Michael Byrne v Governor of Castlerea Prison

JurisdictionIreland
Judgment Date03 March 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] IEHC 64
Date03 March 2005
Docket Number2005/125SS,[2005 No. 125 SS]
CourtHigh Court

[2005] IEHC 64

THE HIGH COURT

2005/125SS

MICHAEL BYRNE
APPLICANT
V
GOVERNOR OF CASTLEREA PRISON
RESPONDENT
Abstract:

Prisons - Prisoners - Condition of confinement - Subsisting rights of convicted prisoner - Complaint by prisoner that conditions of confinement conflict with health and privacy rights and fair procedures - Right to access information held by prison authorities concerning prisoner - Whether motive for complaint relevant - Whether State in breach of duties under Constitution

Facts: the applicant sought an enquiry into the legality of his detention on the grounds that its legality had been vitiated by breaches of his constitutional rights to bodily integrity and fair procedures in that he was denied psychiatric counselling for post traumatic stress disorder arising from a needle stick injury and that as a result of what he contended was a false report from the gardaí which had been recorded on his file to the effect that he was a member of the Real IRA he was denied certain privileges of temporary release and/or transfer to an open prison and that he had not been afforded access to the said report.

Held by Mr Justice O'Neill in refusing the relief and declaring that the applicant's detention was lawful that, as a convicted prisoner, the applicant had a heavy burden of proof that his detention was unlawful on the grounds advanced. He had to establish that his health was seriously endangered by the conditions to which he was subjected in prison. As the applicant did not give the prison authorities any complaint which would have alerted them to his alleged condition or complain about the lack of counselling in respect thereof, there was no breach of his right to bodily integrity. That a prisoner continued to enjoy his constitutional right to fair procedures while he served his sentence but that right was not absolute and could be curtailed in the interest of the common good. The public interest in the maintenance of the flow of information from the gardaí to the prison service in order to assess security risks attached to transfers and temporary releases, depended on confidentiality being maintained in relation to that information and outweighed the applicant's right to access to that information.

Reporter: P.C.

1

JUDGEMENT GIVEN BY MR. JUSTICE O'NEILL,

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IN THE HIGH COURT, DUBLIN, ON THE 3RD OF MARCH, 2005.

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MR. JUSTICE O'NEILL GAVE HIS RULING AS FOLLOWS:

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The Applicant in this case was convicted on the 25th October, 2002, of various charges and had imposed upon him a number of sentences, the longest of which was six years with three years suspended. Under that sentence the Applicant would have served his sentence by about the third week of January this year. The Director of Public Prosecutions sought a review of this sentence on the grounds of leniency and the Court of Criminal Appeal on the 20th October, 2003, varied all of his sentences to five years in each case. The Applicant's therefore release date is likely to be in August 2006.

5

The Applicant sought an enquiry into the legality of his detention and I directed that that enquiry be held and it was so held by me over three days, that is to say Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. No issue arises at all as to the legality of the warrants under which the Applicant is detained.

6

The Applicant challenges the legality of the detention on the grounds that its legality has been vitiated by breaches of his constitutional rights to bodily integrity and fair procedures in that as a result of what he believes is a false and malicious report from an Garda Siochana which has been recorded on his file, to the effect that he is a member of the Real IRA, he has, while detained in Castlerea Prison been denied certain privileges which he contends he should have been given, namely a transfer to Shelton Abbey,

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an open prison, and temporary releases for various occasions, for example, communions and confirmations of his children, and also for Christmas.

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Also that he has been denied necessary medical treatment and specifically that he had not been given counselling in respect of a post traumatic stress disorder and/or the sequelae of it, resulting from a needle stick injury suffered by him in Mountjoy Prison in January, 2003, and finally that he was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by being detained stripped to his underwear in an isolation unit on the 24th and 25th December, 2004.

9

As a convicted prisoner the Applicant carries a very heavy burden of proof, to establish that his detention is unlawful on the grounds advanced. The following passage from the judgment of Barrington, J, in the State (Richardson) -v- the Governor of Mountjoy Prison, (1980) I.L.R.M at page 82 and pages 90, 91, states the relevant legal principle as follows; "It would clearly not be possible to enumerate in advance what are the conditions which would invalidate a detention otherwise legal. If a Court were convinced that the authorities were taking advantage of the fact that a person was detained, consciously and deliberately to isolate his constitutional rights, or to subject him to inhuman or degrading treatment, the Court might order his release. If the Court were convinced that the condition of the prisoners detention were such as to seriously endanger his life or health and that the authorities intended to do nothing to

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rectify these conditions the Court might release him. It appears to me that the location would be similar if the conditions of a prisoners detention were such as seriously threaten his life or health, but the authorities for some reason were unable to rectify the conditions."

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Evidence was given before me by Mr. Frank Mc Dermott, an Assistant Principal officer, working in the prison service, and Governor Daniel Scanlon, Governor of Castlerea Prison, by Assistant Governor Vincent Melvin and by Dr. Michael Henry, a doctor attached to Castlerea Prison and by Dr. Louis Carroll, a psychiatrist whom the Applicant attended in a private capacity. Also affidavits sworn by Mr. Branigan, the solicitor for the Applicant and by the Applicant himself and by Joseph Byrne, a brother of the Applicant, were opened to me. The Applicant was transferred from Mountjoy Prison to Castlerea Prison in June of 2003 at his own request. Now if I might deal with the medical issue first.

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The Applicant had a number of physical problems, namely frozen shoulder and ingrown toenails. It was accepted that he received the appropriate treatment for these. The evidence reveals that he was seen on eleven occasions by the doctor in Castlerea Prison and declined two other consultations. He was brought to the Mater Hospital on thirty-two occasions as an outpatient. He attended Roscommon General Hospital on twenty-one occasions as a day patient and was admitted twice. He was seen by a dentist on four occasions and declined two other visits. He was

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seen by a chiropodist on three occasions. He attended the Infectious Diseases Unit in the...

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3 cases
  • Michael Mckevitt v Governor of Portlaoise Prison
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 1 September 2014
    ...OF MOUNTJOY PRISON UNREP HOGAN 25.2.2014 2014 IEHC 76 MCDONAGH, STATE v FRAWLEY 1978 IR 131 BYRNE v GOVERNOR OF CASTLEREA PRISON 2007 3 IR 451 2005/7/1397 2005 IEHC 64 CALLAN v IRELAND & AG 2013 2 ILRM 257 2013/9/2420 2013 IESC 35 CONSTITUTION ART 40 X (F) v CLINICAL DIRECTOR OF THE CENTR......
  • McLoughlin v Governor of Wheatfield Prison
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 19 June 2017
    ...v. Governor of Wheatfield Prison & Ors. [2015] IEHC 137 and the earlier judgment of O'Neill J. in Byrne v. Governor of Castlerea Prison [2005] IEHC 64. 13 The applicant was invited to submit another application should he wish. 14 The solicitors for the applicant responded by seeking a copy ......
  • Mr. X and Department of Justice and Equality
    • Ireland
    • Information Commission
    • 3 August 2016
    ...of information received from Gardaí. The Department cited the High Court decision in Michael Byrne v Governor of Castlerea Prison [2005] IEHC 64 in this regard. However, record 114 does not contain information received from Gardaí; it is a request to Gardaí to provide a form. As outlined ab......

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