Ombudsman clashes with Justice Department chief over comments

THE Ombudsman for Children has rebuked the top civil servant in the Department of Justice.

In a highly unusual clash between senior state officers, Emily Logan said she was “very dismayed” at comments to the United Nations by the secretary general of the Department of Justice, Sean Aylward, accusing him of “misrepresentation”.

She said Mr Aylward had told the UN Committee Against Torture that her report on young people in St Patrick’s Institution had identified differences between the “perception” of the inmates and the “reality” in the young offenders’ prison.

“I was very dismayed to hear the current secretary general of the department of justice say... ‘[In doing our work], the report identified a number of discrepancies between young people’s perception and the actual reality’,” said Ms Logan.

“First and foremost, that’s a misrepresentation of our work. It’s also undermining what the young people have said to me. It is suggested here there’s a difference between perception and reality.

“I said in the report there was a difference in the perception of the children and young people’s experience in St Patrick’s and the perception of the staff and what they were telling me, which is an entirely different matter.”

She said the 16- and 17-year-olds she had spoken to in the prison highlighted a range of issues: “They talked about being frightened, about not being safe. They [the authorities] should sit up and listen to that.”

A statement for the secretary general said he was echoing comments by the director general of the Irish Prison Service that were contained in the foreword of the Ombudsman’s report on St Patrick’s.

“The report identifies a number of discrepancies between the young people’s perceptions and the operation of certain procedures” the statement said.

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