Press Statement from Prison Officers Association, Galway, 27th April 2023
Speaking at the Prison Officers Annual Delegate Conference in Galway today, Tony Power, President said, “It is important for everyone involved in the prison service to note that in 2022, 68 Category A complaints were made against our members, and ONE was upheld. Let’s call a spade a spade, everybody in the system knows that most Category A complaints are vexatious, a fact that is borne out by the statistics provided to the POA by the Irish Prison Service. These statistics also show that ONE PRISONER was responsible for over 10% of all Category A complaints in 2022, and you may ask why? It’s because they can – and they know that there are no repercussions for accusing an officer in the wrong or tarnishing their good name. This is simply unacceptable, unfair and unjust”.
Power continued, “It’s important for me to state that apart from the threat of assaults one of the biggest concerns among our members is being the subject of a vexatious prisoner complaint. We have all seen the detrimental effect of being the victim of a vexatious complaint can have on the mental health of an officer. In wider society if a person makes a complaint to the Gardai and it is found to be vexatious, that person can be prosecuted for wasting Garda time and resources, and rightly so. NOT so in the Prison Service. These vexatious complaints can bring the career of a professional and hardworking prison officer to a grinding halt. The way the complaints’ structure is designed means that the better an officer does their job the more likely they are to be the subject of a vexatious complaint”.
“The structure of the Complaints system means that an officer who is the subject of a vexatious complaint is remarkably not entitled to any form of redress. The process a dealing with a complaint can drag on for months, even years. I have dealt with a case recently where a complaint was lodged in June but the officer in question was not informed until December, a full 6 months later and even then, was only informed that they were the subject of a Category A complaint citing mistreatment. Nothing more was heard about the incident, or the prisoner involved. This process continued for several months before the officer involved was informed that the process was complete, and they had no case to answer. This is just one example of a flawed process; I could give many more. Justice delayed is justice denied”.
“Minister, this must change because if the shoe was on the other foot and an officer made a false allegation against a prisoner, I can assure you that officer would be subjected to the full rigors of the Disciplinary Code. We must find a way of doing better on this ongoing issue Minister, our members deserve a more just system”.