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Inappropriate conduct of judicial police officers when inspecting living quarters

15.04.2014 09:51
Category: work and news


The initiator stated that he was absent on 23 April 2012 from the Dob pri Mirni Prison. When he returned and entered his living quarters, he found that judicial police officers had inspected them during his absence. He especially pointed out in his initiative that judicial police officers had ‘scattered’ his clothes and other things on the floor during the inspection. On this basis, he required judicial police officers to inform Trebnje Police Station (PS) of the destruction, since he wanted to file a complaint against them; however, they did not do as requested. He repeated his request on 24 April 2012 and emphasised it by setting a razor blade against his neck and not removing it until police officers from Trebnje PS arrived. He further stated that a certificate of temporary confiscation of belongings had waited for him on the cabinet upon his return and that he had not wanted to sign it. He was wondering how it was even possible that he had refused signing the certificate if he had not been at the Dob pri Mirni Prison at that time at all.

At the time of the event, the Ombudsman was visiting the Dob pri Mirni Prison on the basis of the authorisations and tasks of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). In the report on the visit, she stated findings regarding the inspection of the initiator's living quarters. Upon entering the initiator’s living quarters, it was established that judicial police officers had inspected the quarters (only a short while before). We saw that some of the initiator’s personal belongings (e.g. clothes) were on the floor. Therefore, the conduct of judicial police officers in this case was not assessed as tactful and one which ensures the observation of a person’s personality and dignity.  On this basis, the NPM proposed in the report on the visit to the Dob pri Mirni Prison to take all measures so that judicial police officers carry out their authorisations professionally and decisively but tactfully without unnecessarily affecting the dignity of persons in the procedure.

In relation to the aforementioned findings of the Ombudsman and the NPM, the Prison Administration of the Republic of Slovenia explained that judicial police officers had decided to put clothes on the floor during the inspection of the initiator’s living quarters when due to too many personal belongings, they could no longer put them on the bed. According to the Prison Administration, the inspection of the living quarters was carried out in compliance with the rules of the procedure learnt by judicial police officers during their initial training.

We did not completely agree with such explanations due to which we addressed the Prison Administration and requested additional explanation on the inspection of the initiator’s living quarters carried out, as, considering the explanations of the Prison Administration received, the findings of the NPM were different. We highlighted that during the visit, we did not see that judicial police officers had ‘put the prisoner’s clothes on the floor’ when inspecting the room after they had decided that ‘due to too many personal belongings, they had been unable to put the prisoner’s clothes on the bed’. As we saw for ourselves, the clothes were dumped and scattered on the bed, floor and also outside the two cardboard boxes in which the convict probably kept his belongings. We remarked that during the visit, the NPM saw the state in which the initiator's room had been left following the inspection and the state of the initiator. Therefore, the Ombudsman could not accept the explanation of the Prison Administration that the inspection had been carried out in compliance with the rules of the procedure.

To our additional enquiry, the Prison Administration explained again that judicial police officers had placed the belongings on the bed and cardboard box during the inspection, and naturally had not put them back. Following the inspection, the belongings were supposedly put on clean spots and were not unnecessarily scattered about which they learn during training. Considering that in this case the clothes had been folded or laid on the bed and clean cardboard boxes, the Prison Administration believed that judicial police officers had carried out their work professionally.

Based on such explanations by the Prison Administration (and because in the meantime the initiator himself addressed the Ombudsman in writing), we decided to visit the Dob pri Mirni Prison again, and conduct personal discussions with the initiators and other persons involved.

