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Ill-treatment in custody

Further to Yvonne’s post last week it is worth noting that the decision by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to present an interim report to the Minister for Justice was a highly unusual step, one only taken when there is ‘a glaring example of where care is lacking’. In its report, which followed visits by the Committee to police stations, prisons, mental health hospital and, for the first time, an establishment for the intellectually disabled. The head of th delegation clarified that the substance of this report did not relate to overcrowding in prisons, but to specific issues of ill-treatment.
This statement from the ECPT (details of the visit available here) comes at the same time that the Mental Health Commission has revealed that it has written to three mental health facilities in the country to warn them that they may face closure if they do not address the ‘inhuman’ conditions which residents were being subjected to. The Irish Times reports,

The move follows visits by the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services which found that wards in a number of older psychiatric hospitals were “unfit for human habitation”.

Some of the harshest criticism was made of St Loman’s Hospital in Mullingar,

Two wards in St Loman’s hospital were in “poor condition and unfit for human habitation and should be decommissioned as a matter of urgency”, while other wards were “dilapidated, desolate and depressing”.
At St Ita’s, a total of 125 people were being forced to live in “appalling conditions” and it was “difficult to convey the extent of dilapidation”. “Long corridors in poor conditions, toilets with no privacy, paint peeling, mould in showers, broken furniture, ill-fitting doors, cramped dormitories, a smell of urine, poor ventilation and a bare drab environment were clearly evident.”

These two reports indicate the crisis state of the treatment of individuals in places of detention in Ireland. Ireland has long been criticised by the ECPT for its treatment of persons in custody yet the Government has not responded adequately. This highly unusual move taken by the committee, to submit interim findings, must be taken seriously by the Government. As Yvonne noted both the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Irish Penal Reform Trust have called on the Government to publish this report from the ECPT, but as yet, no response is forthcoming.

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