Thursday 21 November 2019

Convicted killer fails in €38,000 damages claim after burning foot in jail

Ray Managh

CONVICTED killer Stephen Kelly has failed in a €38,000 damages claim against the Minister for Justice and the Governor of Mountjoy Prison where he is serving a life sentence for murder.

Kelly (26) of Balcurris Road, Ballymun, was convicted by a jury exactly six years ago in the Central Criminal Court for the murder of Ian McConnell, a 28-year-old father of two.

Mr Mc Connell, the trial court had heard in February 2007, was shot at close to point blank range with a single bullet to the back of his head on the first floor landing of a block of flats at Shangan Road, Dublin, on December 11, 2005.

Kelly told the Circuit Civil Court today he had scalded his left foot in January 2009 in Mountjoy Prison when boiling water spilled from a Burco boiler on the landing of a basement security wing where he was being held.

He said he, like other security prisoners, was allowed out of 23-hour lock-up at certain times to fill up a flask of boiling water with which to make tea and coffee in his cell.  As he stepped forward to the tap, which had been left turned on and running by the previous user, he scalded his foot.

In cross-examination by Seamus Breen, counsel for the State authorities, Kelly claimed that a spill-bucket, normally positioned under the tap, was missing and it was because of this that he was burned. The water had spilled over his runners.

Kelly told Mr Breen he was on a 25 ml dose of methadone at the time but was not under the influence of any substance.

The court heard from the prison officer in charge of the wing at the time that Prisoner Kelly was being detained in a protection area.  The prison authorities had to be careful in order to avoid any clash of different factions in the security wing.

The officer, one of five to give evidence, said certain prisoners confined in a single cell would be allowed out together onto the landing to obtain water while others remained locked up.

Judge Tom O’Donnell, dismissing Kelly’s claim, said that while he alleged the scalding incident occurred at 5:30 p.m. there had been an enormous gap until almost midnight when a medic was called to his cell to treat him for a burn to his foot.

He was satisfied the prisoner had suffered a burn but the difficulty for the court was what had caused it and when.  He felt the plaintiff had fallen short of the standard of proof required to succeed in his claim.

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