Monday 18 December 2017

Prison's governor to appeal court's decision that almost 12 months of solitary confinement for Melanie McNamara killer is 'breach of rights'

Melanie McCarthy McNamara
Melanie McCarthy McNamara

Tim Healy

A PRISON Governor is to appeal a High Court decision that keeping a convicted murderer in solitary confinement for almost a year breaches his rights.

Last week, Mr Justice Brian Cregan found the regime Daniel McDonnell has been subject to in Wheatfield Prison, Dublin, for the last 11 months amounted to a breach of his constitutional right to bodily and psychological integrity.

The governor said McDonnell, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of teenager Melanie McCarthy McNamara in a February 2012 drive-by shooting in Tallaght, Dublin,   has been kept apart from the rest of the prison population for his own safety.

His lawyers argued the 23 hour lock up regime was disproportionate and violated his rights.

The matter returned before the court today when Mr Justice Cregan made a formal order quashing the regulation currently keeping McDonnell in solitary confinement.

Seamus Woulfe SC for the governor, said his side intended to appeal and sought a stay on the judgment.

Counsel, who said the governor was trying to manage McDonnell's situation in the prison on a day-to-day basis.

A plan had been drawn up for him, which includes the provision of more structured activities and work duties within the prison.

However the situation was that there is a threat to McDonnell's safety, counsel said.

Bernard Condon SC, for McDonnell, said he was "troubled" as little had changed from his client's perspective since the court had delivered its judgment.

The only change was he was now being brought to the gym three times a week, and he remained effectively in solitary confinement.

Arising out of the decision to appeal, Mr Condon asked the court for permission to bring new proceedings, including seeking an inquiry under the Constitution into the legality of his McDonnell's detention.

These other actions, counsel said, would depend on what happened with the governor's appeal.

The judge granted permission to bring the fresh proceedings, and adjourned them for a week. He also placed a stay on his orders till Tuesday of next week.

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