Simpson v Governor of Mountjoy Prison

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice White
Judgment Date13 September 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IEHC 561
CourtHigh Court
Docket Number[2014 No. 6642 P.]
Date13 September 2017

[2017] IEHC 561

THE HIGH COURT

White Michael J.

[2014 No. 6642 P.]

BETWEEN
GARY SIMPSON
PLAINTIFF
AND
GOVERNOR OF MOUNTJOY PRISON, IRISH PRISON SERVICE, MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY, IRELAND

AND

ATTORNEY GENERAL
DEFENDANTS

Constitutional law – Art. 40.3.2 of the Constitution – Breach of constitutional rights – Damages – Right to privacy – S. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 – Inhuman treatment at prison – Test of proportionality – Prison Rules 2007

Facts: The plaintiff had filed a claim for damages against the defendants. The plaintiff sought various declarations against the defendants to the effect that the conditions and circumstances of the plaintiff's detention at the named prison amounted to breach of his constitutional rights. The plaintiff contended that he did not get the appropriate facilities in the prison such as in cell toilet and running water and access to slopping area. The defendants pleaded that the plaintiff's claim was statute barred under s. 3(5) of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. The defendants also argued that before issuing the present claim, the plaintiff should have obtained an authorization from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) as it was the claim for damages for personal injuries.

Mr. Justice White refused to grant the desired relief to the plaintiff. The Court however, held that there was a breach of plaintiff's constitutional right to privacy. The Court found that the plaintiff was put in the cell for most of his imprisonment with other inmate on a restricted regime with no in cell sanitation. The Court observed that the plaintiff was not subjected to inhuman and degrading environment in the prison. The Court evaluated the totality of the conditions in the named prison. The Court found that while it was noteworthy that some of conditions in prison regime were unacceptable yet the positive steps taken for the benefits of the prisoners would speak contrary to the plaintiff's contentions. The Court pointed out that the prison administration should be given wide latitude for management of prison regime. The Court refused to grant damages to the plaintiff for breach of his privacy rights as the plaintiff rendered untruthful evidence. The Court further held that the plaintiff's claim was statute barred under s. 3(5) of the 2003 Act and that there were no grounds to grant an extension of time period. The Court observed that the present action was initiated to obtain a remedy under the Constitutional law and not under the law of torts and thus, it was not necessary to seek permission from IPAB.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice White delivered on the 13th of September 2017
1

This is a plenary action claiming damages for alleged breach of the Plaintiff's constitutional rights when a sentenced prisoner in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin 7, between 13th February, 2013, and 30th September, 2013. The action was heard over 30 days from 31st May, 2016 to 8th December, 2016, when judgment was reserved.

2

The Plaintiff issued a High Court plenary summons on 30th July, 2014, seeking various declarations and claiming damages including exemplary and punitive damages or, in the alternative, damages pursuant to s. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, arising from his imprisonment.

3

The declarations sought by the Plaintiff were:-

(i) A declaration that the conditions and circumstances of the Plaintiff's detention on D1 wing at Mountjoy Prison amounted to a breach of his right to dignity and his right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, as guaranteed by Articles 40.3.1 and 40.3.2 of the Irish Constitution and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

(ii) A declaration that a practice of slopping out and using a chamber pot in the context of shared cell occupancy amounted to a breach of the Plaintiff's right to dignity and to respect for his private life as guaranteed by Article 40.3.1 and 40.3.2 of the Constitution and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

(iii) A declaration that the conditions and circumstances of the Plaintiff's detention on D wing at Mountjoy Prison amounted to a breach of his rights to bodily integrity and to protection of his health as guaranteed by Articles 40.3.1 and 40.3.2 of the Irish Constitution and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

(iv) A declaration pursuant to s. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, that the failure of the first and second named Defendants to minimise the negative effects of the lack of in-cell sanitation on D wing in Mountjoy Prison amounted to a failure to perform their functions in a manner consistent with the obligations of the State under Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

(v) A declaration pursuant to s. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, that the failure of the second, third and fourth named Defendants to adequately address the problem of prisoners having to share cells without toilets or running water amounted to a failure to perform their functions in a manner consistent with the obligations of the State under Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

4

The Statement of Claim was delivered on 7th August, 2014, when the claim was particularised.

5

The following is a summary of the Plaintiff's allegations in the Statement of Claim

‘(7) Due to double cell occupancy the dimensions of the cell breached the recommended minimum of 11sq. meters.

(8) There was no in cell toilet and running water in the cell.

(9) The chamber pot was too small to be used more than twice without being emptied. The Plaintiff had to urinate into empty milk cartons for this reason. He was obliged to defecate into a refuse bag because the chamber pot was too small for defecation. Urine would splash onto his feet and legs and onto the cell floor while urinating and defecating. He had to defecate on a newspaper placed on the floor of the cell.

