Out on the Inside

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Deirdre Malone, Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust. The Trust recently launched a report on the experiences of LGBT people in prison in Ireland. 


On 22 May 2015 I stood in the yard of Dublin Castle with my own brand new husband and watched the whooping victory of equality over discrimination. As happy newlyweds ourselves, we felt the profound importance of the occasion deeply. We saw Ireland shedding her old identity, becoming something new and brave and proud. On that day, victory felt swift and definitive. In reality it was the culmination of a decade of tenacious work and thousands of brave conversations. It was a challenge to a social system that once felt monolithic, intractable and inevitable. It represented a final blow of years of steady chipping at the hard crust of institutionalized inequality. But I wondered, were LGBT people in prison celebrating too on that day? Would they feel safe to do so?

While for those who work in the NGO sector, 22nd May 2015 was a jolting, joyful reminder that monumental change is indeed possible, the 33rd Amendment did not mark the end of homophobia, harassment or discrimination of LGBT people. That is doubly true for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are in prison. LGBT prisoners form a “twice marginalized” population, falling outside of the ‘mainstream’ of LGBT community organizing and support services but also hidden and largely overlooked in terms of current prison policy.

International research reveals that homophobia is often amplified in male prisons as a result of a culture of “hyper-masculinity” and the traditional hierarchical structure which prevails. Transgender prisoners, particularly women, face disproportionately high instances and severity of violence and discrimination, both in and out of prison. They are not easily accommodated within the strict male/female structure of most prisons and may also experience violence and voyeurism in the context of prison showers or toilets – a particular concern in Ireland where 45% of prisoners are still required to use the toilet in the presence of another.

LGBT prisoners are also particularly at risk of experiences of discrimination, violence, sexual coercion and verbal harassment. Putting up a front, threatening or even engaging in violence in order to avoid being a victim of abuse is seen as something necessary within the prison environment

Of course, issues of homophobia, transphobia and the wider culture of heteronormativity also affect LGBT prison staff who also have experiences of homophobia, including being the targets of abuse by prisoners. The Irish Prison Service currently participates in the GLEN Diversity Champions programme through the ‘Inside Out’ network for LGBT prison staff but to date there has been no research or policy response addressing the specific needs and experiences of LGBT prisoners.

General good practice measures for safer prisons such as single cell accommodation as standard would help. It is common in many jurisdictions for “at risk prisoners” and LGBT prisoners especially, to be placed in protective custody to safeguard them from victimisation. However in practice conditions in protective segregation are often identical to conditions for prisoners placed in segregation for disciplinary reasons thus breaching fundamental rights principles. This can lead to longer term issues including mental health difficulties caused by the effects of isolation and more limited access to services. It is vital therefore that violent cultures and opportunities for abuse are targeted through the education of prison populations, training of staff, and effective independent complaints procedures. Further research is also needed in the areas of sexual health and behaviours in prison, the experiences of young LGBT people in prison and on the issue of sexual violence and coercion and their prevalence within the prison context.

For many years now, the Irish Penal Reform Trust have been examining and listening to the experiences of diverse vulnerable groups in prison, including Travellers, women, children and young people, and immigration detainees. The recent passage of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 sets out the positive duties of public bodies to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and protect human rights, and should act as a catalyst to address this area which has been neglected to date. We also hope that the result of the recent same-sex marriage referendum and the passage of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 will provide further impetus for reform to ensure that no LGBT person, wherever they might be, is left behind.

All of this must be understood in the wider context of overuse of imprisonment generally, and the ineffectiveness of the idea of retribution in challenging the conditions which are at the root of most punished crime – poverty, unemployment, homelessness, mental illness, addiction, desperation. The reality is that prison warehouses human misery, and by doing so, compounds it. It takes courage to challenge the status quo, but in every generation it is those that do who will also see the rewards of that courage. A challenge to the overuse of prison would lead to a more progressive, more effective, more humane, evidence-led criminal justice system – something which ultimately benefits us all.

Deirdre Malone is Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust www.iprt.ie

The IPRT report “Out on the Inside” was launched on 2 February 2016 at Wood Quay Venue, Dublin on 2 February 2016. It is available to download here

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Out on the Inside

Call for Papers: Victims’ Rights: An Agenda for Change

university of limerickThe Centre for Criminal Justice at the University of Limerick will hold a one-day conference, Victims’ Rights: An Agenda for Change on September 11th, 2015. Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (The Victims’ Rights Directive) must be implemented into the national laws of all EU Member States by the 16th of November 2015. In light of the implementation of this Directive, this one-day conference at the University of Limerick is timely and will provide a forum to facilitate discussion about the requirements of the Directive and the needs of victims of crime more generally and how these may be best met in this jurisdiction. The conference will be of interest to a wide variety of criminal justice stakeholders including members of An Garda Síochána and members of the judiciary and legal professions, as well representatives from interest groups and academics. Continue reading “Call for Papers: Victims’ Rights: An Agenda for Change”

Call for Papers: Victims’ Rights: An Agenda for Change

DCU School of Law and Government Inaugural Conference: "Judges, Politics and the Irish Constitution."

