Saturday 7 December 2019

Drugs linked to prisoner death at Mountjoy jail

Convicted dealer was found unconscious in cell

The man, who has been named as Pascal Doyle from Carlow Town, was found unconscious in his cell by prison officers at 3.30am
The man, who has been named as Pascal Doyle from Carlow Town, was found unconscious in his cell by prison officers at 3.30am
Paschal Doyle

Jim Cusack

A Mountjoy prisoner who died in hospital yesterday may have had drugs concealed inside his body, gardai believe.

The man, who has been named as Pascal Doyle from Carlow Town, was found unconscious in his cell by prison officers at 3.30am. He was taken to the nearby Mater Hospital where he was pronounced dead 40 minutes later.

Initial indications were that Mr Doyle had a package of concealed drugs and that this may have burst inside his body.

He had been in prison since 2009 following a series of convictions for drug-related offences and assault.

It was said in court, that he had been addicted to heroin since his mid-teens and had more than 60 convictions for offences ranging from car theft to threatening behaviour toward gardai.

He was married with two children and aged in his early thirties.

The Prison Service said gardai and the Prisons Inspectorate were notified about the death and are both carrying out separate investigations.

Another prisoner, Colum Carroll (40) died from a drugs overdose in Mountjoy last August. Carroll, from Glanmire in Cork, was serving 16 years for drugs importation.

The deaths continue to occur despite attempts by the Prison Service to reduce the amount of drugs coming into prisons.

Last month, a Dublin gang used a remote-control helicopter drone to drop drugs into Wheatfield Prison.

The device crashed into netting erected over an exercise yard to stop drugs being thrown over the perimeter wall. The remote control helicopter was recovered by prison officers but prisoners had already made off with the drugs.

The drone was remotely controlled from a location somewhere near the prison but gardai have yet to establish where this was or who was controlling it.

Netting was also erected over the exercise yard in Mountjoy at a cost of €250,000 in 2012 after residents in the adjoining Glengarriff Parade complained that drug dealers were climbing on to the roofs of their homes to throw packages of drugs into the prison compound.

After the netting was erected the Prison Service said it had "dramatically" reduced the supply of illegal drugs into the prison.

Mountjoy Prison was criticised in a report earlier this year into the August 2006 killing of 21-year-old Gary Douch who was beaten to death in front of five other inmates in August 2006.

The report strongly criticised the Irish Prison Service and the authorities at Mountjoy and Cloverhill prisons. Following publication of that report the then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter apologised to the Douch family over the failures that had led to his death.

Details of yesterday's death remain unclear and will have to await the results of an autopsy.

There were reports from the prison that the dead man had been involved in a fight with another prisoner earlier in the week and had been injured but prison sources said they were unaware of this.

The practice of concealing drugs inside the body cavity is one of the most common forms of transporting and holding drugs in prisons and also the most dangerous.

Despite warnings from doctors that the practice is a major cause of spreading infections among addicts they continue to conceal drugs inside their bodies.

Prisoners who have been found to be concealing drugs smuggled into the prison are subject to strip searching and have "closed" visits with perspex screens between them and their visitors.

But sources say there are not enough staff to carry out the mass searches which would be needed to stop the flow of drugs into prisons.

The service also attempts as far as possible to allow visitors and prisoners to have personal contact, particularly when prisoners' children are visiting.

In 2012 a prison officer, Jarlath Walsh (40) was sentenced to five years imprisonment for smuggling €20,000 worth of cocaine and cannabis into Mountjoy Prison.

Sunday Independent

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