• July 25, 2011

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has outlined concerns about the complaints and investigation mechanisms available to prisoners and those detained by the police in Ireland.

Whilst welcoming, in its most recent report, the appointment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission some years ago the CAT express reservations about its ability to refer matters back to the Garda Síochána “thereby allowing the police to investigate itself”.

The Committee also express concerns that a series of complaints about ill-treatment involving prisoners at several jails in the State have not been independently investigated (see below):

“Complaint and investigation mechanisms 18. The Committee notes the information provided by the State party with regard
to the investigation of complaints by prisoners against prison staff relating to incidents which allegedly occurred in the following prisons: Portlaoise, on 30 June 2009; Mountjoy, on 15 June 2009 and 12 January 2010; Cork, on 16 December 2009; and Midlands, on 7 June 2009. The Committee notes with concern that in all these cases there have been no independent and effective investigations into the allegations of ill-treatment by prison staff. The Inspector of Prisons, in his report of 10 September 2010 entitled “Guidance on best practice for dealing with prisoners’ complaints”, concluded that there is no independent complaints and investigation body to investigate prisoners’ complaints and that present procedures followed do not accord with best practice, and recommended the establishment of an independent mechanism to receive and investigate complaints against prison staff (arts. 2, 12, 13 and 16). The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Establish an independent and effective complaint and investigation mechanism to facilitate the submission of complaints by victims of torture and ill-treatment by prison staff and ensure that in practice complainants are protected against any intimidation or reprisals as a consequence of the complaints;
(b) Institute prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into all allegations of torture or ill-treatment by prison staff;
(c) Ensure that all officials who are allegedly involved in any violation of the Convention are suspended from their duties during the conduct of the investigations;
(d) Provide the Committee with information on the number of complaints made concerning allegations of torture and ill-treatment by prison staff, the number of investigations carried out and the number of prosecutions and convictions, as well as on the redress awarded to victims.
19. The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) in 2005, the members of which cannot be serving members or former members of the Garda Síochána (Police Force). GSOC is empowered to investigate complaints of torture and ill-treatment against members of the Garda Síochána. However, the Committee regrets that GSOC can also refer complaints to the Garda (Police) Commissioner, who can proceed with the investigations independently or under the supervision of GSOC, except complaints concerning the death of or serious harm to a person in police custody. The Committee is also concerned at the information that GSOC has submitted proposals for the amendment of the Garda Síochána Act of 2005 in a number of areas, including the power to allow GSOC to refer investigations back to the Garda Síochána, thereby allowing the police to investigate itself (arts. 2, 12, 13 and 16). The Committee recommends that the State party ensure by law that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the police are directly investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and that sufficient funds are allocated to the Commission so as to enable it to carry out its duties promptly and impartially and to deal with the backlog of complaints and investigations which has accumulated. The Committee also requests the State party to provide it with statistical data on (a) the number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment filed against prison officers, the number of investigations instituted, and the number of prosecutions and convictions imposed; and (b) the number of cases that have been referred to the Garda Síochána.”

The full CAT report on Ireland can be found on the UN OHCHR website (link below):


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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