DCUDublin City University School of Law and Government will be holding its Inaugural Conference on “Judges, Politics and the Irish Constitution” this Thursday September 4th from 9am.

The conference brings together members of the judiciary, lawyers, academics and postgraduate students who will be delivering papers on themes such as socio economic rights, democracy and judicial power, historical perspectives and theory and interpretation. Three Human Rights in Ireland authors will be addressing the conference: Eoin Daly  on “Reappraising judicial supremacy in the Irish constitutional tradition”, Mairead Enright on “Judges’ Troubles: The Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project” and Fiona de Londras on“Judicial innovation and constitutional evolution”.

The provisional programme for the conference is now available here. It includes details of the opening plenary, the panels and chairs, directions and contact information.  To register please contact claire-michelle.smyth@dcu.ie.

The venue for the conference is the Nursing Building, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

DCU School of Law and Government Inaugural Conference: "Judges, Politics and the Irish Constitution."

Penal Law, Abolitionism and Anarchism: Conference April 2014

See below for details of the conference “Penal Law, Abolitionism and Anarchism” hosted by the British/Irish section of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control and the Hulsman Foundation.

Dates: Saturday 26th – Sunday 27th April 2014.

Venue: Shire Hall, Nottingham

Can we imagine law without the state? Could what we now call ‘crime’ be dealt with by means other than criminal law and punishment? This conference seeks to explore interrelationships and tensions that exist between the philosophies and practices associated with penal law, abolitionism and anarchism. It aims to provide a space for the interdisciplinary exploration of complex critiques of state law and legality, criminalization and other forms of state and corporate power in neoliberal contexts.

The rich and complex European tradition of abolition recently explored in great detail by Vincenzo Ruggiero, to which Louk Hulsman made such a creative contribution, provides important intellectual resources to challenge neoliberal penal and social [well/war –fare] politics and policies and to expose their harms and underlying power-dynamics.

Joe Sim underlined the continued importance of Angela Davis’ concept of ‘abolitionist alternatives’ as well as of forms of a renewed penal activism. These and other abolitionist or minimalist  approaches to criminal justice challenge existing hegemonic belief systems that continue to legitimate the generation of harms via the operations of law, psychology, criminology, the media and frequently shape public opinion. For some critical criminologists such reflections might imply promoting an Anarchist Criminology, while for others this might involve the use of courts to challenge decisions made by ministers.

The direct action taken by the Occupy movement and similar movements (e.g. UK Uncut) can of course also be linked to a diversity of philosophies and principles of anarchism as well as to contemporary media movements and digital activism that are of crucial relevance in the current context.


Suggestions for presentations/posters/workshops on a range of foci are welcome:

Anarchism and law

Feminisms and anarchism 

Anarchist criminology

Anarchism in Media Movements and Digital Activism

Markets and the State – Anarchist and
Marxist perspectives

Abolitionism and resistance to imprisonment

Decarceration movements, eco-ability and animal rights

Globalisation, ‘crime’ and political economy


Deadline for abstracts: 30. November 2013

For further details please contact Andrea Beckmann [abeckmann@lincoln.ac.uk] or Tony Ward [A.Ward@hull.ac.uk]

Penal Law, Abolitionism and Anarchism: Conference April 2014

Proposed 'reforms' of Legal Aid in the UK.

As readers may be aware the Ministry of Justice for England and Wales has proposed radical and far-reaching changes to the operation of legal aid in that jurisdiction. HRinI has hosted a blog on the proposals by Lucy Welsh. The very short  (a mere six weeks, including two bank holidays) consultation period for the proposals closed on June 4th. The proposals have met with vociferous opposition from defence barristers and solicitors  as well as from Crown Court judges.  The proposals have also inspired protests by lawyers and human rights groups (and see here).

On June 4th a series of highly critical submissions to the MoJ consultation were released. This post highlights two submissions: that of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and that of members of Kent Law School.

The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law  has said the plans would result in the “absurd prospect” of repeat offenders being represented by different law firms, and reduce legal advice to “the status of a commodity”. The Centre’s submission is here. The submission is critical of the paucity of evidence underlying the proposals. Of particular interest is the Centre’s comparative analysis of judicial review applications that are legally aided and those that are not legally aided.  The Centre’s breakdown of the evidence suggests that legally aided judicial review applications are handled far more cautiously by lawyers than non-legally aided applications, with a much smaller proportion of applications seeking permission to go to a full hearing.  Moreover, where permission is sought, a legally aided application is five times more likely to receive permission to go to a hearing than an application which is not legally aided.

