A LONDON charity has called for the urgent address of laws surrounding the repatriation of Irish prisoners from British jails.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon in front of a Justice Committee in Ireland, the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas said it has grave concerns for the well-being of serious offenders who are facing indefinite prison sentences here.
Fr Gerry McFlynn, manager of the ICPO London office, stressed the importance of IPP prisoners being allowed to serve their sentence in Ireland where they can be close to their families.
“Repatriation is extremely important,” he said. “Maintaining family relationships during a period of imprisonment is vital for the well-being of offenders and their families.
"Some Irish prisoners, knowing that they cannot apply for repatriation, are finding this situation extremely difficult to cope with and we are extremely concerned for the health and wellbeing of these prisoners.”
IPP prisoners are those serving an Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection in cases where the offender has been convicted for 10 years or more of a serious sexual or violent offence or where the court believes they pose a significant public risk.
Britain currently does not offer alternative sentences to such prisoners despite the abolition of the IPP in 2012.
Ireland’s Department of Justice and Equality also does not accept repatriation of IPP sentenced prisoners as there is no equivalent indeterminate sentence under Irish law.
The ICPO has asked the Oireachtas to address any legal difficulty surrounding the repatriation of IPP sentenced prisoners “as a matter of urgency”.
Joanna Joyce, coordinator of the ICPO in Ireland, said: “Repatriation would benefit families and society by permitting prisoners to serve their sentence close to their families. Maintaining family ties assists reintegration and rehabilitation.”
The ICPO’s call comes a month after it was revealed that an EU deal on the compulsory repatriation of foreign prisoners in Britain to their home territories will not include some 780 Irish prisoners in jail in England and Wales.