Prisoners’ complaints about officers without foundation

POA hits out at vexatious complaints

Fri, May 3, 2013, 08:29

All of the complaints made by prisoners against prison officers and investigated under a new independent system established six months ago have been found to be without foundation, it has emerged.

The Prison Officers’ Association believes it is too easy for prisoners to make vexatious complaints against its members and wants punishments for those found to have fabricated or embellished a complaint.

Association president Stephen Delaney said that since the new system was introduced last November independent investigators working under the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, had investigated 30 so-called grade A allegations.

These were serious complaints alleging assault or mistreatment. The new system was introduced in the wake of a damning report by Judge Reilly on St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders in Dublin.

Without foundation
Mr Delaney noted that of the 30 complaints lodged, 15 investigations had been concluded and had found the complaints were without foundation. Another complaint was found to be vexatious, while the remaining 14 had not yet been concluded. He said the process of being investigated was having a “profound” impact on individual prison officers and yet there seemed to be no punishment for prisoners found to have made vexatious complaints, and so no deterrent.

Prison rules
In his address to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter at the association’s annual conference in Athlone, Co Westmeath, yesterday, Mr Delaney told him the more effective a prison officer was in implementing prison rules, the more likely they were to attract complaints.

“I would ask you Minister to examine the possibility of a legislative amendment which would ensure that the full rigours of the law can be applied when vexatious and frivolous complaints are proven to have been made up against officers.”

He reiterated that the association was moving to ballot members on strike action should the Government impose a pay cut and not honour concessions secured on allowances during the recent talks on the failed Croke Park extension agreement.

Mr Shatter said he accepted the association had remained in the talks and worked hard to reach a deal. He said that would be uppermost in his thoughts when any new arrangements on remuneration were being introduced.