Sunday 21 January 2018

Inmate appeals punishment for alleged role in prison fire

Aodhan O Faolain

A PRISON inmate claims he has been wrongly accused and disciplined for allegedly setting fire to netting which was put up to prevent contraband being thrown over the walls of Mountjoy jail from outside.

Jonathan Cummins (25), who has served more than a year of a three and a half year sentence, has brought a High Court challenge against the Governor of Mountjoy and the Irish Prison Service as a result of receiving an unfair punishment of six weeks' loss of privileges for a breach of prison discipline. He says he had nothing to do with the incident.

Michael P Ó Higgins SC, for Cummins, said his client was one of three prisoners sharing a cell in Mountjoy where pieces of paper, which had been set on fire, were thrown out of the cell's window in an attempt to burn a hole in netting surrounding the outside of the prison.

Prison staff, who smelt smoke, observed the papers being thrown from the cell around 11pm on June 24. Counsel said the netting was used to prevent people outside throwing in contraband into the prison to be collected by inmates.

Mr O Higgins said Cummins told the authorities that he had nothing to do with the incident and that he had been asleep at the time.

He added that one of Cummins's cellmates had owned up to the action, but said prison authorities took the view that all three were responsible.

Mr O Higgins said that, following a disciplinary hearing on June 26, all three cellmates appeared to have been given the same punishment. Cummins received a six-week punishment which includes loss of visits, phone calls, tuck-shop visits and a ban on sending or receiving letters.

Cummins indicated that he wished to appeal this, but was informed that his punishment would not be suspended pending the outcome of his appeal.

Mr O Higgins said it was their case that the punishment imposed on Cummins was unfair, unreasonable and disproportionate. There had been a failure to assess Cummins' alleged role in the incident and his right to appeal had been denied.

Leave to bring the application was granted on a one side only-represented basis yesterday by Mr Justice Michael Peart. The order is to operate as a stay on the punishment imposed on Cummins. The judge adjourned the matter to October.

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