Friday 15 November 2019

Convicted killer Mark Nash loses prison transfer bid

Mark Nash
Mark Nash

By Aodhan O Faolain and Ray Managh

Convicted killer Mark Nash today lost his High Court bid to be returned from the Midlands Prison to Arbour Hill prison, Dublin, where he has spent the past 15 years.

High Court President, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, in dismissing his legal challenge, told him nothing had been put before the court that suggested his life and safety was in any imminent danger from other prisoners and courts should only intervene in the gravest of cases.

Nash sought the transfer on the basis he was under threat from other prisoners and  had become significantly suicidal.  He has already served a 15 year life sentence in Arbour Hill, Dublin, for the murder in 1997 of two people in Ballintober, Co Roscommon.

Last April, Nash (42) was given another life sentence after he was found guilty of the separate murders in 1997 of Sylvia Sheils (59) and Mary Callanan (61) at their sheltered housing in Grangegorman in Dublin.  That sentence runs from April last.

Following that sentence he had initially been taken to Mountjoy Prison where he claims he has been under threat from other prisoners and under 23-hour lock up for his safety.  

He sought a return to Arbour Hill, where he claims he had been living a peaceful life, but was later transferred to the Midlands Prison where he remains and where he is also under threat.

As well as being suicidal the court heard Nash refused to take food for several weeks which resulted in him having been taken to hospital. He had started taking food again and was back at the Midlands Prison.

Judge Kearns said prisoners could not expect or demand arrangements for where they serve their sentences and it was not appropriate for courts to adopt a role of micro-managing criminal detention arrangements.

He said threats of suicide should not be capable of being cited by a prisoner as an appropriate basis for a transfer unless the suicidal condition had been brought about as a direct result of actual or apprehended violence which placed the prisoner at risk.

The court accepted that prison life often would have instances where prisoners might be a loggerheads with each other. 

“Unrealistic worries or exaggerated over-reaction to remarks, looks, gestures or minor scuffles can never constitute an adequate reason for treating a threat of suicide as a basis for ordering prison authorities to transfer a prisoner from one prison to another much less to a prison of his choosing," Judge Kearns said.

In relation to specific threats allegedly made against Nash at the Midlands Prison, which it was claimed rendered him suicidal, he said the evidence of the threats was somewhat vague and non-specific.

The judge said it had come across strongly that Nash's apprehensions were based more on subjective rather than objective considerations. Not one of the prisoners named by him was in a position to harm him in the Midlands Prison as they were kept separate from him.

The High Court President said Nash's mental state seemed more attributable to an adjustment disorder following his convictions for the Grangegorman murders rather than any perceived threats. He said  there was no evidence that any risk of suicide would abate if Nash was sent to Arbour Hill. 

The judge added that the court’s decision did not preclude him from seeking a transfer to Arbour Hill in the future, in circumstances where Nash's level of co-operation with the prison authorities improved over time.

Adjourning the proceedings until October, Judge Kearns said co-operation, rather than threats of suicide, were likely to be of greater assistance to Mr Nash in this regard.

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