Four One Nine

Forgive the scraggy style, I’ve something on my chest. Typing off the top of the head.

Amnesty International Ireland have criticised the human rights record of the Irish State for for failing to protect children. Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has also weighed in against the HSE for refusing to supply files on children who died in care. A report on Irishtimes.com has more.

An earlier article, since updated, had this amazing set of quotes and pars about HSE chief, Brendan Drumm…

HSE chief executive Prof Brendan Drumm said the executive was working to restructure and standardise childcare and child protection services since the Monageer case in 2007.

He said it would be another two years before this work was complete.

He said the number of children who died while legally in the care of the HSE was absolutely “not 200” as had been reported at the weekend. The figure for those who died while legally in HSE care had been put out at 23, he said.

But he said when one also looked at the numbers of children who were in touch with the executive social workers when they died or at some point before they died, the figure would increase and involve “very significant numbers of children”.

It would take huge resources to go back over paper files to find this number, he added, pointing out “it’s not a button that you push to get that information”.

My emphasis, obviously.

I won’t comment on the first bolded paragraph. It disgusts.

The second line; “there isn’t a button you can push to get that information”. Why not? Any competently implemented filing and information management system would have that figure available within a day, max. If that information really isn’t available then who is responsible for managing how records are kept by the HSE, and why are they still in a job?

The HSE was only established 2005, they should not have serious legacy issues. It’s almost like they don’t want the figure to be released.

Briefly, on the Amnesty report; there’s about 3,500 children in State care, if I recall correctly… so 419 is a massive figure.

In its annual report, the human rights organisation expresses particular concern at vulnerable children being placed in adult mental care facilities. It noted that the Inspector of Mental Health Services had described the 247 admissions of children to adult units in 2008 “inexcusable, counter-therapeutic and almost purely custodial”.

The organisation has also highlighted the disappearance of 419 unaccompanied children in care in Ireland between 2002 and 2009.

Finally; (while I’m on the topic of rights abuses and the State’s refusal to release information) the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) visited eleven Garda stations between January 25 and February 5 of this year.

On the last day of their visits the CPT presents their initial findings to the relevant minister. They also supply their written observations to the department. They then go to compile a detailed report which they present to the Government. At all times the government has the option of making the information available to the public, should they choose to do so.

However, Dermot Ahern refuses to make available the observations and findings. Importantly – slight tangent – the CPT visited Store Street garda station, where Terence Wheelock died.

As Mark Kelly of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties pointed out in March, in recent years the CPT have traveled to Russia where they observed the conditions of detainees in Chechnya. They’ve visited the prison island of Imali off Turkey where Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is held. Both Russia and Turkey released the CPT findings and written observations immediately to the media and made copies available to the public. Not here though. Sound, lads.

Perhaps it’s something to do with the following…

The most recent CPT report on Ireland (2006) included observations like… okay, deep breath (I’d bold the whole lot if it was useful);

[…] The CPT’s delegation met a prisoner in the segregation unit of Wheatfield Prison who had been placed on protection by the authorities against his will, and who at the time of the visit had been virtually in solitary confinement in a close-observation cell for nearly ten months. His clothes and personal items were kept in cardboard boxes on the floor. The lack of association and enforced isolation appeared to be taking a toll on the individual. In the course of the visit, the delegation emphasised that he should receive regular counselling, and efforts should be made to provide him with some sort of out-of-cell activity.

[…] In many instances, prisoners, against whom force had been used, were not examined by a doctor and in those cases where they were seen by a member of the health-care staff, a full examination did not take place and the injuries were not properly recorded.

[…] the delegation noted, particularly in St. Patrick’s Institution, that prisoners who had committed acts of self-harm and/or attempted suicide were usually not provided with any psychological support following an incident.

[…] at least three of the prison establishments visited can be considered as unsafe, both for prisoners and for prison staff (notably, Limerick and Mountjoy Prisons and even St. Patrick’s Institution).

[…] The CPT recommends that the Irish authorities pursue vigorously their efforts to bring the standard of living conditions in Mountjoy Prison up to a decent level.

In a number of cases, the delegation’s medical doctors found that the persons concerned displayed injuries and scars which were consistent with their allegations of ill-treatment; the following four cases can be given as examples:

At Castlerea Prison, the delegation met a prisoner who claimed that two months earlier, while detained at a Garda station, a police officer had tried to break one of his fingers and that the finger had remained swollen and painful for approximately two weeks thereafter. Upon examination by one of the delegation’s doctors, it was found that there was a deformity of the left third metacarpo-phalyngeal joint, possibly due to a mal-union of a recent fracture.

At St. Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders, a prisoner alleged that he was struck with a baton on his wrists and hands by a police officer while handcuffed. The incident apparently took place after he had been brought under control following an arrest in September 2006. Upon arrival at St. Patrick’s Institution at the beginning of October, the institution’s doctor sent him to hospital, where he received medical treatment. The young man’s left wrist was still bandaged when interviewed by the delegation. Upon examination by a medical member of the CPT’s delegation, he displayed visible traces of the handcuffs on both wrists, and a red haematoma (4 cm x 4 cm) was visible on the right wrist, further, it was noted that the left hand and wrist, although bandaged, were swollen, and there was a healed laceration to the index finger. Subsequent consultation of his medical files at St. Patrick’s Institution and the hospital concerned confirmed the findings of the CPT’s medical doctor.
At Mountjoy Prison, a prisoner alleged that he was subjected to blows by torches and to kicks and punches to the head and body by several Gardai during and after his arrest on 11 March 2006. After being admitted to Mountjoy Prison, the person concerned immediately asked for a medical certificate and was twice examined, first by a nurse and later by a General Practitioner. It was noted in the medical file that he had swelling on the right side of his face, including his ear and around his eye, swelling on the left side of his face, abrasions on his left arm and oedema of the right side of his lower jaw-bone.
At Cloverhill Prison, an inmate alleged that he was subjected to kicks, and to blows from batons to the head and body during and after his arrest at the end of September 2006. Upon examination, the man displayed, inter alia, bruising around his right eye-lid and vague traces of bruising around his left eye-lid; bruising of both the right and the left temples and swelling under the right knee. The inmate’s prison medical file confirmed the findings of the delegation’s medical doctor.
[…] in Cork the delegation met with a person who was arrested by the Garda in mid-April 2006. He alleged that he was verbally abused by the officers on the street, handcuffed behind his back and thrown into the back of a police vehicle. He immediately complained about the tightness of his handcuffs, but rather than being loosened, they were apparently tightened further. He also alleged that one of the two arresting policemen punched him in the face. At the Garda station, the arresting officers left and he had to plead with other Gardai to remove the handcuffs; subsequently, he was discharged.
Two days after the arrest, a serious condition developed, most likely thrombophlebitis in both of his arms, and he was hospitalised for three days. Apparently, the medical staff of the hospital told him that the condition was caused by prolonged wearing of extremely tight handcuffs.

Moreover, a medical member of the CPT’s delegation noted that the wrists were markedly scarred some six months after the incident.

Findings regards prison officers – majority of prison officers were attempting to deal in a humane manner with the prisoners – were more positive than on Gardai.

419. Four-one-nine. Four hundred and nineteen. Four hundred and nineteen children.

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