Creighton -v- Ireland & ors, [2010] IESC 50 (2010)

Docket Number:230 & 241/09
Party Name:Creighton, Ireland & ors
Judge:Fennelly J.

THE SUPREME COURTAPPEAL NUMBER 230/2009HIGH COURT RECORD NUMBER 2003/13989pFennelly J.O’Donnell J.McKechnie J.BETWEENPETER CREIGHTONPlaintiff/RespondentAndIRELAND, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE,EQUALITY & LAW REFORM AND THE GOVERNOR OF WHEATFIELD PRISONDefendants/AppellantsJUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Fennelly delivered the 27th day of October, 2010.1. The plaintiff/respondent was a prisoner in Wheatfield Prison on 19th January 2003. While he was in a confined area with others awaiting delivery of his needed supply of Methadone, he was the victim of a sudden, violent and unprovoked knife attack by a fellow prisoner. The plaintiff described the knife used in a way suggesting that it was similar to a proprietary type commonly known as a Stanley knife. He suffered serious wounds to his face, stomach and flank. He secured an award of €40,000 by the judgment of the High Court (White J) in respect of part only of his injuries. I will refer to him as “the plaintiff.” No question arises as to which of the various defendant/appellants was responsible for the care of the plaintiff in prison: I will describe them simply as “the defendants.”2. The plaintiff presented his claim in the High Court with the support of the expert testimony of a former governor of a number of English prisons, Mr Roger Outram. Mr Outram made a number of criticisms of the care of prisoners in Wheatfield, principally that the system of control to prevent entry of dangerous knives into the prison was lax and that the area in which the prisoners were confined while awaiting delivery of Methadone was unduly crowded. The learned trial judge found it unnecessary to determine either the nature of the knife used or the extent of the overcrowding, if any. He concluded that the “prison authorities could not reasonably have been expected to have been in a position to prevent an attack on the plaintiff.” However, the learned judge had, on his own initiative, recalled Mr Outram following the conclusion of the evidence for both parties. He suggested to the witness that there should have been an additional prison officer within the area where the plaintiff was attacked. The witness agreed and the learned judge held that, if there had been such an additional supervising officer, there would probably have been an earlier intervention which would have lessened the extent of the injuries suffered. In short, the plaintiff would have suffered his head and facial injuries but would probably have been saved the injuries to his flank and abdomen. He awarded damages on that basis.3. These are the circumstances in which there is an appeal by the defendants against the award of €40,000 and a cross-appeal by the plaintiff against the rejection of the claim as he had presented it.4. A sentence of imprisonment deprives a person of his right to personal liberty. Costello J explained in Murray v Ireland [1985] I.R. 532 at 542 that “[w]hen the State lawfully exercises its power to deprive a citizen of his constitutional right to liberty many consequences result, including the deprivation of liberty to exercise many other constitutionally protected rights, which prisoners must accept.” Nonetheless, the prisoner may continue to exercise rights “which do not depend on the continuance of his personal liberty….” I would say that among these rights is the right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity. Thus, it is common case that the state owes a duty to take...

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