23 May 2022

Prison officer claim 'false statements' sending them to court 'unjustly'

Legal costs double compensation awarded to prisoners

Midlands Prison Portlaoise

Prison Officers have claimed that they are ending up before judges on false accusations of assault because of claims made by inmates.

The allegation was made at the Prison Officers Association Annual (POA) Delegate Conference in Sligo in a speech by Tony Power, the association's President.

“We are deeply concerned about continuing false statements made by prisoners, leading to unjust and unnecessary court appearances by our members”

He said he raised that when he addressed 2019 Annual Delegate conference a colleague was in court.

"At that exact time one of our members was in the dock of a Circuit Court, accused of assaulting a prisoner and of making a false statement to Gardaí. CCTV quite clearly showed that the officer had done nothing wrong and the only one false statement that was that of the prisoner. This officer followed his training to the letter of the law, it was textbook, straight from the Irish Prison Service Control & Restraint Manual, a manual the judge said held no weight in his court but a manual that is still in use today.

"Despite the fact that two independent expert witnesses were willing to testify that the actions of this officer on the day were exemplary and that the CCTV footage of the incident could be used as a Training Video, despite all this Minister, the officer and his family had to endure the stresses of an entire trial because the Prison Service refused to stand up and protect their staff member. This officer stood in court and listened as his employer offered him no protection in front of the judge. The employer merely stated that the Irish Prison Service had no role to play. How convenient I might say?" said Mr Power.

The POA president said jury found the officer not guilty. He als described a second such incident at the conference.

“In the recent past at another of the state’s prisons our members had to deal with another violent uncompliant prisoner. Again, these officers used all their specialized training in Control and Restraint. Control & Restraint training in the Irish Prison Service is scenario-based, and while it is recognized as the most effective training system, it can never fully replicate the challenges faced by staff in some live situations. While every effort is made by staff to ensure the safety of the prisoner it is inevitable that at times people will get injured, both staff and prisoners.

"In the incident in question the prisoner, while violently resisting staff, allegedly suffered a black eye. This prisoner was at the time one of the most high-profile prisoners in the state and when the Director General was made aware of the situation, she immediately visited the prison in question insisting that the staff involved be suspended without any procedure or investigation. Thankfully, in this case, the governor intervened.

"These two incidents go to highlight the difficulty our members are facing on an almost daily basis. All it takes is for a prisoner to make a category A complaint and our members are under investigation for “Doing their Job”. 

"In court the Irish Prison Service is refusing to take the stand to outline the training staff receive, staff adherence to IPS Policies and the C&R Manual, which is a 300-page blueprint of all C&R tactics and techniques. The IPS and the Chief States Solicitor are also refusing to indemnify staff who may find themselves in front of the courts for following their training ….and the rulebook," he said.

Mr Power said the Prison Officers Association will continue to support our members in these situations but he predicted a change in practice if his colleagues are to protect themselves.

"The day is fast approaching when we will have to advise our members when there is trouble in our prisons to step back and just call the Gardaí. This is something we would not wish to do, however, we have a duty to protect our members,” he said.

Power concluded by stressing to the Minister for Justice who attended the conference that “prison officers can no longer be asked intervene in disturbances if this puts their livelihood at risk”

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