Sunday 22 April 2018

Prisoner says fellow inmate forced him to particpate in disturbance

Aodhan O'Faolain

A PRISONER claims he was forced by another inmate to take part in a jail disturbance on Christmas day last, the High Court heard.

Stephen Ennis (22) has brought a legal challenge against a decision by the governor of Wheatfield Prison in Dublin to punish him over the incident.

He is currently serving a three year sentence, with the final 15 months suspended, for the theft of five laptops and three mobile phones from offices of the HSE.

He claims he was wrongly and unfairly punished following the Christmas Day incident.

The court heard it happened when another prisoner, who Ennis says was intoxicated, acted violently towards prison officers.

In an affidavit sworn on behalf of Ennis, the court was told a number of other prisoners, not including him (Ennis) supported the intoxicated inmate, who had in his possession a broken pool cue.

Prison officers then withdrew from the landing.

Ennis said the intoxicated prisoner ordered him to drag a mattress from a cell and to place it against a door to prevent entry by the prison officers.

Ennis said he refused, but the prisoner hit him repeatedly with the pool cue and threatened to stab Ennis. Fearing for his safety Ennis dragged the mattress to the door.

Ennis claims when prison officers, in riot gear, returned to the landing they urged him through the window to tackle the unruly prison.

He also claims that the prison Governor, who was outside the landing at the time, motioned him to dive on the unruly prisoner.

Ennis refused these requests and due to fears for his own safety remained at

a distance from the other inmate.

The prisoners involved in the disturbance withdrew to a cell and attempted to lock themselves inside. Shortly afterwards, they surrendered to prison officers after they reentered the landing. The stand-off lasted 30 minutes.

A few days later Ennis was punished by the prison governor for his alleged role in the disturbance. His punishment includes loss of phonecalls, loss of recreation time and loss of all visits except for professional visits for a period of 42 days.

He claims the punishment is unfair and says he did nothing wrong. In his action against the Governor of Wheatfield Prison and the Irish Prison Service Ennis is seeking an order quashing the decision to punish him.

Micheal O'Higgins SC for Ennis said that no proper hearing was conducted by the prison authorities in relation to the incident. Ennis was was not afforded any opportunity to put his version of events forward, counsel added.

Leave to bring the challenge was granted on a one-side only represented basis by Mr Justice Michael Peart. The judge, who put a stay on the punishment from being implemented, made the matter returnable to a date in March.

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