Concerns about the proposals have also compelled several members of Kent Law School to submit a detailed response to the Transforming Legal Aid consultation paper. The response takes the view that the government proposals would significantly undermine the right to representation for vast numbers of people facing the power of state led (and funded) prosecutions. It argues that the proposals appear to be based on either flawed or non-existent evidence, and that the damage which could result from the proposed reform could be extremely far reaching – threatening the credibility of the criminal justice system at best, and leading to its collapse at worst. The response also sets out concerns about the ability of vulnerable people to challenge the actions of state authorities and raise important legal arguments in numerous circumstances, and concerns about the draconian proposals in relation to criminal defence services, which, it is argued, have the capacity to undermine a defendant’s ability to play an effective role in the proceedings and reduce the quality of service provision.

Proposed 'reforms' of Legal Aid in the UK.

Children's Rights to Healthcare and Healthcare Services Conference, June 6th, UCC

On June 6th the Faculty of Law and the School of Nursing and Midwifery at University College Cork will host a conference on Children’s Rights to Healthcare and Healthcare Services. Speakers include the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan, Professor Johnathan Hourihane of UCC, Dr Elspeth Webb, Consultant Paediatrician and Clinical Reader in Child Health at Cardiff University and James Robinson, Coordinator HPH Taskforce for Health Promotion with Children and Adolescents, Edinburgh.

Full details and the booking form are available here.

Children's Rights to Healthcare and Healthcare Services Conference, June 6th, UCC

Guest Post: Ceartas submits complaint to International Association of Prosecutors on conduct of Bahraini Attorney General.

We are delighted to host this post by Fergal Mawe of Ceartas. Fergal is Co-Director of Ceartas – Irish Lawyers for Human Rights and works for the Legal Industrial Relations and Equality section of the Irish National Teachers Organisation. Previously he has worked against child trafficking in the Philippines and in private practice with McCarthy Looby & Co Solicitors. This post is cross-posted with the Ceartas Blog.

In recent years, there has been growing public interest in the human rights situation of the small island Kingdom of Bahrain. Many countries have had to reflect on their relationship with Bahrain following documented human rights violations stemming from the on-going repression of pro-reform protests. Ireland was no different. The conduct of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has been under intense scrutiny given their high-profile presence on the island. In a report published today (15 April 2013), Ceartas, Irish Lawyers for Human Rights, has taken action on another link in an effort to promote positive change in Bahrain.

The former Irish Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr James Hamilton, is the current president of the International Association of Prosecutors. Bahrain’s Attorney General, Dr Ali bin Fadhel Al-Buainain, is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP). In the light of the well-documented and systematic failure to respect and protect human rights in Bahrain, our report, submitted as a legal complaint to Mr. Hamilton, calls for the expulsion of Bahrain from the IAP.

A call for democratic and political reform

On Monday, 14 February 2011, activists in Bahrain began months of largely peaceful protest against the ruling al-Khalifa regime. Drawing on the wider protest movements across the Middle East, these activists made renewed calls for social justice through political reform and were met with arrest and prosecution through military and civilian courts. Human rights violations against protesters included arbitrary arrest and detention and the use of torture endured.

On 29 June 2011, the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry was established by His Majesty, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The Commission was made up of a number of international figures and was tasked with investigating and reporting on the events that unfolded from February 2011. In response to the Commission’s publication of a 500 page report in November 2011, the Bahraini Government promised to implement recommendations for reform of the justice system. However, minimal reforms have failed to provide justice for the victims of police and army brutality.

The Attorney General’s breach of international standards

Our legal analysis found that the Attorney General, Dr Ali bin Fadhel Al-Buainain as head of the Bahraini office of Public Prosecution, oversaw unlawful prosecutions, failed to ensure fair trials and failed to properly investigate or prosecute cases involving torture. Specifically, we show how Dr. Ali bin Fadhel Al-Buainain continues to oversee the prosecution of individuals for expressing political opinions and for engaging in political protest. Many people have been denied access to justice in the absence of due process and fair trial rights. Our report also demonstrates that the Office of Public Prosecution is incapable of impartial investigation into the use of torture.

The International Association of Prosecutors

Established by the United Nations in 1995, the International Association of Prosecutors is the only global non-governmental organisation representing prosecutors. Based in The Hague in the Netherlands, it is committed to setting and raising standards of professional conduct and ethics for prosecutors worldwide by promoting the rule of law, fairness, impartiality, human rights and international co-operation to combat crime. Today it has some 145 members from over 96 different countries including the departments of Public Prosecution in Ireland and Bahrain.

