Thursday 8 December 2016

Rapist (76) challenges law denying him pension in jail

Published 23/09/2016 | 02:30

An elderly rapist is taking a Supreme Court challenge against a law denying him the right to receive his State pension while in jail.
An elderly rapist is taking a Supreme Court challenge against a law denying him the right to receive his State pension while in jail.

An elderly rapist is taking a Supreme Court challenge against a law denying him the right to receive his State pension while in jail.

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The prisoner (76) claims his Constitutional rights are being infringed by the law and that he has been "left practically destitute" as a result of it.

He complained it has left him without money to spend on items in the prison tuck shop, clothing or electrical goods, such as an XBox or a DVD player.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is serving a 12-year sentence after being convicted of multiple counts of rape and sexual assault against a member of his family.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear his case after the man failed in a High Court action against the Minister for Social Protection and the Attorney General earlier this year.

The sex offender had been receiving the pension since 2006, when he turned 66, but it was cut off in March 2011 when he was convicted. The payment was halted under section 249 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005, which disqualifies people from receiving the State contributory pension while they are incarcerated.

The law impacts on between 30 and 40 inmates each year.

In legal submissions, the man claimed the decision had left him broke, with no other means of income, other than a prison gratuity of €11.90 per week. His family was not giving him any money.

He claimed he had to rely on clothing provided by the Prison Service and St Vincent de Paul.

A wrist injury meant he was unable to work in prison, which would have qualified him for an additional allowance of €3.50 per week.

Earlier this year, Mr Justice Donald Binchy rejected arguments that the man's constitutional right to property was being infringed upon by the law.

The judge also rejected arguments he was being discriminated against, contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). He also rejected other arguments put forward, stating the man was being detained in a well-run, modern prison with a high standard of care for inmates.

The Supreme Court determined that the man's appeal of that ruling could "leapfrog" the Court of Appeal and go straight to the Supreme Court due to the "exceptional circumstances" of the case. In a determination, it said it was important for clarity to be brought to the issue of whether excluding prisoners from the contributory old age pension was consistent with rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the ECHR.

In 2011, the man received a 15-year sentence, with the final three years suspended, for 14 counts of rape. He also received a 10-year sentence for 60 counts of sexual assault.

The sentences are running concurrently. With remission, he is due to be released in 2020.

A previous court hearing heard claims the man had refused to cooperate with a programme for rehabilitating sex offenders, but he has disputed this.

Irish Independent

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