158. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to bring forward a prisoner ombudsman to take prisoner complaints or to ascribe that function to the ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6595/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy is aware, a prisoner complaints system was introduced in November 2012 based on a model recommended by the late Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly. The system is categorised according to the nature and seriousness of the complaint . This can range from the most serious 'Category A' complaint through to a 'Category D' complaint. A complaint in the 'A' category, such as assault, is examined by investigators from outside the Prison Service to ensure an effective and impartial investigation. A complaint in the 'D' category would relate to maladministration by professionals providing services to prisoners such as doctors, dentists etc.
The late Judge Reilly, who was independent of Government in his post of Inspector, carried out a review of this system in June 2016 and made a number of recommendations. This report entitled “Review, Evaluation and Analysis of the Operation of the present Irish Prison Service Complaints Procedure” is available on my Department's website - www.justice.ie.
One of the key recommendations in the Inspector's report is that prisoners’ complaints should be subject to review by the Ombudsman, who would also be able to deal with complaints directly in the case of undue delay. This recommendation was accepted and my officials and officials from the Irish Prison Service are in advanced discussions with the Ombudsman's office with the aim of establishing an effective complaints system for prisoners. Further measures recommended in the Inspector's report need to be in place - such as development of the necessary IT infrastructure - before the Irish Prison Service will be in a position to implement the revised procedures. Some amendment to secondary legislation may be required as well, but it is not envisaged that primary legislation will be required.