I, too, welcome the publication of the consultation document on the criminalisation of the purchase of sex which I believe is the result of the motion the Independent group brought before the House on two occasions.
Last Friday, 22 June, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, signed a statutory order to remove section 11(1)(e)(iii) of the Ombudsman for Children Act which excluded children detained in St Patrick’s Institution from the complaints remit of the Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan. The order will take effect from 1 July. I warmly welcome this move which I do not believe received much publicity. Prior to this, children held in prison, children in the Defence Forces and children involved in dealings with the Garda were the only three groups of children excluded from the remit of the Ombudsman for Children.
However, there is an ombudsman in place for both the Defence Forces and the Garda. It followed from the announcement of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on 2 April that the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution would end on 1 May for all newly remanded or sentenced 16 and 17 year olds. They will now be detained in Oberstown. These two measures mark significant progress in the treatment of juvenile offenders and the observance of children’s human rights. However, I am mindful of the fact that there is still no independent, fair and impartial complaints mechanism for adult prisoners. Concern has been expressed in this regard by both the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the inspector of prisons, Mr. Justice Michael Reilly, in his annual report for 2010.
In Mr. Justice Reilly’s report he refers to a deficiency, to be rectified by 1 July 2011, in the following of proper complaints procedures, with supporting documents. I look forward to seeing what progress, if any, is recorded in his next annual report. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House to confirm when the annual report of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons for 2011 will be published. I understand it was sent to the Minister on 17 April. I ask that we have a debate on how best an independent, transparent and accountable prisoner complaints mechanism can be established in the prisons.