Wednesday 17 July 2019

Prisoner at large after absconding wins case over 'unjust' re-arrest

Not registered: Mark Finnegan lived ‘in plain sight’ for four years. Picture: Collins
Not registered: Mark Finnegan lived ‘in plain sight’ for four years. Picture: Collins

Tim Healy

A man who absconded from an open prison and lived "in plain sight" for more than four years before re-arrest has won Supreme Court declarations that his re-arrest and subsequent detention to serve out the rest of his sentence were unlawful.

Mr Justice William McKechnie said, in the circumstances of Mark Finnegan's case, and despite the seriousness of his absconding and remaining unlawfully at large, his re-arrest and detention was "unjust, oppressive and invidious".

Factors leading to that finding included the admitted delay of four-and-a-half years and that Finnegan was living openly during this time, not re-offending and had started a family.

The judge noted, through human error, his escape was not registered on the Garda Pulse database so gardaí in Tallaght, Dublin, were unaware for some four-and-a-half years he was unlawfully at large.

A five-judge Supreme Court has granted Finnegan's appeal over his re-arrest. He was jailed in May 2009 for 16 months after he was convicted of allowing himself to be carried in a mechanically propelled vehicle without the owner's consent.

He was moved in July 2009 from Wheatfield Prison to Shelton Abbey open prison. On October 31, Finnegan walked out of Shelton Abbey, with the effect he was unlawfully at large.

Before being jailed, he lived at his family home at Bawnlea Drive, Jobstown, Tallaght, and returned there after absconding. He remained there until 2011 when he moved to Russell Lawn, Tallaght, to live with his partner. They still live there and now have two children.

In November 2014, Finnegan presented himself by request at Tallaght garda station where he was arrested and taken to Wheatfield to complete the sentence imposed in May 2009.

On Wednesday, the majority court endorsed the analysis of the law and relevant factors as set out in Mr Justice McKechnie's judgment, leading to a conclusion Finnegan's case was a rare exception to the general requirement that persons subject of valid warrants for their imprisonment should serve a term in line with the terms of that warrant.

Irish Independent

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