Gaps in independent probes of detention units

There is no independent inspection in Ireland of a range of detention facilities, including Garda stations, prisoner transport and immigration units, according to an expert report.

The transport of inmates between prisons and courts, and court cells are among the areas not monitored. Picture Dan Linehan

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission called on the Government to implement a UN protocol against torture, which it signed 10 years ago, which would oblige it to set up such a system.

A report, conducted by human rights experts from the University of Bristol for the commission, said the most significant gap in Ireland on the monitoring of places of detention was garda stations.

The research said other areas included: transport and transit between prisons and court; military detention; detention of people awaiting deportation; detection facilities at airports and ports and on flights and de facto detention in voluntary settings.

The UN Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture was signed on October 2, 2007, but has still not been ratified into Irish law.

It requires states to set up or designate National Preventative Mechanisms — independent visiting bodies with unfettered access to places of detection.

The report said there were a number of gaps in Ireland where places are not covered by independent monitors, the most significant being garda stations.

The transport of inmates between prisons and courts, and court cells, were also not monitored.

The report said it was “not clear” the extent to which there were military detention facilities in Ireland although some interviewees said there might be in the Curragh camp. It said there were currently no immigration detention facilities, although the report noted proposals to build such a facility in the Thorton Hall site owned by the Prison Service.

The report heard that Direct Provision centres, not currently monitored, could be seen as de facto detention facilities.

It said detention facilities at airports and ports are not covered, nor were facilities used by Customs to arrest and detain people.

The authors said it would be pragmatic to “build on the existing mechanisms by expanding their mandates”.

It suggests a number of options, including expanding the power and resources of the Inspector of Prisons to include garda facilities and court cells or designating a co-ordinating body, such as the commission, for all the inspection and ombudsman bodies.

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