The Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service has refused to reveal what, if any, disciplinary action has been taken against prison staff who filed misleading reports on the deaths of vulnerable inmates.
Theyesterday published a special report highlighting how, since 2012, the Office of the Inspector of Prisons has repeatedly made adverse findings about the accuracy of reports presented to the watchdog following the death of inmates under ‘special observation’ orders.
Standing Operating Procedures dictate that such prisoners — who often suffer from mental health issues and suicidal ideation — should be checked by prison staff every 15 minutes.
However, prison inspectors found this did not happen in the cases of some inmates who died, and CCTV footage proved the prison log books, which claimed protocols were followed, was misleading. This newspaper repeatedly asked the department and the IPS what, if any, disciplinary action is taken against staff who provided misleading reports.
A spokesperson responding on behalf of both bodies said regulations are in place for situations “where evidence exists that a staff member may have breached policy or procedures”, adding: “Given the individual circumstances that would apply to each case it is not possible to cite specific disciplinary sanctions.”
The special report also highlighted how, in his 2013/2014 Annual Report, former prison inspector Judge Michael Reilly noted how one prison officer said that in training, staff are told when it comes to writing a report they are to “keep it short and cover your arse”.
Deirdre Malone, executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, said such quotes raise questions as to “whether or not there is a culture or practice of obfuscating the truth” when it comes to record keeping.
The IPS said it could not comment on the reported remark and “the culture which the IPS seeks to achieve among all staff is one where openness and transparency are valued”.