(10) He had to plead with staff to let him out and was also denied access to the slopping out area as other inmates were using it. He did not have a set time when he was allowed out of his cell and he did not know in advance when he would be released and that he experienced stomach cramps while waiting.

(11) On occasion the Plaintiff was confined in a cell for 30 hours without being let out to the landing or yard. Exercise could be from 9am to 10am, one day, but the Plaintiff would not be released then to the following evening. On some occasions he was only let out for ten minutes to use the toilet. Sometimes he did not have time to slop out when released from lockup so bags and bins would be left in the cell for longer than a day.

(12) The Plaintiff would have to run to and from the toilets and slop out area as prison officers were anxious to speed up the process. The toilets were sometimes filthy and they were frequently blocked. There was usually urine on the ground in the cubicles and the whole toilet area stank terribly. The toilets and urinals were meant to be cleaned by inmates from D2 and D3 but this service was not reliable as the cleaners were usually heavy drug users. Sometimes the toilet area was so dirty that they refused to clean it.

(13) Showering was unpleasant due to atrocious conditions in the toilet and shower area. In June/July 13 the Plaintiff was twelve days without a shower. He could not walk in bare feet in the shower. Wash towels and bed sheets were not changed frequently enough and the Plaintiff used the same towel for a period of weeks for all purposes.

(14) the slopping out regime was very chaotic and the process itself was extremely unhygienic. The Slop hoppers were frequently blocked or were broken and urine and faeces spilled onto the floor. Disinfectant sprays were rarely provided and the Plaintiff had no time to clean pots and buckets properly.

(15) Inmates would on occasion empty chamber pots into sinks or down the shower.

(16) There was bad lighting in the shower and an atrocious smell and green mould in the ceiling. Water leaked from the roof and razor blades could sometimes be found sticking up. Walls were covered in dust and dirt. There were plastic bags and boxer shorts strewn on the floor and the downstairs shower area was filthy.

(17) the ventilation was completely inadequate and there was no air conditioning and little air circulating. It was freezing in winter time and stiflingly hot in summer and there was no window pane in some of the cells and inmates would use cardboard and duvets to block holes. The smell was overpowering when someone defecated and urinated in the cell.

(18) The washing facilities were inadequate, the water was easily contaminated and had to be filled from taps located directly over the slop hopper.

(19) the floor of the cell was always filthy and there was insufficient access to cleaning products. The Plaintiff rarely received a clean mop and had to use towels to clean spillages and only got a new bottle of disinfectant spray every two months and had to buy cleaning spray in the shop.

The Plaintiff frequently saw cockroaches on the floor of the cell and mice on the landing.

(20) Inmates of D2 and D3 landing had the use of D1 landing for recreation and were free to throw the contents of chamber pots under the Plaintiffs cell door. When this happened as it did on three occasions prison officers were very slow to assist the Plaintiff and he had to clean it up himself. Non protection inmates on D2 and D3 would also throw urine down onto protection prisoners from their own landing and little effort was made to punish them for doing this.

(21) During lock down the Plaintiff would have to plead to be let out and the red light in the cell was ignored and never answered by prison staff. Sometimes it would be turned off without bothering to...

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11 cases
  • Barry v The Governor of the Midlands Prison
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 23 July 2019
    ...personal hygiene routines in the presence of any cell companion. The applicant also relied upon Simpson v Governor of Mountjoy Prison [2017] I.E.H.C. 561 to submit that he enjoys a right to privacy during the currency of his detention and that interference and invasion of this right can be......
  • S.F. v Director of Oberstown Childrens Detention Centre
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 6 November 2017
    ...in Mulligan v. Governor of Portlaoise Prison [2013] 4 IR 1. White J. in his recent decision in Simpson v Governor of Mountjoy Prison [2017] IEHC 561 commented on those dicta as follows: 'There were concerns that these dicta implied that there had to be intention to inflict inhuman or degr......
  • Simpson v Governor of Mountjoy Prison
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 14 November 2019
    ...the appellant had lied and exaggerated in significant aspects of his claim, the judge refused to award him any damages or costs ( [2017] IEHC 561). 6 To fully understand the judge’s order, it is necessary to say a little more about the legal framework of the case. Here, two main points ari......
  • P McD v The Governor of the X Prison
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 17 September 2021
    ...Children's Detention Centre, Ní Raifeartaigh, [2017] IEHC 829, and the High Court judgment Simpson v. Governor of Mountjoy Prison [2017] IEHC 561, White J. (see now also Supreme Court [2019] IESC 81). Baker J. found that the appellant had come to prison a very damaged man, and for the mo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Bunreacht Behind Bars: The Irish Prison System in its Constitutional Context
    • Ireland
    • Trinity College Law Review No. XXI-2018, January 2018
    • 1 January 2018
    ...detained on foot of legal authorisation, such as a sentence handed down by a judge in a criminal trial, or a valid order of committal 6 [2017] IEHC 561. 7 Some of these apply to the criminal process generally, and will have been relevant to the trial and conviction on foot of which the pers......

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