At the meeting at the Dob pri Mirni Prison (with the Prison management and representative of the Prison Administration), we again presented our findings in the role of the NPM regarding the inspection of the initiator’s living quarters. We alerted to the inaccuracy of the explanations received, since members of the Ombudsman in the role of the NPM saw for themselves during the visit that the initiator's belongings were also on the floor (without being folded on cardboard boxes or another surface). Nevertheless, representatives of the Dob pri Mirni Prison insisted that judicial police officers placed the belongings during the inspection first on the bed and then on the cardboard boxes. Since (as aforementioned) these explanations did not match our findings, photos of the room were submitted for the discussion partners to see. The head of security at the Dob pri Mirni Prison additionally explained that judicial police officers actually encounter problems during inspections of living quarters as to where to place the belongings of convicts, the living quarters of which are being inspected, as they may have a lot of various items. We highlighted that the initiator did not file a complaint against the inspection of his living quarters but against the manner of its implementation, since some belongings were ‘scattered’ on the floor.

We further investigated the initiator’s statements regarding the certificate of temporary confiscation which had been supposedly issued following the inspection of the living quarters, and which showed inter alia that the initiator had been served the certificate at 10:15 am and that he had refused to sign it. The head of Unit I explained that the certificate had actually been served to the initiator following his return to the Dob pri Mirni Prison when he also received an explanation that an inspection of his living quarters had been carried out. The head of Unit I also said that the inspection had been carried out by two judicial police officers and that a witness – a convict had been present.

Following the meeting with the management of the Dob pri Mirni Prison, the representative of the Prison Administration, the initiator and the witness of the inspection of the living quarters, it was agreed that the Prison Administration would prepare an amendment to the response, particularly with regard to the allegation as to how the belongings had been placed.

In an additional response, the Prison Administration stated that the first response had already confirmed that judicial police officers had placed the convict’s belongings on the bed as well as on the floor during the inspection of the living quarters. Later, it was actually established that judicial police officers did not act in accordance with their training, since they had placed during the inspection of the living quarters some clothes belonging to the convict on the floor without any lining (sheet, package, etc.). All judicial police officers will be informed that, during an inspection of living quarters, they must handle prisoners' clothes with care and must in no case put them on the floor without a clean lining. The Prison Administration also stated that this issue will receive more attention than currently at the central and further training of newly accepted judicial police officers.

On the basis of the findings of the Ombudsman and explanations of the Prison Administration, the convict’s initiative regarding the implementation of the inspection of his living quarters and his belongings is assessed as justified. Placing a convict’s belongings on the floor cannot be considered tactful application of authorisations of judicial police officers, as it does not ensure the observation of a person's personality and dignity which is ensured even during imprisonment (Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia). In this regard (as aforementioned), we proposed to the Dob pri Mirni Prison to take all measures so that judicial police officers carry out their authorisations professionally and decisively but tactfully without unnecessarily affecting the dignity of persons in the procedure. Therefore, we welcomed the message of the Prison Administration that all judicial police officers will be informed (also in the training process) to the required care in implementing an inspection of a convict’s living quarters and handling their clothes.

According to the Ombudsman, another irregularity is the non-observation of the convict’s request to notify the police, since the latter were only notified the following day when the convict threatened to hurt himself. Therefore, this finding requires taking all necessary measures so that a case like this does not occur again. At the same time, we proposed to the Prison Administration to study the need to record in the certificate of temporary confiscation of belongings (especially when a delay occurs in its serving) the time when the certificate is served to a convict.

Following the message of the Prison Administration, the matter in question was discussed at the meeting of commanders of judicial police officers as an example of bad or unsuitable practice, where it was specifically stated that judicial police officers, when inspecting living quarters and personal belongings of prisoners, must pay attention to placing clothes on clean spots (bed, cardboard box, sheet, etc.) and not put clean clothes together with clothes ready to be washed. It was also agreed that the procedure would be described in more detail upon the amendment to the textbook entitled ‘Practical procedure – methods and techniques of exercising the authorisations and duties of judicial police officers. Commanders were also made responsible to warn judicial police officers in prisons to consistently respect the dignity of prisoners in such procedures. According to the explanation of the Prison Administration, special attention is paid to the training process of judicial police officers. The Administration also agreed with the Ombudsman’s proposal to record in the certificate of temporary confiscation of belongings, especially when a delay occurs in its serving, the time when the certificate is actually served to a convict. 2.2-95/2012


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