Demand for action

The IAP has clear standards in relation to public prosecution and international human rights law. Ceartas believes if these are to mean anything, then the head of the association, former Irish DPP, Mr James Hamilton must act to uphold them. We therefore call upon Mr Hamilton and his IAP associates to expel the Bahraini Attorney General and demonstrate that the IAP does not accept members who contradict the very objectives and standards it promotes. Failing this, the IAP would put itself into disrepute and undermine its international reputation in the setting of standards of prosecution.

Support for Ceartas action

The report is supported by Irish and international human rights organisations each of whom have written to the IAP expressing their desire for this complaint to be given due consideration and action taken against Bahrain’s Attorney General. Those supporting this Ceartas action include Front Line Defenders, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the Freedom of Expression Institute, the Gulf Center for Human Rights and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights.

Guest Post: Ceartas submits complaint to International Association of Prosecutors on conduct of Bahraini Attorney General.

International Women's Weekend 2013: Events at Liberty Hall

SIPTU Equality is hosting a series of events in Liberty Hall to mark International Women’s Weekend 2013.

Friday, 8th March
Ceremony to Launch the Irish Women Workers Union Commemorative Plaque on Liberty Hall – Beresford Place, Dublin 1, at 5.00 p.m. All welcome.
Following the plaque launch, the International Women’s Day 2013 Celebration will be held in Liberty Hall. The evening of food, drink, ceol agus craic will feature a pop-up Lockout Commemorative Soup Kitchen in the basement of Liberty Hall. 100 years after Countess Markievicz fed the 1913 Lockout strikers and their families in the same spot, we want to welcome friends to come and join us as we eat, drink, chat, sing and celebrate our proud tradition. Tickets are €5 and are available on the door. All proceeds to the Irish Women Worker’s Union (IWWU) Commemorative Committee. (see here for an article in the Irish Times from October 2012 on the IWWU).

Saturday, 9th March
One Struggle: Women Workers 1913-2013 is a day long free event in Liberty Hall. The day will feature a hedge school, conference papers, speeches, film, the announcement of a major new art project, an opportunity to observe the 1913 tapestry in the making and the launch of a new book. The theme of the day is 100 years of women’s struggle with a particular emphasis on women in the trade union movement. The full programme of events is viewable at www.siptu.ie and you can register there if you wish to attend.

Sunday, 10th March
On the Seventh Day She Rested – a tour of the graves of prominent women activists who are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. Orator: Sean Mac Thomais. Meet at the front gate at 2.30pm. €3 per person.

(image credit: IWD 2013 on twitter: https://twitter.com/iwd2013)

International Women's Weekend 2013: Events at Liberty Hall

Maeve O'Rourke (Justice for Magdalenes) at UCC today

Maeve O’Rourke Barrister and member of the Justice for Magdalenes Advisory Commitee will be speaking today at University College Cork on the topic  “Justice for Magdalenes: Pursuing Human Rights Claims.” The seminar is organised as part of the LLM in Human Rights Law and Public Policy and the MA in Women’s Studies, UCC. Maeve has blogged on HRinI many times: see here and links on our guests page here.

Details of the seminar:

Date: February 18th 2013

Venue: Moot Court Room, Faculty of Law, Aras na Laoi, (first floor, to the left of the Law Dept reception office)

Time: 10.30am

Maeve O'Rourke (Justice for Magdalenes) at UCC today

Campbell on Organised Crime

Hart Publishing has just published Organised Crime and the Law and the Law: A Comparative Analysis by Human Rights in Ireland regular contributor Dr Liz Campbell . Further details on the book are below. Readers will be delighted to learn that Hart has offered a 20% discount off the retail price to readers of HR in I.

Organised Crime and the Law presents an overview of the laws and policies adopted to address the phenomenon of organised crime in the United Kingdom and Ireland, assessing the degree to which these justice systems have been recalibrated, in terms of the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of organised criminality. While the notion of organised crime itself is a contested one, States’ legal responses often treat it and its constituent offences as unproblematic in a definitional sense. This book advances a systematic doctrinal critique of relevant domestic criminal laws, laws of evidence, and civil processes.

Organised Crime and the Law constructs a theoretical framework on which an appraisal of these legal measures may be based, focusing in particular on the tension between due process and crime control, the demands of public protection and risk aversion, and other adaptations. In particular, it identifies parallels and points of divergence between the different jurisdictions in the UK and Ireland, bearing in mind the shared history of subversive threats and counter-terrorism policies. It further examines the extent to which policy transfer is evident in the UK and Ireland in terms of emulating the US in the reactions to organised crime. Continue reading “Campbell on Organised Crime”

Campbell on Organised Crime