Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has welcomed the recommendation by Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, that the Ombudsman be given the powers to investigate complaints from prisoners. Judge Reilly was speaking at 'The Ombudsman behind Bars' conference in Dublin on Thursday 12 May. The conference heard that Ireland is breaching human rights by not allowing adult prisoners have their complaints independently investigated.
Judge Reilly said that every prisoner had a right under international treaties and United Nations rules to have a complaint independently investigated. In Ireland, prisoners can make complaints to the Irish Prison Service but there is no external element to the complaints process which is in breach of the UN's 'Mandela Rules'.
Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said:
"I welcome Judge Reilly's recommendation that my Office should examine complaints from prisoners. It is important that all users of public services, including prisoners, should have objective, independent consideration of their complaints. Ombudsmen elsewhere already deal with complaints from prisoners and my Office is well placed to take on this role in Ireland."
Judge Michael Reilly said:
"It would be simplistic to suggest that responsibility for the investigation of all prisoner complaints should be vested in an independent external agency. I have recommended to the Minister for Justice and Equality that prisoners must be entitled to bring complaints before a judicial or other authority, having exhausted the internal prison complaints mechanism and this authority should be the Ombudsman".
Aidan Hunt from the Ombudsman for Children's Office also spoke at the conference. The Ombudsman for Children can investigate complaints made on behalf of children in detention centres.
The conference was held to coincide with the annual conference of the Ombudsman Association (OA). The OA is an association of Irish and British Ombudsmen who share best practice and raise standards among Ombudsman offices in their countries.