Criminal Justice Inspectorate and PSNI damning indictment of Criminal Justice System - Martina Anderson MLA
Speaking on the Criminal justice Inspectorate report in the Assembly today Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson and Policing Board Member, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) said:
" I don’t think there is anyone could argue that the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Report was anything less that a damning indictment and exposure of the inherent inequalities which exist within the Criminal Justice system here.
"The Inspectorate found that Catholics are more likely to face prosecution and to be remanded in custody.
"They found that Catholics are more likely to be jailed at the end of the judicial process and then when they find themselves in jail they are more likely to face discriminatory practices from the regime.
"All of this confirms the belief amongst the Catholic/nationalist population of an inherent bias that reaches across the Criminal Justice system.
"It is completely unacceptable that any Catholic – or any group of people – should face discrimination at any point of the Judicial process.
"But what this report shows is that – in the North of Ireland – Lady Justice is far from blind. That needs to change and in the wake of the Colin Bell case, I made the point that what was required was a Patten process for the Prison Service.
"The Patten recommendations are addressing the situation in regards to policing but the same degree of diligence has never been applied to the Prison Service. There are still people working within our prisons who were there through the worst excesses of the hunger strikes – people who degraded and tortured defenceless prisoners.
"What has been done to remove those who brutalized in the past? What has been done to prevent the routine abuses of power?
"I believe that it is only with the impending transfer of Policing and Justice powers that we will secure the kind of changes which are so desperately needed within the Justice system.
"For any remaining doubters out there, the Inspectorate Report is proof of that.
"In the meantime, the full implementation of the Inspectorate’s recommendations can begin the process of making our prisons and justice system fit for purpose. The Equality safeguards set down in Section 75 have a fundamental part to play in every facet of life here – but particularly in our prisons which are often populated by vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
"To quote one prison governor who I spoke to earlier this year: “This jail is a dumping ground – it is full of people who shouldn’t be here.”
"Prisons are not somewhere where people should be dumped and forgotten about - abandoned to their fate at the hands of an unaccountable regime. They are entitled to the same equality protections which section 75 affords to the rest of us.
"I am grateful for the work that the Criminal Justice Inspectorate has done in producing this report and I acknowledge the fact that some progress has already been made in terms of implementing the recommendations. However, as the motion states, ALL the recommendations must be implemented and the relevant agencies should take steps to ensure that happens without delay.
"This report has confirmed shocking and extensive inequalities within our justice system and they should be rectified immediately."
The Assembly Motion read as follows:
That this Assembly supports the recommendations published in the Criminal Justice Inspectorate’s report on the impact of Section 75 on the criminal justice system; and calls on the relevant agencies to implement the recommendations.