Thu, 29 Oct, 2020 – 18:55
Some 100 prisoners have died while in custody in Irish prisons over the past decade, with inquests into the deaths yet to take place in 35 cases.
This is according to figures released by Justice Minister Helen McEntee, in response to a parliamentary question asked by Independent TD Thomas Pringle. The figures are drawn from the period between 2010 and October 4, 2020.
The figures supplied by The Irish Prison Service show that, in that time, 18 deaths were due to misadventure, 17 were due to suicide, and 15 were due to natural causes.
As well as this, six deaths were registered as having an open verdict, six as having a narrative verdict, two were registered as being a verdict where the deceased took own life, and one was registered as an unlawful killing. There are 35 deaths categorised as inquests pending.
Mr Pringle had asked the justice minister the number of deaths in custody by year, by prison, by gender, and by cause of death in each of the years from 2010 to 2019, and to date in 2020.
Responding, Ms McEntee detailed the process which takes place in the case of prisoner deaths.
“I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that all deaths in custody are notified to An Garda Síochána, who investigate where circumstances warrant, in addition to the inquest held in the oroner’s Court. The cause of death is determined by a jury on the basis of the information presented to the Coroner’s Court,” Ms McEntee said.
“Moreover, all deaths in custody are also subject to an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons. The investigation by the Inspector of Prisons applies to prisoners who are in the custody of the Irish Prison Service, and includes those instances where the death of the prisoner has occurred outside the prison, or the prisoner in question was recently on temporary release at the time of death.”
According to the minister, the Irish Prison Service also has an internal review mechanism which assesses the circumstances of a death in custody, highlights accountability, and outlines any actions to be taken in relation to the incident.