The Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas has expressed serious concern about proposals by the UK Ministry of Justice to cut legal aid for prison law cases. The ICPO, an agency of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, is concerned that the implementation of these proposals could mean that Irish prisoners would no longer be eligible to receive legal aid to challenge their treatment in UK prisons.
Joanna Joyce, Coordinator of the ICPO in Ireland said, “Working with almost 1,000 Irish prisoners in the UK, we are extremely concerned about the effect these proposals will have on our clients. Prisoners – including those with learning disabilities and mental health issues – will no longer have access to legal aid to address grievances about their treatment that cannot be addressed through the internal prison requests and complaints system.”
According to Father Gerry McFlynn, Project Manager with the ICPO’s London office, “The massive cuts to legal aid fees for prison law work will mean that prisoners will probably be represented by inexperienced clerks while lawyers with years of experience will quickly disappear from the scene. These ‘reforms’ will destroy prison law as we have known it and result in the vast majority of prisoners being without good quality legal representation in the future.”
Father McFlynn concluded, “The proposed cuts in funding will make life even more difficult for Irish prisoners and will have potentially disastrous consequences for prisoners, their families and society as a whole.”
Notes for Editors
- Legal aid is currently available in cases that are unsuitable to be resolved through the internal prison requests and complaints system and where the prisoner does not have the means to secure advice or representation. These proposals, if implemented, will remove legal aid from all treatment cases. Treatment issues include prisoner concerns about discrimination and the behaviour of prison staff and grievances regarding prison conditions.
- The Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas is a charitable organisation, which was established by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in 1985. The ICPO works on behalf of Irish prisoners overseas to provide information and support to these prisoners and their families. The ICPO is based in the Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare. See www.catholicbishops.ie
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth, Martin Long 00 353 (0) 861727678