Saturday 17 March 2018

Murderer Daniel McDonnell's detention in solitary confinement for a year was not a breach of his rights, court rules

A MURDERER'S detention in solitary confinement for a year was not a breach of his rights, the Court of Appeal ruled.

The court overturned a High Court finding earlier this year in favour of Daniel McDonnell, Brookview Lawns, Tallaght, who was found guilty of murdering Melanie McCarthy McNamara (aged 16) by a jury at the Central Criminal Court.

She was gunned down, as she sat in a car with two others, in a drive-by shooting in Tallaght, Dublin, in February 2012.

The High Court's Mr Justice Brian Cregan had found the 23-hour lock-up regime under which he was serving his sentence at Wheatfield Prison in Dublin amounted to a breach of his constitutional right to bodily and psychological integrity. 

The prison governor appealed that decision.  He argued McDonnell had been kept apart from the rest of the prison population for his own safety.

Today, the three-judge Court of Appeal found Mr Justice Cregan fell into error.

It is for the prison authorities to decide what measures are necessary for the safety of prisoners, it said.

A high level of threat or some extreme circumstance may justify severely restrictive conditions of detention on a temporary basis, the court found.

The High Court's declaration that his solitary confinement was in breach of his constitutional rights "did not reflect a sufficient or correct analysis of the complex issues in the case," the court also found.

These included factors such as that the nature of the threat to McDonnell is grave, and the only purpose of the temporary conditions is his protection.

The  actual conditions of McDonnell's detention, although harsh, are not intolerable, the court said.

A court cannot dictate to governor of a prison how the institution is to be managed, it also said.

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