State (C.) v Frawley

Judgment Date13 April 1976
Date13 April 1976
Docket Number[1975 No. 140 SS.]
CourtHigh Court
The State (C.) v. Frawley
The State (at the Prosecution of C.)
John Frawley
[1975 No. 140 SS.]

High Court

Constitution - Personal rights - Bodily integrity - Convicted prisoner serving sentence - Uncontrolled behaviour - Proper restraints - Habeas corpus - Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Article 40.

The prosecutor was convicted of a criminal offence and he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. While serving his sentence he obtained an order pursuant to Article 40, s. 4, sub-s. 2, of the Constitution directing the respondent prison governor to certify in the High Court in writing the grounds of the prosecutor's detention. The respondent governor certified that the prosecutor was being detained on the authority of the warrant which was issued in execution of the sentence. However, the prosecutor contended that the treatment to which he had been subjected during his imprisonment was of such a nature as to render his detention not "in accordance with the law" within the meaning of the sub-section. At the enquiry in the High Court into the legality of the prosecutor's detention, the evidence established that he suffered from a sociopathic personality disturbance and that sometimes his conduct was such that he could be described as being of unsound mind. He was strong physically and was aggressive and hostile to any form of authority. He made repeated attempts to escape from the place of his detention, involving hazardous climbing feats, and had a record of swallowing metal objects which had to be removed from his stomach by surgery; a further stomach operation would have been dangerous for him. During most of the period of his imprisonment the prosecutor was kept in solitary confinement and, when not so confined, he was usually handcuffed for some period. He was deprived of most of the equipment of an ordinary prisoner, such as cutlery, a bed with metal springs and a transistor radio. There was no prison or mental hospital with suitable facilities for restraining and treating the small number of people known to need the long-term psychiatric treatment apparently required by the prosecutor.

Held by Finlay P., in refusing to order the release of the prosecutor, 1, that one of the "personal rights" of a citizen within the meaning of s. 3 of Article 40 of the Constitution was the right to bodily integrity although that right was not specified in that section.

Ryan v. The Attorney General [1965] I.R. 294 considered.

2. That the rigorous conditions of the prosecutor's detention were imposed to diminish the possibility of the prosecutor injuring himself by swallowing foreign objects or during climbing escapades.

3. That there was no absolute duty of the Executive to provide for the prosecutor, regardless of the circumstances, the special psychiatric unit which would be required apparently for the purpose of confining and treating the prosecutor and, therefore, there was no breach of such duty.

Habeas Corpus.

On the 30th April, 1974, the prosecutor was convicted in the Circuit Court on three counts of shopbreaking and larceny contrary to s. 26(1) of the Larceny Act, 1916, and he was sentenced to three concurrent terms of three years penal servitude from the 30th April, 1974. The warrant in execution of the sentences directed that he should be delivered into the custody of the Governor of Mountjoy Prison, who was the respondent. On the 28th February, 1975, the prosecutor was convicted in the Circuit Court on three counts of shopbreaking and larceny contrary to s. 26(1) of the Act of 1916 and one count of robbery with violence contrary to s. 23(1) of the Act of 1916; on that occasion he was sentenced to three concurrent terms of 18 months imprisonment and to a concurrent term of two years imprisonment from the 28th February, 1975. A similar warrant issued in respect of the latter sentences.

On the 24th March, 1975, the prosecutor wrote to the High Court from prison and applied for an order of "habeas corpus." This application was considered by the High Court (Finlay P.) and was dismissed on the 17th April, 1975, on the grounds that the warrants appeared to be valid and that the only complaints made by the prosecutor were related to the conditions under which he was being detained and that, even if established, such conditions would not affect the legality of his detention pursuant to the warrants. On the 15th April, 1975, the prosecutor made a similar claim for an order of "habeas corpus" and that claim was dismissed, for the same reasons, by Finlay P. on the 24th April, 1975.

The prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court and that court (Henchy, Griffin and Parke JJ.) on the 27th January, 1976, made an order pursuant to Article 40, s. 4, sub-s. 2, of the Constitution directing the respondent governor to produce the body of the prosecutor in the High Court at 11 a.m. on the 9th February, 1976, and to certify in writing the grounds of the prosecutor's detention. On the 6th February, 1976, the respondent governor certified that the prosecutor was being detained in Mountjoy Prison upon the authority conferred by the two warrants in execution of the sentences imposed on the prosecutor. Solicitor and counsel were assigned to the prosecutor, who had been duly produced to the High Court.

Article 40, s. 3, of the Constitution of Ireland, 1937, provides:—

"1 The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.

  • 2 The State shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person, good name, and property rights of every citizen."

Article 40, s. 4, sub-ss. 1 and 2, of the Constitution provides:—

"1 No citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty save in accordance...

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