Violence in Irish prisons criticised by Council of Europe

Committee for Prevention of Torture says violence often fuelled by feuding gangs

The high levels of violence in Irish prisons, the extent of slopping out and the detention of failed asylum seekers in jail for up to eight weeks, has been criticised by a European agency.

Inspectors from the Council of Europe also raised concerns about verbal and physical abuse of suspects by gardai and the detention of mentally-ill convicts in ill-equipped and unsuitable prisons.

The organisation's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said there had been positive reforms up to the time of the review in 2014, including allowing solicitors to attend Garda interviews and ending the detention of teenagers in St Patrick's Institution.

But it warned that levels of violence in prisons were too high and often fuelled by feuding gangs and the prevalence of hard drugs.


The inspectors highlighted a number of reported cases of mistreatment in Garda custody.

One person alleged being hit with a baton for “bad mouthing” an officer and reported being left naked for some time after being strip-searched in Dublin’s Pearse Street Garda station following an arrest in May 2014.

In another case, dating to January 2013, a man spent three days in St James’s Hospital, Dublin after being knocked unconscious and suffering a broken arm when he was allegedly thrown out of a van in the yard of Clondalkin Garda station.

Other reports involved claims suspects felt they were being induced to make a confession by gardaí who were verbally abusive and threatening.

The report said allegations of ill-treatment mostly involved blows with batons and slaps, kicks and punches, which mainly occurred at arrest or during transport to a station.

Despite highlighting these cases the inspectors said the Garda Ombudsman reported the number of cases of mistreatment in custody has remained stable in recent years.

The report warned of a lack of medical facilities in Garda stations and singled out Pearse Street Garda station which it said had a “totally unsuitable” room for doctor visits.

The inspectors also raised concerns about the use of prisons to detain failed asylum seekers.

Many are sent to Cloverhill, which is mainly used for remand prisoners, and some were held there for up to eight weeks pending deportation.

“The CPT reiterates that, in its opinion, a prison is by definition not a suitable place in which to detain someone who is neither suspected nor convicted of a criminal offence,” the report said.

The committee said it was aware these detainees were bullied but also noted that from next year immigration detainees are to be held in a special room in Dublin Airport.

Elsewhere, inspectors reported 330 prisoners were still slopping out in Cork, Limerick and Portlaoise prisons at the time of the review.

They said Cork was a particular cause for concern with many prisoners forced to share a cell and confined in them for long periods of the day.

The committee also raised concerns about healthcare in police custody and a total lack of organisation and management of health services in the Midlands Prison, and inadequate healthcare in Limerick Prison.

It also called for full reviews on the deaths of four people in prison in 2013 and 2014.

The committee called for authorities to clarify the legality of holding prisoners on the “loss of all privileges” which they said was akin to solitary confinement for up to 56 days.