Saturday 24 February 2018

Rapist awarded over €17k after assault by prison officer

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Tim Healy

A RAPIST who was clearly assaulted by a prison officer while serving his jail sentence has had a €225 award to him by a jury increased to €17,225 by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said some of the Castlerea Prison officers who gave evidence in the jury civil action taken by Darius Savickis had regrettably "told lies".  

One officer described CCTV evidence, in which Mr Savickis was clearly punched three or four times, as the officer "putting his hand in two or three times to remove (Savickis') clothing," the judge said.

Mr Savickis (46), a father of two originally from Lithuania, was serving a six-year sentence at the time after he had pleaded guilty in July 2009 to orally raping a 23-year-old German woman walking home from work in Galway on November 28, 2005.

A few months into his sentence in Castlerea Prison in Roscommon, he was involved in an incident in which he refused to go out to the exercise yard because he wasn't wearing a socks or jumper.  

He held on to a rail and a prison officer put him in a headlock while four or five other officers moved in and prised him from the railings to totally subdue him.

Mr Justice Hogan said it was clear from the CCTV evidence Mr Savickis did not attempt to strike out at the officers, but did no more than cling to the railing. 

It was clear, the judge said, as he was being subdued he was struck some three or four times with punches to the chest by a particular officer.

In Mr Savickis' High Court action, the jury rejected the majority of his claims but did find unreasonable force had been used by the officers.   However, the jury concluded Savickis was 95 per cent responsible and this meant a €4,500 award it made to him was cut to just €224.

He appealed arguing the jury findings were essentially perverse and unsupported by the evidence.  The prison authorities and the State opposed the appeal.

Mr Justice Hogan, with whom his two appeal court colleagues agreed, found  he had been assaulted and awarded him €10,000.  

He awarded another €5,000 exemplary damages including because prison officers who gave evidence in the case repeatedly denied he had been punched even when the CCTV evidence was shown to them.

"It is, I regret to say, very difficult to avoid the conclusion that some of the witnesses tendered by the State told lies regarding this matter in the course of their evidence", he said.   This was conduct the court should not tolerate for an instant, he said.

The jury had found there was a failure to adequately train officers in control and restraint techniques.  The €4,500 award in relation to this was not an inappropriate figure to compensate him for the injuries he suffered while being restrained, apart from those inflicted on him by the assault, Mr Justice Hogan said.

However, he said he parted company with the jury in relation to finding him 95 per cent liable.  He found him 50 per cent responsible for refusing to obey the instruction to go out to the yard, bringing the award to €2,225.

In total, the appeal court awarded him €17,225.

In a separate concurring judgment, Ms Justice Mary Irvine dealt with a part of Mr Savickis' appeal relating to his later removal from one cell to another while he was naked.   The prison authorities say he was offered a blanket or poncho during the move but he refused and he disputed this.

Ms Justice Irvine said while it was worrying and disturbing any prisoner should be moved in a state of undress, on the particular facts of this case there was ample evidence upon which the jury was entitled to find the authorities did discharge their duty in this regard.

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