Irish prisoners serve longer ‘as British citizens’

IRISH prisoners in British jails serve longer sentences than other foreigners because they are classed as British citizens.

Her Majesty’s Prison Service refuses to recognise Irish inmates as foreign nationals, which means they cannot benefit from an early release scheme allowed to other non-British citizens.

They can avail of a similar scheme for British prisoners but only if they remain there for the remainder of their sentence under a form of house arrest.

One former inmate of Risley Prison in Warrington, Cheshire, was told he was ineligible for the early release scheme as only foreign nationals can avail of it “and Irish prisoners do not fall into that category”.

Kieran Draisey, 47, from Midleton, Co Cork, who served 11 months after pleading guilty to assaulting his former partner, had to stay in prison longer than prisoners from any other foreign country. Neither was he allowed telephone his embassy, an automatic right given to foreign prisoners.

Documents in the possession of the Irish Examiner show Irish prisoners are treated differently to other foreign inmates by the British prison service, sometimes to their detriment. Ironically, this has come about because of an appeal by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to the British authorities not to forcibly deport Irish nationals at the end of their sentence.

A letter dated December 5, 2007 to Stuart Boddy, who heads up the prison service’s early removal system for foreign nationals, states: “Irish nationals are not included within the scheme at this point in time.” The letter is from Richard Faulkner of the Home Office’s Criminal Casework Directorate, a division of the Border and Immigration Agency.

Draisey was extradited to Britain by order of the Irish Supreme Court in 2006. He served 11 months of a two-year sentence but would have been released eight months earlier if he was from any other country within the European Economic Area, which comprises the 27 EU states.

He was eventually released “on licence”, a system of early release for British prisoners but told he had to live in Britain for the remainder of his sentence, even though he had no home there. He was also required to submit to home detention curfew by the Probation Service and report regularly to police there.

When he challenged the decision of the prison service and insisted on his rights as a foreign national, he was given a written response on behalf of the governor of Risley Prison. It read: “I regret to inform you that you are ineligible for the early release scheme as only foreign nationals can do so and Irish prisoners do not fall into this group.”

Despite warnings that a warrant would be issued for his arrest, Draisey refused to stay in Britain and returned to his home in Ireland to be with his seven-year-old son. The British authorities have now issued a new warrant for his arrest and fresh extradition proceedings may follow.

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