Zappone should publish Oberstown report

 

Sir, – During her appearance before the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on January 24th, 2018, when questioned about the decision not to publish the Goldson/Hardwick Operational Review of Oberstown, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD said she would “seek additional advice to ensure due process has been completed and when that happens, I will ask for the report to be published.”

Yet, it is now reported that due to the “passage of time” the Minister has decided not to publish the Goldson/Hardwick operational review of Oberstown in full (“Oberstown Report will not be published”, Home News, August 6th).

In the same article the independent expert authors of that report go on the public record to state that they have “very grave concerns about what we learned, what individuals told us, and what we discovered during the operational review and believe it would serve the public interest for our findings to be published”. Additional concerns have now been raised in public by the authors for the first time that the content of the report, if published, may have been considered relevant to sentencing decisions made in respect of some young people.

In light of these statements, it is extremely difficult to understand how the decision not to publish the findings of this operational review could be in the best interests of the children detained there.

Children in detention must be protected. Independent external oversight forms a crucial role in the protection of human rights and the prevention of ill-treatment in places where children are deprived of their liberty. To be fully accountable, all reports of this nature must be available to public scrutiny in their entirety.

The report has been with the Minister since March 2017; in any event, the “passage of time” has demonstrably never been an acceptable reason for non-publication of this type of report.

The original terms of reference included an evaluation of practice and policy and the identification of obstacles to achieving implementation of international standards and best practice. Accountability requires publication of what was found in practice, not simply what action was recommended or taken in response to those findings.

As long as the State continues to use its considerable power to deprive children and young people of their liberty, surely the least we can expect is that the full findings of independent reviews such as this one are made public? – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE MALONE,

Executive Director,

Irish Penal Reform Trust,

Dublin 7.