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The Judicial Protection of Prisoners' Rights in Ireland.

The Judicial Protection of Prisoners' Rights in Ireland.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Una Donovan. Originally submitted for Law at Trinity College, University of Dublin, with lecturer Professor Gerry Whyte in the category of Law
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Una Donovan. Originally submitted for Law at Trinity College, University of Dublin, with lecturer Professor Gerry Whyte in the category of Law

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Public Interest Essay
Topic b) Judicial Protection of Prisoners’ Rights in Ireland
Word Count (including footnotes): 4,986
1. Introduction
Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying, “The mood and temper of the pub
licin regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the
civilisation of any country.” If this sentiment is applied to Ireland, then it can be said that the
mood and temper of the Irish public is one of vicious retribution and disregard for the basichuman rights of its citizens if they happen to infringe upon the rules of society, or, as hasbeen argued, they fall victim to the social rigours set in place by society.
In this paper it isargued that the overall purpose of prison is incapacitation of offenders and deprivation of liberty but in effect it infringes on a great number of other basic human rights, in particularthe health and wellbeing of the citizen.The infringement of these rights will be looked at in the context of Irish judicialrulings and various international instruments which have been ratified by Ireland. Given thewide spectrum of rights that are ostensibly being infringed in Irish prisons, it is proposed inthis paper to focus specifically on the infringement of substantive rights in particular, withregard to overcrowding, sanitation and healthcare.The conditions in Irish prisons are deplorable, particularly in the older prisons such as
Limerick, St Patrick‟s Institution and Mountjoy. Prisoners
suffer loss of liberty uponconviction but their punishment does not stop there. They also have to endure severeovercrowding with other prisoners, many of whom have drug and mental health problems.They are deprived of the basic dignity of clean sanitary conditions and suffer a severe blow totheir health and general wellbeing, in particular if they are drug users.
Merton has argued that society places value on the accumulation of wealth above all else and when socialstructures stand in the way of people achieving this goal they turn to crime. See further Downes and Rock 
Understanding Deviance
ed, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) Chapters 6 & 9.
Conditions are particularly bad in Limerick prison. Father Pat Hogan, former chaplain of Limerick Prison, hasstated that
although the improvements in the B wing of Limerick prison have brought about changes, prisoners
The case law in regard to these indignities has become more frequent in recent years,particularly at European Court of Human Rights level, where the rulings of the court havebecome more condemning in recent times.The solution proposed by the Government to these problems is to build new,modernised, prison places but this, as will be argued, is a short-term fix and will notrehabilitate offenders in the long run.
2. Introduction to Irish Prison Law
When compared with the large body of cases taken under the European Convention of Human Rights and in other jurisdictions such as England, Irish cases on prisoners
rights arerelatively sparse.
In the few judgments that have been delivered, however, the courts haveadopted a strictly conservative approach, refraining from extending the rights of prisonerswhile incarcerated. One of the earliest judgments to consider the legal nature of imprisonmentwas
 Murray v Ireland 
. In this judgment, Costello J held that the State enjoyed a power, asopposed to a right, to imprison. Thus,
it has been argued that “t
he court is being asked toadjudicate on the exercise of a legal power and not on a conflict between the exercise of twocompeting rights.
Since the Constitution expressly directs the State to protect theconstitutional rights of citizens and also empowers it to act to protect its citizens for thefurtherance of the common good, the real issue is "whether the restrictions on the plaintiffs'rights caused by the exercise of the State's power to imprison the plaintiffs are
still endure considerable suffering and deprivation of basic humanity.
Interview with Fr. Pat Hogan, TheMaldron Hotel, Limerick, Wednesday 8
January 2009.
Herrick suggests a number of reasons for this including difficulty of prisoners in accessing legalrepresentation, a degree of passivity on the part of the legal professions and a resistance on the part of the judiciary to entertain prisoner cases. Herrick, in Kilkelly (ed) ECHR and Irish Law (2
ed), Bristol [England]:Jordans, 2009. For more on difficulties in accessing legal representation see Whyte
Social Inclusion and the Legal System: Public Interest Law in Ireland 
(IPA, 2002) Chapter 9.
[1985] I.L.R.M. 542
An Introduction to Irish Prison Law, (2008)
Prison Service Training and Development Centre Document,www.ecopoliticsonline.com

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