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Delays on detention bill ‘unacceptable’

05 Jun 2024 / justice Print

Delays on detention bill ‘unacceptable’

There have been calls on the Government to ratify a UN protocol on the prevention of torture, and to enact a bill covering places of detention.

The calls came from the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) after a visit to Ireland last month by the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment (CPT).

The CPT visits places of detention to assess how people held there are treated, based on established European standards. IHREC and IPRT met the delegation during their visit.

Protocol ‘much-delayed’

IHREC said that it emphasised the need for Government to prioritise the publication and enactment of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, and for the “much-delayed” Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) to be ratified.

The human-rights body said that it also highlighted what it described as “growing evidence” of restrictions and conditions in international-protection accommodation, children’s residential-care settings, and nursing homes.

The commission’s director Deirdre Malone commented: “The ratification and implementation of OPCAT is fundamental to ensuring that our places of detention are human-rights compliant. The years of delay by the in State in ratifying is unacceptable.”

Prison overcrowding

IPRT said that it raised “serious concerns” about issues such as overcrowding, accountability, and mental health in prisons.

It welcomed the CPT’s visits to the Dóchas Centre and Limerick Women's Prison “at a time when more women are interacting with the criminal-justice system than ever before”.

IPRT also welcomed the CPT’s engagement with the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Mary Butler (Minister of State for mental health and older people), as well as senior officials within their departments.

Draft legislation on places of detention was published in 2022, giving IHREC a role in co-ordinating the activities of National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), who will act as inspection bodies at such places across the State.

NPMs must be set up to enable Ireland to ratify OPCAT.

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