Information received from the Government on cases included in previous reports
650. By letter dated 18 October 1991 the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information alleging that Damien Austin, aged 17, had been subjected to ill-treatment at the Castlereagh detention centre in Belfast in May and August 1991.
651. On 10 February 1993 the Government replied that the complaints from Mr. Austin related to his detention from 7 to 10 May 1991 and from 17 to 20 August 1991. Following his release, on both occasions, he had made formal complaints about his treatment at the holding centre. The complaint in May was classified as incapable of investigation by the Independent Commission of Police Complaints (ICPC) under regulation 17 of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Complaints Regulations 1988 because of the non-cooperation of Mr. Austin. When he was arrested in August he had already sustained some injuries, including a wound to his ear which had been treated and stitched. However, during his detention in Castlereagh it was alleged that he had been further injured, and his solicitor went to court for a writ of habeas corpus. Before the case was heard Austin was released. The complaint had been investigated by RUC, under the supervision of ICPC and a report had been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (Northern Ireland). DPP (NI) had issued an interim direction on 16 November 1992 stating that the consideration of the complaint would have to await the outcome of civil proceedings lodged by Mr. Austin. It would not be appropriate, therefore, to comment further until all civil, criminal or disciplinary proceedings had been completed.
652. With respect to the safeguards against ill-treatment of persons detained in custody for questioning, the Government informed the Special Rapporteur that in the case of non-terrorist suspects the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 introduced safeguards affecting police power, the rights of persons in police detention, police discipline and complaints against the police. It also introduced codes of practice in connection with powers of search and seizure of property, detention, treatment, questioning and identification. This legislation constituted a major package of reforming legislation.
653. All interviews with terrorist suspects under arrest were also subject to a range of statutory safeguards. Suspects under arrest were given the right to have someone informed of their arrest, to be informed of the grounds for their arrest and to consult a solicitor. The continued detention of a suspect had to be reviewed periodically by a review officer unconnected with the case. All interviews with terrorist suspects were monitored by uniformed officers (who had no other dealing with the case) with the aid of close-circuit television. In addition, the Government had announced that it would appoint an independent commissioner to oversee the holding centres.
654. The procedure for investigation of complaints was governed by the Police (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. Complaints of ill-treatment were investigated by RUC. The investigation might be directly supervised by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints, if it so chose.
655. Once the investigation had been completed, a full report, together with the views of the Deputy Chief Constable of RUC on the incident, was submitted to the Independent Commission for Police Complaints. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the case might then be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, who was entirely independent of both police and government. Disciplinary charges might be brought against the police officer or officers concerned if this was thought necessary by the police or the Independent Commission for Police Complaints.