task and I am conscious of the reality that resources for all public services are, understandably, limited. However, neither of these could be accepted for degrading or denying individual human rights.”
A District Court judge himself, it is a disappointment that the Irish judiciary as an entity does not echo the same sentiments in its judgments when given the opportunity in the protection of this particularly under-privileged minority’s rights. However, with yet another CPT inspection imminent and the heightened publicity the issue of prisoners’ rights is currently receiving, these are indicators of a more productive decade, a decade the judiciary must act to end the injustices a constantly growing number of people are subjected to.